Robert Heinlein’s 5 Business Rules for Writing


Today, May 1st, 2022, just happens to be my birthday. BUT… it’s not because of another birthday that I’m setting this new goal, a goal that would normally be a New Year’s Resolution, it just happens to be 5 months too late for that, but at least it’s the 1st of the month so I can run this 12-Month Plan from THIS May Day until April 30th 2023, and then I’ll see what I’ve accomplished.


The Idea is based on Heinlein’s 5 Business Rules:

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


This is explained best by Dean Wesley Smith in his book “Heinlen’s Rules: Five Simple Business Rules For Writing.”

In this highly-recommended book, Smith recounts how he, as a fairly-experienced short story writer, discovered Heinlein’s Rules in a 1947 how-to book, and he accepted Heinlein’s challenge. Note that Heinlein never says how much to write, he simply says “You must write” but, to me, the word “daily” is kind of implied because we’re writers, and that’s what we do.

Smith applied it thusly: he pledged, on January 1st, 1982, to write one story per week. He wound up writing 44 stories that year, made his first sale in early 1983, and he has never looked back. Note that he had written 44 stories, keeping them constantly “in the mail” and had probably finished a few early 1983 stories before he made his first sale.

Others have suggested an alternate track of one short story every 2 weeks.


Since I’m old enough, and have been a writer long enough, to realize that Heinlein’s Five Rules are really nothing more than a motivational tool, not an Unbreakable Covenant, I will be flexible with my goals.

Here is what I will do: I will start off with the one Story Per Week goal to start out. If I need to scale back to One Story Every Two Weeks somewhere down the road, I can do that.

I know myself well enough to KNOW beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I start with the Biweekly goal hoping to ramp up to Weekly in a few months, it will never happen.If I start out doing the Weekly Story Goal, and life intrudes, other writing jobs interfere, or I run out of story ideas, I can drop back to the Biweekly Story Goal. Either way, in one year, I’ll have 25 to 50 stories written.


Things could change quickly, though. I just contacted a publisher of Westerns about my nearly finished short Western novel. If they want to publish it, then I may be locked into churning out a new Western novel every month or two. The publishing cycles for such Western publishers seem to run like that.


If I decide to tackle a BIG project, it will probably be writing a big, 80K to 100K Blockbuster Thriller. That’s the one project that I would put all my other projects on hold for. I’d do like Jim Grant, AKA Lee Child did when he wrote his first few Jack Reacher novels… take up to 6 months to write one, then, after short break of a week or two, start writing another one. For a Blockbuster Thriller that’s going to be designed to find me an agent and a Big Six publisher, as opposed to toiling away writing a half-dozen niche Indie Crime novels , writing two a year should be fine. That is IF they are, indeed, bestsellers.

Til later, friends,

Keep Reading, and Keep Writing,


UPDATE: Dec. 24, 2022:

I’m past the halfway point in my May 1 to April 30 year, and I’d like to report that I only recently submitted 3 Crime short stories to three top markets. Now, I’m writing two SF stories as part of two separate courses, one is the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of The Future Online Workshop, taught by Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers, and David Farland. And the other is a Udemy course taught by the ever insightful and entertaining Harry deWulf. Hopefully, I will emerge from these two courses with at least 2 well-written, sellable Science Fiction short stories so I can get them in the mail, per se.


So, I’m way behind on my goal of one story per week. I should have written 28 stories by now, or at the biweekly goal, 14 stories. But I’m happy that I have 3 done and submitted, and 2 more being written.

Other writing projects like a screenplay, a TV pilot script, and my 3rd King Leary novel for NaNoWriMo, diverted my focus from concentrating on short stories alone. But it’s okay. It’s Saul Goodman. I still have January through April to ramp up my short game. If necessary, I’ll write and publish 20 Flash Fiction stories along the way to April 30th.


I realize that this post is all me, me, me, but there’s a method to my madness. By sharing my plans, dreams, and schemes, I’ll hopefully give you some ideas on how to roll in your own writing career. If nothing else, you can say, “What a Bozo. I’m definitely not gonna do it like Becker.” Cool. That’s a form of motivation, too.

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