Writing Bad Fiction: Revisiting Heinlein’s Rules

I’ve gotten several pings on this in my life over the last couple weeks.

My banner says, “Daring to Write Bad Fiction since 2017”

I know there are skeptics out there who say, “why would you brand your fiction as bad. The answer is simple. The worst project you finish is better than the best project you never publish because it’s not “perfect.”

1. You must write
2. You must finish what you start
3. You must refrain from re-writing except to editorial order (and only if you agree with the editor) NOTE: by editor Heinlein meant someone who could give you money for your story.
4. You must put your story on the market.
5. You must keep your story on the market until it has sold.

In this way Robert Heinlein sold every story he ever finished and put on the market. (And two he didn’t.) Notice he didn’t say anything about fiction being good, or of a particular quality.

And yet, he helped define Modern American Science Fiction. That fact is indisputable. He’s arguably one of the best writers who ever lived. And I promise you while he was writing he never concerned himself with weather the audience would like his art.

He fought for his art on several occasions over editor’s strenuous objections.

If you’re going to be a writer over the long term you have to decide not to care what anyone thinks of your art. It’s the only way I’ve ever been able to finish anything.

Caring whether or not people liked my work is one of the major reasons I haven’t finished a piece of fiction in 11 years.

Allowing myself to create fiction without caring whether anyone likes it, allows me to have fun and enjoy creating. Agreeing to publish bad fiction allows me to successfully bypass my critical voice and keep writing. And that’s the trick.
Because here’s a secret you won’t believe. Quantity leads to quality. The more you practice doing something the better you get at it.

That’s all I have time for today but my streak stands at four!!!!

My New Fiction Production Plan

I had a bad day on Friday. A lot of stuff going on in my personal life that caused me to stress and wonder if I’m really headed in any sort of direction.

So I opted for some retail therapy. I bought 3 wmg writing lectures when I’d promised myself I’d only buy 1. What can I say, Dean and Kris really calm me down and put things into perspective. I really hope I’m as comfortable in my skin when I grow up as Dean is.

I bought Dealing with Writers Block and Procrastination, How to Start or Restart Your Writing, and How to Think like a Science Fiction Writer.

***Shameless Plug***

Listen to me. If you’ve tried other books and courses on writing and haven’t published anything, give the lecture series a shot. Dean and Kris are bestselling writers with decades of experience under their belts and they’re professional writers. They changed forever the way I look at the craft and business of professional writing. If you tried everywhere else first and you still haven’t published, listen to the lecture series and consider buying an online workshop. If they can get me going, they can get anyone going.

***End of Shameless Plug***

Alright, shameless plug over. What I found from listening to these 3 lectures was two months into 2017 I’m falling into my old patterns of talking about writing fiction rather than actually writing my fiction. After I checked in with myself, I realized it’s because I’m afraid. I see this life I want before me where I write fiction for a living and support myself with it, and I’m honestly terrified this life I see in front of me isn’t possible because I’m not good enough at writing fiction.

But when I’m really in the moment living my fiction through the eyes of my view point character it’s the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything. It’s a truly transcendent experience. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing. So I did the math. I can comfortably publish a short story every 2 weeks and a novel a month, typing an average of 10 words per minute. So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’ve commissioned the cover for my first short story, Love’s Dilemma. I haven’t thought of a novel yet.

I’m giving myself permission to start in March on both projects because I have a backlog of freelance projects I need to get done.

I may Publish Love’s Dilemma before March 1st and I may not but I’ve got to clear the decks before I can really enjoy writing fiction which is the real secret behind succeeding at fiction writing.

A New Direction

Ever since I started seriously studying the art of storytelling in 2006 I’ve wanted to do a blog about how to become a professional fiction writer from the point of view of somebody just starting out.

The thing that bothers me about all of this advice that’s given out by these people who are massively successful is their already massively successful and it seems to me like they’re speaking from too far down the road to really empathize and understand the problems of someone just starting out.

The biggest problem I’m facing right now is fear of what other people will think of me and my writing if I finish and publish something.

This is a fear every professional writer goes through as far as I can tell. And the only surefire cure for it is to resolve not to care what anyone thinks, especially at the beginning.

In order to be able to do something well you have to be willing to do it poorly at first. The only way to get better at writing is to write new fiction words. Studying how to write fiction is useful but you can’t get better as fiction a writer until you actually write fiction words.

So this blog is turning over a new virtual leaf. I’m writing it purely for myself, it will serve as a record for me of my progress and maybe it will help some other writers along the way if I become successful. Perhaps it could even help some writers if I fail, because maybe they’ll be able to see where I went off the rails.

I’ve decided I’m writing this blog for myself. I’m not going to try and do search engine optimization on it. I’m just going to write what seems good to me to write and let history judge its value without worrying about what the value is.

Heinlein’s Rules

In 1947 Robert Heinlein wrote an article for a book titled Of Worlds Beyond on the science of science fiction writing. Near the end of the article, presented almost as an afterthought he told the reader his five business rules for writing.

Heinlein’s Rules For the Business of Fiction Writing

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

Every writer who has followed these five rules as a career writing fiction.

For the last 10 years, I’ve barely gotten past rule one. Starting today I’m committed to following all five rules, because I want to be a professional fiction writer. I love telling stories I love reading, hearing and watching fiction.

Fiction at its best functions as virtual reality. Master practitioners can make you forget that you’re reading a story and transport you into their world. That is an art I will devote the rest of my life to.