In brief, the rules are:
- Finish What You Start
- Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order
- Put Your Story on the Market
- Keep it on the Market Until it Has Sold
- (Sawyer's Addition) Start Working On Something Else (To which I would add "And Try To Work At Improving Your Craft"
I wanted to take a quick look at these rules, both to help boost their signal for anyone who hasn't heard of them before, and to do a quick check of how well I succeed at following them.
Rule 1: I've written (not necessarily fiction) every day since September 1st of last year. I think I can say I'm meeting this rule.
Rule 2: I'm rather good about this one but not perfect. In fact, this rule is the one that got me thinking about doing a personal analysis. If my counting is correct, I've gotten 43 stories to a state that I was satisfied enough with them to submit them since August 2011. But I also have 10 stories which are not finished. Those are in various states, some are brand new things which are close to being submission ready. Others are ones that are sort of mental "ugly ducklings" for me that I'm not satisfied with and haven't figured out how to fix them yet. On the whole, I'm over 80% here, but I should be better.
Rule 3: This rule generates some debate. Sawyer softens it to something more like "don't tinker endlessly with a story." I'm good at that. Maybe even a bit too good. I think that there are times where I could be a bit more patient with a story before shoving it out into the world. I also think I'm better at making the decision about when to be done now than I was six months ago, in part because I'm better able to tell when something isn't "right" yet and also due to help from critique partners. I occasionally will "bend" this rule if a story has racked up some rejections and I want to trim words to get to another market's length requirements. I, personally, think that's a "good" form of tinkering as long as it doesn't overwhelm the process of writing new work.
Rule 4: Yeah, I don't have trouble with this one as my 200+ rejections in the last eight months prove.
Rule 5: I haven't trunked a story yet. There are a few early ones that I can imagine trunking, though, after they've hit a large percentage of the reasonable markets to try them at.
Rule 6: Loops back to Rule 1.
On the whole, I think I do well when judged against these rules, though I could definitely use some refining around my processes for Rule 2. Too many hours of work have gone into unfinished stories.
Are you interested in trying to follow these "rules"?
In my opinion a fantastic mechanism and community which can help you move towards these goals (at least in terms of short fiction) is Write 1 Sub 1. W1S1 follows another writing legend, Ray Bradbury, who is said to have aimed to finish a story every week, at least at one point in his career. While I don't personally aim for a weekly W1S1 goal, since some weeks are more chaotic than others, I can say that I've kept up an average of getting one new story out on the market per week since returning to writing in August of last year. I absolutely think that this has been key to what modest success I've experienced so far and believe it will continue to be key to my future aspirations.