Heinlein’s Writing Rules

Philip HarrisMeaty Mondays, Writing AdviceLeave a Comment

This is the third in a series of Meaty Monday posts – longer posts where I ramble on about writing related topics. You can find the first Meaty Monday post here. This time I’m talking about Robert A. Heinlein’s five writing rules. I first heard Robert A. Heinlein’s writing rules quoted by Neil Gaiman when he was in Vancouver promoting Anansi Boys and they’ve stuck with me ever since. They were originally published in Heinlein’s 1947 essay On the Writing of Speculative Fiction (republished in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, among other places). The bulk of the essay is about the types of science fiction stories (human interest or gadget-centric) and the three plots that human interest stories can have – “boy meets girl”, “the Little Tailor” (the little guy who becomes a big shot or vice versa) and “the man who learned better”. It’s Heinlein’s five rules or “business habits” as he calls them that have gained the most attention though. 1. You must write This one is obvious really, let’s face it, but all around the world there are people that would like to be writers but aren’t actually doing any writing. 2. You must finish what you start More good, solid advice. This is one I follow … Read More

The Ghost Smuggler Rewrite Week One

Philip HarrisThe Ghost Smuggler, WritingLeave a Comment

Okay, where were we? Oh, yes. Tuesday was the first big test of the new writing regime – a full day of work plus running plus writing – and from a pure word count it was pretty successful. I added another 1200 words (679 of which were salvage) which took the manuscript up to 4599 words and pushed me over the 5% point. Wednesday was a day off – both from running and from writing. Instead, I spent the evening on a ‘team building event’ at the brewery where Granville Island Brewing create their limited edition beers followed by a meal at The Sandbar. Delicious fun, but not conducive to writing. Thursday was equally unproductive, at least from a writing point of view but this time without the convenient excuse. I did go running but by the time we got back I was too tired to face the keyboard. I did decide to change my writing regime, though. The original plan was to go to the gym in the mornings, then work, then run and write in the evenings. I decided on Thursday that was a bit too optimistic. For some reason it’s a lot easier to get up and … Read More

Was It Something I Ate?

Philip HarrisChatter, Movies, The Ghost Smuggler, WritingLeave a Comment

Not an enjoyable day yesterday – let’s leave it at that. I forgot to mention yesterday that we went to see Prometheus on Sunday. I won’t join the hordes of people reviewing the film but I will say that while it’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, I did enjoy it. It’s not Alien and it’s not Aliens but it’s still worth seeing. Despite the distraction I alluded to earlier, I did manage to find some time to write another 1337 words on The Ghost Smuggler – which is nice – and only 196 of those words were directly salvaged from the original draft which is also nice. I’m not completely happy with what I have so far, although it does feel a lot tighter than the original so that’s a step in the right direction. Of course, I don’t know if that’s because I’m over analyzing or if there’s still work to be done. I’m going to press on and see how things shape up.

The Beginning

Philip HarrisThe Ghost Smuggler, WritingLeave a Comment

Yesterday I successfully kicked off the rewrite of The Ghost Smuggler and wrote the first 2062 words. In the interest of honesty, 896 words of that were a direct copy of a piece from the original draft but with the notable exception of one other section, that won’t be happening very often. The reason is simple, I’ve decided to switch the book from third person to first person. If you’re thinking that sounds like a big change, it is, but it was something Jeff VanderMeer suggested when he critiqued my manuscript. At first I was very skeptical that it would work – not to mention reluctant to force myself into such a dramatic rewrite. However, the more I thought about it, the more I rolled the plot around in my head, the more comfortable I became with the idea. All that rolling knocked some of the rough edges off the story and the pieces seemed to slot into place a lot more cleanly. Interestingly, some of the original ideas I had for the book, ideas that had dropped by the wayside during those early drafts, re-established themselves and I found myself getting more and more excited about the direction the book was taking. Somewhere … Read More

Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing

Philip HarrisAuthors, Links, Podcasts, Writing, Writing AdviceLeave a Comment

I’ve been listening to the Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing podcast for quite a while now and it’s usually good but the latest episode (168) is one of their best and really struck a chord with me. The podcast covers a mix of publishing chatter and author interviews – they’ve had people like Michael Moorcock, Patrick Rothfuss and Elizabeth Bear on in the past and I’ve discovered a lot of good writers by listening to the show. Each episode is around an hour or so and will usually get me through a visit to the gym quite nicely. Episode 168 features an interview with Jennifer Brozek, Mark Teppo and Mary Robinette Kowal recorded by Sandra Wickham at the Rainforest Writer’s Retreat. There’s lots of talk about the process of writing and some excellent no nonsense advice and I found it very inspiring. Highly recommended.  

Nurture Your Rabbits

Philip HarrisMeaty Mondays, Writing AdviceLeave a Comment

This is the second in a series of Meaty Monday posts – longer posts where I ramble on about writing related topics. You can find the first Meaty Monday post here. Today, I’m talking about ideas. You’re probably familiar with this quote. “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” – William Faulkner Or this one. “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.” – Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch Or how about this?  “Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” – Samuel Johnson They’re all variations on a theme – if you think a scene or a sentence or even a whole subplot is the most wonderful piece of writing in the world, you should cut it. Some people take this literally and remove their favourite bits from their work just because they like them so much – apparently director Danny Boyle always cuts the single best shot from his movies. I take it more as encouragement to examine those “particularly fine” pieces of writing and consider whether they might be too … Read More

Self-Publishing and Me

Philip HarrisMeaty Mondays, Publishing1 Comment

Welcome to the first Meaty Monday. Meaty Mondays will be a series of writing focused posts that appear – as the name suggests – on a Monday. I can’t promise they’ll be any more interesting or more useful than my normal posts or even if they’ll appear every Monday, but they will be longer. This week, I’m going to talk about my puzzling attitude towards self-publishing, or indie publishing as it’s called nowadays. I have a very strange relationship with self-publishing. I’ve self-published any number of video games and other pieces of software. In fact, I spent over seven years doing just that and that was before the iPhone kick-started the current golden age of independent game development. Even now, I still harbour secret desires to go indie again and crank out some of my own games for iPhone and iPad. If I was still in a band, I’d be out there building websites, uploading recordings to iTunes and Bandcamp and hawking t-shirts, coffee mugs and limited edition hand warmers to anyone who strayed too close. If I could draw, I’d have my own online comic strip. And the t-shirts, coffee mugs, limited edition hand warmers and the hawking. But … Read More