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Finish What You Started

Robert Heinlein penned a set of rules for writers way back in 1947.  It was in his essay, “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction.”  And here they are, in their entirety…

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Pretty simple.  Look around on the internet and you can find people debating how valid these are 63 years after they were written, especially rule #3.  But at their core, they are relevant.  I’m not going to blather on about 1, 3, 4, or 5.  Maybe another day.  Rule #2 is what I’m targeting today.  First, let me explain why it has stuck in my craw enough for me to talk about it…

Tuesday I was informed that today would be my last day at my current job, as they couldn’t afford to keep me on staff.  So, once the initial shock wore off, I started looking at the positives in all this.  One of which is that I can spend a good deal of time improving and working on my writing.  I’m working on a book and have a ton of story ideas to work on.  I can take breaks from the book to write the stories and…

Wait, I’ve said that before.  If you open my Work in Progress folder, you will see 23 folders, each for a story.  7 are marked with a tilde, denoting that its just an idea and I haven’t actually started to work on it yet.  So there are 16 unfinished stories in there.  Additionally, if you open the Editing folder, you will see 11 folders there.  Keeping score?  27 stories that are in various stages of unfinished, with 7 more not even started yet.

Oh, but that’s not the end.  Back up a few folders and you will see a folder called Novels.  There are 6 folders in there, only one is marked with the tilde.  Two are finished being written (Mist: City of Steam and My (un)Life as a Vampire).  The last three are unfinished, and that includes my novel about Johnny Aurora.

So why is this relevant?  Back around June/July when my employment situation started being uncertain, I tried to rely on my writing to help me cope with the stress.  However, I would start writing something and then stop, unable to continue, my inner editor kicking in and telling me it was a steaming pile and I should stop.  I would end it mid-story, some even getting up to 8k words or more before I reached that point.  It would get kicked to the back and ignored.  Then, to make it worse, I couldn’t bring myself to edit any of the stories I had completed.  More and more would go unfinished, and my self-confidence as a writer would just fall off.  By the end of the July, I had almost completely stopped writing.

I have gotten better some, over time, since that happened, but I’m still struggling with it.  So, as I am staring down the barrel of the great unemployment gun, I find myself with a lot time on my hands.  I’ll of course hunt for jobs and all that fun stuff, but there’s only so much time you can spend in a day looking for work.  So, I will have time to get to work on my writing, and I hope I can get a lot done.

2. You must finish what you write.

As much as I want to work on the novel, I think I need to spend some time editing what I have finished, finishing the short stories I can finish, and finally tuck away the ones that I cannot.  In this stressful time of unemployment, it sure would feel great to get 10+ stories on the market in the next several weeks.

“You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.”
Isaac Asimov

So yes, finish what you write.  And when its finished, don’t let it sit in a drawer, eating it’s own head off.  I like that quote.

Until next time…

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