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My Worst Heinlein Rule

October 16, 2011

If you are writing science fiction, hopefully you already know Heinlein’s Rules of Writing.  If not, I’ll let Robert J. Sawyer explain them.  I confess that I struggle with them all.  I go through spells where rule-one comes hard.  I have at least a dozen rule-two violations on my hard drive.  Rule-three…well, I’ve never been sold on that one because I do a lot of good work in the revision stages.  Rule-four is likely the one I’m best at, but its corollary rule-five is my nemesis.

Heinlein’s Fifth Rule of Writing: You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.  If I had a dollar for every excuse I’ve used for breaking this rule, I could write full time.  Or not, since that would take away half those excuses…but I digress.

At this hour three days ago, my Duotrope Submission Tracker (you support Duotrope, right?) had four stories on it.  Four.  Meanwhile my sreadsheet that pairs stories with target markets contained twelve stories.  That’s twelve finished, ready to submit stories.  Worse, two of those stories I was tracking on Duotrope were reprints and not even on my target list.  So that was two out of twelve stories in circulation.  Those two received responses on the same day.  That’s when I realized how badly I’d let Heinlein down.

The good news: I have been using the last few dwindling hours of my vacation to remedy that situation.  And I’m still sitting at seven stories on my Submission Tracker.  (For those keeping score, I’ve gotten five of the twelve out the door.)

Why so few?  One, I have a four-year-old who is also on vacation, so she has been a bit needy.  Then there’s a wife, housework, shopping, lame excuse, boring excuse, worthless excuse…  Oh, and then there’s my overwhelming urge to violate rule-tree and revise stories I had once declared as “finished”; that takes time.  I’m hoping to get a couple more out before bedtime and I have a goal of all twelve being out by Friday.  How many of these could have sold by now if I’d just kept them in circulation?

It’s all well and good to tout a few publications and call myself a writer.  It’s another to be a writer.  There’s no boss to remind me of my menial responsibilities; there’s just me.  Time to writer up.

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