Rules of writing: no more excuses

The First Rules of Writing

To be a writer, there’s really on one rule that you absolutely have to follow:

1. You must write.

To be a successful writer, there’s one more rule to follow:

2. You must finish what you write.

No, I didn’t make those rules up.  They come from the Science Fiction Man Himself, Robert Heinlein, in his essay from 1947 entitled ‘On the Writing of Speculative Fiction‘.

There are a few more rules — or habits, as he calls them — to add to the list.  In my mind, though, those first two are what count.  All the daydreaming, planning, and researching in the world aren’t gonna count for diddly-squat if you don’t have a finished product!

That’s right.  No agent or editor or reader will care that you could be the next Tolkien if you don’t have a finished, polished novel for them to read.  Duh, you say, but if you’re anything like me, you succumb to the daydreams of Tolkiendom long before your book is complete.

You imagine the cover of your novel as it sits on a B&N bookshelf.  You pretend you’re giving a lecture or reading a chapter at your local library.  You envision fan mail and sequels and lunch boxes.

As my grandmother often said: Hold your horses, Miss Priss.  You may want horns, but at that rate, you’re gonna die buttheaded. She’s right.  There will be no horns on my head if I don’t follow the rules.

I must write, and I must finish what I write.

No More Excuses

And here’s where I’d like to add in my own rule.  It’s about making excuses and organizing your to-do list.  It’s what you’ve got to do if you want to be a successful, published writer.

3. You must make writing a priority.

The thing is, we all have the same amount of time in a single day.  Twenty-four hours.  (If you have more, let me know how you worked that out.  If you have less, I think I’d rather not know.) Lots of people juggle jobs, family, hobbies, and a writing career.  So, why do so many people blame a lack of time for their writing failure?

Yes, life gets in the way of our writing.  There’s no denying that.  But, oftentimes, it’s not life that’s in the way.  It’s US that’s in the way. It’s fear.

It’s easy to make excuses.  It’s not easy to work hard and then fail.  That’s scary.

It’s easy to blame external factors so we don’t have to write.  It’s not easy to finish a novel and then find out it sucks. That’s scary.

So you have to decide if writing really is a priority to you.  If you rank it highly in your life, you’ll find a way to get it done.  Yeah, it’s frightening, but does fear stop you from spending time with your family?  from going to work everyday?  from going to church or mowing the lawn or walking the dog?

Make writing #1 on your to-do list, not #15, and suddenly you’ll find you’re much closer to Tolkiendom.

Happy writing!