“Finish Everything On Your Word Processor!”

(“Don’t you know there are writers starving in Japan?”)

The Heinlein post had been in the queue of other writing advice posts I had lined up, but a couple of blog entries by mi amigo Mark Evanier moved RAH to the head of the line.

There’s no such thing as a bad idea.  What is often wrong is the execution of the idea, the expression of it.

The context, so to speak.

I would disagree with Mark only in this narrow sense: While a particular expression may be charging down a blind alley, the idea usually has some validity to it.

We just overlook it when we latch onto a specific style of expression.

Ray Bradbury once told me that Herman Melville was just about finished with his new novel, The Whale, and about to make a clean copy for his publisher to send to the printer when the large print folio edition of Shakespeare’s collected works that he ordered finally arrived from England.*

Melville devoured the folio in rapt fascination, closed the cover, picked up his manuscript of The Whale, and chucked it into the fire.

Then he sat down and started writing Moby Dick.

Was The Whale a bad expression of the core idea?  Probably not…

…but it sure wasn’t the right expression.

Bottom line:  Throw nothing out. The idea that stalls in the word processor today may suddenly come roaring back to life with an insight you won’t glean for years to come.

If it ain’t working, just set it aside and come back to it later.

It’ll be waiting for you.




*  Melville’s failing eyesight had pretty much hemmed him in as a writer after an earlier career on the high seas.

Thinkage [updated]

Thinkage [updated]

Robert A. Heinlein's Rules for Writing