What About Rewriting? Post 4 on Heinlein’s Rules

In today’s Journal

* Bradbury Challenge Writers’ Report
* Two-Fer Sale Extended
* What About Rewriting? Post 4 on Heinlein’s Rules
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

No fiction writing on Memorial Day (yesterday). I enjoyed the Indy 500 (go fast, turn left) and other things.

Bradbury Challenge Writers’ Report

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

Short Fiction

  • George Kordonis “Modern Dating Scene” 2788 Drama
  • Adam Kozak “Moon Phoenix” 1464 Science Fiction

Two-Fer Sale Extended

If you buy a copy of any book in the Blackwell Ops (thriller), Wes Crowley (western), or Journey Home (SF) series through StoneThread Publishing, I’ll send a second novel in that series free of charge.

Simply visit the link above, click on the series you want to explore, then click on any book cover on that page to visit the store.

I’ve also decided to add Jonah Peach and the sequel, When the Owl Calls, to the sale. Buy a copy of Jonah Peach (under the Other Thrillers tab) and I’ll send When the Owl Calls free when I finish it. (grin)

Buying direct will also save you money.

What About Rewriting? Post 4 on Heinlein’s Rules

A lot of this one is about the most controversial of Heinlein’s Rules: Rule 3.

Q: Okay, my next question is about Rule #3: Refrain from rewriting except to editorial order. So, if a story is good enough to be accepted by a publisher, and they give you feedback on what needs to be changed, you should make those changes (within reason). But you shouldn’t do revisions on your own.

I agree with the spirit of this rule: instead of getting caught up in endless revisions, the best thing we can do to improve our craft is to write the next book (and the next one, and the next one…).

But I can’t see how this works for authors who self-publish, because it’s entirely possible that they’re publishing work that is sub-par and no one will want to read. I mean, every story needs some editing, right?

HS: First, Harlan Ellison added an addendum to HR3: “Refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.” The addendum? “And only if you agree.” So sure, make the changes your agent or editor or publisher recommend, but only if you agree with those changes.

Second, whether a story is “good enough” to be accepted by a publisher only means the acquisitions editor and/or publisher actually liked it, which means it suited the taste of that particular person at that particular moment in time. What that person likes, another person won’t. What one person is in the mood for at this moment in time, another person isn’t.

What one person sees as excellent and entertaining, another will see as “sub-par.” I personally believe there is no story that “no one will want to read,” unless the writer has revised and rewritten and polished until it reads exactly like everything else in the slush pile.

You wrote “I can’t see how this works for authors who self-publish.” It works for me through what I call my “first readers.” When I finish a work (remember, I cycle back as I write), I run an automated spell-checker.

Then I save the work in a PDF format and email it to my first reader(s). Usually that happens within minutes of writing the last word of the novel. (I don’t use first readers for short stories. I read those myself, aloud, make corrections, then submit or publish them.)

Good first readers are not necessarily writers. What matters is that they’re avid readers. They don’t “look for” anything as they read, and they don’t make suggestions as to how they would have written it. They just read for entertainment, and if something pops out at them as they read, they make a note.

Usually that’s a misspelled word or a wrong word (waste for waist, for example) or an inconsistency (a character put on a blue jacket when he got dressed but at lunch an hour later he’s suddenly in a brown jacket, or a character has brown eyes in one scene and blue eyes in another).

When I get input back from my first reader, I go through the story a final time and apply what I agree with. I ignore the rest. If one of my first readers who is also a writer decides to tell me how I “should” have written something or how they would have written it, I completely ignore that. Especially if that writer is much farther back on the writing road than I am.

As for every story needing an editor, that depends on the skill level and experience of the writer. I don’t personally use a copyeditor, but I do recommend using one unless you have an excellent grounding in grammar, the appropriate use of punctuation (including when to purposefully break the “rules”), and the nuances of the language. But I also recommend everyone let a good first reader see their finished work. And again, that means an avid reader, not a writer.

Never under any circumstances do I recommend a “story doctor” or “developmental editor” or any of that. A good copyeditor is worth his or her weight in gold, but all the rest is inviting someone else to change your story, and that’s just wrong.

Q: To piggyback on that, what about stories that have major structural issues?

This is especially common for new writers who are still figuring out how stories flow and should be structured. When I look back at my first attempts, they either required serious reworking or just needed to be filed quietly away never to be heard of again. The thought of publishing them makes me twitchy.

HS: Again, “major structural issues” according to whom? When you look back at your first attempts, in your opinion now they “required serious reworking,” yet you probably revised and rewrote those, didn’t you? Maybe that’s when the structural issues occurred.

Even if you follow Heinlein’s Rules and write into the dark—especially if you keep learning as you move forward through your writing career—you will look back at earlier works and find something you could have done better. Let it stand as a marker of your skill level at the time. Keep moving forward.

But the choice is yours: revise, rewrite, etc. for weeks or months or years, or just tell a good story, publish it, and move on to practice more and improve with the next work.

That’s enough for today. One more post coming to finish this series.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

How to Become a Writer (Ursula K. LeGuin) Read This!

Saturday Good Reads – May 25, 2024 A lot of good links here. (Thanks, Glynn!)

You’ve Got Your IP Back. Now What?

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1110

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

Fiction for May…………………….….… 28066
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 331851
Fiction since October 1………………… 634908
Nonfiction for May……………………… 25140
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 179480
2024 consumable words……………… 511331

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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