1. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    Rules for Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bruce, Oct 23, 2009.

    What do you think about these?

     
  2. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    Sounds like a brutally cold way to enjoy one of mankind's greatest artistic achievements.
     
  3. Mo Yeongsu
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    Mo Yeongsu Member

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    Sounds like some motivation. I interpret it as

    1. Don't make excuses.
    2. Don't quit.
    3. Don't second guess yourself. (I don't like this one, actually.)
    4. You wrote for someone to enjoy your work. Make sure they have a chance to read it.
    5. And if at first your work isn't received, keep it up until at least one person reads it and says, "Wow!" Because that one thing makes all the work of 1-4 worth it.
     
  4. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    While I tend to mostly agree with 1, 2 and 3, I think the rest are personal decisions.

    1 - While yes, you must write, it isn't a forced decision. There is no responsibility to do such, if you don't want to. Unless of course, you have been paid to do that.
    2 - It is important to finish, else why even bother starting an unfinished thought, if it has no conclusion...
    3 - Rewriting can be dangerous. When you first think up the scene, and throw yourself into it, you are feeling it all. You can see most vividly everything around you. You can better describe the emotions involved, and therefore impress more feeling, more soul into your work. The truer the feeling in the work, the more you are personally involved in the happenings, the truer it sounds. Rewriting after the fact can remove some of this closeness that you need to write it effectively. IMO.
    And this is totally separate from editing and adding stuff in to your story later, which can add to it, clarifying your previous meanings...

    Points 4 and 5 are about selling the work, if that is what you so choose to do. If you wrote it for your personal enjoyment, you are not obligated to share it, and choosing to share / sell it or not does not determine your own capabilities.

    These points are taken out of context, I would assume. If these are rules for writing as a profession, as a source of income, then I would agree with 4 and 5, since your purpose for writing is the sale of the works. /shrug


    Edit:
    I have to also add that the entire idea of having rules for writing can also be dangerous. Too much research into the how-to books / websites can explain things in a way you do not understand, so therefore you may get intimidated, and think you cannot do it. It all sounds too difficult. It can be very discouraging, if you let it.
    But as you then write more you might find that you have been doing what they said all along, and simply not known it.
    Some things you learn, you pick up on, you get a feel for them, rather than learning the theory first. It makes writing instinctual, when you 'just know' what feels good, and when there is something wrong or odd about certain parts of your story.
    IMO, that is why the best advice is always - read more, and don't worry so much about any kinds of "rules" - you will pick it up as you go along.
     
  5. apathykills
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    apathykills Contributing Member

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    1. If you want to be a writer i agree.
    2. nope, lots of time you start something only to realize you have no plot for it, or no way to make it keep going, forcing yourself to write something you know wont be as good as something else you can write is just silly.
    3. This obviously was not written by a dislec... dislexts... a man that can't spell.
    4 and 5: yep. If it's finished and it's good, sell it.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Well, I thought I'd get this in before someone else does...


    The first rule of writing: You do not talk about writing.
    The second rule of writing: You do not talk about writing.
     
  7. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    My English honors teacher told me the same thing, she said talking about only makes the "chore" worse (Btw, I totally disagree with the word she chose because I don't feel that writing is a chore).

    As for those rules, they sound like complete, excuse the word, crap to me. You don't have to write if you don't want to, and you don't have to finish it. Especially if it's a case like apathykills presented. If you feel there is a need to rewrite your material because of some reason, then perhaps you would like to without an editor saying to do so. Also, you do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, have to get your work published just because you wrote it. Perhaps a person just wrote what they did out of mere boredom, or for their personal preference, that doesn't mean it has to be published.

    These are however, my opinions and therefore cannot sway anyone.
     
  8. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Second!

    1 and 3, i can agree on (depending on what you are looking for)

    2,4 and 5, i really disagree with.
     
  9. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    With all due respect to Mr. Heinlein, I liked your interpretive version much better, Mo!
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with you on that one, Mss. Those rules were written in a totally different publishing world, anyway, when there were hundreds of pulp mags that sold a million copies and were churned out so fast that there was so time to do rewrites if an editor didn't want them, and doing rewrites would waste a lot of paper if they were not needed. And with so many of them, I bet it was a lot easier to find someone who would take your work than it is now, so it was more worth it to keep it on the market. Mo's reinterpretation fits today's world.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What works for Heinlein may not work for you. I agree persistence is a virtue, but not every project you begin will be worthy of pushing through to the end.

    As for never rewriting, I personally think that is bull. If you recognize a steaming heap in the middle of your manuscript, scrape it up, hose it down, and rebuild as needed.

    Heinlein was another of those authors who fell in love with his verbal diarrhea in his later years. He could have used a brutal editor to cut out excess crud.
     
  12. Mo Yeongsu
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    Mo Yeongsu Member

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    I think you missed the Fight Club reference, my friend. And when she says talking about it makes it a chore, she probably means that thinking about it too deeply and too often can make it weigh on your mind and take the fun out of it. This isn't to say you can't become passionate and want to get super worked up over something; just don't burn yourself out.

    As for not having to get it published: I decided to translate that as "Make sure somebody gets a chance to enjoy it." Share your hard work with the world. Art is for everyone and even if its not great, it may have a profound effect on someone. The internet makes this goal very easy..
     
  13. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's succinct. I like it. You can see what point he's trying to make--just get the writing done and avoid over critiquing yourself.
     
  14. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    Lol - that sounds like he is saying "Just write. Who cares."

    Which, for all I know, could be it exactly!
    'If you want to be a writer by profession, then just write, make it as good as you can and put it out there. Don't sweat the small stuff.'

    Doesn't this sound like sound advice?
     
  15. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    This sounds to me like what he was saying. How I took it anyway. And this advice, taken this way, rings true through the ages, no matter what you're writing. It's the fundamentals of being a writer, the interpretation I got from it, that's all.
     
  16. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I disagree with him 100%
    First of all, when was there ever rules or barriers in writing? You write what you want to write and do what you have to do to accomplish your goal in writing.
     
  17. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    In his On Writing web page, Robert J. Sawyer shared his views on Heinlein's five rules, plus added a sixth of his own.
     
  18. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I have trouble with #3.

    I can see where there's a problem with over-editing, over-rewriting, but I can't imagine not re-writing.

    Many follow the method of "crappy first draft" then "rewrite in second draft." Nobody could turn in the crappy first draft and expect any success. (Unless you have a name like "Stephen King" whose shopping list would sell a million copies.)

    Sometimes, you have to re-write to make things better.

    Charlie
     
  19. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I checked out Robert Sawyer's article about this, and I like his take on them.
     
  20. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Yep, right on the money. Including the advice-seeking-rejecting-wannabe dropout rate, which is funny and I enjoyed it (it's true of lots of things, including writing). I especially like the tidbit about finishing the story being crucial to actually learning something about writing it. You can't learn very much about storytelling by abandoning an incomplete piece of work (it's a lot like hashing out an idea or concept, which never seems very productive). Part of learning to write fiction is to craft and shape a piece in order to have it read like you think it oughta. But it's actually the story that will dictate in many ways what the rest of it oughtabedoing. You can't know that if you don't actually write to the end of the story. Then, the part about stories never being finished, just abandoned. I think I understand this, too, as a very good reason not to do what I tend to do endlessly, which is to tinker and rewrite. In fact, that's why I submit 'em, to be free of them so I can get on to something else. I don't think it's ever productive to imagine you're writing the "perfect" story--or even, for that matter, to think there is such a thing, though you better not count on a sloppy job to be read as a gem in the rough--least of all by an agent or editor.

    I can see how all this kind of begins to sound circular or like talking out of both sides of your mouth--the majority of (even good) advice is usually ignored (and there's a lot of it out there); finishing a story is essential to learning how to write 'em at all (but then, of course, there's the question of how to make it to the finish line if you don't know what you're doing at the outset); "learn to abandon your stories," by putting an end to rewriting 'em (and yet many writers see "rewriting" as the actual writing experience--so where does that judgement get made?). I have a feeling it all makes more sense to a dedicated writer or at least to one with some experience than to a spanking new novice or someone who's just toying with the notion of being an author.

    It's a complicated thing--this fiction writing. I think that's why you don't see any great novelists who attribute their success to a particular how-to-write book. Which, in turn, is why there can be so many how-to-write books on the shelves. Which, in its turn, is why a publisher can easily capitalize on a famous author's how-to-write formula, whether or not he’s actually got one.

    My vote is still for "resonance." It never hurts to try a piece of advice; but if it doesn't ring true at the end of your fingertips, then go with something that does.
     
  21. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    I'd heard the rules a bit differently:

    1. Write.
    2. Finish what you write.
    3. Don't rewrite (to death)
    4. Send it out.
    5. Keep sending it out until sold.

    Many people write. Fewer finish - far, far fewer. Now, a little dickering around is fine, but there comes a point where you may find yourself "having written" for years with little to show for it but false starts and nebulous "worldbuilding notes."

    I've been writing for ... what is it, 10 years now? Since fifth grade. I've read several books on writing, including Gerrold's and King's and Strunk & White. I've written parts of two novels and a bunch of "completed" (some are being re-written) short stories and essays. I've won writing prizes at my university. And as far as I can tell, there really is no substitute for writing and finishing your work.

    That doesn't mean "keep writing even when you have no where to go." But it does mean that if you aren't emphasizing a finished product, it is very very easy to write stories that drag - because you're writing to have written rather than to tell the bloody story - and easier still to get caught up in the worldbuilding notes and fail to write the actual story/book.

    Just my two cents.
     
  22. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I agree with those rules, though technically there aren't any real rules to writing, except finding what works for your chosen audience. I think the #3 rule is great for the first draft, and something to keep in mind while going through and doing the second or third draft rewrites. I think many people who finish a first draft (which as it was pointed out is very few who actually do write) often get sucked into endless rewriting of the second draft because they do second guess themselves too much.

    The first draft is no place to do rewrites. When problems are noticed a note should be made to rewrite during the second draft, and then the first draft should continue to be written as if that change has already been made.

    I do also don't think the last rule is necessarily correct either. If after 100 rejections have come in, the writer should take a look at what they wrote and try to figure out what the problem could be. Maybe they are aiming at the wrong audience. Maybe the writing needs to be better. Maybe there are holes in the plot, or under developed characters, or any other number of technical problems that would have editors throwing their manuscript in the trash.

    Also the last rule might lead to some writers getting taken advantage of in their desperate attempt to get published, like being scammed by self publishing and editing schemes. So it is something to think about.
     
  23. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    Heinlein was one of the greatest science fiction writers ever.

    Clearly those rules work, at least to some degree. But maybe the 1950s was different to now in terms of writing and a market for it.
     
  24. Syn Opsis
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    Syn Opsis Member

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    Hoo boy, this one should be etched in stone!
    Before the words are even out of your mouth,
    you just know your project is doomed.
     

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