Writing Into The Dark
By Dean Wesley Smith
The author of this book, Dean Wesley Smith, is one of my favourite writers to read about writing. He’s a fiction writer but he blogs regularly about how he writes.
Writing Into Dark is a short book, quick to read, and because of the author’s straight-forward writing style, it’s also easy to get engrossed in it. And despite it’s short length, it’s packed with information, which is my kind of book.
So what is Writing Into The Dark?
It’s what ‘pantsers’ do. It means sitting down and writing without an outline and not knowing what you’re going to write until you start.
I’ve always been an avid outliner of books, short stories and even articles, so this idea of writing fiction with no outline and no ideas intrigued me.
The book takes you through every step of writing into the dark including all the hurdles and how to overcome them.
There are two main hurdles -
- Critical voice
Critical voice will constantly try and stop you from writing into the dark and make you fearful of doing it.
Uncertainty can dog you every step of the way, but as the author says, there’s only one thing you have to do. Write the next sentence.
To begin writing you need nothing more than a character and a setting. You just use your creative mind to see the character in the setting and start writing. He says to plant yourself firmly in the characters head and write it from their view point.
I’ve previously done free writing exercises like this where you’re given 3 prompts (nouns) and told to start writing for 5 minutes and don’t stop no matter what. And I have to say it’s extremely freeing to write stories that way.
Following the advice in this book, I’ve written several short stories (the longest one being 8,000 words) and it was fun.
Writing into the dark is like reading. You move through the story with no idea what’s going to happen next or how it’s going to end, just like someone who is reading it would do.
The fun part is writing characters into seemingly impossible-to-get-out-of situations and then suddenly coming up with an ingenious way to get them out.
But to write this way you MUST ignore your critical voice because it will scream at you, so you must be able to suppress it.
The only outlining required to write this way is to write what happens in each chapter AFTER you’ve written it so that you remember what you’ve written in case life gets in the way and delays you getting back to your writing chair.
This book is like a manifesto on how to be 100% creative.
We fear what we can’t see, which include where our story is going and how it will end. So you must have faith and 100% belief in your creative voice and not let the uncertainty stop you.
So far I’ve only written short fiction using this method of writing. I haven’t tried writing a novel this way, but who knows?
But I am currently writing a novel with only a brief outline and no known ending and I’m interested to see how I go.
And so far it’s fun to write, even though my critical voice won’t leave me alone. But I’m hoping that like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
This is a good little book that I’d recommend to all writers, not just to read it, but use it.
Just give it a go and see what happens.
At the very least, you’ll get more writing done.
Dean Wesley Smith is a master of his craft and doesn’t hold back on telling you how he does it.
This review was written on 23rd August 2023