(Every day I will put another chapter here of this book. Patreon supporters, you will get the full book sent to you when it is all done.)
WRITING INTO THE DARK
Helpful Hint #2
The first major hint on writing into the dark was being unstuck in time in your manuscript, learning to cycle.
So now, this second hint is to save you more time than you can imagine. It will help you be more productive and keep stress down.
And help you write better books.
Sounds magical, doesn’t it?
Well, it sort of is.
Outline As You Go
I do not mean outline ahead in critical voice. Not in the slightest.
Remember, you are writing in the dark.
I mean that when you finish a chapter, write down quickly what you just wrote in a very clear form.
Let me explain what I do so you can find a way that works for you.
When I finish a chapter, I have a yellow legal pad sitting beside the computer.
(I would suggest you use something like a legal pad instead of doing this on a screen. Save the screen for creative writing.)
On that yellow legal pad I mark the chapter number, the viewpoint character, what happened in the chapter (one-line summary) and how the chapter ended.
That usually takes one or maybe two lines on the legal pad per chapter.
On that page, or another piece of paper, I also have what the character is wearing and if they change clothes, I make a note on the chapter line that they changed clothes.
So by chapter six, I have six or so lines on a notepad beside my computer telling me exactly where I have gone and what I have written so far.
This takes me about one minute to do, if not less, at the end of every chapter.
But, wow, does it save me hours of time.
Multiple Viewpoint Novels
Most of the books I write are multiple viewpoint novels. And I write one character per chapter. I tend to make each scene a chapter. So if you are writing scenes inside chapters, do a line on your reverse outline for each scene.
If I am writing a thriller, which is often five to eight viewpoints, this outline as I go becomes even more important for me to remember the last time I was in a viewpoint.
Instead of looking back through the book to see what the character was wearing and where did I leave them in their last scene, I just glance at my notebook and go, “Oh, yeah.”
In essence, that yellow piece of paper is an external memory drive for me.
The more complex the book or the plot as it develops, the more detail I put into this outline as I go.
I had one very complex book where each chapter was actually three lines on the yellow legal pad. So my outline took three pages or so of paper when it was all done.
Why Take the Time?
Because not a one of us can hold an entire novel in our minds. We just can’t. Not how the human brain works.
And because of that, many people say that’s another reason to let the critical voice outline ahead.
But instead of doing that, just outline as you go.
Write into the dark and outline what you have done.
That way, at a glance you can see the novel on a single piece of paper beside your computer.
You can see what characters were wearing. And where they ended up in their last scene.
One reason for this is to save you hunting back through the novel after being away from it for some life event.
Say you are gone for a week and come back and sit down with no memory or the book or even where you are at. Hunting back through a couple hundred pages of manuscript to figure out what a character was wearing or what they were doing takes a vast amount of time and is very annoying.
And does not help in a restart after a life event.
With an outline as you go, you never have to look back in the manuscript, or if you do, you know which chapters to look in.
This saves vast amounts of time.
And keeps you far, far more productive and moving into the dark because you can see the novel building.
Seeing the novel building right there on the paper is great feedback to the creative voice.
Sense of Novel Structure
Again, we can’t hold a novel in our minds, so later in the book you are writing, when you start worrying about the novel structure, are things moving too fast or too slow, you know, standard worry questions, you can glance at the outline page and just see the structure.
It is amazing how clear a structure becomes when just spread out in notes beside the computer, in a quick summary of what you have written.
(Another reason to not let this summary get too complex. Keep it simple and easy to see.)
And if there is a problem in the structure of the book, you can see that quickly as well.
I was doing this once with a big thriller, got to chapter thirty and noticed on my reverse outline I had a viewpoint chapter from a character in chapter four that I had never returned to.
Oh, oh. I jumped back, reread that character’s chapter, realized I didn’t need it, and cut it. My creative voice had put it in back at the start, but then decided I didn’t need that character by the middle of the book. I never would have noticed without that outline of what I had written.
Some of you have watched me write books here on this blog, and then say the book got shorter because I cut out stuff.
So, since I never reread what I write after I get to the end, how do I know to cut out something?
Simple. It shouts at me from the structure of the reverse outline on the yellow pad that I wrote as I was writing.
I can see that everything is on track up until say chapter nine, then the characters go off and do something in a loop and return to the regular through-line of the book in chapter thirteen.
And the end of chapter nine fits perfectly against the start of chapter thirteen. Nothing really important happened in those loop chapters, so I just cut them out.
Not much work at all because I can see the structure clearly from the notes I made after I wrote each chapter.
So again, the quick outline of what I have written saves me a vast amount of time and makes the novels stronger.
So helpful hint to make writing into the dark so much easier: Outline in a very concise, simple, and fast method, on a piece of paper beside your computer, what you have just finished.
Chapter or scene.
Just write it down and then get back to writing.
About halfway through the book, when you need to find something to fix, or figure out a character, you will thank me.
One Final Note
The moment I see the ending of the book, for me usually about four or five chapters away, I stop doing this outline as I go.
I no longer need it, and I never think to do it in the typing rush to reach the end of the novel.
And I never save the outlines unless the book is part of a series. Then I toss the outline and character details I have sketched down in a file for the next book in the series.
That hasn’t helped much yet, but I keep doing it anyway.
The outline is for only when you are writing into the dark. After your are done with the story, most of the time that outline is worthless. It did its job.
It saved you time and energy and helped you write a better book.
Helpful Hint #3
One of the things I hear the most from writers working into the dark is trouble finding the ending of the book or story.
Or maybe better said, seeing the end of the book or story.
The ending is there. Recognizing it sometimes takes a special trick.
So let me try to ease some of the worry with this helpful hint.
Just Keep Writing
I know that sounds silly, but it actually is the hint.
When you start feeling like your ending should be coming at any moment, but you can’t see it, just keep writing until you bog down.
Then, when you bog down, cycle back about a thousand words and chances are you’ll spot your ending about a page or two back. Then just cut off the stuff you wrote extra after the perfect ending line.
If you don’t spot it, write another three or four pages and do it again.
Now, if you know your ending, of course don’t do this.
But if you are having trouble finding that perfect ending line, just write and then cycle back and you’ll see it.
I know, sounds magical, but it tends to work most times. It’s part of the process of writing into the dark and trusting your subconscious.
Also, back to what I talked about in the beginning of the book. For this to work, you need no fear of writing extra.
Writing extra is part of the process and it applies at the ending. Just cut off the not-needed words and don’t worry about it.
Writing to Length
This is a modern world with a thousand ways to publish any book of any length, yet I often hear writers saying they want their next novel to be 60,000 words or some such silliness.
I shake my head and walk away.
When writing into the dark, just let the story be what the story wants to be.
Trying to write to some made-up word length is all critical voice, and that simple idea of wanting a book to be a certain length will pile in the critical voice and shut down the creative voice.
Let the story be what the story wants to be at the length it wants to be.
Trust your creative voice.
Write what you are passionate about or what you enjoy.
And to the length the story needs to be.
The Last Key
To really be successful at writing into the dark, or with any creative fiction writing, you are always better entertaining yourself.
So let me give you a few hints to finish this book up. A few checkpoints to remember.
— Entertain Yourself
You are a reader, so write into the dark to entertain yourself. You are writing the story for yourself.
— Enjoy the Uncertainty
As a reader, you pick up the book and don’t know the story or the ending. You are reading the book for the journey. There is uncertainty in that journey. When writing into the dark, there is uncertainty in the journey as well. Enjoy it. Welcome it.
— Write the Book You Want to Read
If you love a certain type of book or wonder why you haven’t seen a certain type of book you used to love, write it. Back to the first point. Entertain Yourself.
— Never Write for Anyone But Yourself
Basically stop writing to market. If you entertain yourself, enjoy the uncertainly, and write the books you want to read, writing into the dark is a joy.
Thanks for Reading
I sure hope this book helped some, and on your next book you’ll write into the dark. You might be surprised at just how much fun it is.
And how much more productive you are.