People like to talk about rules for writing, but I’ve found that almost all the rules people talk about are a bunch of BS. That especially applies to all the rules about how to construct a story, how to start a story, what to include in a story, etc. At best, those rules are guidelines–don’t ignore them, but don’t treat them like the are impermeable.
In my experience, however, there are a few writing rules are that I consider unbreakable if you want succeed as a fiction writer. Those rules have nothing to do with the structure of a story, its elements, it conflict, how you begin or end. They are about the process of writing and publishing, and are as much common sense as they are “rules.”
1.) You must write.
2.) You must finish what you write.
3.) You must submit what you finish.
4.) You must keep submitting until it is sold.
5.) You must start working on something else.
That’s it. The keys to success in five simple rules. Many of you probably recognize these. The first four are from golden-age, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein (he had a fifth rule, but I don’t think that one is unbreakable). In my experience, they form the basis of the only successful process to selling and publishing fiction. Write. Finish. Submit.
The last rule is from current science fiction writer Charles Stross, which he added to Heinlein’s rules in a post on his blog. His rule makes it implicit that you can’t stop after one iteration of Heinlein’s rules. To be successful, writing is a cycle: Write. Finish. Submit. Write. Finish. Submit. Write . . . .
Last year, I forgot these rules and it was the main reason I didn’t have as successful a year as I wanted, which is exactly why I’m bringing them up now. I can’t let myself forget that writing is about committing to the hard process of “butt in chair” and “fingers on keyboard.” For me, this year is about getting back on track.
I know it’s less than two weeks into the new year, but I’ve already managed to write every single day. I haven’t finished a story yet (I’m working on a longer piece at the moment), but my progress is undeniable. The words are coming. The story I’m working on is coming together, although it still has a long way to go. Other ideas are starting to brew, but those will need to wait. I have a story to finish first.
Write. Finish. Submit. Recycle.