More Heinlein Wisdom

Robert A. Heinlein, one my favorite writers, had five rules for writing.

They are:

1. You Must Write

2.Finish What Your Start

3.You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order

4.You Must Put Your Story on the Market

5.You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold

All good advice. However, Rule 3 usually takes some explaining. Heinlein may very well have been confident in sending out first drafts–he was Robert A. Heinlein after all–but most of us could not get away with that. First drafts are almost always too rough to be seen by anyone except your dog. Since dogs can’t read, they are just impress that you have words on paper. Most people agree that what Heinlein was trying to say was “Don’t rewrite endlessly.”

I struggle what that one a lot. The fact is it can alway be better, but at some point you just have let it go. Knowing when it has reached this point is the hard part. A simply one line rule can’t tell me when it is time to stop. Still, keeping the rule in mind does help.

Novelist Robert J. Sawyer has a good article on these rues with his take on them and adds a sixth. Well worth checking out.

Now I’m off to polish up that first chapter a bit more. Or maybe not.

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