In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: I’m a Fortunate Guy
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“The book trade invented literary prizes to stimulate sales, not to reward merit.” Michael Moorcock
“What does figuring out the schedule mean? It means I had to figure out what I was writing when. Then I had to figure out a realistic word count for the week/day. Then I had to do math to figure out when I would finish Project #1 and so on and so forth.” Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Spend thirty minutes on Writer Bewarehttps://writerbeware.blog/ to see if your potential publisher or anyone mentioned in the potential publisher’s website is mentioned there.” The Passive Guy
“Finally, don’t pay any publisher money to publish your book. If you want to publish your book, Amazon is happy to do it at no charge.” The Passive Guy
Topic: I’m a Fortunate Guy
First, thanks to everyone who went to the website and left a comment on the previous post. When you leave a comment on the site, it helps internet crawlers and bots discover the Journal. So it’s like helping with circulation for a newspaper. I appreciate it.
Now then. I’m a fortunate guy, and I take nothing for granted.
For one thing, I’ve always felt as if someone dipped me in the English Language River at birth. Understanding the nuances of the language has always come easily to me whether the topic is spelling, punctuation, or grammar and syntax. All of the various past, present and future tenses are easy for me too, as are the weight and connotation conveyed by various words.
I also understand the rhythms and flow of the language, which sometimes boils down to the juxtaposition and sounds of individual letters and pairs of letters inside words. (I explain a lot about this in my book, Poetry Techniques for the Fictionist and in the audio lecture (scroll down to Course 10) of the same name.
I am also fortunate that I understand the difference between the conscious, critical mind and the creative subconscious.
Creating literature (so writing into the dark) or other kinds of art would not be possible without the ability of the conscious, critical mind to learn new things.
Each of the two minds has a different role:
1. We process and learn new information with the conscious, critical mind; then
2. We shut out the critical mind and Create (meaning we apply what we’ve learned) with the creative subconscious.
That’s what some of us call writing into the dark. Which only means writing without knowing in advance where the story’s going. And we don’t know where it’s going because it isn’t our story; it’s our characters’ story. We’re only recording it for them.
To me and a lot of others, including many “name” professional fiction writers, this makes perfect sense. And I count myself fortunate for that more than for anything else that has to do with writing or creativity.
Believe it or not, some writers are born with the understanding that they can write into the dark. I’m not one of them.
WITD only began making sense to me in April 2014. I’d been reading Dean Wesley Smith’s posts for a couple of months at that point, and one day I decided I wanted to know whether this WITD he kept talking about would really work or whether I was being tossed a load of fresh manure. Frankly, I suspected the latter. This is a Saul turned Paul story. I was a complete skeptic.
The only way to be absolutely certain whether something works is to go all-in and give it an honest try. Not for anyone else, just for yourself. Just so you, yourself, will know. And that’s what I did. I gritted my teeth and forced myself to follow the “rules” of writing into the dark.
For a couple of weeks I constantly had to push aside the doubts and fears coming from my conscious, critical mind. That’s the job of the critical mind. It tried to stop me and thereby protect me from the embarrassment that would ensue if I wrote something into the dark and nobody liked it. That’s what the critical mind does. That’s its purpose.
But once I’d written the third or fourth or fifth story and finally understood that WITD wasn’t a fluke, that it really was freeing and fun and it really worked, I continued and I never looked back.
But “rules”? Reallly? Doesn’t writing into the dark mean there are no rules? Doesn’t it mean you just slop stuff across the page, giving no thought to quality or structure or any of that, and readers get what they get?
No, it doesn’t.
WITD only means letting go of unreasoning, unrealistic fears — of rejection, failure, and even success — and override all the silly myths. Most of those myths were started by people who don’t even write fiction and were perpetuated over the years (and are still perpetuated) by early-stage writers and writers who are too frightened to Just Write. Sigh.
So some “rules” for writing into the dark
1. Realize you were telling good stories (usually to your parents) long before you knew how to write or were even aware there was an alphabet. And yes, those stories came from your creative subconscious. If you could do it then, you can do it now. You just have to set aside all the BS educators et al have pumped into you over the years.
2. Now that you’re an adult, realize that what you’re writing doesn’t really matter. It’s only a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment, nothing more. What matters is THAT you’re writing, and that matters only because you’re a writer.
3. See your characters as if they’re real people, albeit maybe living in another dimension. Then let them tell the story that they, not you, are living. You are only their recorder. If you wouldn’t try to force your neighbors into living in a certain way, then you shouldn’t force your characters either. Besides, if Stephen King can find the humility to know it’s the characters’ story, so can you.
4. Understand that perfection doesn’t exist. Really. That isn’t just a nifty saying. And the pursuit of perfection is a waste of time, so let it go. What you make “perfect” for one reader will be a disaster for another. Often when you believe a story is flawed, a reader will see it as well-done.
Here’s an example: When I wrote a short story called “Old Suits” (free PDF download) I thought it was the worst story I’d ever written. I published it anyway. Months later, a reader emailed me, praising the story and saying it sounded as if Ernest Hemingway had written it. Go figure.
5. Realize that nothing bad will happen if you write and publish a story that isn’t perfect. (See the example above.) Nobody will drive to your house to beat you up, and magazine editors won’t ban you for life from submitting other stories to them.
(Seriously, magazine editors are busy people. Most of the time they don’t even remember the names of the authors whose work they buy, much less the names of authors whose work they reject.)
6. In my opinion, writing into the dark works better in conjunction with Heinlein’s Rules. I recommend you Get a Copy (free PDF download) and become an adherent.
That’s all of the “rules” I can think of right now. But really the ability to write into the dark only boils down to confidence. You’ve absorbed Story over a lifetime from books and articles and television shows and movies. You’ve taken classes and read blog posts and books on craft.
But Writing is the only thing that will make you a writer.
I really do hope you’ll try writing into the dark. Not because my paycheck will go up (it won’t) but because it’s so very freeing, exciting and fun. And I like to share. If you do choose to try it on your own and find yourself with questions or needing a little help, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the next post, I’ll talk specifically about how to start if you want to try it.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Waldorf Publishing: A Watchdog Advisory” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/waldorf-publishing-a-watchdog-advisory/. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it: ANYONE, person or business, who requires payment up front to publish a work is a scammer.
See “Focus Again” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/focus-again/.
See “Tell Your Story with 3 Tarot Cards” at https://www.janefriedman.com/tell-your-story-with-3-tarot-cards/. Maybe helpful.
See “Lindy Chamberlain — Did a Dingo Really Get Her Baby?” at http://dyingwords.net/lindy-chamberlain-did-a-dingo-really-get-her-baby/.Not about writing. Just interesting.
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.