You Must Write: Success Through Heinlein’s Rules by Kevin McLaughlin (2018)

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You Must Write for the Fight to Publish

You Must Write: Success Through Heinlein’s Rules by Kevin McLaughlin (2018): 8 out of 10: Heinlein’s five rules on writing are a set of guidelines intended to help aspiring writers improve their craft. While they are not universally applicable, they offer valuable insights and principles for writers to consider. Here’s a synopsis of Heinlein’s five rules:

  1. You must write: The first rule emphasizes the importance of actually sitting down and putting words on the page. It highlights the necessity of making writing a regular practice, setting aside time to write, and making it a priority.
  2. Finish what you start: This rule stresses the importance of completing your writing projects. It encourages writers to see their works through to the end rather than leaving them unfinished. By finishing what you start, you learn valuable lessons about the entire writing process, from conception to completion.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order: This rule suggests that excessive rewriting can be counterproductive. Heinlein believed that constant revising and tinkering with a manuscript can lead to never completing it. However, he does mention that revisions are acceptable when specifically requested by an editor or to address editorial feedback.
  4. You must put your story on the market: Heinlein’s fourth rule emphasizes the significance of submitting your work for publication. It encourages writers to overcome self-doubt and fear of rejection by actively seeking opportunities to share their stories with the world. Putting your work out there is an essential step towards becoming a published writer.
  5. You must keep it on the market until sold: The final rule stresses persistence. It advises writers to keep submitting their work even if they face rejections. Rather than giving up after a few rejections, it encourages writers to persevere, make improvements based on feedback, and continue submitting until they find success.

These five rules are intended to inspire writers to develop discipline, determination, and professionalism in their craft. While they may not be the definitive rules for every writer, they provide valuable guidance and a mindset that can help aspiring authors navigate the writing and publishing process.

The Good

The Good: Do you need a book to teach you Heinlein’s five rules on writing? Probably not, like much of what Heinlein wrote,his rules are not exactly open to too much interpretation. But perhaps updating you may ask after all, Heinlein wrote his rules during the Mesozoic Era and since then we have E-books and Kindles and black people can sit where they want on public transport. Certainly the rules need updating?

Well we now have camps of those that take Heinlein’s five rules literally and those who think the rules are allegories and there is no historical record of Heinlein and it is a big mess

Author Kevin McLaughlin is firmly in the follow the rules as written camp. He simply states try these out; they work for me. Kevin McLaughlin is just trying to be helpful. He is not pitching the one true way. He is also not trying to sell you anything. Kevin is simply telling you his experience and what works for him, throwing little bits of wisdom on every other page.

The Bad

The Bad: Rule three trips up our author a little. He, like most of us, wants it both ways. We want to spend almost all our time writing and not revising. But we cringe at the idea of not taking one more look before sending our masterpiece out into the world. How many times have you reread your work a day or two later and suddenly see glaring problems that were not there before?

The Ugly

The Ugly: But if I write every day and then send that draft to be edited, I will have to publish the book I have been talking about for four years without actually finishing.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: I am not married to Heinlein’s Rules. I wonder with the ease of editing and rewriting nowadays if he would really discourage reworking a novel. There is an enormous gap between retyping five hundred pages and moving some chapters around on Scrivner. His focus on finishing the book instead f fiddling with it however I am on board.

Leaving the rules aside, I really liked Kevin McLaughlin’s voice in this. He was very helpful going on excited tangents about his favorite software to use or how he wants to try doing his own audiobooks at home. You Must Write: Success Through Heinlein’s Rules might be mostly pretty common writing advice, but it is well written, succinct and there is some pretty good life advice in there as well.

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