Heinlein Rules


A hugely disloyal member of the marvellous online writers group Codex, when I was still fairly active there I participated in the 2005 Halloween contest. The contest challenge that year was to write a Halloween story based on a ‘seed’, something to prod the muse, provided by another participant. Seeds could be anything from pictures to character descriptions to scene settings. Or even, as I got, a list of items and a bit of dialogue.

The list of items fellow Codexian David Gill provided was:

  • human femur
  • birthday cake
  • lunch box
  • an unopened letter
  • a broken light bulb
  • a cat

The dialogue:

“It itches.”

“For God sake, don’t scratch.”

The story inspired by this list and dialogue, Trick or treat, which also featured candy wrappers, wine, blood, and Gone with the wind, didn’t do much in the Codex contest, but was accepted for publication today by Big Pulp Magazine.

It all goes to show that Robert A. Heinlein had the right idea, when he formulated his five rules of writing (particularly rule #5):

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must submit what you finish.
  5. You must keep submitting until sold.

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