Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s Advice

Advice from Another Pro…

Before he died in 2017, Dr. Jerry Pournelle recorded at the Writers of the Future conference advice to help newer writers. He wasn’t talking to fans, but to writers.

It doesn’t matter what any of you thought of Jerry personally, his books were New York Times bestsellers and he was in the industry writing for over forty years or more. And besides helping writers at Writers of the Future, he often took in single student to mentor. Some major writers were his students at one time or another.

And I know a lot of you don’t believe me at times about some of the advice I give you here and in the workshops. So listen to this and maybe coming from Jerry’s strident opinion and way of saying things, you might be helped. Worth listening to no matter what.



  • Philip

    Awesome video. Your book on Heinlein’s Rules is one of the writing books I reread the most. In fact, I’ve once again started the Bradbury Challenge (52 stories in a year) and am one story in. Believe it or not, I only write 500-1,000 words a day but it works. I plan to submit to pro markets then indie publish what’s left.

    • dwsmith

      Phllip, you do know that once a traditional magazine publishes the story, you get all rights reverted in two to six months, depending on the magazine, and then you can publish it indie at that point. Going traditional does not preclude indie, just changes the timing is all.

      • Philip

        Yes, thanks to your legendary Making A Living on Short Stories posts. But I do plan to follow your guidance and, for the ones that don’t get bought traditional, really submit the heck out of them and exhaust the possibilities.

  • J. D. Brink

    Great advise passed from writer to writer to writer.
    And just the boost I need to get back into it. Ever since the world went crazy a few months back, my day job has had me working 60 and 70 hour weeks for crap pay and a side of belligerence for my troubles. And left me no time, energy, or motivation to do what I really want, which is start the next series.
    The good news is that today was my last day on that job: I resigned. The bad news is I need to find another job. But the other good news is that I can start writing again!
    Been a while since I’ve been by to visit here too, and this was a nice reminder of why I’d come by so often before. Thanks, Dean!

  • Johanna Rothman

    Wonderful! I have two signs in my office. One has Heinlein’s Rules and the other is “You are responsible for your career.” Yes, I “stole” both of them from your teaching. Thank you.

  • James Mendur

    Speaking as a hobbyist mostly just trying to write better stories for my own enjoyment, the most valuable bit for me was:

    “He thinks what he does is dull. And I said, ‘Fine. THAT’S dull. But now think about what MIGHT happen, and it might NOT be dull.'”

    I’d heard variations on that over the years (have a guy come through the door with a gun, etc.) but I’d never thought about it THAT way.

    Thank you for sharing.