Heinlein’s Rules

I finished the second draft of Forever today.

It’s been a difficult slog and a pretty tough year writing wise. Somehow I lost my way and by chance I was recently reminded again of Heinlein’s rules. I have determined to note them down here, in my study and my notebook so that I do not forget again. I have added four of my own. A pep talk to myself (you in this case is me). If they help someone else: fantastic.

Do these and you will get better:–

  1. YOU MUST WRITE: Sounds easy but you fall foul of this when you forget time is finite but when you remember you CAN do it. For example, recently despite working 51 hours you wrote 14500 words. You DO have time. It is your CHOICE.
  2. YOU MUST FINISH WHAT YOU WRITE: I actually think in the beginning this is easy. People will say it’s hard but they’re probably smarter than I am. It’s once you’ve done a few stories, met the hordes who also want to get published and realised it isn’t easy this gets hard. You have to finish it to tell if it works. You have to finish it to fix it. You have to finish it to get it published.
  3. REFRAIN FROM REWRITING, EXCEPT TO EDITORIAL ORDER: Your biggest SIN. If it hangs together as a narrative. If it reads out loud OK. If your test readers enjoy it. You’re done. Move ON.
  4. YOU MUST PUT YOUR STORY ON THE MARKET: You know the deal here. Until a) humans evolve telepathy b) they also develop telepathic search engines no one is going to find your story by chance and offer you money for it. You’ve got to HUSTLE. Get it out there.
  5. YOU MUST KEEP YOU STORY ON THE MARKET UNTIL IT SELLS: Yes, you’ve been rejected. So has everyone. It doesn’t make you special. Everyone has to keep plugging away and so do you. GET ON WITH IT.

Some additions of my own:

  1. YOU MUST BE PRESENT: You must allow yourself enough time to have thought about what you intend to write before you begin. Simply being present at the desk is NOT enough. You will just fall into the trap of phoning it in. This will kill your motivation when you read back through the piece and realise it’s flat.
  2. YOU SHOULD WRITE EVERY DAY: Your ability to be present is greatly improved by repetition. It’s not the amount. It’s the frequency and the quality.
  3. READ EVERYTHING: You can tell a professional fiction author in five minutes of conversation. They’re the best read person in the room, even amongst a brood of readers, and not just in the area they work in. Only editors and critics overtake them and rarely in my experience. 
  4. YOU SHOULD WRITE WHAT YOU WANT: Writing takes a big time commitment. It doesn’t really matter what your goal is. Pick ideas you think are fun, make the intellectual challenge to make that readable to as many people as possible – regardless of how out there the idea is – and go at it that way. Trying to be clever, commercial or such as a starting point doesn’t work and you’ll struggle to finish anything.

Like what I do? Sign up for my latest updates and receive occasional free fiction.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.