In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Awhile Back: An Introduction to a Series on Heinlein’s Rules
* For an update
* The Numbers
Topic: Awhile Back: An Introduction to a Series on Heinlein’s Rules
Awhile back, I received a note from a writer who wanted to interview me about my adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. The purpose was so the writer could put up a blog post on the topic.
Later, the writer decided the post would be too long for their format. I agreed.
But the questions the writer asked, and the indicental comments the writer made, were absolutely typical (usually even word for word) of the questions and comments I’ve heard from writers at conferences and conventions for the past thirty years.
So I decided to use that writer’s questions and comments to post a series of topics here for the benefit of the few who read this Journal. Note: If the writer emails me to ask me to take this post down, I will do so. Then I will paraphrase the questions and comments and continue the series.
Some of this will hit home. Some of it might make you angry. Some of it will sound repetitious. I don’t mean any harm. In fact, I’ve added a disclaimer to the very end of every post now to maybe help satisfy detractors.
In my own experience, I’ve often found I had to hear something more than once or hear it said in a different way before I finally got it. It is in that spirit that I offer this and the following few posts on Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark, which really do go hand in hand.
First, here are Heinlein’s Rules so we’re all starting from the same place. As I’ve said many times, you can download a free PDF copy of Heinlein’s Rules (annotated) by clicking https://harveystanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Heinleins-Business-Habits-Annotated-2.pdf.
Heinlein first outlined his rules in Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science Fiction Writing. Largely as an afterthought to his article, he wrote the following:
“I’m told that these articles are supposed to be some use to the reader. I have a guilty feeling that all of the above may have been more for my amusement than for your edification. Therefore I shall chuck in as a bonus a group of practical, tested rules, which, if followed meticulously, will prove rewarding to any writer.”
Then he lists what he calls his Business Habits:
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you start.
3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
4. You must put it on the market.
5. You must keep it on the market until sold.'”
Note: Heinlein also add that if you follow these rules, eventually you would find some editor (reader) somewhere who would buy your work. Nothing could be more spot-on the money.
Here are some exerpts from the rest of the writer’s introduction, which contain some of those “typical” questions and comments I alluded to earlier and my responses:
Q: “It stands to reason that if we, as writers, spend the bulk of our time writing, we’re only going to improve. And if, instead of hopping from unfinished project to unfinished project or obsessing over a work to the point of ridiculousness, we move on to the next story, we’re going to spend more time writing. Which is the one thing we all need to do a lot of to succeed.”
Harvey: I agree in principle with this point. Instead of “hopping from unfinished project to unfinished project or obsessing over a work” at all, we should write the current story (even the very first) to the best of our ability, then publish it and move on to the next story.
But this isn’t only so we’ll “spend more time” writing. Writing a lot without learning and practice will not help you succeed. Practice (vs. hovering via revisions and rewrites) is what will help you succeed. To practice, you learn and then apply what you learned in the next story.
Never look back. Always look forward to the next technique to learn and the next story to write.
Q: “I have a few concerns with some of the rules to the point that I’ve never been able to embrace the process. … I’ve always wished I knew someone personally who follows Heinlein Rules so I could talk to them and see what they would say about my concerns.”
Harvey: You came to the right place. I was exactly the same way. Exactly. Which is to say I was filled with unreasoning fear. Unreasoning because there are no real consequences to writing a “bad” (in your opinon) story. The truth is, the world won’t stop if you write a “bad” story and not that much good will happen if you write a “good” (again, in your opinion) story. Your opinion of your work is still only one opinion.
To you, your original voice is boring because it’s with you 24/7. But to others, your original voice is unique and fresh. Given the chance to read your story, some will love it, some will hate it, and the majority will enjoy it—if you don’t polish your original voice off it.
That’s enough for today. Tomorrow, we’ll continue with questions from the interviewer.
For an update on The Journey Home: Part 8, see the numbers below. Still rolling.
Talk with you again soon.
See “First Page Critique: How To Improve a Compelling Opener” at https://killzoneblog.com/2021/03/first-page-critique-how-to-improve-a-compelling-opener.html. I don’t often include first page critiques here but this is a good one.
See “Make a Living at Writing?” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/make-a-living-at-writing/.
See “When Brains Dream” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/when-brains-dream/. Story ideas and some great songs.
The Journal…………………………………… 950 words
Writing of The Journey Home: Part 8 (novel)
Day 1…… 4891 words. Total words to date…… 4891
Day 2…… 4495 words. Total words to date…… 9386
Day 3…… 4515 words. Total words to date…… 13901
Day 4…… 4078 words. Total words to date…… 17979
Day 5…… 4464 words. Total words to date…… 22443
Total fiction words for March……… 26670
Total fiction words for the year………… 225678
Total nonfiction words for March… 5280
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 51310
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 276988
Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 4
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 58
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates it both regularly and publicly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.