Heinlein's Rules

I found a copy of the Analog Magazine (July 10, 1974) that reprinted the speech in which Heinlein shared his Rules, and I quote:

Five rules for Success in Writing:

First: You must write.

Second: You must finish what you write.

Third: You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.

Fourth: You must place it on the market.

Fifth: You must keep it on the market until sold.

That's all. That's a sure-fire formula for getting anything—anything at all! Published. But so seldom does anyone follow all five rules that the profession of writing is a soft touch for those who do—even though most professional writers are not too bright, not too wise, not too creative.

--Excerpted from Robert Heinlein's James Forrestal Memorial Lecture to the Brigade of Midshipmen at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, April 5, 1973.

I must note that although I lived by these words for years, the market for fiction has changed enough in the past 30 years that most authors will quibble about the validity of Rule 3. The editors and agents I've spoken to assure me that it's a hundred times more common to see manuscripts submitted that desperately need honest feedback, editing and polishing than to see one that is edited within an inch of its life.

These rules were simple enough for me to remember. I was easily intimidated, but they were so practical that they didn't scare me. They served as my primary guide to writing for years. They work for any form or genre.


© Lynne Murray