Saturday, May 07, 2011

Polishing Your ms. A Waste of Time.

I hear a lot of advice for writers to follow. One that always annoys me is to edit edit edit your work over and over. I disagree. Write, clean up the typos and obvious gaffes, then leave it be.

Heinlein's writing rules make sense to me. Thanks to


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

These rules appeared in the 1947 essay "On the Writing of Speculative Fiction."

We believe that they are as true today for all would-be published writers, whatever the field, as they were for writers in the golden age of science fiction magazine pulps.


  1. My writing style tends to run contrary to much of the current advice regarding writing. I tend to revise as I go. With a few exceptions, I don't do major revisions after the work is written, since I do much of my reworking as I work.

    Of course, I write mostly poetry, and I've been told that the rules for poetry are different. Still, I question this revision obsession I've seen all too frequently in the writing world. My belief is, at some point, you have to decide the work will stand or fall as-is.

  2. I want to have clean copy, but I've never changed much after the basic story is down.

    I do listen to my trusted alpha readers. They know what I SHOULD write, so I invariably take their advice. Editors, not so much. Depends on whether I agree or not. I've said 'no' more than once.

  3. LOVE this! Sometimes I think you can polish to the point of rubbing away the story and what makes it unique!

  4. I'm not a big prose polisher (I tend to lose the character's voice if I go over things too often), but it does take me a few passes to get all the story kinks worked out. ;)

  5. What a great post! I'm printing this one off to post to my computer and remind me. Thanks for sharing it. Funny and great.
    C.K. Volnek