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.

What’s In A Name?


I’m Christopher J. Becker, but you can just call me Chris. My pen name/stage name is Chris Jay Becker. I never go by Christopher… too stuffy and prissy, IMHO, and there are far too many guys, and girls, named Chris Becker in this world, so a middle name or initial was necessary. Chris J. Becker bores me, I keep my middle name private, so an old friend back in Washington State said, “Why don’t you spell OUT your middle initial… J-a-y. Chris Jay Becker?”


I liked it because of writers Stephen Jay Gould, and Bruce Jay Friedman, plus Chris Jay was also my “Billy Bob” name, which made me laugh, and it also serves as a tribute to many great Texas Singer-Songwriters like Billy Joe Shaver, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Robert Earl Keen. That’s why, when I recorded my first Americana album, “My Story…And I’m Stickin’ To It,” (Blue Revolushun Records– 2001), I used Chris Jay Becker as my recording artist name, and Chris Jay Becker is listed as the songwriter for those songs with ASCAP. I am both an ASCAP Writer-Member and a Publisher-Member as Hallelujah Street Music…. which I usually style as “Hallelujah! Street Music.”


With so many others named Chris Becker in the world, becoming Chris Jay Becker also opened up huge branding opportunities for me: chrisjaybecker as an e-mail brand was available for me at Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, iCloud, Outlook, pretty much everywhere, and was readily available, as you would know since that’s the site you’re on right now.


When I published my debut Crime novel, “Death In The Fastlane” in 2011, Chris Jay Becker was my byline, as it is with my other Amazon titles. Whenever I sell a short story, I have to tell the editor NOT to put just plain Chris Becker or Chris J. Becker as the byline. Chris Jay Becker is my brand name.

But, when you’re talking to me, or if you message me, don’t call me Chris Jay. It’s just Chris, or Beck.

Or C-Beck. That’s my “J-Lo name.”

Or even CJB. That’s my “JFK name” ;-). CJB Drive has a nice ring to it. CJB Boulevard?


I also sometimes use the British nickname for Christopher, which is Kit, i.e. Kit Marlowe, Kit Smart, Kit Lambert, Kit Harington, Kit Carson. I’ve used Kit Baker as a pseudonym once or twice, with Baker being the English translation of the German-surname Becker. Why the hell not? Kit Baker sounds like an Elizabethan scoundrel, and it’s ambiguous enough, gender-wise, to use for stories that need a feminine-sounding pen name, such as Romances and Cozy Mysteries. More on these things in a later post.

Keep Reading and Keep Writing, friends.


A Writer’s Manifesto

My promise to the Reader:

1. I promise to be clear, honest, and concise.
2. I will write with a sense of humor, even the piece is frightening, scary, or strident. On second thought, I’ll throw in some jokes then, too.
3. I will write with a sense of awe, a sense of wonder, and sense of the phantasmagorical if at all possible, and sometimes, even when it’s not.
4. My influences include The Three Rays: Raymond Chandler, Raymond Carver, and Ray Bradbury. They also include novelists like Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Garcia Marquez; screenwriters like Bill Goldman, Kevin Jarre, and the Coen Brothers; and even advertising copywriters like Michael Masterson, and Bob Bly. They’ve all been great teachers. 5. My Journalism School training taught me the value of What Makes a Story, Dog Bite Man… No Story. Man Bites Dog… now THERE’S a STORY.
6. I will not limit myself to one way of telling a story. If a new story demands I fresh approach, I will do what I need to tell that story in a new way.
7. I promise to use a diversity of voices to tell these stories. I will create multicultural cast of characters, especially in a my Western stories.
8. I write Fiction… including Mysteries, Science Fiction, Westerns, and Literary Fiction. I write Web Content and Blog Posts. I write Direct Market Ad Copy, Reviews, Comedy Material, Memoir, and Personal Essays. And I will write whatever else the Universe sends my way.
9. I will write some of the above… Web Content, Blog Posts, Ad Copy, Reviews, Comedy Material… for money. I’ll write the rest of it… Fiction, Screenplays, My Comedy Material, Memoir and Personal Essays… for love and fun. If any of those works start paying off, bonus!
10. I promise listen to my readers, to hear what moves or doesn’t move them in my writing.
11. I promise to help newer writers if I can, to encourage them to keep on writing, or to offer a few tricks of the trade
12. Finally, I promise to Keep On Writing.

How to Write Drunk and Edit Sober


“Write drunk, edit sober,” it’s an often-quoted bit of advice generally attributed to Ernest Hemingway. This pithy quote is all over the internet. You can buy Write Drunk Edit Sober posters, Write Drunk Edit Sober coffee mugs, and Write Drunk Edit Sober t-shirts, often accompanied by a photo of Papa Hemingway himself.

Write drunk edit sober. Never mind that Hemingway never actually said it. It’s actually a paraphrase of something 1960’s novelist Peter De Vries had his main character say in his 1964 novel “Reuben, Reuben.” in that book the character, a famous drunkard poet Gowan McGland, says, “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober…”

You remember De Vries… he’s the guy who said, “I love being a writer… what I can’t stand is the paperwork,” another quote which has often been attributed to everyone from Hemingway to Capote to Groucho Marx. Poor De Vries is the Rodney Dangerfield of American novelists… the Quotation Gods never give him any respect.

Here’s the full McGland utterance:

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

Write drunk edit sober. To quote Yosemite Bear when he saw the double-rainbow, “What can this MEAN?”

Let’s dissect the chief elements of McGland’s fictional utterance, because there is just so much there:


Okay, most of us have done this, literally, at one time or other. For me, it’s a load of fun but it rarely produces readable copy. The whole Blakean ideal of a derangement of the senses in order to produce Art… it seems to work on some levels for some of us. In my personal experience, getting even a little out of ones head works well for short pieces like poetry, song lyrics, jokes, or story ideas. It doesn’t work at all for me when it comes to writing long stretches of story.

Then again, what intrigues most of us about this whole idea to “Write Drunk Edit Sober” is the realization that Hemingway, De Vries, or whomever we choose to believe said this maxim, was not necessarily trying to say to write drunk in the literal sense, but, rather in a broader metaphorical sense. As Charles Baudelaire wrote, “Get drunk, with wine, with poetry, or with virtue as you please.” Our “drink” may not be drink at all… it could as easily be good food, good company, Love, Romance, Sex, God, or even good old-fashioned sleep-deprivation. In other words, STOP OVERTHINKING THINGS… WRITE without editing yourself. The editor part of you will do his or her job later. Never write and edit at the same time. Even if you have your story all planned out with maps and flow charts and outlines when it’s time to write, then just blow, man. Jam it out. Let yourself get into the white-hot zone of creation. Just jam it out until the words refuse to come out any more. Then put that writing aside ’til at least tomorrow. For now, write like Dionysus/Bacchus on a wine bender, let the rhythm, the music, the colors, the smells, just wash over you like a warm forgiving Sea.

Next, we’ll look at the Apollonian half of the dichotomy. The Soberness. The Editor. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun too. As the saying goes: Writing is Art, Rewriting is Craft.


Alright now, people. This here’s where the rubber meets the road.

You’ve already hammered away at your latest masterpiece, AKA, the WIP, and you wrote it three-sheets to the wind, drunk, plastered, bombed, or at least an approximation thereof (I’ve heard T.M. works great, as does good old-fashioned Speaking in Tongues.) Remember it’s Write Drunk, Edit Sober, so you Wrote Drunk, or at least out-of-your-skull with or without chemical assistance.

So now you’re left with a brilliant-in-spots steaming pile of words.

What to do what to do what to do?

Another Jager Bomb? Later, dude.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober.

It’s coffee time, or Red Bull, or Monster, or Rock Star. But NEVER Diet Rock Star, that offends my sensibilities. I mean, NOBODY ever said, as a child, “When I grow up, I wanna be a DIET Rock Star. Buy me a low cal guitar, Daddy.”

Anyway, it’s time to Edit Sober.

So how do I do that?

Here’s Big Daddy Becker’s Five-Step Program (You were worried I was gonna say Twelve-Step Program, right, ladies? Relax there, Drunky McGee.)


Nothing helps iron out awkward prose like the good old ham-actor’s “Line reading.” You should write they way you speak, anyway, so this is a major step in that direction.


These are paragraphs that make sense, but not necessarily WHERE they are now. Would this paragraph make more sense down the page a click or two, preferably with the other paragraphs that are on the same subject matter. The problem with Writing Drunk, is we have a tendency to “Shoot all over the tree.” So get those disparate threads of thought and put them where they belong. Sing that old Sesame Street song to yourself,”One of these things is not like the others/one of these things does not belong…”


Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and mean different things. Watch for these:

Too, Two, To

It’s, its,

Your, You’re


Affect, Effect

Casual, Causal

Our, Hour

Our, Are

Allusion, Illusion

Than, Then

Pin, Pen

The problem with sound-alike words? Spell-check is not gonna catch them because they are actual words which are spelled correctly, but are being used incorrectly.

Which brings me to my next point…


This is always a good idea. However, there are times when perfect grammar makes for stiff writing. So read your corrected copy aloud again.



Put your copy aside overnight. Edit it again in a day or two when you’re no longer in the white heat of creation. Have you ever re-read one of your stories weeks, months, or even years later only to be pleasantly surprised at how good it is? I have. I’ve even gone so far as to say, “Wow. I actually WROTE THIS? This is pretty good.”

Letting a piece cool-down overnight also helps you put on your editor hat. I love being an editor. I have often fantasized about being a great editor like Maxwell Perkins, Joe ‘Cap’ Shaw, or John Campbell. Using the element of Time to separate your own writing from your churning creative brain allows you to edit your copy as if you were not the writer. Be the sober Max Perkins, let that drunken Thomas Wolfe stay home in North Carolina nursing his hangover while you’re in your Manhattan offices sharpening your blue pencil.

Get to it, baby.

Copywriting Sample: Restaurant Sales Letter

It’s Time for an adventure: enjoy great Cuban food and drink with me this Friday night at Iowa’s only Cuban restaurant, THE LOST CUBAN

Dear Laura,

You and I have often discussed the fact that we’re each bored with the dozen Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and other restaurants in the area, and I’d heard of the Lost Cuban, so it was on my short list of places to try.


So, I recently tried the Lost Cuban, Cedar Rapids sole Cuban restaurant. I’m so very glad I did.

 The Lost Cuban is located in Cedar Rapids newly-revitalized downtown. I arrived after 6 pm, which is, happily, when the downtown parking meters and parking garages turn Free, so parking was a breeze.

The host was friendly and seated us right away, explaining the specials and taking our drink orders as we were seated. The restaurant is geared more to the lunch crowd, so it was brightly-lit with high-topped tables and stools, but the lack of atmosphere or mood-lighting was forgiven as soon as we tasted the food.


The owners use the best and freshest ingredients available, and he uses recipes that were handed down from generation to generation in his family. As they put it, “Straight from abuelas recipe book to your plate.”

I’ve had some great Cuban Sandwiches before, but that was in larger, more cosmopolitan cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, so I didn’t know what to expect from a Cuban restaurant here in Iowa. I need not have worried, the pulled pork was amazing, tender and juicy, and better than the pork at those bigger cities, and the Cuban bread, which was baked fresh on the premises, was wonderful. They even offered a pineapple habanero sauce that complimented the pulled pork perfectly and made my taste buds dance just a little.

My companion tried the slow-cooked Ropa Vieja, served with sides of yuca, plantains, and black beans. She said it was the best Ropa Vieja she’d ever tasted. Cuban Ropa Vieja is a delicious shredded flank steak marinated in tomato sauce with bell peppers, onions, garlic, and brown sugar and cooked slowly for at least 4 hours. Ropa Vieja is Spanish for Old Clothes, but the taste is amazing. Comfort food at its best.

Other specialities include fresh baked Cuban Bread, and Mojo Roasted Pork. All marinades and sauces are made from scratch.

You’ll love The Lost Cuban.

I’ll pick you up Friday at 7:00 PM.


​Chris Becker

P.S.  They also have a newly-built full service Bar. The Mojitos were fantastic.

5 Old-School Sales Tricks that Still Work

Originally published on Medium.ComJun 1, 2016

Times have changed. But then, that has always been true. It’s like the old adage (are there actually NEW adages?) about the weather: If you don’t like the weather… wait a minute. In other words, change is inevitable.

And yet, there is nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon allegedly said about 3000 years ago in the Song of Songs. Human nature does not change that much.

With that in mind, here are 5 sales Old School techniques that have worked magic since back in the day.


The number one rule of sales, according to legendary ad man Michael Masterson, is: People Don’t Like Being Sold. The concept is simple enough for the salesperson, let the prospect know what it is he or she needs to know about the product… features, functions, benefits…then back off. Let them come to you. Give them a choice… “So, do you like the red one or the blue one.” Or, better still, say something like, “It’s up to you… you’re the boss.”


All the Features, Functions, Benefits, and Rube Goldberg Devices in the world will not work if you are not playing to their emotions. A great list of emotions you can use are: Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Sloth. Look familiar? If you remember the movie “Seven” or you’re deeply into Manga, you’ll recognize this list as the Seven Deadly Sins. Really, though, they are a list of powerful emotions which we’ve all given into throughout our lives.

They are also powerful sales tools:

Pride: If you buy this, you’ll be the talk of the neighborhood;

Envy: Are you going to let Mr. Jones have the latest technology while you’re still using last years model?

Gluttony: Yes, I DO want fries with that… in fact, Super-size me.

Lust: Sex sells, baby! Just ask Don Draper.

Anger: They kicked sand in your face, but not anymore. Show ’em what you’re made of, baby.

Greed: You’re getting the best deal ever. This product will help YOU to rake in the cash.

Sloth: This gadget is so convenient, it will drive your kids to school.

Emotions like these can be used in your ad copy, your sales pitch, your rebuttals, and they can also be uncovered as the buyers “Pains.” Once we uncover their pains, their frustrations, we can offer solutions to those pains.


“Oh, man, Mr. Smith, you’re gonna be the envy of the neighborhood when they see THIS bad boy.”

This is a simple technique, but is hugely important. The customer needs to feel validated. This also minimizes the amount of cancellations you get on the back end, and you’ve made a potential regular customer. Making them feel good about their decision helps you and/or your company to sell the customer’s NEXT order. The sad reality is many salespeople don’t take the time to nail down this last detail, but it will pay off in the future.


As the saying goes, we each have two ears, but just one mouth. Listening to the prospect helps us to build rapport, helps them to blow off steam regarding previous sales attempts, products that didn’t help, and their pains and frustrations. Sometimes the prospect will yell at you, but he or she is not really yelling at you, but rather at dozens of bad salespeople who DIDN’T listen to them. So listen. Even if you don’t make a sale, at least you had a nice conversation as opposed to just spouting off another sales pitch, then giving canned rebuttals.


This is the most obvious sales technique of all, but, in my experience as a sales professional for over twenty years, it’s one technique that most salespeople do not use. All the rapport building, needs-identifying, and product knowledge in the world won’t work if you don’t say, “So, will that be cash or credit?” If you’re waiting for the buyer to say, “Sounds great, I’ll take it,” you’re going to wait a long, long time.

Don’t feel like you’re being pushy. It’s your job. They know it’s your job. The key to a good close is this: lay your groundwork first. Remember Sales Rule #1? People Don’t Like Being Sold? If you lay your groundwork: listening as much as talking, identifying needs, selling to their emotions, gaining their confidence through product knowledge… then asking for the sale will come organically. It’s when you ask for the sale without creating a consultative sales environment, when you’re just giving them a sales pitch, a spiel, a few verbatim rebuttals, that they feel like they’re being sold, hustled, conned.

Don’t waste their time and yours. Be a consultative seller, an authority seller, an expert in your product or service.

Happy Hunting!

Why I Write


Probably the most asked question in the writing game, after “How do I get an agent” and “How do you get your ideas” is “Why do you write?” It should be the first question all writers ask of themselves.

I’ve been writing since I wrote my first creative writing assignment in 5th grade. That was in 1969, over 50 years ago.


I’ve considered myself a professional writer since I began writing my first mystery and science fiction short stories for submission to magazines in New York. That was in 1982. Those first stories were terrible. I honestly did not write a sellable story until 1995, and I didn’t actually sell those two stories which I wrote as part of a Fiction Writing class for Writer’s Digest School.

To get to that point, I’d lived an extra dozen years, plus I’d majored in Journalism in college, and the successes I had as a student journalist sharpened my writing skills.

That’s all background, though, it doesn’t answer the question of Why I Write. That’s a difficult question to answer. It might be easier to give you a list of wrong answers. In other words, a list of reasons which are NOT my motivations for writing.


  1. I don’t write to get rich. (Should that somehow happen, cool. But it’s not a certainty.)
  2. I do not write to get famous. (Same as above.)
  3. I don’t write because I have “Something to say.” (Who cares what I have to say? I don’t.)
  4. I do not write because of my huge ego. (My ego is easily deflated.)
  5. I don’t write because I feel the world needs to read my writing. (The world does not need to do so.)
  6. Today’s Internet market has created a new golden age for writers. Thousands of writers are getting paid to write. Some write Fiction, some Content Writing, some Copywriting, or whatever. I DO have enough ego to know that I’m way more talented than many of those professional freelance writers. I might as well take part in the cash grab.


For Fiction Writers, which I primarily consider myself to be, the Internet, as it is in 2022, is The New Pulp Era, similar to the original Pulp Fiction Era of the 1920s-1950s, and the Paperback Era of the 1950s-1990’s. And for Nonfiction writers, it’s a Bonanza unparalleled since the Slick Magazine era of the 1950s-1970s… with a lot MORE markets than there used to be.

I write because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I said that I don’t write to get rich or famous because I’m a realist. I’m a very good writer. Some day I may be a GREAT writer. But there are hundreds of thousands of good writers who can do what I do.

Still, I should be able to make a comfortable living from my writing, even if I have to write Web Content and Ad Copy by day, and write my Genre Fiction at night.


One thing I have learned from studying what works and what doesn’t in Indie Publishing, Freelance Copywriting, etc., is that the more content a writer puts out is the more chance that writer has of finding a paying audience. In Indie Publishing they say an author needs “A Dirty Dozen” titles in his or her catalog before the sales start to show. That could be 12 to15 full-length 100,000 word novels, or 12 to 15 standalone short stories or novellas. Depending on the subgenre, either will work. You still need to market your work like crazy, but all the marketing, paid ads, and Social Media in the world will fail if you only have a catalog of 1 to 3 titles.

I’m still working on my first dirty dozen titles, so I can’t exactly say that I’m leading by example. I’m the preacher whose sermons are 90% for myself.

Until later,

Keep reading and keep writing.


Welcome to Chris Jay Becker.Com

Hello, there, I’m Chris Jay Becker. I’m an Author, Freelance Copywriter, Content Writer, and a Content Marketer.


My writing background includes writing screenplays, crime novels, comedy material, and journalism. I’ve been a stand-up comedian and a script analyst. I’ve also written ad copy, radio and TV commercials, telemarketing scripts, and website and blog content. I’m also a Freelance Editor specializing in both Fiction and Non-Fiction Kindle books.


My 25+ years in Sales and Marketing include working for many clients including the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle Mariners, Wells Fargo, DirecTV, the San Francisco Giants, AOL, and Dun & Bradstreet.


As both a skilled Writer and a veteran Marketer, I’m uniquely qualified to craft Content and Ad Copy that will have that Spark that will motivate readers to buy your product, service, or course.