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Rule #1. You must write.

January 17, 2011

I write stories every week, and post them as part of #FridayFlash. Why?

Robert Heinlein famously gave five rules for writing. I’m not going to Google up a link for them, because I don’t need a link, and neither do you. I memorized them a long time ago, and I’m happy to repeat them for you.

Rule #1. You must write.
Rule #2. You must finish what you write.
Rule #3. You must not go back and re-write that which you have written, except under editorial edict.
Rule #4. You must place what you have written out in the marketplace.
Rule #5. You must keep it in the marketplace until it sells.

Not too long ago, my fiction was, to put it mildly, crap. I’d started to follow Rule #1, but was failing at Rule #2. Much of what I wrote was fragmentary half-efforts. What I actually finished wasn’t 10% as good as I thought it was. I didn’t show it much, just wrote in isolation. After sending out some stories to some magazines, and collecting the expected rejections, it dawned on me that marvelous, gripping fiction would not be something I could just sit down and knock out. I would need to learn something about the craft and practice.

My blog “Landless” was part of that effort, a place to interact, ask questions, learn, post my work and get feedback on it. I can’t improve my writing if I don’t know what works, and what’s wrong with it. I don’t get paid for any of the material I post here, so Heinlein might take issue with this approach. However, Mark Twain said that you should write for free until someone offers to pay you. I’ve been paid for my work since starting this fiction endeavor, so I’m going to defer to Twain on this one.

By this time, you might be asking, what does all of this have to do with #FridayFlash, and what it means to me?

Allow me to illustrate:

After I posted my first #FridayFlash story, “Nearer Comes the Moon”, the readership of this blog more than tripled. That’s a lot of eyeballs pointed at my writing. I’m happy with how the readership of this blog is growing. I shill and tout, but people come here (and keep coming back) because they like what they read. That’s where #FridayFlash comes in.

I have no unique or novel insights to offer on the writing life, on technique or on anything else related to writing. I won’t go into the sense of community, the great friends I’ve made, the private reassurances in fearful moments that I’ve given and received, the opportunities #FridayFlash has opened to me – both those I’ve chased after and those that came to me – or any of the other outward-looking benefits of being a regular #FridayFlasher.

No, I’m going to focus on what it’s meant for my skills as a writer.

If you’ve not read my first #FridayFlash story, or you don’t remember it, take a moment and give it a quick look. I’ve improved so much since then, it’s hard to believe I ever let a story go up in that condition. For example, the word “Once” starts paragraphs 2 and 3, and “He” starts paragraphs 4, 5 and 6! Where the heck is the attention to detail? Well, when I started, I didn’t know to look at such mechanicals. I was just making it up as I went.

It might have been John Wiswell who pointed that tweak out in a later piece, or maybe Lily Mulholland did. I forget, because I have gotten so much valuable advice and feedback on my stories since then. The ones that people went gaga over, the ones that fell flat, the scary ones, the funny ones, the confusing ones – I learned something from each and every one of them. On every piece, I read your comments, I listen to your opinions, I think about what you say and what you don’t say.

The fact is, my writing is better because of #FridayFlash. I’m a better writer because of the commitment I’ve made to it.

I found a rhythm that works. I found a pacing that I like. I found a voice. Is it my Voice? Shoot, I don’t know. All I know is, it sounds like me. It’s a voice I feel comfortable in, rather than one I’ve clumsily sewn together from elements of my favorite authors.

There are rules I have yet to follow, and sharp-edged cliffs yet to scale in this writer’s path.

You know what? Bring ’em on.
As I look back on where I’ve come from, I know what’s brought me this far. It’s #FridayFlash.

Tony Noland is a writer, blogger and poet in the suburbs of Philadelphia. His work has been featured in e.zines such as Evolve, and in the anthologies, 12 Days – 2009, Unluck of the Irish, Inhuman and Chinese Whisperings: The Yang Book. The most popular of any of Tony’s poems, Ode to the Semicolon has been featured on numerous grammar websites.

He is a regular contributor to #FridayFlash; one of his stories was also featured in Best of #FridayFlash, Volume 1, for which he served on the team of associate editors. Tony was  a major contributor in “The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society” available on Amazon. The first series and collaborative work o f Choose Your Own Adventure fiction is one of his larger editing efforts to date. Tony is active on Twitter as @TonyNoland. You can find his  fiction and writing blog  Landless.

12 Comments
  1. January 17, 2011 12:57 am

    This is such a good reminder Tony. Thanks for sharing… as she runs over to her stat counter and starts to work out ways to plug her blog..

  2. January 17, 2011 6:35 am

    Nice thought Tony.

  3. Denisse permalink
    January 17, 2011 6:44 am

    Thank you so much for reminding me. I just realized how many times I try to restrain myself from writing too much. I always tell myself that I’m too young to engage in this serious thing. Thank you for telling me to write what I want to write and not focus too much on being perfect and on how this whole writing commitment will work out.

  4. January 17, 2011 8:54 am

    sage advice and my what a striking photo.

  5. January 17, 2011 10:41 am

    Excellent reminders on getting it done, trying things out, and getting it out there. All about the improvement and growth. Thanks for your post.

  6. January 17, 2011 11:12 am

    Regarding Heinlein’s fifth rule, keeping our writing in the marketplace until it sells: Persistence is the key. Dwight Eisenhower once said, “It is not the man who is so brilliant [who] delivers in time of stress and strain but rather the man who can keep on going indefinitely, doing a good straightforward job.” Ike’s wisdom applies to writing. Novelist Kevin J. Anderson says, “Persistence is much more important than raw talent. Most aspiring writers give up long before their chance arrives.” Yeah, keep it out there.

  7. January 17, 2011 3:45 pm

    Great post, Tony and it definitely highlights the benefits of being a part of #fridayflash. I couldn’t agree more about the feedback and advice helping a writer to improve and learn.

  8. January 18, 2011 12:32 pm

    It’s my pleasure to share this little part of the journey with you all. What I love about those five rules is that they distill the essence of a writing career down to such succinct truth. I wish I could say that I perfectly adhere to them, but having them before me can help be get back on the path when I fall away.

    It all begins with writing.

  9. January 18, 2011 7:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Tony. You work hard at your stories and at promoting them. Happy to see you that your efforts are yielding results. It’s always humbling (a good swift kick to the teeth) when I go back and read portions of my unrevised WIPs. Blech.

  10. January 18, 2011 8:03 pm

    Well said, Tony. I completely agree with you as to how #fridayflash can hone a writer’s skills. I know the group has done that for me.

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