Ernest Hemingway famously said “the only kind of writing is rewriting.” For many of us, it took a while for that to really sink in. Most writers spend years punishing themselves for their half baked, messy first drafts, as if that means they are a bad writer because they cannot churn out a perfect book in one go.
This is where the Heart Draft, or Zero Draft, comes in. The Heart Draft is raw and messy, unpolished and imperfect, and it has a magic of its own. Story magic. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of the heart draft and understand its significance in the writing process.
How Do you Define a Heart Draft?
The heart draft is pretty much word vomit. It is writing where ideas flow freely onto the page and you don't think about what you are writing, the words you are using or if it is gramtacially correct. Used the same word three times in one sentence? It doesn't matter, it's a Heart Draft. Completely forgotten what a comma is? It doesn't matter, it's a Heart Draft. Keep putting in placeholders like [description here]? It doesn't matter, it's a Heart Draft.
It is a liberating process that encourages writers to bypass their internal editor and allow their creativity to take over. The primary objective of the heart draft is to capture ideas, thoughts, and emotions without the burden of perfection or self-judgment.
How is a Heart Draft Different to a First Draft?
The terms "heart draft" and "first draft" are often used interchangeably, as they both refer to the first written version of your story. However, there is a difference between them.
A first draft is usually a full story that makes sense. While it may still be imperfect, it generally features a cohesive narrative, a plot that makes sense, character development, pacing, and a logical flow.
A heart draft however does not have to have any of these things. Many people see it as a long outline. The idea is that you are writing it from the heart, embracing imperfection and allowing your ideas to flow freely The focus is on exploring creativity and voice and not being weighed down by perfection.
Who Should Write a Heart Draft?
Anyone can write a heart draft, however some types of writers might find it more benefinical than others:
Beginners: New writers who are just starting their writing journey can use Heart Drafts to develop their creativity, explore their ideas, and get comfortable with the writing process without feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to produce a polished story.
Perfectionists: Writers who tend to be overly self-critical can benefit from embracing the heart draft approach. By giving themselves permission to write freely and without judgment, they can overcome the fear of imperfection and become more confidant in their voice.
Pantsers: Writers who enjoy the thrill of discovery and prefer to let their stories unfold organically will find the heart draft approach particularly useful. Pantsing and Heart Drafts pretty much go hand in hand.
Plantsers: For writers who like to have a general sense of direction but also leave room for improvisation, the heart draft can be an ideal starting point. Plantsers begin with a loose outline or a general idea of the story's arc but allow themselves the freedom to deviate from it, and the Heart Draft stage is perfect for this, allowing them detours, unexpected character revelations, or plot developments that may not have emerged during the outlining phase.
Why Should you Write a Heart Draft?
Embracing Imperfection: the main benefit of the heart draft is the freedom it provides. In the pursuit of perfection, many writers often experience writers block. By allowing yourself to write without inhibitions, you allow your imagination to roam freely. It unlocks the story magic in a way that an outline cannot, writers will often find themselves taking their stories in a direction they never could have even dreamed up, or their characters going off and writing their own story. It can almost feel like the story is writing itself (not literally unfortunatly, wouldnt that be nice).
Idea Generation: If you have a multitude of ideas but struggle to develop them fully, a heart draft can be a valuable tool. It enables you to capture those ideas quickly and explore different directions without getting stuck in overthinking or analysis paralysis.
Creative Exploration: Writers who want to push their creative boundaries, experiment with unconventional ideas, or break free from traditional storytelling structures can find the heart draft approach useful as it helps unlock unique and unexpected elements in their writing.
What Comes After the Heart Draft
Rewriting. After all, writing is rewriting and this is never so true when it comes to Heart Drafts. For many, Heart Drafts are really just one long outline, it is you telling yourself the story. Now that you know what the book is all about, you must rewrite it to make sense to everyone else.
Don't feel defeated by this. Though it can feel overwhelming to have to start all over again, trust in the process. In the Heart Draft you allowed your heart to guide the way and now it is time to develop into the literary masterpiece you know it can be.
We have also recorded a podcast on this topic, listen to the episode here.
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