In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* Short announcement
* Willie Nelson wrote a song
* Topic: A Few Myths About Writing Into the Dark
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quote of the Day
“If we take man as he is, we make him worse, but if we take him as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be.” Viktor Frankl quoting Goethe
A short announcement—Dean posted today that the surveys for the Return of the Fey Kickstarter should go out this week. So if you donated anything to that, you should be getting a survey (where to send your rewards) sometime this week.
But if there’s a glitch and you have questions, please email Dean, not me.
Willie Nelson wrote a song that perfectly delineates the frustration I often feel when dealing with duplicitous or suspicious people. I think the title is “I Never Cared For You.”
He starts with “I know you won’t believe these things I tell you” and warns the listener to “pay heed, and disbelieve.” Then he relates a series of ridiculous lies:
“The sun is filled with ice and gives no warmth at all; the sky was never blue. The stars are raindrops searching for a place to fall, and I never cared for you.”
The song makes a valid point. Mark Twain put it more succinctly when he made an astute observtion: “It’s easier to fool people than it is to convince them they’ve been fooled.”
So it is with WITD versus whatever. And really, as far as I’m concerned, there is no “versus.” I don’t care how others write. And why would I? It makes no difference to my own bottom line.
My frustration stems from one simple fact: The person who is not willing to lie, who is not willing to deal lavishly and liberally in half-truths and innuendo, can never out-shout the person who is willing to do those things. And frankly, I believe only a complete and utter moron, one who at least appears to be steeped in naiveté, would believe he can. Or else doesn’t care that he can’t.
That would be me. You may consider me Exhibition A. As such, for either your enlightenment or amusement—either is fine with me—here I go again.
Topic: A Few Myths About Writing Into the Dark
The myth: WITD is fine for experienced fiction writers, but. Ahh, the inimitable “but,” the shortest word in the English language that quickly and effective negates everything that came before it. “But” is a personal favorite of those who deal in half-truths and innuendo, and of those who would rather create excuses than manuscripts.
The fact: Actually, the more “experienced” you are when you begin WITD, the more myths you will have to overcome. Stephen King, James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Ray Bradbury, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I, and countless others write into the dark, and many of us have done since we started writing seriously. My very first novel, which I wrote in 28 or 29 days back in 2014, was lauded by a reviewer as “meticulously plotted, an excellent novel.” The review was since removed by Amazon, who apparently thought I knew the reviewer. I didn’t.
The myth: I would try WITD but I want to put out quality work. (The implication is that you can’t turn out quality work while WITD.)
The fact: I assume this means the writers on the aformentioned list do not put out quality work. Alrighty then. The reader never knows in advance where the stories of those writers are going because the writers themselves never know where the stories are going. If Only They Would Outline and Plot! Then their work could be boring and predictable.
The myth: You have to rewrite and polish to be sure to include what the reader will like and to cut what the reader won’t like.
The fact: You. Don’t. Know. What. The. Reader. Will. Like.
And it’s haughty, pretentious, and irresponsible of you to think you do. The writer’s job is to write, to record the story the characters are living, not to prejudge on the reader’s behalf what he or she might or might not like. Seriously, get over yourself.
The myth: You have to know where the story is going.
The fact: Yes. Exactly like you have to know where your neighbors’ story is going when you look in on their lives, right? It’s none of your business where your characters’ story is going. Your job is to run through the story with them, trying to keep up and recording what they say and do. Just as you don’t always know why your neighbor did that weird thing that you were certain would never work out well, your characters will do things that you’ll think will never work out well. Oddly, if you trust your neighbors to live their own lives (and your characters to live theirs), it all works out in the end.
The myth: People who WITD don’t care about structure.
The fact: People who WITD actually study and apply structure and, like everyone else alive, have been absorbing structure from stories, novels, films and TV shows since before they even knew there was such a thing as an alphabet. The fact is, people who WITD simply trust what they know of structure and allow their creative subconscious to apply it as they write. They don’t flit from Someone’s nonfiction book on structure to their novel and back as they’re writing. They don’t allow the conscious mind to take over.
The myth: People who WITD eschew reading and attending conferences and learning various craft techniques.
The fact: This one’s so incredibly stupid I won’t even bother commenting.
The myth: People who WITD claim it’s the only way to write.
The fact: Again, this is insanely stupid. But really, that’s fine. If you can’t tell the truth and let people decide for themselves, just make it up as you go along.
The myth: Writing is hard work.
The fact: Ever been on the business end of a shovel for 8 hours a day? But really, writing probably is hard work if you first outline, then write, then revise, then shop your manuscript to critique groups, then rewrite, then polish. I get tired even thinking about doing all that. How bone-weary such writers must be of the story by the time they’re on even the first rewrite. The fact is, if you WITD, writing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
That’s enough for now. If you’ve heard any other pompous, self-righteous proclamations regarding WITD and why it’s a bad idea, why it will make you go blind or possibly even lead to all your children being born naked, please email me and I’ll stomp out those fires too.
In the meantime, as much as I enjoy chatting with my friends, I’m gonna be selfish and go do that now.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Viktor Frankl — Why to Believe in Others” at https://fs.blog/2012/01/viktor-frankl-why-to-believe-in-others/.
See “Writing Hardboiled Fiction” at https://killzoneblog.com/2021/04/writing-hardboiled-fiction.html.
The Journal…………………………………… 1190 words
Writing of Terra 2 (novel)
Day 1…… 3535 words. Total words to date…… 3535
Day 2…… 4660 words. Total words to date…… 8195
Day 3…… 3739 words. Total words to date…… 11934
Total fiction words for April……… 11934
Total fiction words for the year………… 299011
Total nonfiction words for April… 3140
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 70540
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 369551
Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 6
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 60
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: Willie Nelson wrote a song”
I have read DWS’s blog for literal years. I’ve commented there too. And in all of those years, I’ve written 7 novels, since 2008.
They’ve all, well, sucked. Am I being too critical of myself. Maybe, but the sales weren’t there and they were plotted to literal death.
Except the first one. The first one I wrote in 2 weeks, actually 13 days, changed my life and made me call myself a writer, and it was completely WITD before I even knew what that was.
Mistake one: I started looking up what needed to happen when I write a book.
Oh no! I did everything wrong! I had fun.
So, I stopped having fun. Plotted everything to death, and have recently wondered to myself if I’m just not a writer.
No, I just need to write the next sentence. Do the writing instead of dreading the “process” of plotting, editing, feeling bad that I don’t believe in editors and also feeling bad that I LIKE the idea of doing my own covers.
I’ve been pouring over this journal and your WITD posts, and finally, I think I’m willing to get out of my own way.
I even started a novel WITD and was amazed that it was fun and that I got 7k in. Then I started to think I did something wrong and shelved it.
Thanks for this post. I’m going to be a writer again, starting today. For real this time.
Kelley, Bless your heart. And I don’t mean that they way they mean it down south. (grin) I actually envy you. I’ve often wished I was back at the beginning of the whole thing, having just “gotten” it and plunged ahead. These years later, I’m still learning new things, but now that means my craft is improving a little, but the stories remain good.
You literally made my day. You’re absolutely right. Why bother even writing if it’s not fun? If it’s drudgery?
Just write the stories, publish them, and move on to the next one. If the sales come, that’s wonderful. And if they don’t, at least you will have enjoyed the process and had fun. (Fewer sales sting a lot more when you’ve “worked hard” on something than when you’re just playing.)
Then like Dean says, write good sales copy, put an attractive, genre-specific cover on it, and move on to the next one.
Anything I can do to help, feel free to email me.
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