Last night I finished the last cleanup of the zero-draft manuscript of Cleopatra’s Ironclads and sent it off to its first three beta-readers, along with the super-basic beta reading questionnaire that Devin Harnois and I developed for reading each other’s work. The prospect of waiting readers turned it into a real deadline. I pulled out all of the start-end timestamps, the research notes-to-self, and the other working apparatus that’s usually embedded in my manuscripts, and dumped them all into the work-log spreadsheet.
Deadlines are an excellent corrective to the chattering demon that tells me I just wrote garbage. Sure, it’s bad, but the readers will tell me where it can be improved. This is the real reward for finishing a story arc in a month: it will get read. (I don’t send works-in-progress to be read, because the shape of the novel is one of the things I want to finish before anyone comments on it.)
There are my writing friends who help me get through National Novel Writing Month by running bouts with me, and then there are my friends whose reader’s eye is my much-anticipated reward.
And then there’s the prospect of reading their novels, but that’s a whole nother post.
Not to ask a stupid question, but is a Zero Draft a Rough Draft? Do you number all of your drafts or just the first one?
Zero draft is straight-from-the-subconscious, high-speed draft–no rearrangements, no cutting the word-fat, no changes at all. I generally share it only with beta-readers who know the madness that is National Novel Writing Month. Then comes first draft, and after that … I lose count, because one segues pretty continuously into the next.