The Journal: WITD Has Two Parts

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* The current crisis
* Topic: WITD Has Two Parts
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“By really getting into your work, the nonessential stuff drops away.” Bill Murray

“Bill’s whole life is in the moment,” says Ted Melfi, who directed Murray in the movie St. Vincent. “He doesn’t care about what just happened. He doesn’t think about what’s going to happen. He doesn’t even book round-trip tickets. Bill buys one-ways and then decides when he wants to go home.” Gavin Edwards in “Being Bill Murray” in Rolling Stone

The quotes come from an article in “Of Interest” that I wish all writers would read. There are a lot of gems to be mined there. Writing fiction (like living in general) should be fun, not work. See more in today’s topic.

The current crisis seems to be really testing people’s mettle. Or maybe revealing their true character. Control freaks are coming out of the woodwork. The sad thing is, control-freakism is always driven by fear and insecurity. Bless their hearts. I hope they get over themselves.

The whole thing reminds me a little of that Twilight Zone episode set during the cold war when a nuclear strike was imminent and the “good neighbors” showed their true colors. Remember? In “normal” times they were all good friends, but when the fear hit, they buckled. Amidst wildely flung racial epithets and even physical violence they trashed the home of the only friend who’d had the foresight to build a bomb shelter. They eventually trashed the shelter itself, and all because the friend with the shelter chose to protect his own family rather than doom them all by trying to cram them all in. Of coruse when the all clear sounded, they were hyper apologetic, but it was pretty much too late.

Remarkably, I’m weathering this whole thing relatively well, considering that I entered into a personal perfect storm at about the same time the virus hit. And considering that I was also stupid enough to double down by giving up cigars, my only respite from the general bizzaro-world insanity we live in these days.

The only detrimental effect I’ve suffered personally is my seeming inability to write fiction at the moment. But that will clear up in due course. Or it won’t. Shrug.

I hope you’re all doing at least as well, and preferably better.

Topic: WITD Has Two Parts

In a comment on Sean Monaghan’s post over at PWW today (also in “Of Interest”), Leigh asked what Sean meant when he wrote “Refraining From Rewriting doesn’t mean not working on it.”

I was going to write a long response to Leigh’s comment, but I chose to put it here instead.

At its most basic, Writing Into The Dark means writing one clean draft. It works with short fiction and long. It works with several-book series. It works with anything because the key to WITD is trusting yourself.

If you trust yourself and your creative subconscious, your characters will surprise you since you’re allowing them to tell the story that they, not you, are living. That’s the key to the whole thing.

But writing into the dark doesn’t mean writing sloppy or putting forth less than your best effort. On the other hand, it DOES mean not revising or rewriting, not allowing your conscious, critical mind to polish your natural voice down to something that is no longer unique.

So practitioners suggest you “cycle” as you go. To explain cycling, I’ll use my own process.

First, there are two types of cycling: I call them purposeful cycling and routine cycling.

Purposeful Cycling—As I mentioned above, if you write into the dark your characters will surprise you. That’s a Good Thing.

But say Aunt Marge pulls a revolver from the pocket of her housecoat in Chapter 32. Without foreshadowing that can seem a miraculous event, a happy coincidence that gets Aunt Marge out of (or into) trouble.

The astute writer will cycle back (purposefully) to an earlier time in the novel and add a sentence or two that lets the reader see Aunt Marge taking the revolver from a nightstand drawer and slipping it into the pocket of her housecoat. This might be earlier in Chapter 32, or it might be back in an earlier chapter.

(Note that this is not conscious-mind intrusion. The writer doesn’t consciously insert the gun, etc. The story was unfolding so quickly Aunt Marge simply missed showing how the revolver got into her housecoat earlier.)

That’s all there is to purposeful cycling.

Routine Cycling—When I finish a writing session of 1000 to 1200 words, I take a break. No matter how short or long the break, when I come back, I read over what I wrote during the last session. I read it strictly for pleasure, to be entertained, to see what happened, as if I were reading someone else’s story. In other words, I’m not “looking” for anything to “correct,” I’m just reading.

As I read, I let my fingers rest on the keyboard. If my characters want to replace a word or add a sentence or whatever, they do. And when I get back to the white space, I write the next sentence and continue.

Again, cycling is not a function of the conscious, critical mind, though sometimes the C-word tries to sneak in. If I begin to notice myself “looking” critically for things to fix, I get up, walk away, take a break, and come back later.

That being said, sure, if a misspelled word pops out at me as I’m reading, I fix it. But I don’t actively look for them.

When I reach the end of a story or novel, I take a final break. Then I come back, read over the last bit I wrote, and add, subtract or change anything the characters want changed. Then I run a spell check (this is my “second draft” and takes all of maybe 10 minutes) send the story or novel off to my first readers. Their task it is to simply read for pleasure and point out any misspellings or inconsistencies. When I get their input back, I apply what I agree with, then publish.

So that’s the less well-known part of writing into the dark. Thus far I’ve written 50 novels, 8 novellas, and over 200 short stories, all in less than 6 years, all well-received, and all WITD. It works, but only if you can bring yourself to push down the unreasoning fear (because absolutely nothing will happen if you fail) and trust your creative subconscious.

And by the way, I don’t write “fast.” Like most writers, I write around 1000 words per hour (a blazing 17 words per minute). So how can I turn out 50 novels etc. in just over 5 years? Simple. I didn’t waste time rewriting, submitting my work to critique groups, revising and polishing etc.

In other words, I followed Heinlein’s Rules. And I’m successful because of them.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Rejections From The Past” at

See “Being Bill Murray” at

See “Heinlein’s Rules for Unruly Writers, Part III…” at

The Numbers

Fiction words yesterday…………………… XXXX
Nonfiction words today…………… 1190 (Journal)

Writing of (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 309655
Total nonfiction words for the month… 5390
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 127630
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 437285

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 12
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 50
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 208
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31