The Journal: A Little More on Process

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* If you don’t currently practice
* Questions from a screenwriter
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” Elinor Smith

If you don’t currently practice writing into the dark, and if you want to, read my previous two posts. I have a feeling some folks see “WITD” in the subject line or in the contents list and skip reading the post. Probably they think it’s the same old thing.

It might be, but usually it isn’t. When I revisit a topic, I usually do so because I’ve thought of something new to say about it, or I’ve thought of a different way to say it that might cause the little light to come on where previous attempts have failed.

So if you’re one who skipped the two preceding posts, and if you’re interested in WITD, I suggest you go back and read them.

Questions from a screenwriter (Thanks, MGP.)

When I talk about WITD here it’s usually in response to questions I’ve received. The previous two posts (and this one) were no exception.

A screenwriter emailed me a few days ago and asked whether I thought it was possible to write screenplays into the dark. That’s what started me thinking about WITD again.

As I wrote in my response to the screenwriter, actually I think it IS possible: “Could [you] switch in [your] creative subconscious from a character’s snappy dialogue to framing a scene to positioning another character and then [writing] that character’s actions and/or dialogue? Might be an interesting experiment.”

You’d still be down in the trenches running through the story with the characters, but you’d be “seeing” events develop through a different lens. Rather than simply conveying what happened as you would in a short story or novel, you would be setting the scene for the actors as well as providing their dialogue and so on.

If you’ve cleared out the myths, and if you have the kind of mental discipline that enables you to switch from content to format and back to content like that, I suggest you go for it.

As I also told the screenwriter, you could always write the story into the dark in the first place, and then adapt that for the stage or screen afterward.

A couple of days later, the same screenwriter also asked whether I thought he could apply Heinlein’s Rules to screenwriting.

Although in my own experience and probably in this Journal I tie Heinlein’s Rules to WITD—for me they go hand in hand—neither is necessarily dependent on the other. So for me, that was a really easy question to answer.

Heinlein’s Rules can be applied to any kind of writing. Not just science fiction, not just speculative fiction, and not just fiction. It can be applied to nonfiction, essays, and playwriting or screenwriting.

Of course, if you’re any kind of professional writer you automatically have to write (Rule 1) and finish what you write (Rule 2). But Heinlein himself hedged his bets with his contentious Rule 3: “You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.” (Later, Harlan Ellison added “And then only if you agree.”)

To my mind, Ellison’s addendum is important. It reminds us that we, the writers, are in control of our own work. We can choose. When an editor/agent/publisher/producer/etc. “requires” a rewrite or requires a change, we can choose to defend our work as-is and say No, albeit maybe to the detriment of the pending contract. Or we can choose to do as the person requests. The important thing to remember is that the story is YOUR intellectual property. Only YOU can decide the treatment it receives.

Hypothetically, if everything else in a pending traditional contract was acceptable, and if I was asked to make a few inconsequential changes that didn’t directly affect the content of the story, I would make them. But if anyone requested changes to the actual content, from a character name to character eye color to gender, etc., they would have to cross my palm with silver. And the amount of silver would have to increase to remain commensurate with the level or number of changes requested.

Of course, that will never happen because I would never go back to traditional publishing. (grin)

Any of you have any thoughts on whether WITD can be used for screen- or play-writing? Feel free to share in the comments.

And if you have questions or other comments, feel free to share those as well.

Click here for a free, annotated copy of Heinlein’s Rules.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Contest Alert: Bardsy’s ‘The Short and Long of It'” at Be sure to see PG’s take.

See “Book Printing 101: What You Need to Know Before Approaching a Printer” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 820 words

Writing of WCGN 5: Tentative Title (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for October……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 623282
Total nonfiction words for October… 6520
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 172480
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 795762

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

2 thoughts on “The Journal: A Little More on Process”

  1. That’s a great quote of the day. Go forth and happen to things! My new mantra.
    Very interesting question about screenwriting. One wouldn’t know if from the current movies out there, but original screenplays used to happen all the time. I think it could be done WITD. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try. Maybe start with a short story already written into the dark for practice.
    I actually see my stories as I write, sort of like a movie. Sometimes I’m watching it, other times seeing from the POV character’s eyes. So I think with some practice it could certainly be done.
    I admit I’ve been biting my tongue to not whine about you stopping Of Interest. Glad it’s back.
    That Bardsy’s contest article should be all the warning anyone needs to READ all the conditions, whether of a contest or a contract and realize that what is in writing is what you’ll be held to. Crazy that the first sentence says the author retains all rights and every single sentence following that explains in detail how an author retains NO RIGHTS AT ALL. Run very fast from anything that looks like this. Or be sorry later.
    I think it was Maya Angelou who said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Good advice, period.
    AND, this and the previous two posts are a master’s class in WITD. Thanks Harvey!

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