What Is Writing Into the Dark?

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Flash Sale Reminder
* The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* What Is Writing Into the Dark?
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“The writing might be fine, good depth fine pacing and so on. But something about the story has no emotion, no reason for the reader to care. Clearly the topic is important to the writer, but the writer forgot about the reader. … if you are passionate about the story, your character is passionate, then chances are the reader will stick with you if you have the craft skills to relay that passion.” Dean Wesley Smith (see Of Interest)

“Among them I can create the illusion of standing out. That is all that will be required. Not an offer, but the illusion of an offer. The world revolves around the illusion of offers. What is hoped for rather than what is.” Soleada Garcia, considering the women to whom a target is attracted in Blackwell Ops 19: Soleada Garcia: Trying Times

Flash Sale Reminder

This is the last day to get Blackwell Ops 18: Soleada Garcia: Settled at half-price. The novel illustrates what Dean’s talking about above and what I discussed in “What I Learned from the King”.

To get your copy Donate $3 via PayPal or your credit card. I’ll send your copy right out in printable PDF. (If you prefer a different e-format, email me.)

The Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

Short Fiction

  • George Kordonis “The Powder” 2544 Urban Fantasy
  • Adam Kozak “Hugo and the Lucky Break” 5009 Humor
  • Alexander Nakul “An Italian mystery of Alexandre Dumas père” 3212 Historical
  • Christopher Ridge “The Long Road” 3200 Dark Fantasy
  • K.C. Riggs “Ice and Star” 3537 Fantasy

Longer Fiction

  • Balázs Jámbor *Kylen’s Story* (tentative title) 2000 Fantasy (21800 to date)
  • Alexander Nakul *Under the Lighthouse* 8335 Historical Fantasy (32,351 to date)

What Is Writing Into the Dark?

Today and tomorrow I will post a two-part topic on writing into the dark. I originally posted this back in October 2021. I’d like to say I also updated it, but there was no need.

I’m posting this mostly for all the folks who have joined the Journal over the past year or so. But it’s a great reminder for anyone who would like to try WITD but haven’t yet pull the trigger on it.

Remember, if you try WITD, you can always let go and fall back into the safety nets of oulining, rewriting, etc. In other words, you have nothing to lose but your inhibitions about writing fiction and following a bunch of other people’s “rules.” Okay, here you go:

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 revise and rewrite. 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, and fun 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.

The fact 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 settings (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.

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.

I’ll talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Editing and Reading Observations… Part 5

Editing and Reading Observations… Part 6

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1490

Writing of Blackwell Ops 19: Soleada Garcia: Trying Times

Day 1…… 4398 words. To date…… 4398
Day 2…… 4889 words. To date…… 9287
Day 3…… 3412 words. To date…… 12699
Day 4…… 3384 words. To date…… 16083
Day 5…… 4105 words. To date…… 20188
Day 6…… 5684 words. To date…… 25872

Fiction for January……………………. 106083
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 106083
Fiction since October 1…………… 409138
Nonfiction for January……………… 29290
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 29290
2024 consumable words…………… 135373

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 2
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 84
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 239
Short story collections…………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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