The Journal: Cave Creek and A Few Thoughts on Writing Into the Dark

In today’s Journal

* I seldom write from a picture
* Cave Creek Kickstarter update
* Yesterday
* Topic: A Few Thoughts on Writing Into the Dark
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

I seldom write from a picture, but in case anyone wondered, I wrote my recent short story, “Silence Is Better,” based on seeing a print I found at a garage sale. (Artist: Vivian Flasch)

That’s a photo of it on the left. If you’d like to read the short story (some readers think it’s Hemingway-esque), email me at and I’ll send it to you in PDF>

If you haven’t yet backed the Cave Creek kickstarter, please consider doing so. It’s reaching for a second stretch goal. You can find the info at

Yesterday—well, we decided to make a trip to Sierra Vista for shopping. I found eggs! The limit was two dozen, but that’s all I wanted anyway. I’m not a hoarder, and frankly I don’t like those who are. We should all be in this together.

Anyway, we picked up some other necessities too. When we got back, I cycled a bit and wrote a little (see Day 16 below).

Topic: A Few Thoughts on Writing Into the Dark

We have several new subscribers to the Journal and it’s been awhile since I talked about writing into the dark. Plus, this morning I had a new thought about it. Hence this topic.

Most writers I’ve met have experienced being “in the zone.” The “zone” is a state of mind in which the words flow, seemingly unbidden and unstoppable, and it’s nothing short of wonderful.

Briefly, writing into the dark is being “in the zone,” albeit on purpose.

Writing into the dark means giving yourself over to Trusting your creative subconscious and Trusting all the knowledge you’ve gleaned over the years about writing and Story.

It means writing without knowing in advance where the story is going. It mean dropping into “the zone” at will. Intentionally.

Yes, intentionally. Yes, at will.

Once you are able to trust what you know and let go of all the silliness you learned over the years, mostly from nonwriters and beginning writers, you really can drop into the zone at will.

How? By sitting down at the keyboard, putting your fingers on the keys, and (if you’re in the midst of a work in progress) typing the next sentence. Then the next and the next.

Trusting the next sentence and the next really is like magic. Just write. Before you realize it, you’ll be in the zone, deep in the story, and burning up the keyboard.

And if you don’t have a work in progress? Same thing. Start with a character with a problem and drop him or her into a setting. Then sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys and write.

(If you find yourself arguing with this, I urge you to quiet that critical voice and just try it.)

Use whatever character name pops into your head. The initial problem doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story.

The initial problem might be only an untied shoelace or a forgotten briefcase or coffee sloshing from his or her cup onto his or her suit coat or a neighbor who loves to borrow things coming up the sidewalk or the boss coming up the hallway with a determined look on his face. Whatever. The problem matters only in that it gets you to the keyboard.

The setting might be the living room of the character’s house or the stoop or porch in front of the house or the inside of the car or the character’s place of business. Again, whatever.

Whoever the character is, whatever the little problem is that gets you to the keyboard, whatever the setting is, Write It.

And again, soon your fingers will be flying over the keyboard and you’ll be in the zone.

In the case of a short story, trust your character(s) and they’ll lead you through to the end.

In the case of a novel, trust your characters and they’ll lead you to the end of the scene, then through the next one, then the next and eventually to the end of the story.

The only difference between a short story and a longer story (novella or novel) is that the short story is about One Event. The longer story is about a series of related events, each of which leads to the next until you’ve reached the end.

It really is that easy, folks. It really is.

The only hard part is forcing yourself to let go of all the nonsense and trust in yourself and your characters (which, um, are part of yourself).

Admittedly it’s always easier to succumb to the fear of failure or rejection or of not knowing in advance where the story’s going or any of a number of other unreasonable fears.

I hope for you that you won’t succumb. I hope for you that you will discover the literally unbridled freedom of writing into the dark.

What Writing Into the Dark is NOT

WITD is NOT “letting your characters wander aimlessly, putting down random thoughts” as one writer who doesn’t write into the dark recently described it. There’s nothing “aimless” or “random” about it.

Nor is it “sloppy writing” or “stream of consciousness” (though it can be) or any of that nonsense.

WITD simply means the writer understands in a very real way that the characters, not the writer, are actually living the story. The writer trusts that the characters know where the story’s going and how it will unfold.

The writer’s only role is to lend the character his or her fingers on the keyboard and allow the character to tell the story.

And what about cycling? Isn’t that an important part of writing into the dark?

Yes, it is. Cycling is revising, albeit without conscious thought. Cycling, like writing into the dark in the first place, is a function of the creative subconscious.

Rather than being a binding hindrance, it’s freeing. Like WITD is freeing in the first place.

During cycling (reading over what you’ve written and allowing yourself to touch it as you read) you can add the five senses. Use all five senses at least once in every major scene. That description should be filtered through the POV character’s senses and with the POV character’s opinions.

During cycling you can “plant” the pistol back in Chapter 2 or 3 (or in the third or fourth paragraph of your short story) that Aunt Marge suddenly pulled out of the pocket of her housecoat in Chapter 14 (or in the fifth paragraph from the end of the short story).

Try it. Quieting the critical mind isn’t easy, but if you struggle through and really learn to let go and trust yourself, I guarantee you’ll like WITD. You might even thank me.

Today I was heartened to learn (through a special offer I made yesterday) that several subscribers read these silly posts in their entirety.

I was telling someone recently, back in the day I would have loved finding a blog like this. There are so few places where writers can find un-regurgitated information that doesn’t tout the same old things: outlining, revising, using critique groups and rewriting.

I didn’t find that until I rediscovered Dean and found his blog when I was 60-something. But here I am, doing my best to pay it forward and pass along helpful information. I hope some of you find it useful.

I need a big writing day today, so I basically just decided that’s what was going to happen. I rolled out early and had 1600 words before 4 a.m. Having to do some cycling today too, but it’s all good. (grin)

As is becoming my habit with this novel, I’ll post this now and report fiction numbers later.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Business Musings: The Waiting Game Part Two” at

See “Card Sharp Silver… Day 7” at

See “What’s in a (Pen) Name? An Argument Against Noms de Plumes” at

See “Sheltering Endurance Tips, Toilet Paper Giveaway…” at

See “True Crime Thursday – Shut the Door Murder Confession” at

See “Puffing the PR” at

For something neat, see “The Harvest of Roses” at I edited The Raintown Review around 30 years ago. I didn’t remember this poem until it popped up this morning on a Talkwalker alert. (grin)

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… XXXX
Nonfiction words today…………… 1400 (Journal)

Writing of The Othgygnrkthers (tentative title, novel)

Day 10… 1622 words. Total words to date…… 28128
Day 11… 1263 words. Total words to date…… 29391
Day 12… 0992 words. Total words to date…… 30383
Day 13… 1897 words. Total words to date…… 32280
Day 14… 1199 words. Total words to date…… 33479
Day 15… 1444 words. Total words to date…… 34923
Day 16… 1284 words. Total words to date…… 36207
Day 17… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 48528
Total fiction words for the year………… 185223
Total nonfiction words for the month… 23500
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 77980
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 263203

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 3
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 6
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 48
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 202
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31