Rules #3 and #5

Today I got to partake in Heinlein’s Rules #3 and #5. For those of you who read my little bloggy thing and are unfamiliar with Heinlein’s Rules, these are five simple but difficult pieces of advice given by (naturally) Robert A. Heinlein. They consist of:

– – – – – – –

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.

– – – – – – –

#3 is, of course, the most controversial—but that is “merely” because people often have difficulty coming to a place where they can be comfortable the simplification inherent in the idea. The point, for me, is to work on the piece until you believe in it, and then let it go.

Here are two good takes on the idea from Charlie Jane Anders and Robert J. Sawyer.


Today I got back copy edits on my short story “Blind Leaps” (which I think is slated to run in a soon-to-be released anthology (that I’ll announce for sure if/when it makes proper sense). There is no contract on this, yet, though. So one shall never say anything is absolute until such things as ink dries on a contracts…and even then, one never says never until such thing as a book appears!). These were turned around promptly. Yes, this is a weak application of the rule, but it still applies at present. No contract, no guarantee.

In addition, earlier I had received an invitation to submit a rewrite on a story, complete with a bit of discussion on why the editor was left dissatisfied. I looked at his comments, looked at the story, and said “you know, Ron, he’s right.” So I broke my expected plan for the day and gave a couple hours to an actual rewrite of a previously submitted story, and turned it back around to the requesting editor.

The work was not hard. The story was not long (but it’s longer now).

There are some out there who might say “of course you would submit a rewrite to an editor that suggested they would look at one.” And in general, that’s true. But not 100% of the time. If I didn’t agree with the comments, I wouldn’t have done the work. If I hadn’t agreed with them, I would have moved right on down to #5 and submitted it elsewhere.  I have two reasons to think that way. The first is that this is my work, and I have to believe in it. The second is that even with this request, there is no guarantee. It’s always quite possible the editor will look at my effort and still not like it, so if I spent the time to fix it to some editorial spec that I didn’t agree with I would be stuck in limbo if the story comes back.

So, yeah, edit to editorial request—but only when you agree with it.

See how that works?


I note, however, that I chose to give about half the day to this larger rewrite. This is half a day that I could have used on something else, and in fact had already planned to use on something else (which has now been pushed back a bit).

Hence the rule.

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One Comment

  1. I learn more and more every time you post. Thanks for keeping up with this as well as your writing! Not only is it very helpful, but inspirational. Keep going!

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