The Journal: What Is Writing Into the Dark?

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* “Of Interest” Is Back
* Topic: What Is Writing Into the Dark?
* Almost Writing Again
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“To see the blue color go right by you and now you’re staring into blackness, that’s the thing.” William Shatner, trying to convey his experience on Blue Origin

“Of Interest” Is Back

Yeah. I was silly to get rid of it. I’ll happen across things that might be of interest to you as writers of one genre or another or as writers in general, and that’s what I’ll post in there.

I won’t post links to any bad advice (the myths) on writing. You can find those easily enough on your own.

Topic: What Is Writing Into the Dark?

At its most basic, Writing Into the Dark (WITD) simply means writing without giving any particular thought to what will go into a story. No character sketches, no outlines, no advance world building, etc. Just write. Of all the writing techniques, WITD is the most freeing. You write one clean draft, then submit or publish it, then move on to the joy of writing another story.

WITD requires that you trust in your own abilities and in everything you’ve learned up to the current point. You’ve learned and absorbed a great deal more than you realize. But you’ve also been taught, mostly subliminally, not to trust what you’ve learned. Not to trust your abilities. Not to trust your creative subconscious.

You’ve been taught to allow your conscious mind to question and correct your creative subconscious through revision and rewrites. And the more you revise and rewrite, the farther you get from your own unique, original authorial voice.

Don’t do it. Instead of following the advice of your English teacher and a bunch of others who have never written a novel, be a professional and follow Heinlein’s Rules:

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must not rewrite.
4. You must put it on the market (submit or publish).
5. You must leave it on the market (and write the next story).

The most practical, efficient way to follow Heinlein’s Rules is to write into the dark.

If you’re ready to try writing into the dark, the best method is to take a deep breath and jump into the deep end.

First, know this: Despite the sweat beads breaking out on your forehead at even the thought of WITD, nothing bad will happen. If you write a crappy story, nobody will come to your house and beat you up or shoot you. Nobody will bomb your car. But the thing is, you have a much greater chance of writing a crappy story by outlining, revising, and rewriting than you do by simply writing one clean draft.

And another thing: What you believe is a crappy or so-so story, another reader will think is wonderful. Stay in your lane. You’re a writer. Write.

To WITD, start with a character who has a problem. The problem that begins the story usually is not “the” problem of the story. It might be an untied shoelace, for example, or a closed door the character can’t open without putting something down.

Drop that character into a setting, then just keep writing the next sentence and the next and the next until the character(s) leads you through to the end of the story.

The key to WITD is letting the characters tell the story that they, not you, are living. You have no business worrying about where the story will go or what will happen next. It’s the characters’ story, so where it will go and what will happen next is literally none of your business.

Imagine for a moment your neighbors have heard of your writing prowess and they’ve asked you to accompany them to Cabo San Lucas for the weekend. They want you to document their story in writing. You get a free trip to Cabo, and all you have to do is go with them, observe what they do, listen to what they say, and record it all for posterity.

Of course, it’s their story so you can’t change anything. For example, you record only their take on the various setting (not your take) and what they say and do (not what you say and do or would say or do in their place). You record what happens but you record it through their physical and emotional senses, not your own. Again, it’s their story, not yours.

On the other hand, so what? As your initial payment, you’re getting a free weekend in Cabo. And your neighbors have already told you that you own all rights to their story. So you can sell it as a short story or novel. And if it’s a short story, you can sell it individually as well as part of a collection, etc. So what’s the down side here?

There isn’t one.

And writing your characters’ story is exactly the same thing as writing your neighbors’ story. Exactly. Your characters invite you to go along on their adventures in the wild west of the 1880s or on a space voyage two hundred years in the future or tagging along with a detective or a PI as he or she solves a murder. They invite you to document a romance or a shooting or a bank heist or the failure of the magnetic drive in a space ship.

What they do NOT invite you to do is invent what you’re writing. Again, your only job is to record for your characters what happens and what they say and do. And yeah, then make money off their story for the rest of your life.

Again, there is no down side. It isn’t even your job to decide whether the story is “good” or “bad.” You’re the impartial recorder. You’re only vouching that the story is what your neighbors or your characters actually experienced as their story unfolded. So you write it, you submit or publish it so others can read it, and then you move on to the next story.

Some of you are thinking But what if that one doesn’t sell?

The answer is So what? What do you care? Some readers will buy it and some won’t. Of those who buy it and read it, some will like it and some won’t. You have zero control over any of that, so don’t worry about it. Besides, you should already be working on the next story in the queue.

No individual story is important. No individual story matters, At All. You’ll like some of the stories you write, and you won’t like others, or you won’t like them as well. But again, so what? If you’re a writer, what matters is THAT you write, not what you write. What matters is the sheer joy of creation, and having fun letting your creative mind play.

Almost Writing Again

I recently received notice that the last novel I had queued up for publication, Wes Crowley Gap Novel 4: Return to the New Mexico Territory, went live today. For the past few months (since the middle of March) I’ve published at least one novel every two weeks, usually on the 15th and the 30th. That’s a total of 15 novels published since March 13. Quite a streak

I thought maybe I could use this as a kind of deadline. To keep my streak of publishing every two weeks alive, I would have to write another novel between now and the end of the month, then release it on October 30. The key phrase there is “have to.” Too much pressure. Remember, no one story or novel is important. No one story or novel matters, except as it matters to the reader.

So the overall challenge of it was tempting, but I’m not quite there yet. So I’ll let that publishing streak end today and I’ll start another one when I start writing again. Maybe I’ll even come up with a nifty challenge of some kind that some of you might want to participate in with me.

Of Interest

See “William Shatner moved to tears by space launch with Blue Origin” at I recommend watching the short video too. Cool what he says about how quickly they left the safety of the atmosphere.

Talk with you again later.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1370 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… 4110
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 170070
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 793352

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.

6 thoughts on “The Journal: What Is Writing Into the Dark?”

  1. Another great post, Harvey. I never get tired of hearing about WITD. I started using it nearly 2 years ago and am currently writing my 18th novella. Yay! 🥰This way of writing is so much fun.

    A current myth that snuck (sneaked?) up on me recently was getting sloppy instead of writing one clean draft. I found myself going back over my writing and doing editing–rather than just cycling and keeping an eye out for typos. As a result, my speed came screeching to a halt and the whole process started to feel Way Not Fun.

    Anyway, thanks for the great post!

    • Thanks, Maggie. Trust me, slipping into editing happens to all of us. That’s part of why I wrote in the post, if I feel the critical mind nosing in, I get up right then and walk away for a little while. Now and then you have to remind it who’s the boss. (grin)

      Oh, and 18 novellas in two years? Congrats! Good job putting the time in the chair. And BTW, Part 2 of the post is coming tomorrow.

  2. Hi Harvey,
    I took on Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge of 52 short stories in 52 weeks and completed them. I had my husband read them to see if they made sense to him. He like some of them… I was surprise that Dean didn’t respond to any of them which was a disappointment. He did say he read through them to make sure we (as a group) weren’t just writing garbage.
    I have to say at least I wrote 52 stories that I would have never written if I had not taken on the challenge. And…I found I love to write short stories.
    Thank you for recommending Dean’s challenge.
    I think you were putting a group together to write. How is that working out?
    Cheryl (Sherry) Kesling
    Cave Creek, AZ

    • Hi Cheryl,

      Thanks, and congrats on finishing his challenge. You should have gotten a lifetime subscription out of that, right? Good vaue. But yes, best of all you learned your own capabilities and that you love to write. I wonder, did any of those stories want to keep going and turn into novels? (grin) And you should be able to get a ton of publications out of that: that’s five 10-story collections (two with 11 stories) and then a 52-story collection. Plus 52 individual stories. Oh, and did you keep going with a story per week? If not, jump back on. You already know how much fun it can be.

      I don’t recall putting together a group to write, but I’m open to ideas. I was putting together a couple of shared worlds, but there wasn’t a lot of interest in either of them so I let them fade away.

      • Hi Harvey,
        I have some of the short stories with an editor. Before I sent them to an editor I did try to publish a few but no luck yet. I plan to revise some of them, put them in my own anthology and self-publish. I may have to tweak them and find that common thread that holds them together in a collection. All of them are sci-fi, mystery and/or paranormal.
        Yes, I did find a couple of the stories where the character(s) wanted me to continue. I’ve never written a novel but I may try with one or two of these stories.
        And, yes, I did get a lifetime subscription from Dean.
        I haven’t written in a while. Although, I recently started a memoir because my mother is 91 years old and I thought I should capture her thoughts to help me write the story. I believe I can get back to writing short stories as well. I find I need a break from memoir writing at times and writing fictional shorts is a great distraction.
        I know you’re friends with Dan Baldwin. He will be doing a presentation for the Writer’s Connection at the Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek November 5th. I’m the coordinator for that group.
        Cheryl (Sherry)

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