Why I Write Into the Dark, and An Essay on Pope

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Why I Write Into the Dark
* Just for Grins: An Essay on Pope
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“[Y]ou have to have confidedence to be a champion and that is the only thing I ever wished to be.” Ernest Hemingway

“Certainly, books should be judged by those who read them—not explained by the writer.” Ernest Hemingway

“[I]t is … important for me to write in tranquility, trying to write as well as I can, with no eye on any market, nor any thought of what the stuff will bring, or even if it can be published….” Ernest Hemingway

Why I Write Into the Dark

1. Life is not logical. It is unscripted. It happens, unfolds, as you live it.
2. For fiction to seem “real,” to approximate life and therefore be thought interesting, it must be as unscripted as life.
3. Logic, the basis of sensible, block by block construction, allows no spontaneity. Therefore,
4. Logic, whether it originates in the conscious, critical mind of a human being or in some AI algorithm, has no place in the act of creation. It has no place in fiction.

My creative subconscious can spontaneously create logic in a fiction, but logic cannot create spontaneity.

As a writer, I write the story that unfolds around my characters and me as we race through it together. Whatever happens happens. Whatever the characters say and do, the characters say and do. What I write on the screen and publish in the story or novel is what actually happened.

I would no more deign to “correct” my characters in the telling of their story than I would to correct my neighbors as they relate the story of what happened to them on the way to the grocery or during the plane ride back from Ireland or during a safari on the plains of Africa.

When a reader buys one of my stories or novels, s/he can rest assured what s/he’s reading in the pages is what happened in the story. It’s as much reportáge as fiction.

As a reader, I make it a point never to read stories that were constructed block by block after being preplanned. I want the author’s best effort.

A writer can find that personal best only by trusting the creative subconscious and writing what actually happens in the story, not what happens in the writer’s second-guessing of what happened in the story. If the writer is unable to trust him/herself and unwilling to put forth that effort, the writing is not worthy of my time.

Are there writers who write into the dark and don’t do a good job of conveying the story?

Yes, of course. But in every case that I’ve seen, those writers are committing the sin of omission. Most of them write the skeleton of the story. They write thin. They need to learn to slow down, take their time, ground the readedr in the setting and and flesh-out the story.

They need to learn to put on the page what the POV character sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels, both physically and emotionally, in the story that’s unfolding as they run through it with their characters. Cycling will help with a lot of this.

The point is, a writer who trusts his creative subconscious but writes poorly needs only to continue learning and practicing the craft.

But a writer who plots everything in advance, then constructs the story bit by bit, then revises, then seeks critical input, then rewrites will never surprise the reader (anything you can “figure out,” the reader can figure out too) and the writing/storytelling will never improve because s/he will never learn to trust the creative subconscious.

That one step—learning to trust yourself—is both tiny and huge: you put your butt in the chair, shove your critical mind aside, mop the sweat off your cheeks and brow, and literally just type whatever comes. But if you can bring yourself to do that, it will change your life as a writer forever.

Of course, your critical mind won’t believe you’re really over the fear. It will test you. And you will have to write five stories, ten, fifteen into the dark. But sooner than you might believe, the critical voice will grow weaker. It will be easier and easier to relegate to its corner. At the same time, the quality of your stories will improve and you will gain confidence.

You will write more stories and better stories, and they will be true, authentic creations, not something you forced (a false construct) with your critical mind.

And because you are no longer bowing to the unreasoning fears—because you are DEFENDING your work instead of inviting criticism, and because you are trusting yourself and looking and moving FORWARD instead of hovering in place rewriting ad nauseam—you will continue writing, moving from story to story to story (it’s called Practice) and your craft will improve more quickly than you would have dreamed possible.

But I’m not asking you to believe me. I’m only asking you to do yourself a favor and try it—but I mean REALLY try it, so you know within yourself once and for all whether it works. You won’t regret it.

Just for Grins: An Essay on Pope

You probably know Alexander Pope was a great poet and essayist during the late 17th and early 18th century. He was a contemporary of Jonathan Swift, John Dryden, and many other literary notables, and his wit scalded many of them, some repeatedly.

Having been given an assignment in university to write an essay “concerning Dryden, Pope or both” and being practically allergic to such assignments, I sought to make it fun. In a glancing-blow parody of Pope’s “An Essay on Man,” I wrote “An Essay on Pope.” During the exercise I also had Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” firmly in mind.

It’s written in the style employed by Pope et al, with explanatory introductions to each section, certain capitalized Nouns and so on. I mentioned that I was in college, but I should also say I was in my early 40s at the time. In the final lines of the essay, I even alluded to my future job as an adjunct instructor teaching English, Creative Writing, and Literature classes and expressed hoped that I would have a few students exactly like me. (grin)

The essay is chock full of allusions to other people, organizations, etc. I’ve been told it can be fun to read and fun to “figure out.” If you’d like a copy, free and just for grins, click https://harveystanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/An-Essay-on-Pope.pdf.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Living In The Past” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/living-in-the-past/.

See “What Will the Bookstore of the Future Look Like?” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/what-will-the-bookstore-of-the-future-look-like/.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1130

Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)

Day 11… 0323 words. Total words to date…… 19819
Day 12… 2445 words. Total words to date…… 22264
Day 13… 3184 words. Total words to date…… 25448

Total fiction words for April……… 17276
Total fiction words for 2023………… 83464
Total nonfiction words for April… 19430
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 81690
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 165154

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

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