Heinlein’s Rules

I have a lot of years invested in reading and writing.  And I’ve done a lot of reading about writing, not to mention polished a lot of chairs with my posterior attending seminars and workshops.  I learned, one must when the caliber of instructors is as high as those I’ve been privileged to hear. Over this period of time I’ve been able to condense what I’ve learned into a few guidelines, foremost being seat in chair, fingers on keyboard. Simple. Elegant.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned just recently the master of all things Science Fiction, who created complex worlds and wrote out rules of conduct for a happy life, also presented in an essay, “On The Writing of Speculative Fiction” 1947,  the five rules of writing.

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

If you search Heinlein’s rules you’ll find numerous analyses of each one, with writers agreeing or disagreeing. So be it. We all have the right to our own opinions, and a lot of those have valid points. Let’s take these rules in the spirit they’re written: Writers write.

On the same day, two writers I admire tremendously addressed this same issue. Dean Wesley Smith titled his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing, where he analysed and debunked writing pretensions and explained how any of us with the desire (and a modicum of talent, I’d think, but that desire really matters) can produce a book a year.  You might want to put down your coffee or tea first since DWS teaches through humor.

Then along comes  Greta van der Rol‘s blog, with the eloquent title of Five Writing Myths and Why They’re Crap Like so many of her take charge heroines, Greta pulls no punches, debunking some of the modern excuses for writing, or not writing as the case may be.

No doubt most of you have heard of Heinlein’s rules long before now. I’ve gotten used to playing catch up and as long as I reach my destination I don’t mind a few detours. In the meantime I coined my own phrase rather than a rule and when I follow it I’m happy with my day’s output.

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Submit.

So let’s share. What rules do you write by, or ignore when you write?

And for the sharing, a recipe I just tried out and I gotta say there’s not much I’d want to change:

Low Carb Peanut Butter Fudge

It’s cream cheese and butter and peanut butter and vanilla (remember make your own!) and one of the sweeteners…I 018used Truvia this time, and reduced the amount since most of the sweeteners come up just too sweet for me. Here’s what mine looks like, no I didn’t eat all that. I cut out about half to take to friends so I don’t eat all of it! The picture with the recipe is MUCH prettier.  I started with frozen butter instead of room temperature, and melted it too fast which I think had an effect on the appearance but it’s still yummy bliss on the tongue


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8 responses to “Heinlein’s Rules

  1. My rules—
    Write some more.
    Ignore the pain.
    Put your soul into it and write.
    The more it hurts, the harder it becomes…never never never give up.


  2. My rules:
    -Create complex, believable characters and make copious notes.(Since I usually sell on proposal this is crucial-plus I believe in knowing what you’re getting into so you don’t write yourself into a corner)
    -Write the damn book.
    -Cry and eat chocolate, especially close to deadline.
    -Send to critique partners/beta readers.
    -Polish again.
    -Submit to my editor.
    -Promote the book.
    This last rule because there’s a lot more to being a career writer than simply writing a good book, although that is where we must start.

    BTW-the Heinlein reference is what brought me here. Thank you!


  3. arnorris

    Great post Mona! I’ve lived by Heinlein’s rules for years now, with the only addition being research, research, and research.


  4. Yes, research. Make sure you’ve got your facts straight.


  5. I write, let it simmer, write another book and put that one on the back burner, take book A off and rewrite, rewrite book B, edit book A, edit book B, proof book A and sub it, proof book B and sub it, promote, all the way through, start book C, etc. Sorry, Mr. Heinlein if you can read this from wherever your soul resides: I have way too many info dumps and head hops in that first draft to sub it. I guess that’s why it takes me so long between books. But it pays off when Lea Schizas of MuseItUp Publishing, Inc. says you’ve subbed a clean ms.


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