Into The Dark

I hate outlining. Outlines conjure up images of last minute college papers and high school book reports. Outlines are dead things, a framework for a scarecrow. Something you’d find propping up a pointless workplace meeting.

Did I mention I hate outlining?

When writing fiction, I prefer writing without a net. You’ve probably heard it called pantsing, which, I mean, I get it. But it’s the dumbest term, one obviously coined by a plotter, those connoisseur of outlines. A better term, and the one I referenced in the title, is writing into the dark. Popularized by prolific writer Dean Wesley Smith, the idea is that you start with the following:

  • A Character
  • A Setting

That’s it. Then you simply write the next sentence, and the next, and create your story. Or discover it. He also talks about cycling, writing 500 or so words, going back through them, tweaking, adding, subtracting, all in your creative mode, your creative voice.

I tried this method last year during NaNoWriMo (I won, by the way; didn’t attempt this year), and have been using it for the short stories I’ve been writing and submitting over the summer. Since I never got any traction writing from an outline, just having the freedom – allowing myself the freedom, really – to forge out, into the dark, gives me the desire to keep sitting down every day and writing.

Eli Jones avatar
Eli Jones
Eli Jones is a spectulative fiction writer and data analyst living in the Cascadia Bioregion.