Surprise: Your Draft is a Zero

Hold on a minute. I didn't say the draft was terrible. I said it was a "zero." That is totally different ... and useful to understand.

I found this idea in the pages of the late great Peter Drucker, venerable founder of modern management, in an essay of his called "Know Your Time."

The essay is about effective management, especially how people manage themselves. At one point Drucker says that managers spend time writing "zero drafts" as part of the writing process ... and that idea is helpful for any writer to understand.

Very often (I am speaking from total experience here) what happens during the writing process is this: You come to the end of a draft, think you're done, and realize you're dissatisfied with the whole thing ... except for a few sentences near the end where things really started to fuse and get interesting. Instead of being done with the process, you realize, you're just getting started. It just took 15,000-20,000 fricken words to get there.

That's your zero draft.

calculator zero long

It doesn't mean the material is useless or valueless. It has immense value. It has helped you dump all those expectations and preconceived notions so that you're ready to produce something truly in your voice. (And plenty of that material will probably crop up in your finished draft somewhere anyways-- you'll just use it in a different way).

On the road to finishing my first novel A Walker in the Evening, I probably created three zero drafts (maybe more, it's all a blur now). It was a long, painful apprenticeship. But I learned a lot. If you aren't sure if you're working with a zero draft or not, let me know. I can help.

The most important thing, my best beloveds, is not to get frustrated or to doubt yourself. You're on the right path. The result is going to be amazing ... and worth the extra sweat.

Keep going. You can do it.

Getting published … an author's stats on herself

Everyone has an opinion about the ordeal of book publishing, but who can you really trust? Only the writers who have actually experienced it.

And that applies to Yi Shun Lai, author of the new novel Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu (Shade Mountain Press), although "new" is a misleading term …. Lai is perfectly transparent on her blog about how long it's taken - agents queried,  months spent querying, etc. - to usher her engaging, funny, charming fictional memoir into print.

At The Good Dirt, Lai provides us with the numbers that every writer wants to know about, as well as the lessons that she's learned in her post "How I Landed My Publisher."

One of her best lessons, for me, has to do with balancing your book project with the rest of your life … and that means not letting it consume the rest of your life.

As Lai says, "if you really want to make this a part of your life, get on it."

Visit The Good Dirt for more of Lai's insights into finding that balance in your own writing life … and to learn more about the writer behind the one and only Marty.  She's a wonderful creation ... so funny and wise as she navigates between obstacles and her own soaring aspirations, advertising quotas and office tedium, and the steady nagging of an unforgettable Taiwanese tiger mom.  You'll want to get your hands on a copy of this book.

My beloveds, you'll be so glad you did.