Friday, February 7, 2014

What Does a Draft Look Like?

Among writer circles, it's common to discuss your process -- especially the "plotter vs pantser" question.  There's a lot of insecurity about drafts.  And I totally get that.  When you're writing a rough draft, sometimes the only thing you have to compare it to is another person's polished, published work, and it's really easy to get discouraged.  It's easy to hear "Writing is editing, don't worry about the rough draft" but a lot harder to put it into practice. 

I myself write with a combination of outlining and pantsing, a process I call my "zero" draft.  Basically I write one super loose draft (often long-hand) that's more outline than finished product.  I write it off the top of my head with minimal planning and let the story go where it will.  Once the whole story is finished, I go back over it and create an outline or scene list based on what I have, edit the plot from that outline (ie, "oh, we need a scene here to explain this" or "that scene should go in this chapter"), make those fixes, then go through it paragraph by paragraph fixing the language, adding description, etc.  Once all that's done, I have a serviceable draft that I can send to a beta reader/editor.  Once I get feedback, I apply that, make another pass through to handle copy edits.  Then a final pass to format and proofread. 

But you might be wondering, what does all of that actually look like? 

So let me show you exactly what a "zero draft" looks like, alongside its finished version, with an excerpt from Nezumi's Children.  I wrote Nezumi in 28 days during Nanowrimo, and looking at the zero draft, I think you'll be able to tell ;) 

Zero Draft

    They were coming.  Bitey didn't need any usoothe to tell her that -- she could feel them.  Smell them.  Hear them.  They consumed her senses and she trembled.  She was in the bottom cage -- the dog kennel -- ​alongside Smeeze, Monster, and Ukeki.  the others were above, in the large ferret cage.  Cookie had managed, somehow, to squeeze in.  Above, they were all huddled together, awaiting the inevitable.  Below, the guards were restless, wandering or pacing or grooming, none looking at each other.  Outside the bars, the ferrets wrestled with each other, or else hid.  They toowere alive with nervous energy.  

   They waited this way, for a time, restless, hearing the inevitable approach of the Ukeshu's army.  they had to cross the store in the open in order to reach them -- their tunnel system not reaching across -- and it slowed them.  Rats, even those on a mission, can never let down their guard, can never forget that they can at anytime become the prey of nearly everything else.  S​urvival and caution first.  Anger and violence second.

  The approaching rats skittered allong the walls as they came.  They paused, uncertain, sniffing the air -- smelling the ushu, perhaps.  Many attempted to turn back but were caught by the strongest-hearted guards and forced forward with teeth and claws.

   The Ukeshu had assembled as fine an army as any on such short notice.  They totaled maybe twenty in all -- all males, and many heavily scarred from prior battles.  Some were giant and surly, and a few were small, wiry, and had shrewdly conniving looks.  All of them reeked of maleness and the promise of violence.  

    The ferrets -- whcih had been looking bored with the whole situation and had seemed willing to leave just moments before -- suddenly perked up and a harsh predatory gleam lit up in their eyes.  They leapt forward, muscular bodies springing into action not from any loyalty to Nezumi and the others but from a simple joy of slaughter. 


 

The Same Section from the Final Draft


    They were coming.  Bitey didn't need any usoothe to tell her that -- she could feel them.  Smell them.  Hear them.  They consumed her senses and she trembled.  No matter how well they had prepared for this moment – no matter how inevitable it had felt – she wasn't ready.

    She stood just inside the wire of the bottom cage -- the larger kennel -- ​alongside Smeeze, Monster, and Ukeki.  The others were above, in the smaller cage.  Cookie had managed, somehow, to squeeze in, and she was in surprisingly high spirits considering the circumstances; once given the task of building shelter inside, she had happily taken to weaving nests from scraps of plastic, paper and fabric brought by the others.  By the time Bitey and her retainer had returned from their journey, the cages almost looked like home.

    Good thing, Bitey had thought.  If we'll survive this, it will be home.

    Above, the rats were huddled together, awaiting the onslaught.  If they were lucky, the fight would not go that far. Not a rat among them was truly built for battle, though Dumbo was able to hold her own.  They may be able to ward off attacks through the bars, but if the Ukeshu's guards broke through, it would be over quickly.

    All the more reason to make sure that doesn't happen.

    Below, the guards were restless, wandering or pacing or grooming. None looked at each other.  Smeeze shifted uneasily from one paw to the other and kept casting uncertain glances up at the top cage as if regretting her post.  Only Monster seemed unfazed; her blood-colored eyes were glazed and distant.

    Outside the bars, the ferrets wrestled and bounced, chasing each other around the cage.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Bitey was glad; she wasn't certain that they knew what they had been brought here for, and she feared they may leave if things stretched on much longer.  They didn't seem to be particularly patient creatures.

    They waited this way for a long time.  The sounds of the Ukeshu's army grew nearer, but did not become more urgent; the warrior-king of the wild ones was confident and unhurried.  Besides, they had been forced to cross the store in the open, and their progress was slowed by caution.  Rats, even those on a mission, can never let down their guard; they can never forget that they can at any time become the prey of nearly everything else.  S​urvival and caution first.  Anger and violence second.

    The approaching rats did not quite march.  They crept along walls or darted across open spaces.  They pressed themselves low to the damp tile and moved with the cautious, jerky footsteps of those on unfamiliar ground. A few, scenting the shujisk, started and tried to draw back.  The rats behind them, though – the largest and most powerful of the party – nipped at their haunches and urged them forward.

    They were an impressive army.  They totaled perhaps twenty in all, each one as large and heavily-scarred as any in the Ukeshu's service.  The smallest of them were gaunt and angular with shrewd faces; the largest rivaled the ferrets in size. All of them reeked of maleness and the promise of violence.

    At the rear of the group, moving with the terrible deliberation of one who has never known fear, the Ukeshu stood a head taller than any in his army.  His sleek dark fur caught hints of light, illuminating his muscles, and the twisted scars that crossed his sides stood out in stark contrast to his sleek pelt.  As they came within sight of the domestic colony's stronghold, the Ukeshu rose to his haunches and hissed out a warning – a wordless threat that made even the skin of his allies crawl.

    The wild ones halted at the sound of their alpha's cry.  They stood in a tense line, a jumble of bodies that seethed with tension, and waited for a signal.  At their paws, an expanse of two feet stood between them and the cage where Bitey and her kin had chosen to make their stand.  Between them there was only an empty expanse of tile – and a small handful of shujisk.

    The ferrets – who had seemed listless and ready to leave just moments before – suddenly snapped to attention.  A harsh predatory gleam lit in their eyes. They whipped their blunt heads toward the approaching rats and gave out a piercing, joyous cry.  Before the wild ones could react, the first shujisk had darted forward with the speed and grace of a demon, and the others soon followed.  Some, attracted by the sound, bounded free of hiding places beneath shelves or within cages.  Creatures who had moments ago been playing amongst themselves were suddenly converted to a single purpose: violence, for the simple joy of slaughter. 

Obviously, There's a Big Difference

The zero draft is all about knocking out the high points of the plot -- who's standing where, what's happening.  A lot of those elements remain in the final draft (in this scene, anyway -- there's a whole lot of sequences in the zero draft that you will not see in the finished version, and vice versa), but the narrative has been stretched to provide more information, more character, more sensory detail.

You'll also notice  that there were a lot of typos in the original draft.  That's because I wrote it in a program called Zoho Writer so I could access it on the Cloud (I was writing at work and couldn't use dropbox) and it was very laggy.  So that introduced a ton of errors that had to be fixed. 

Anyway.  Hopefully this little glimpse in my process is helpful -- and at least gives you something to compare  your own rough drafts to :)

No comments:

Post a Comment