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I’m not sure whether it truly qualifies as stepping out of my comfort zone – but I’m definitely trying something different with what we’ll call, for now, Tom Book 2 – or, even shorter, TB2. Something I’ve never done before. At least not the way I’m doing it now…

I’ve read about it here and there , and seen it called Draft 0, or pre-draft, or detailed synopsis, and half a dozen other things… Basically, it is a very short draft of the story, telling what happens without dialogue, description, or much detail of any kind. You know, those people who will tell you a film’s plot, almost scene by scene? She goes there, and finds this and that, and decides she cannot possibly tell her sister, but then in the evening they all go to this big official dinner, and her sister’s children ask her about the will… We all have one of those – a friend, a colleague, a relative… It can be a dead bore when you are the one being told* – but, as a plotting technique, I’m finding… rather interesting.

I should perhaps say that I didn’t go into it quite cold. I already had a general structure, a handful of things that need to happen, a core cast of characters, a number of historical documents to draw from… so I knew where I was going – and the main stages to get there. What I lacked was the journey itself, who actually did what, the complications, the unforeseen things, and a sense of the places and most of the people.

I’m happy to say that, when I started my Draft 0, things began to click into place. Not all of them, of course – but one beauty of this method is that, at this stage, it feels perfectly natural to leave question marks, alternative possibilities, small “TO BE SEEN” notes… And when things come up – and they will at one point or other – the whole is still lithe enough that changes and second thoughts are perfectly manageable.

I’m nearly half-way through my Draft 0 and, so far, the thing is proving useful and unstressful enough. I confess I’m not very strict when it comes to leaving out dialogue and detail entirely. I can happily keep description for later, but when a nice bit of dialogue crops up as I go, I just have to put it there. It’s not hindering the process.

Of course, it still remains to be seen how things will go when I have to turn this thing into a real draft, how I’ll deal with changes if any new idea should present itself… will my Draft 0 still hold then, or will it crumble down and become a waste of time? I incline to expect no real disasters… It’s not exactly true that I’ve never done this before: I did a Draft O of sorts with my one excursion into screenwriting, and found it both helpful and enjoyable. This is different in several ways, I’m finding – but let’s put it this way: the one close precedent is heartening.

I’ll let you know.

And how about you, o Readers? Any experience with pre-drafting? Good or bad?


* Well, it can depend on the teller’s skill – but…