I’ve never had a problem with Henlein’s rule one for writers (you must write). I enjoy the writing. I enjoy other stuff too, and want to be sure to get in my reading and exercise and Esperanto and playing of StarCraft, but of all the stages in writing a story, the step I most enjoy is putting the words down. So, I do write, and with enthusiasm.

On the topic of rule two, however, I go back and forth.

I certainly see that you can’t make a career (or even a sale) out of unfinished stories. But I’ve gradually come to see that many of my unfinished stories aren’t really stories at all—they’re just a cool character or a cool situation or a cool idea.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to “finish” these non-stories. Years of experience shows that I can fool myself for a long time that these particular cool characters, situations, and ideas add up to a story. But the result is days or weeks spent generating prose that never adds up to a story.

I think a much better version of rule two for me is “Finish the stories you start, but ruthless abandon any project as soon as you realize it isn’t a story.”

I could finish two or three stories in the time it takes me to “finish” a non-story.

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