In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Post 2 in the Heinlein’s Rules Series
* For an update
* The Numbers
Quote of the Day
“[B]y pushing productivity, we may actually be creating a generation of better storytellers.” David Farland
Topic: Post 2 in the Heinlein’s Rules Series
Actually, more introductory stuff today, with some specifics on Heinlein’s Rules mixed in.
Q: To provide context, how long have you been using this process, how many books/stories have you been able to write, and what kind of success have you achieved?
Harvey: I first discovered Heinlein’s Rules and a technique called Writing Into the Dark in February 2014. I made the conscious decision to pull up my big boy pants and give it an honest try. And frankly I was amazed. Since then I’ve written over 200 short stories, 8 novellas and 58 novels.
That’s the real secret to Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark, if there is a secret: You have to dedicate yourself to pushing down your fears and really trying it for yourself. It helps to realize you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. You can always go back to writing the “old” way: outlining, revising, critique grouping, rewriting however many times, etc.
I started with short stories (one a week) and ended that streak with 72 short stories in 72 weeks, all written in accordance with Heinlein’s Rules, all written into the dark.
If you look at a mean average, that’s just over 8 novels per year for 7 years and just over 28 short stories per year in that same time period, plus 8 novellas scattered in.
But I expect to produce a lot more this year. I finished my 58th novel on March 2, but it was also the 4th novel I started and completed this year. So on average, I’m on track to write 20 novels this year alone. All because I found Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark, pushed my fears down and really tried them. The trust in the process came quickly after that.
My success is because I learn and then I write. I don’t hover. I use a process called “cycling” as I write. Some call it revision, but revision is a conscious-mind process and cycling is a creative-mind process. That’s the big difference, and it’s all-important.
Q: And what is “cycling”?
Harvey: When I return for the next writing session, I read what I wrote during the previous session. But I read as a reader, just enjoying the story, not critically as a writer. And I allow myself and my characters to touch the story as I go. When I get back to the blank space, I’m back into the flow of the story and I just keep writing.
I mentioned that I finished my 58th novel on March 2. On March 3 I started my 59th. I’m not quite 27,000 words into that one. My daily word count goal is 4,000 words of publishable fiction per day, but that’s only 4 hours out of the 24 that we are given in each day. In that regard, and measured against the old pulp writers (who wrote on manual typewriters) I am a total slacker.
Q: I’ve heard many (not all) writers who adhere religiously to Heinlein’s Rules poo-poo the things writers often do to improve their craft, such as attending conferences, reading books and blogs, taking courses, etc. I understand, I think, the principle here, that if you spend too much time doing those things, you’re not doing the actual writing. But there are some things that writing alone can’t fix; sometimes we need direct instruction from people who’ve been there to identify what’s wrong and learn how to address those issues. What are your thoughts on continuing education as an author?
Harvey: Not to be contrary, but on this point I have to disagree. I’ve never heard a writer who adheres to Heinlein’s Rules “poo-poo” doing anything to improve their craft. In fact, all of them stress learning as only a very close second in importance to actually writing.
That said, even a decade or so before the CovID panic, actual physical conferences were falling by the wayside, leaving only large, often unaffordable conferences. But I personally have always urged writers to attend conferences and even the much more affordable conventions that interested them, for networking opportunities if nothing else.
Today most of those opportunities are virtual, a concept I have trouble grasping. I need the physicality and the immediate back and forth between actual people. That said, I still recommend even virtual conferences if that’s something the writer is interested in.
Re reading books and blogs on writing, of course I recommend those and I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t. In fact, I often provide links to other resources in my Journal. And my author website at HarveyStanbrough.com is rich with writer resources.
My own personal caveat is that the writer should exercise due caution and check out the author of the book or blog. For example, if that person doesn’t write novels, s/he has no business teaching others how to write novels. Would you go to a car mechanic to learn the finer points of carpentry or medicine? And re taking courses, I urge writers to do so, again after investing the time to do due diligence.
The process I recommend is this: The aspiring or beginning or experienced fiction writer should
1. write every story to the best of their current ability, not revise and rewrite their original voice off it, then publish it.
2. take time to attend a class or lecture (online is fine) and then stick one technique they want to practice in the back of their mind when they start writing the next story and practice it as they write that story.
3. then write that story to the best of their current ability, not revise and rewrite their original voice off it, then publish it.
Q: How easy is it for you to follow the rules?
Harvey: I find it extremely easy to follow HR1, 2, and 3. I’m dedicated to a daily word count goal of 4,000 words of publishable fiction (no drivel). Re HR1 and 2, I’m a fiction writer, so I write as part of my daily routine.
Re HR3, I don’t even allow my own critical, conscious mind into my work, so even the thought of allowing someone else to tell me how to “fix” the story that came out of my mind is ludicrous to me. As I’ve alluded to before, Rule 4 is the most difficult for me to follow because I’d much rather be writing the next story.
Okay, folks, that’s around 1000 words, so enough for today. More tomorrow. Stay tuned.
For an update on The Journey Home: Part 8, see the numbers below. Still rolling.
Talk with you again soon.
See “First Page Critique: She Sees Dead People But We Need To See Them, Too” at https://killzoneblog.com/2021/03/first-page-critiqueshe-sees-dead-people-but-we-need-to-see-them-too.html.
See “Balancing Productivity and Art” at https://mystorydoctor.com/balancing-productivity-and-art/. Shaky start with some myths but some good stuff too.
See “The Artists Dismantling the Barriers Between Rap and Poetry” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-artists-dismantling-the-barriers-between-rap-and-poetry/. Scroll down to hear some great poetry read aloud.
The Journal…………………………………… 1180 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
Day 6…… 4040 words. Total words to date…… 26483
Total fiction words for March……… 30710
Total fiction words for the year………… 2297188
Total nonfiction words for March… 6460
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 52490
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 282208
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.