Thursday, May 26, 2011

Heinlein "On the Writing of Science Fiction"

Robert A. Heinlein is one of the great masters of science fiction. His novel Stranger in a Strange Land, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, was the first science fiction book to hit the best seller lists. His work is largely responsible for my own introduction to the genre and, as such, is influential in my own writing.

In a 1947 essay he published the following rules "On the Writing of Science Fiction."

Heinlein's Rules
  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must never rewrite (unless to editorial demand, and then only if you agree)
  4. You must mail what you finish.
  5. You must keep the story in the mail until someone buys it.
My mind balks at the third rule. I am the queen of rewrites. Rewrites make the story better, don't they?

I just finished my first flash fiction story. Flash fiction is fiction of extreme brevity. As of this moment, I only exceeded the word count by 19 words. Not bad for this loquacious writer.

In the theme of flash fiction, and in an attempt to honor Heinlein's advice, I am going to keep this blog brief—time to walk away from the keyboard.


  1. In poetry one method of writing is called 'clustering' where you just write the first things that pop into your mind and right them all around the page in clusters. From that you pull content for a poem.
    Poetry is sometimes good in the rough but, like yourself, I often am unsatisfied lest I a subject my poetry to various rewrites and tweaks. I like to read writer suggestions. Thank for sharing.

  2. Wow, I don't think I can keep to rule three either. I rewrite a lot. Maybe he was just the type or writer that wrote things well the first time, but I'm sure not.

  3. This is my official notice that I am currently engaged in breaking rule three with my WIP, Dormant. Maybe someday I will be good enough to leave it at the first draft, but that day is certainly not today.