Zero Drafts

I finished the zero draft of the first Combine’s Shadow book last night. So today is kind of an off-day, though I still have to get out the door for a run. God knows I’m feeling the pressure to get a whole chunk of Beast of Wonder out of my head today, too.

Every once in a while I get a rash of people asking “what’s a zero draft?” so I thought I might as well do a whole post on it, since I just finished one and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have another soon. (Beast of Wonder really, really wants to be written now, and I need it out of my head.)

It’s been said that all good writing is rewriting, and like all old chestnuts, it contains a grain of truth. Certainly there are occasions when a chunk of text falls out of my head and needs only minimal polishing before it’s ready for primetime, when I fall into a fugue state and churn out something beautiful. (The Muse does have to give me random rewards in order to keep me addicted, after all.) Those gifts are Easter-egg sprinkled through every draft, hidden hinges and visible ones for the story to hang on.

Zero draft means the work is done. It has the beginning, middle, end, there aren’t any places saying [[shit happens here]] or [[why isn’t this working, figure out the muppet here]] or [[jesus christ I have to kill this character soon]] or, one of my favorites, [[sex scene here?]]. It’s in recognizable book/short story/novella form; the corpse is whole and laid on the table. Celebrate, get a beverage of your choice, soak up the congrats of all your writer friends. You’ve given birth!

Now comes the hard part. Nobody else sees this draft. Oh, no. Are you kidding? It’s not even ready for mew writing partner or beta readers yet.

The zero draft is the raw steaming lump of creativity. I set it aside, for at least a week. More difficult works sometimes have to marinate for longer. This serves two purposes: it helps ease the snapback, and it gives some slight but critical emotional distance from the big, messy word-baby you’ve just laid. You need that distance in order to make the word-baby better, prettier, more appealing, truer to its shape and intention.

Once it’s marinated for a little bit, you can go back and do the initial revision pass. You can fix typos, you can trim and craft better sentences, do continuity checks–basically, the initial pass is for arranging the corpse prettily on the table, embalming it, fixing structural problems, changing your dialogue tags to action or description tags, and the like. After that pass, it becomes a first draft.

Now other people–writing partner, beta readers, etc.–can see it. Now you can let it marinate for a little while longer before another revision pass if you can tell it needs more. A zero draft is the skeleton; a first draft is that skeleton with padding and clothing added. (Yes, I’m gleefully abusing metaphors here to make a point. You’d think I was a writer.) Work doesn’t stop at a first draft–I know writers who get to at least the third before they even consider letting an agent or editor near it. I tend to work hot and lean even in my first drafts, so I need agent/editor feedback on where the lacunae are, those things I can see so clearly in my head I forget the reader doesn’t have that image as well. It’s rare that I keep a book until the second or third draft.

Why don’t I call a zero a first draft? Because it’s finished, yes, but it’s not quite arranged, painted, or aesthetically where I want it. The brute work of typing is done, but it’s the cut and polish that makes it better. Still, the zero is a thing to celebrate. You’ve got to give yourself a break and a reward or two for finishing the damn story before you can gather the energy to make the corpse ready for the viewing.

It doesn’t mean the work is over, but you’ve got to take the good things where you find them.

Validation

I spent the weekend putting together alternatives to Patreon for my lovely subscribers. I could have been doing so many other things, but oh well. I also had the heaving frustration of my site basically choking every time I tried to upload an image, that was fun. Fortunately, this morning I got in the queue for a service chat with my hosting provider, and we figured out the problem. Ugh, double ugh, I could have been doing something else with THAT time, too, but now it’s solved (for the moment, we’ll see if the solution holds) and I can breathe a little easier.

I am also relieved that the problem was something I couldn’t have fixed on my own. It’s so nice when someone else says, “Oh yeah, it’s X, let’s see if this works.” I wasn’t just imagining things! I mean, I knew I wasn’t, but the validation is still pleasant indeed.

So I’m shivering in my chair, my coffee has grown tepid, and as hard as I tried this morning I could not get out the door for a run at a reasonable time. That means it will have to be unreasonable, and I’m already behind. There’s four scenes to get an acceptable zero draft of Combine Shadow, a weekend’s worth of wordcount to get back on top of, more Beast of Wonder to feel my way around, under, towards…oh, I’m sure there’s more on the list, including setting up workflows and choosing this week’s subscription offerings. And, and, and. I should just get over myself, slather on some sunscreen, and get going. Maybe the endorphins and some vitamin D will make me feel a little less frazzled and more, well, human.

Maybe once I finish my run I’ll turn the heat on and drink some tea. It’s a good thing I work ahead on so many projects, it means I have a cushion for just such weekends as the last one. The only trouble is, once that cushion starts to get thin I get anxious, thinking I’m behind when really I’m slightly ahead or just on time. If I’m not early, I feel late.

Anxiety is fun.

That’s my Monday, chickadees. The perennial feeling of needing a weekend to recover from the weekend is getting awful familiar…

Patreon’s Cash Grab

I sent this message to all my Patreon backers. On the off chance that some of them have already deleted their pledges, I’m also posting it here.

Hello Patrons!

By now, I’m sure, you’ve heard about Patreon’s fee changes. This is a cash grab by the company–for details, you can check out Natalie Luhrs’s excellent post–and it is a horrible idea.

It’s horrible because loading up $1-$5 subscribers with “transaction fees” EVEN THOUGH said subscribers’ cards etc are only charged ONCE no matter how many creators they support is unethical, dishonest, and wrong.

Patreon is currently the only game in town–Kickstarter Drip hasn’t opened to everyone yet, and even if it did, the company is owned by Amazon, which puts me off. I’m looking into other options, but it’s going to take a while.

If you need to delete your pledge because of this, I encourage you to do so. I would rather absorb the cost than have it placed on you, because that’s the ethical way of doing business.

Since this is Patreon using a unilateral shit move, however, I don’t want you guys to suffer. **If you delete your pledge because of this, PLEASE DROP ME AN EMAIL AT contact AT lilithsaintcrow DOT com so I can make sure you get the ebook of Season 3 for free when it’s finished.** I don’t want you guys missing out because of someone else’s shitty behavior.

I also have a post up where you can vote and tell me what changes to the reward structure should happen in light of this development.

I depend on patrons for a small but consistent monthly sum that keeps us in groceries, but I don’t want it if it’s a result of screwing over people who generously give because they believe in me and my work. It would be a shoddy way to repay you for your kindness and support.

Again, if you decide to delete your pledge, drop me an email so I can add you to the list of those who will get the Roadtrip Z Season 3 ebook for free. I want to make sure you get your money’s worth, no matter what Patreon does.

All my very best,

Lili Saintcrow

Uh, whoops…

Yeah, so, yesterday I changed a single tag on some SquirrelTerror posts and WordPress decided to vomit them ALL up as new posts, everywhere. Sorry about that. :/ (I am told Mercury is retrograde, so that’s what I’m blaming.)

Yesterday I could barely settle to a damn thing until around 3pm, when I’d achieved enough caffeine to impersonate a satellite launch. Fortunately, after that things were much easier; Beast of Wonder, Pocalypse Road, and Combine’s Shadow all lined up for work and were attended to in order. I think spending most of the day on Mastodon instead of Twitter improved my productivity tenfold. Twitter is a garbage fire of harassment, even though I have a truly robust block list. The effort of swimming through that toxicity is gargantuan; still, though, I have to retain a presence there because I’m a mid-list author. Having to hold one’s nose and do something is full adulthood, my friends.

So today: wordcount, revisions, Latin, Greek, piano practice. A full docket, and I have to get out the door for some speed work. I’m not sure I’ll take Miss B–she’s not fond of intervals. They probably interfere too much with her trying-to-kill-me rhythm.

So, I’m sorry about yesterday’s email blizzard, blog subscribers. Next time I change a tag…well, maybe I just won’t, because oh my God who needs that kind of hassle? Forgive me.

*zooms away into the sunshine*

Ambiguity

I love art that invites the viewer/reader to make up their own mind. For example, in Le Samuorai, when Valerie (the nightclub pianist) definitively declares Jef Costello is not the killer. He says, “Thank you, madame,” and she replies, “It’s the least I can do.”

This, especially in light of the ending, can be read several ways. One’s interpretation says a lot about one’s outlook and ethics. The interpretation I like the best is that Jef could have killed her during the initial hit, because she was the only one who got a clear look at him. He didn’t, and she recognizes that. Of course, you could say that Valerie, as a person of color, understands that even if she does testify, Jef could very well be set free, and she’s already seen him kill once.

But, watching and rewatching that exchange, I don’t think that’s in the actress’s mind, or the director’s. I think Valerie is saying, “You could have killed me, but you didn’t. Now I am paying that debt to you, we’re even, and you won’t come after me.” And Costello, being honorable, would not, and indirectly agrees with his thanks.

Often, in my own books, I try to leave that space around certain decisions by certain characters, so the reader can mull it over. Unfortunately, many publishers dislike any ambiguity unless it’s from the pen of a Literary White Male. “But readers won’t GET IT!” is the most common plaint I hear.

Oh, they will. But I as an artist have to give them the chance to do so. I’d rather do that than insult their intelligence.

Fidgets

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I took yesterday mostly off. It ended with knitting and watching the last half of L’Eclisse, which is a pleasant way to spend an evening. Good Lord but Alain Delon was pretty, back in the day. It makes me want to watch Le Samourai again.

I didn’t even have to make dinner–the Princess brought home a take-n-bake pizza. “It’s your day off,” she said. “Copyedits were hard.” (The pizza was delicious, too.)

This morning is strangely sunny, one of those weird weather spots. I can’t settle to a single thing, though, so I blame both the Godzilla ridge and Mercury being in retrograde. I know the latter doesn’t matter, but any excuse for this itchy feeling is welcome. I’m sure once I get out the door and halfway through a run, I’ll settle somewhat.

Both dogs have been particularly needy this morning. They didn’t care that I needed caffeine in order to prop my eyelids up; no, they wanted pets, and since I have two dogs, that took care of my full hand complement. Honestly, I stopped at two children for just this reason–never have more Truly Important Things than you can carry (or keep hold of) in a disaster. That, and I knew I couldn’t give more than two children high-quality parenting. Knowing one’s limits is a necessary art.

The next thing on my docket is a thorough, hard revise of Season 3 of Roadtrip Z. For those asking, there will be four seasons, and after the fourth is done and released there will be a compilation. I may just release the compilation in ebook, since it’s going to be a beast, size-wise, and I’m not sure the price point for putting it in print will be sustainable. As usual, Patreon folks get the ebooks for free, up to and including the compilation.

So that’s the big overarching thing I’ll be focusing on, as well as Beast of Wonder and the finishing touches on the NaNo book’s zero draft. Enough work to take me into the new year, indeed. It will feel good, I’m sure, once I get my run out of the way this morning and the fidgets worked out.

Onward to Tuesday, I guess.

Up for Air

Humpback Whale in Body of Water
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Finished the copyedits. It took four passes, one of which was a page-by-page compare-collate with the actual final draft. By the end, unwashed, glaring, exhausted, and ready to kill the next person who tossed a semicolon where it didn’t belong, I sent the entire package off.

That was my weekend. I know some people have weekends that are actually relaxing, but mine are for catching up, especially since salaried publishing folks (not the writers, never the writers, give them a salary and they might be able to pay their bills, forsooth!) tend to clear things off their desks on Friday, dumping them into freelancer laps. Which wasn’t how the CEs landed on me, but I’ve gotten in the habit of the weekend being just like the work-week.

I did manage to get some housework done, and of course, Odd Trundles got his bath. Have you ever seen umpty-scrump pounds of bulldog practicing Gandhi-like passive resistance in the face of warm water and soap? It’s as amusing (and as hard on the lumbar spine) as you’d imagine. I have to carry Odd from his hiding place to the bathtub, scrub every crusted inch of him–oh, the crusts? Well, bulldogs are yeasty, and I can only wash him once a week or he gets skin problems. So, there’s a daily session with a sponge and a warm washcloth to get creases and folds cleaned out, as well as baby wipes (and, let’s be honest, hemorrhoid wipes) to deal with the more delicate valleys. Things have gotten way better since we switched to a sulfur shampoo, but still, every morning there’s various secretions to be worked free of his surprisingly sensitive skin.

I’ve talked several people out of getting bulldogs just by detailing Odd’s vet bills and the daily routine that keeps him clean and unscabrous.

Anyway, today is for rest and renewal, coming up for air. Knitting. Finishing my meander through Antonioni’s trilogy. An easy run with Miss B at my side. Looking through the projects I have left on my docket and arranging them. I’m not supposed to work today, I’m supposed to rest so I can be more efficient and energetic tomorrow.

But I’m sure I’ll steal a few minutes to write on Beast of Wonder. Or something else. If I go without writing for a day I’m uneasy; two days and I’m uncomfortable; any more and the urge becomes actual physical pain, fingertip to hair-end to toes. I have never understood writing as a hobby; for me, it’s an outright need.

In any case, today is for being gentle with myself. And, possibly, for dancing around the office a bit. Needs and projects are good, yes. But dancing is another matter entirely.

Happy Monday, my friends.