Having a zero draft like having a hibernating squirrel. Okay, an unusual simile, I admit. But, as your zero draft slumbers like a cute little squirrel (see picture below), your mind gathers thoughts and ideas for it, even when you think you are ignoring it, your mind isn't.
|Hibernating Arctic Ground Squirrel.|
Photo from Kelly Drew, UAF
After completing a zero draft, I like to induce hibernation in said draft—especially if I wrote it quickly. (Here is where we return to the squirrel simile/metaphor.)
While your squirrel hibernates, you are subconsciously gathering nuts and berries to feed your characters like some inept, subsistence hunter-gatherer. Most of them are poisonous to your plot, or your theme, or are something your character would never, ever eat. But you keep gathering, hopefully storing them away somewhere you remember to look so that you don't misplace them.
|Photo of Spermophilus parryii enjoying a mushroom|
Now, when you return to it, you see all the fresh opportunities you have, all the things you've stored up for it in your time hibernating. You could feed it a mushroom, a berry, a nut…a seed…
Now, you have new appreciation for your characters (which you might very well have learned to hate during a NaNo marathon or two), and you have new ideas for fixing those plot holes which are suddenly so evident to you.
There is inherent value in your squirrel-esque hoarding of ideas. 99% of all zero drafts at least deserve for you to return to them and give them a cursory read through in order to see if there's something worth developing.
A zero draft may be completely tossed out and reworked from the start, or it may be chopped into unrecognizable pieces, but I bet you anything that there is at least one sentence or thought or idea in your zero draft that is worth pursuing. If not for a novel, then a short story or a poem.
How about you? How do you treat your zero drafts? Do you return to fatten them up? Do you never let them hibernate? Or do you leave them to starve a slow, slow death?
Additional Sources on Zero Drafts:
The Writing Wheel