Sunday, April 17, 2022

Generic Advice for Writers



Recently, an aspirant writer IM'd me mentioning in seemingly-casual passing that he was trying hard to get published and "would love to hear your wisdom."

 Well, okay. But I've spent so many hundreds of hours of my life giving Really Good and Insightful Advice to writers who then proceeded to effectively ignore it. Not willfully, but because they simply weren't ready to internalize and use it.

So I thought that if I placed my advice here and urged everyone who thinks it might be useful to share and disseminate it, there would be enough chance of somebody using it as a steppingstone to becoming a writer to make it worth my effort.

My advice comes in two parts. The first is Robert Heinlein's five rules for writers. He wrote this a lifetime ago and, though many have raised minor quibbles, not one writer in the decades since has tried to debunk it, so you know it's solid:

Rule One: You must write.

Rule Two: You must finish what you start.

Rule Three: You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

Rule Four: You must put it on the market.

Rule Five: You must keep it on the market until it has sold.


To this I would add three addenda:

Addendum One: Seek out writing advice from reliable sources. Give it a try. If it works, pat yourself on the back and put it in your toolbox. If it doesn't, discard it without a second thought. (There are many kinds of writers and no advice--except for most of Heinlein's--will work for all of them.)

Addendum Two: If you're writing a scene and you have trouble visualizing and describing it, you haven't done your research. Interview or visit. You'll end up with so much good stuff you'll be able to use only the most evocative.

Addendum Three: Write what you want to write, not what you think you should write. Somethingpunk is the hot new thing? Hundreds of writers are trying to pile on. You'll be lost in the wave of imitations. Your voice, your experience, your vision are what make you potentially a great writer. Follow them. Be a first-rate you, not a second-rate somebody else.

Um... and that's all, really. You can repay me by writing something I want to read.



Raskos said...

I found that I never had to look any further than Unka Mike for flawless advice.

Michael Swanwick said...


Mica B said...

Something you want to read? I think I should like to write the lines of physic-poetry and psychic-prose, something adjoining spirit and science. I think you'd like that. Thank you for the guidance 💖🙏