The Journal: Pure Writing Into the Dark

In today’s Journal

* Welcome
* I’m Back!
* Topic: Pure Writing Into the Dark

First, welcome to r2zajac and any other recent new subscribers. You picked a good time to drop in. (grin)

I’m Back!

I’m not bragging here folks. I’m celebrating. I just felt like sharing this good news with my friends. Starting Blackwell Ops 8, my current novel, has been nothing short of restarting my life as a fiction writer after a very long 10 months.

I’ve written five or six different openings for this novel, and I struggled with all of them. It was like pulling teeth. (That isn’t how it’s supposed to be. If you’ve ever been there, keep reading.)

I kept wanting to reword what I’d written, fix it, blah blah blah. All of that was because it wasn’t working, which means the story wasn’t flowing of its own accord, as happens when you simply look in on your characters and record what’s going on, what’s being said and done.

I kept showing up, kept opening the file, kept slogging away at it, but nothing clicked — until I finally decided yesterday to move forward, not back. I exercised the nuclear option.

I highlighted everything I’d written up to that point. I cut it, then pasted it at the end of the manuscript in a section labeled CUTS. (I wrote the words, so they counted in my daily writing, but they won’t be in the novel when it’s finished.)

Then I put the cursor on the first line below Chapter 1 and started to write a new opening, and — it took off! (grin) Maybe I finally convinced my creative subconscious that I’m back to stay. Maybe the characters finally trust that, so they’re willing to share their stories with me again.

Anyway, two hours and twenty-five hundred words later (a blazing fast [grin] 20 words per minute), I had to stop for the day. This morning, I’ll drop in on the characters as they gather for Chapter 4, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I feel very much like I felt before August 6, 2021, and I can’t begin to tell you how good that is. Finally, finally, I’m back. And it’s great to be here.

Topic: Pure Writing into the Dark

Matt P emailed to ask what I mean when I say I take on the persona of the character I’m writing at the time. Here’s my expanded response:

It’s pure writing into the dark. I literally write every word through the POV character’s physical and emotional senses. (It took a long time for me to “get” that every word of a story should come through the POV character and not from the writer.)

If I start to feel “stuck,” I tell my conscious, critical mind to shut up and leave me alone, and I write the next sentence that occurs to me from the character. Then I write the next sentence and the next, and very soon the story is racing along again.

I don’t add anything or take anything away as myself, the author, because I’m not the author. I’m only the recorder, writing down what the POV charcter sees, hears, smells, tastes, feels (physically and emotionally), says and does.

I recognize all the characters as separate individuals. I can’t honestly say whether they live in my creative subconscious or whether they live in another dimension and I’m able somehow to pull back a curtain and look in on them now and then.

But neither does it matter. What matters is that they are living a story that I’m not living, and theirs is more exciting. My story is not their story, and their story is not mine. I’m only recording it for them.

In my own story at the moment, I’m sitting at a keyboard adding a few words to a Journal entry before I copy it and paste it into the Journal website. A little later in my own story, I’ll continue at a keyboard, recording what happens in my characters’ story. At other times of the day in my story, I’ll feed my neighbors’ horse, maybe go to the grocery and to check the mail, etc.

But in the current story I’m recording for my characters, Blackwell Ops Agent Philip Dunstan is anticipating meeting a young woman (the niece of his matronly apartment manager) who ostensibly wants to do for a living what he does: work for TJ Blackwell.

I can only barely wait to get back to the story to see what’s going to happen today. Knowing Dunstan and TJ and their situation, there’s an excellent chance Dunstan will receive another assignment soon too.

But who knows? Like everyone else, I just have to wait to see what will happen. Maybe he’ll get another assignment, maybe he won’t. Maybe the young woman is who she seems, and maybe she isn’t.

And this is how it must be, at least for me. What you do, how you write, is up to you. But I’m in it for the fun and for the escape. My story was exciting in the past, but these days it’s a humdrum routine. But my characters’ stories —now those are exciting!

There’s an old saying in writing: no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. But when you’re simply recording another person’s story (not composing it or making it up or manipulating it), you have no way of knowing what will happen next. Under those conditions, how can you not be continually surprised?

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “3D-Printed Ear” at SF become S Fact, anyone?

See “E-skin that can feel pain…” at

See “California court rules that bees are a type of fish…” at Sure. If what it actually is doesn’t suit you, call it something else.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 910 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 1…… 2371 words. Total words to date…… 2371
Day 2…… 1305 words. Total words to date…… 3676
Day 3…… 1107 words. Total words to date…… 4783
Day 4…… 1201 words. Total words to date…… 5984
Day 5…… 1872 words. Total words to date…… 7856
Day 6…… 2505 words. Total words to date…… 10361

Total fiction words for June……… 4377
Total fiction words for the year………… 16154
Total nonfiction words for June… 2030
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 82640
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 98794

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.

14 thoughts on “The Journal: Pure Writing Into the Dark”

  1. I showed my son the article about the California appellate court decision enabling bees to be classified as fish. In response he recalled a line from an Adam Sandler movie (“Billy Madison”): “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At no point in your incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered rational thought. Everyone is now dumber for having listened to it.”

    • Grin. Pretty close to what I thought. Remember the old thing about Daylight Savings Time? A Native American allegedly said, “Only a politician would believe you can cut a foot off one end of a blanket, sew it to the other end, and have a longer blanket.”

      Same thing. Self-delusion (and forced acceptance of others’ self-delusions) has become popular over the past decade or two, and it’s only growing more pronounced. However, being a man in step with the times, I have to wonder how many fish were offended by the pronouncement? I also wonder whether the politicians conducted environmental or sensitivity tests before making their pronouncement. But probably not. That would just be silly.

  2. I call that ‘channeling the character.’ And do the exact same thing – not a word from me, the narrator, ever.

    When I’m finished, there’s an eerie feeling that it actually happened, and just the way I wrote.

  3. The first thing I thought of was the church declaring that capybara were fish, in early south American colonial days. It was so the faithful could eat them on Friday.
    I understand the desire to find a way to protect the bumblebees. But if the law was that inadequate, it should be fixed (but legislatures never really fix anything) not stretching an interpretation to the snapping point.
    So glad you’re back, Harvey. There’s no feeling like finishing writing a scene or chapter and literally waking back up to your surroundings, wondering if anyone noticed you’d been gone!

  4. So happy for you Mr. Harvey. Also, a bee is a bee. No matter how many times it is called a fish.

    After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

    But on to other things that may be of interest to you and others. I was reading a science article recently on the difference between the brains of psychopaths and normal people and I thought I would share the link here for those interested. (Inspired by your Of Interest section)

    • Thanks, Tari. I’ll also share it in the “Of Interest” section of the next edition of the Journal.

    • Thanks, Anitha. That’s exactly why I post them. Not to brag (or complain) but simply to show others what can be possible.

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