The Journal: Post 5 on Heinlein’s Rules

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* A friend brought a truism home
* Topic: Post 5 on Heinlein’s Rules
* The Journey Home: Part 8 is finished
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“Nine months later, I’d written and published 500,000 words and learned more from that process than I could have imagined.” Cat Sole in the AuthorsPublish article linked to below on writing FanFic (I suspect she was able to write so much so quickly because since it was fanfic it was easy to think of it as unimporant… just sayin’)

A friend brought a truism home to me in an email yesterday 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. See, for me, writing fiction IS my favorite distraction. I can’t imagine doing anything that’s more fun that 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 (or you all) think along the same lines I do.

But 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.

Topic: 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.?

Harvey: No. I never have (and have never 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 series, 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?

Harvey: 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.

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. Literally for goodness’ sake 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?

Harvey: First, I recommend they subscribe to my almost-daily Journal. It’s free, 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 Hover over or click the tab labeled More For Writers. There are services there that I offer, but there are also Free Downloads and Other Resources for Writers. Check those.

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

And finally, look for Dean Wesley Smith’s books on Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark. Both are available in both ebook and paper at Amazon and in other outlets.

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

The Journey Home: Part 8 is finished. I’ve said before that every novel writes differently. This is my 59th, but for the first time when it ended I could have kept going.

Well, I could have just kept going in any of the Wes Crowley novels too—after all, like this series, they comprise one long story—but in this one I could have kept going and felt all right about it. I chose not to for a couple of reasons (below).

When I realized I’d reached the end (I actually wrote past it by about 100 words), it surprised me. The ending is strong and it’s right. It even has a self-contained denoument.

But I could have added a new chapter header and kept going, effectively writing the next book in the series as an extension of this one.

I don’t want to do that for a couple of reasons: One, if I continue, what I would have put in the next book will be truncated as only the ending of this one. And two, if I continue, I still will have written only 59 novels, not 60. And for “discoverability” and a host of other reasons, it’s better to have 60 novels out than 59 novels out.

This one wrapped as a short novel at around 32,000 words. That’s fine. For several reasons, I suspect the next one will be longer though there are no guarantees. I just write what they give me and stop when the story ends.

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

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Five Lessons Writers Can Learn From Fanfiction” at This article is chock full of quoteable lines you can learn from. In many of them, you’ll probably learn the opposite of what the writer says.

See “How Should You Write Emotion?” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1580 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
Day 7…… 3078 words. Total words to date…… 29561
Day 8…… 1258 words. Total words to date…… 30819
Day 9…… 1942 words. Total words to date…… 32761 (done)

Total fiction words for March……… 36988
Total fiction words for the year………… 235996
Total nonfiction words for March… 10440
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 56470
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 292466

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 59
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.