The Best Advice I Never Got

My last panel at the recent Loscon science fiction convention was on “The best advice I never got”.  In other words, what I wish someone had told me when I began my career.

NO question about it, what I wish someone had given me was “The Machine” that I’ve synthesized from the advice of a half-dozen writers, central among them Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein:

  1. Write 1-4 stories a month.
  2. Put them in the mail
  3. Keep them in the mail until they sell
  4. Don’t rewrite except to editorial request
  5. Read 10x as much as you write
  6. Repeat until you reach story #100

ONE HUNDRED STORIES   You scream?  “Where am I going to get all those ideas?”

Ideas are everywhere.  In fact, the problem is almost NEVER a lack of ideas. The problem is generally a lack of ideas you think are “good enough.”  Well, the truth is that the best way to have a good idea is to have a LOT of ideas.   Your ability to distinguish “good” from “bad” will refine as you go.

The important thing is to GET STARTED and KEEP GOING. To be writing every day. To familiarize yourself with all of the golems and demons that will jump out of the shadows and try to stop you.  To avoid the bloat that occurs when beginners try to write novels and trilogies.  Short stories are where you develop your skill. They are “going to school”. Novels are your job, where you will get paid.

The most important thing about “The Machine” is that it tells you what to do TODAY to advance your career.  You can read books, study with teachers, form or find reading groups, experiment with style, find agents and meet editors.  All of those things are important, and you will develop your own route to success in each. But most importantly TAKE ACTION.  

That’s the first step, isn’t it?  TAKE ACTION. Every day. Day after day.   You will feel tired, frightened, bored, frustrated, distracted, and everything else.   TAKE ACTION anyway.   

If possible, find a partner, someone to confide in and share your journey, otherwise it becomes more difficult to stay on the path.   TAKE ACTION.  

  Which step of the “Machine” is your greatest strength?  Greatest weakness? Your answers will determine your future.

Write with passion!


(P.s.–you only have three more days to enter the Lifewriting program at the “Firesale” cost of only ONE DOLLAR for the first month.  Cancel any time.   We’re wrapping up the “Revolutionary Writing” module this Saturday, and would love for you to be a part.  Registration will be CLOSED until next February, so that we can take care of our current students, and help them with the care and feeding of their own “Machines”.  Join us, or let any writer friends know about this amazing opportunity!


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