My recently departed friend Bill Trojan one day about ten years ago handed me a book and said, “You want to know where Heinlein’s Rules came from that you are always quoting, here it is.”
In my hands I found a copy of the Fantasy Press small hardback (in nice dust jacket) called Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science Fiction Writing. It was the 1947 edition First Printing.
Now Advent Publishing did a cheaper edition of the book in 1964 that can be bought for around $10.00 on most used sites, but this Fantasy Press edition was more like a $50.00 book. It might be higher now. I was stunned. Not something Bill usually did. Just one of the many thousands of kind things he did.
So tonight I found it and was thinking about Bill and looking at the gift.
There are articles in the book from John Taine, Jack Williamson, A.E. van Vogt, L. Sprague de Camp, E.E. “Doc” Smith, John Campbell, Jr., and Robert A. Heinlein and it was edited by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. A great read for any writer. And considering it was written in 1947, most of the information is still stunningly on-the-money, especially in this new indie publishing world.
So tonight I was cleaning up a shelf in my office and found myself looking at the book again. And reading it again. So I figured for fun and to make a few of you angry at the advice because I’m in a Bill mood (grin), I might as well just give you all of what Heinlein said 64 years ago.
Heinlein got near the end of the article and then said,
“I’m told that these articles are supposed to be of some use to the reader. I have a guilty feeling that all of the above may have been more for my amusement than for your edification. Therefore I shall chuck in as a bonus a group of practical, tested rules which, if followed meticulously, will prove rewarding to any writer.”
(He then put a paragraph about assuming each reader can type, follow manuscript format, can spell and punctuate and can “use grammar well enough to get by.”)
He goes on to say, “These things are merely the word-carpenter’s sharp tools. He must add to them these business habits.
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you start.
3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
4. You must put it on the market.
5. You must keep it on the market until sold.”
Then he said, “The above five rules really have more to do with how to write fiction than anything said above them. But they are amazingly hard to follow — which is why there are so few professional writers and so many aspirants, and which is why I am not afraid to give away the racket!”
I found these rules and followed them when I got serious about writing in 1982. So did my wife before I knew her. So did so many more of my successful writer friends.
As Heinlein said, the rules are amazingly hard to follow.
And for those of you who are looking for a secret to making it as a professional writer, Heinlein put it right out there in 1947. And it hasn’t changed, unlike most everything else in this business.
Just some Friday night ramblings…