But What About Fun? And the Wrap-Up

In today’s Journal

* But What About Fun?
* Post 5: The Wrap-Up on Heinlein’s Rules
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

But What About Fun?

A friend brought a truism home to me in an email when he wrote that he’s enjoying the Heinlein’s Rules posts but that he’s also still trying to convince himself that writing is more fun than his favorite distractions.

That’s something I tend to forget sometimes about other writers.

See, for me, writing fiction IS my favorite distraction. I can’t imagine doing anything that’s more fun than discovering my characters’ stories as they live them. I actually feel fortunate that I’m the guy they’re willing to let into their world.

But when I’m talking with other writers, and especially when I’m writing this Journal, like most people I tend to assume those other writers think along the same lines I do.

The fact remains, for a lot of folks, my friend’s thought hits the nail directly on the head. Writing fiction at a professional level isn’t for everyone, whether following Heinlein’s Rules or Writing Into the Dark or doing it in some other way.

If you’re a hobby writer, that’s fine. If you’re into writing only haiku and senryu, or if you only want to write a memoir, or if you only write a short story now and then, that’s fine. Seriously.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least a few hundred times: If you can find anything you enjoy doing more than writing fiction, chances are you should be doing that instead. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Just one caveat: If you really want to write fiction, be sure that nagging “other things are more fun” isn’t just your critical mind shutting you down.

That caveat aside, in this Journal, I’ll keep treating all of you as if you are already making your living as a writer or want to.

Post 5 on Heinlein’s Rules: The Wrap-Up

Q: With regard to Heinlein’s Rule 5, “Leave it on the market,” do you (or did you) ever have to fight the urge to revise or pull a book off the market, etc.?

HS: No. I seldom have (and seldom ever had) the urge to even go back and read what I wrote before. Not because the stories aren’t good, but because I’ve already been there. I already know how it turns out, so for me it’s boring.

I’d rather follow a new set of characters around as they live their story and see how that one turns out. (Or in the case of a saga, I’d rather follow the same characters around as they live a new part of their story and see how that part of the story turns out.)

Note that I might pull a book down for one day to swap out a cover or change the sales copy, but then it goes right back up.

Q: And the biggie: What would an author need to give up or change (ideas, habits, mindsets, etc.) to fully adopt Heinlein’s Rules?

HS: Fear. Nothing else. Just fear. And in every case, it’s unreasoning fear.

For HR1, give up the fear-driven need to control everything from an authorial ivory tower. Come down from the tower, take off your authorial robes and sllp on some jeans. Then roll off the parapet into the trenches of the story and race through the story with your characters.

For HR1 and 2, trust the characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. That’s key. When you get stuck, Just Write the Next Sentence. It really is that simple.

One caveat on this one: Often, if a story “slows” or “bogs down,” especially toward the end of a scene, you can often find the reason by scrolling up a few sentences or paragraphs. But again, don’t consciously “look for” where things end. Just read. The characters will tell you where the scene ended or where you took a wrong turn.

Often you’ll find you’ve written past the end of a scene or, sometimes, even the end of the story. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. It all boils down to trusting the characters.

For HR3, let go of three things, all fear-based:

  1. Let go of the notion that the story is imporant. It isn’t. It’s only a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment for eventual readers. Some will like it and some won’t. It’s no more important than that.
  2. Let go of the notion that someone else can tell your characters’ story better than you can. I don’t even allow my own critical, conscious mind to intrude on my stories. Much less would I allow anyone else and their conscious, critical mind to intrude. And
  3. Let go of the fear that your work won’t be perfect. Rest easy in the knowledge that it won’t. If you strive to make it perfect, you will try to write like your favorite novelist writes.

But you aren’t that novelist. You’re you.

You enjoy that novelist’s work because of that novlist’s uniuqe, original voice. And others will enjoy your work because of YOUR unique, original voice if you leave it alone (if you don’t revise, rewrite, and critique your original voice off it because of your fear of being “imperfect.”)

And for HR4, let go of the fear of judgement. Some few readers will love what you’ve written. Some few others will hate it. And the majority will enjoy it and the fact that you’ve written it in your own unique, original voice.

As J. A. Konrath famously wrote in “Six Things Writers Need To Stop Worrying About,” “Someone else’s opinion of you and your work is none of your business.”

He’s absolutely right. Your job is to write the stories and put them out. It is the reader’s job, not yours, to decide what s/he enjoys.

Q: Any final words, tips, or resources you can share with authors who might be considering Heinlein’s Rules?

HS: First, I recommend they subscribe to my almost-daily Journal. It’s only $3 per month or $36 per year (free until May 31, 2024), and it’s pretty much the only blog today where writers can learn about writing with Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark. A lot of big-name writers do it, but very few talk about it, and nobody else talks about it regularly.

Second, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of resources on my author site at https://harveystanbrough.com. Hover over or click the tabs labeled Writer Downloads and Other Writer Resources.

Third, I would be remiss not to mention all the lectures and online classes available at WMG Publishing’s Teachable page (Dean Wesley Smith). You can find that at https://wmg-publishing-workshops-and-lectures.teachable.com/. But they all cost anywhere from $50 to $300 or more.

And finally, look for Dean Wesley Smith’s books on Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark. I especially recommend How to Write Fiction Sales Copy in paperback. All of those are available in both ebook and paper at Amazon and from other outlets.

If there were six “business habits” in Heinlein’s Rules, the last one would probably be the new Rule 3: Stop writing when the story stops.

Okay, that’s it for the faux interview on Heinlein’s Rules. I hope it helped in some way. More good stuff coming, so stay tuned. And if there are any topics you’ve wondered about and would like to see me address here, email me at harveystanbrough[at[gmail.com.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

The Time of Great Forgetting (It’s Here) Please read this.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1250

Writing of When the Owl Calls (novel)

Day 1…… 1884 words. To date…… 1884
Day 2…… 3699 words. To date…… 5583
Day 3…… 2086 words. To date…… 7669
Day 4…… 3167 words. To date…… 10836
Day 5…… 4011 words. To date…… 14847

Fiction for May…………………….….… 32077
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 335862
Fiction since October 1………………… 638919
Nonfiction for May……………………… 26390
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 180730
2024 consumable words……………… 516592

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 90
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

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

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4 thoughts on “But What About Fun? And the Wrap-Up”

  1. Personally I find reading and watching animation ALMOST as fun as writing. Almost. If given a chance I’d rather write and live in my characters’ worlds than do anything else. I couldn’t imagine not telling stories. Its just a bonus some people like them too when I publish them.

    • “It’s just a bonus some people like them too when I publish them.”

      Exactly how I feel, Matt. I consider being the first to get to witness a story my first “payment” for writing it.

  2. Great posts about Heinlein’s rules. Thanks for sharing it.
    Sometimes I got distracted from writing, but as writing is my favorite thing to do, it is rare nowadays and always because of the unreasoning fear of the critical mind… ‘What my friends would say?’, ‘What publisher would want to publish this story?’, ‘Who will read this?’, ‘Are you doing it right?’, and so on… and I didn’t even start the damn story.
    When this happens, I stop back and try something else. And when I got past the fear, I enjoy writing again (did I say my greatest joy is writing?). I need to let go of my EGO, and just write…

    Last week my computer went wrong. How else I can write?, I asked myself. And I returned to handwriting for a while. Yes, it’s slower and I need to type it in, but I can’t afford not writing. I want it. I developing a new method to me, when I write the story starter by hand, and when I capture this, I type it in, and continue from there. It sound silly, why would I do it, but I write differently by hand. More details, more freedom, and I use other parts of my brain if it possible. Whatever.

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