In today’s Journal
* Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* Yeahbut (guest post)
* Of Interest
Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
You can still join in the challenge at any time. There’s no cost of course, and it’s a great way to have some fun, increase your inventory, and jumpstart your writing. It’s also a great way to get more practice pushing down the critical voice.
- Balázs Jámbor “I wish I lived” 2700 words Literary Fiction
- Balázs Jámbor “Annabell” 2500 words Literary fiction
- Christopher Ridge “Service Call” 3400 words Splatter Punk
- George Kordonis “Haunted Memory” 6265 words Science Fiction
- Chynna Pace “We Were Flies” 5858 words Thriller
- Karen Riggs “Snake River Blues” 3662 words Magical Realism
- Bill Sinclair “Sylvia’s Threads” 2734 words General Fiction
- Alexander Teut “Horses’s Hoofs” 6 507 words Historical Suspence
- Frank Theodat “A Golden Age” 2800 words Superhero Fantasy
If you’re following along with your own silent version of the challenge, congratulations. I know at least one of you is doing that. Peggy K, who took advantage of my offer of a free WITD intensive, has written seven short stories since May 6 (so 7 stories in 4 weeks).
The following is a guest post from Dan Baldwin, reprinted here with his permission. Also, Dan has agreed to become a regular contributor to the Journal. His posts will appear here every Tuesday beginning on June 6. Thanks, Dan.
One of the greatest gifts one writer has given to another is the list of five rules for writing from science fiction great Robert Heinlein. I bless the day I found them.
- You must write.
- You must finish what you start.
- You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
- You must put [your work] on the market.
- You must keep [your work] on the market until sold.
The rules are easy to understand and easy to follow. The challenge to following them is an enemy-of-the-writer called “Yeahbut.” That’s my term for the critical mind.
1. You must write.
“Yeahbut, first I need to think this thing through so I can create an outline. Then I have to develop a plot. After that I’ll need to draft detailed sketches of the major and some minor characters.”
All that may be fine if you need the exercise, but none of it is writing. The trick to “you must write” is to sit down, place your hands on the keyboard, and tap out “It was a dark and stormy night.” Then keep going.
2. You must finish what you write.
“Yeahbut, I’d better run this by my critique group before I go any further. I should also put what I’ve done so far away for a couple of weeks to let the thing ‘stew.’ Maybe I should do a bit more research. Hey, Netflix is running an Andy of Mayberry marathon right now.”
When yeahbut points you away from the work at hand, the best response is “I’ll finish this first.”
3. You must refrain from rewriting unless to editorial demand.
“Yeahbut I need input from as many people as possible.”
[Some] writers are insecure people who need constant validation that they’re not crazy old Uncle Joe up in the attic writing those Scarlet Pimpernel knockoffs. A good editor is essential, but I am leery of taking too much advice from people who do not know my characters, their motivations, or their situations.
Back in the day, when I passed around my novels, some of the feedback was good. But the feedback came from uninvolved people and not the characters; when I took their advice instead of listening to my characters, the work became someone else’s story.
4. You must put [your work] on the market.
“Yeahbut what if nobody likes my book?”
There is no reason to sit on a book, screenplay, short story, poem or your “How I Did It” memoir. Authors have many options. The traditional publication route is tedious and slow, but available to all. Hybrid publishers abound. Self-publishing is easy and fast.
Writers have too many sound options at their fingertips to hold back. Put your work out there and let the market decide what happens next.
5. You must keep [your work] on the market until it sells.
“Yeah but I can’t handle any more rejection slips.”
Writers going the traditional route should prepare for the inevitable rejection slips—and lots of them. It’s part of the business. You believe in your work or you wouldn’t have written it in the first place. So, do not get discouraged. Keep sending those inquiries.
Self-publishers are often discouraged because sales do not automatically zoom into the financial stratosphere. There’s no guarantee that the media, podcasts or radio interviewers will respond. Negative reviews happen.
So what? Move on to the next work and allow the market to decide your earlier work’s fate. I’m still earning “twos and fews” from books I put on the market decades ago. Think long-term and keep turning out product.
You’re a writer. Write.
Ah, there you go again. But nothing! Just write.
* * *
Thanks again, Dan.
To get your own free annotated copy of the original Heinlein’s Business Habits for Writers (Heinlein’s Rules) click https://harveystanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Heinleins-Business-Habits-Annotated-2.pdf.
I also recommend downloading my essay, “What Heinlein’s Rules Mean to Me” (also free) at https://harveystanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/What-Heinleins-Rules-Mean-to-Me.pdf.
Heinlein first mentioned his “business habits” almost in passing in his essay “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction” in the anthology Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science Fiction Writing from Fantasy Press, 1947. You can get a first edition for around $40 and you can still find less expensive copies as well.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Last Day of Weekend Sale” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/last-day-of-weekend-sale/.
See “How Time Off Benefits Writers” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/05/how-time-off-benefits-writers.html. Oh to be young again.
The Journal…………………………………… 310
Total fiction words for May……… 14404
Total fiction words for 2023………… 97868
Total nonfiction words for May… 26000
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 107690
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 205558
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.