Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Heinlein's Rules: Insecure Writers Must Refrain From Rewriting #IWSG

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs.

NOTE: This was originally published on 1/1/14, so I'm moving it to the future!

Scifi author Robert A. Heinlein (Starship Troopers) provided his infamous five simple rules for becoming a professional writer. They all seem very simple and obvious, but every writer's insecurity will prevent them from doing at least one of these consistently. I'll be covering one of them each month for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Here they are, what they mean, and how you can follow them.

1. You Must Write
2. You Must Finish What You Start
3. You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except To Editorial Order

The third rule is by far the most controversial of the five rules. Many authors who've wanted to follow Heinlein's rules have debated whether this is a realistic or even beneficial rule to follow. Some say rewriting is harmful to good work. Others say rewriting is where good prose comes from. I personally feel rewriting is a good thing for some writers, which is why I choose to believe Heinlein meant excessive rewriting.

I've discovered, in my first drafts, I've gotten sloppy. I just crank out words I know aren't that good but figure I can fix in the rewrite. Then I spend so much time struggling to take my crappy writing and turning it into decent work that I just give up and write something else. I have novels I've been rewriting for decades, tweaking things here and there.The story never seems to be good enough, and can always be improved. It never ends, and my writing never goes anywhere.

What I've tried to do lately is focus on making my first draft as good as it can be. Once it's done, I limit myself to three drafts, and consider it done. I'm hoping that will improve my work.

What do you think? Is rewriting beneficial? Do you rewrite or avoid it? What does rewriting mean to you?

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