December 29, 2019

Heinlein’s Rules

I am just now learning about Heinlein’s rules for 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.

And it’s ironic that I didn’t know about these rules, because one of my favorite writers was a firm follower of them. Harlan Ellison even rewrote the third rule to read “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order. And then only if you agree".

To get a better understanding of the rules I read Heinlein’s Rules: Five Simple Business Rules for Writing by Dean Wesley Smith, who does follow the rules himself in his personal writing. In the book he explains the spirit behind each rule in detail.

I’ve always been fascinated by prolific writers (Ellison famously wrote over 1,700 stories), and these rules seem like the right blueprint for such a feat.

Of course, not everybody agrees with the rules. But, hey, isn’t that the same with all rules?

I should also recognize that these rules (specifically rule #3) contradict another famous quote attributed to many writers:

”Stories aren’t written are rewritten.”

—John Dufresne

December 29, 2019


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