Zero Draft Thirty: Trust the Process

T minus 3 days. On November 1, the Zero Draft Thirty challenge kicks off!

Zero Draft is what some writers call the vomit draft… or muscle draft… the just-get-the-damn-thing-done draft.

And thirty is… well… the number 30 which is… oh, yeah… the number of days in November!

Write an entire first draft of a script in November — FADE IN to FADE OUT in 30 days.

Feature length movie screenplay. Original TV pilot. Rewrite a current project. Break a story in prep. Generate a month's worth of story concepts.

Whatever you feel will ratchet your creative ambitions into overdrive, do THAT!

Go here, here, here, and here to learn about the #ZD30SCRIPT challenge.

Check out the comments and see how nearly 400 writers have signed up. And you are invited to join the creative fracas.

By the way, Indiewire has picked up on the challenge. And it's been translated into Spanish. So this thing has legs!

Last week, I focused on story prep, a series of posts to help you break your story before typing FADE IN. This week: The psychology of writing, an exploration of a writer's inner life and dynamics which inhibit our creative output.

Today: Trust the process.

“Trust the process.”

This is probably my favorite writing mantra. It’s both practical and spiritual, which pretty sums up my experience of the act of writing.

There is prep-writing (brainstorming, research, generating plot elements, developing characters, story structure, scene breakdowns, outline), then there is page-writing (type FADE IN and continue writing until you type FADE OUT). Those two aspects represent the practical part of the process, but out of that ‘grunt work,’ a more spiritual aspect emerges: suddenly, you hear a character say something to you, or a character may refuse to act the way you planned, or a scene sequence you worked out in advance implodes once you start writing it, or a whole other way of approaching a subplot may leap to mind.

Whatever happens at every step of the way, a writer must learn to trust the process.

For some writers and some stories, the process can be neat and straightforward. For others, the process can be confounding and meandering.

Every writer is different. Every story is different. Every process is different.

The writer must learn to accept that and trust that they are where they are for some reason.

M. Night Shyamalan supposedly wrote five drafts of The Sixth Sense until he had this startling realization: the Protagonist, Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis), was dead.

J.R.R. Tolkien finished the first chapter of what would become “The Lord of the Rings” in February, 1938, then didn’t turn in the final manuscript until 1950. On two occasions, after writing hundreds of pages, Tolkien went back to page one and started all over. What if Tolkien had not trusted his creative process? We might never have known one of the world’s most remarkable pieces of literature.

“Trust the process.”

I hit upon that phrase when I was teaching one of my online screenwriting courses in response to a student who was seemingly stuck in their story. A year or so later, I stumbled onto this book, “Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go”. It’s an excellent read, one I highly recommend, and it raises an interesting point about trust, that second part “letting go.”

Letting go of what?

Often what happens when we get ‘stuck’ in our writing, it’s not so much about the story, it’s about what we bring to the writing process — expectations, plans, fears, doubts. Any time we step out of the story, our active engagement in the writing process, we run the risk of losing ourselves in the day-to-day world as well as our hopes and dreams. For example, we may get caught up in seeing the story as a bridge from our life today to our imagined life in Hollywood as a working screenwriter. To carry that weight of ‘responsibility’ into a writing session, that attachment, can easily encumber our actual writing — and soon we’re stuck, not because of the story, but what we are bringing to the writing.

Trust the process / let go — all very Zen, yes? I guess. It also suggests that we look at the Writer in relation to Story not as an “I – It” relationship, but an “I – You” dynamic, something we explored here.

Trust the process.

Try tacking that mantra up onto the wall where you write.

And then believe it.

The Zero Draft Thirty challenge.

November 1: Type FADE IN / In the Beginning.
November 30: Type FADE OUT / The End.

30 days. A first draft of an original story.

Who's with me?

It's cool! It's crazy! It's free!

NOTE: For those of you using Twitter, use the hashtag #ZD30SCRIPT.

Background on the Zero Draft Thirty challenge:

Who's with me to pound out a script in November
Zero Draft Thirty: Write a Script in a Month Challenge
Zero Draft Thirty: Story Prep – Overview
Zero Draft Thirty: Story Prep – Index Cards
Zero Draft Thirty: Story Prep – Character Development
Zero Draft Thirty: Story Prep – Script Diary
Zero Draft Thirty: What Are You Afraid Of
Zero Draft Thirty: The Despair of the Blank Page
Zero Draft Thirty: Your Characters Want You to Tell Their Story



One of the things I envisioned for the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge is for writers who are participating in it to drop by the blog, where I’ll be doing a daily ZD30 post, and upload something in comments.

It can be a note about how much… or little… progress they have made.

Some insights which have occurred to them in their writing process.

A cry for help… a shout of joy.

Some inspirational quote.

Each daily post will provide an open forum for participants to express something / anything about their writing experience.

So last night, I had an inspiration: As an incentive to motivate ZD30 writers to reflect on their process and share some thoughts with GITS readers, what if we give out a daily award for the best item in that day’s comments section?

Its name? THE TRUMBO AWARD! Named after Dalton Trumbo, famed Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include Spartacus, Exodus, and Johnny Got His Gun.

Of course, around these virtual parts, we’ll come to refer to it as “The Trumbo”. As in, “Dude, didja hear? I totally won The Trumbo today!”

Here’s my request. Is there someone out there adept at PhotoShop or an equivalent program who could take this photograph:

HSW Dalton Trumbo Bathtub

Yes, that really is Dalton Trumbo,
and yes, he really is writing in his bathtub.

And do something fun with it so it feels like an award? A goofy award, I admit, but still something which could in its own odd way bring a smile to some writer’s face when they receive the coveted Trumbo Award.

Text could include something like:

Congratulations, Zero Draft Thirty Writer!

Trumbo Award Winner

I leave it to your creative discretion. To sweeten the pot, if someone does send me a doctored version of the photo above with text and whatever other graphical bells and whistles, and I choose to use it during November, I will give you one of my Core or Craft classes – for free!

Thanks in advance to anyone who is willing to take this on!

Go Into The Story

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