Archive for July, 2008

Writing success

This year I have not had much of my writing published (apart from this and my other two blogs). That is because I have been concentrating on the reading and assignments for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing course.

One of the units I studied last semester was called Creative Writing in the Christian Context. We were required to write a major poem of 50 to 100 lines. I received a High Distinction for my poem.

Another assignment was due at the end of the semester and this took the form of a major short story of 2500 to 3000 words. I worked hard on this story and it went through many drafts. In the workshop after each week’s lecture we worked in small groups, reading through each other’s writing and refining our stories. While this was somewhat confronting at first, I soon realised that having a group of people critiquing my writing was an excellent method of honing my skills. Some suggestions were accepted, some rejected.

I was delighted to receive another High Distinction for my efforts. Then just this evening I received an email from a faculty member asking me to submit the story for consideration for inclusion in the university end of year anthology of poetry and short stories. It is great when that happens.

Good writing.

Back at University

I started back at University today for the second semester for this academic year. For new readers to my blog I am currently a quarter of the way through doing my Master of Arts in Creative writing course at Tabor College in Adelaide, South Australia.

This semester I am studying three units as follows:

  • Themes in Australian Literature
  • Writing Prose
  • Writing Poetry

The first lecture today was on Australian Literature and was necessarily an introductory type session. Looking through the lists of texts and topics to be studied I am sure that I will enjoy this unit. It will require plenty of reading as well as writing assignments.

I have to complete three assignments as follows:

  • A tutorial paper of 1500 words
  • A major essay of 3000 words
  • A reflective journal on the reading I do during the unit of study – this is to be a minimum of 2000 words.

I plan to reflect on my studies on this blog – as time allows. Last semester I had intended doing this too, but the intensive nature of study tended to get in the way of too much blogging. We will see.

In the meantime – good writing.

Short Story Starters

It has been quite a while since my last list of my ever popular short story starters. Here is another list to help you on your way writing those short stories. I hope you find something to inspire you. Perhaps you are suffering from ‘writer’s block’ and this is just what you need to get you going again.

Short Story Starters

  1. As the small plane skimmed the trees lining the road, Peter could hear the sound of the engine. All was not as it should have been. He….
  2. ‘If you have one more drink tonight I’m outa here!’ Jessica glared at Tony. The raised glass was almost at his lips. He…
  3. Janet slipped silently beneath the sheets. She could hear James snoring. Her guilt was suddenly dampened by relief. Had he…
  4. Connor ripped open the envelope. No time now for finesse. He straightened out the letter and as he came to the end of the first line he gave….
  5. Tanya paused before opening the door. This seemed to be a mistake but she couldn’t back out now. She….
  6. If you take a right turn at the old church in Main Street you…
  7. How anyone could have killed old Mrs. Wallis defied explanation. She was the sweetest, kindest and gentlest woman in the small village. All the villagers adored her – except one. Richard knew her dark secret. He…

You can find dozens more short story starters on other pages on the blog. Just click here to access them.

Good writing.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.

What I am reading: “Paradise Lost”

One of the units I studied last semester included a reading of selected works from the classics of English literature. One of the works studied was John Milton’s epic poem ‘Paradise Lost.’

It had been many years since I’d last looked at this poem. It was like coming afresh to this monumental work of literature. At first I found the going a little tough, but the more I read the more intrigued I became. Over several days I actually read through the whole work. The lecturer and all of the other students in my tutorial group were most impressed. No-one else had read the entire work, including the lecturer. Several students chose to write their tutorial paper on this poem, but they only had to read and study a very small portion of several hundred lines.

I was so intrigued by this poem that I included it as one of the texts I referred to in my major essay. I was pleased with what I wrote in that essay but do not yet know my mark. I should receive the essay back next week.

The ruthless world of rejection

Most writers dream of being published. Most writers dream of having other people read their stories, novels, poems and articles. That is an understandable and perfectly good dream to have if you are a writer.

The reality is, however, that many people who write do not submit their writing to publishers. Of those that do go that extra step, very few are actually accepted for publication. Publishers send out far more rejection letters than acceptance letters.

Rejection of one’s writing is often based on merit; the work is just not good enough.

Rejection is also based on appropriateness; many writers send the wrong type of material to publishers because they haven’t done their homework. Sending an article about pigs to a magazine about knitting is a sure way to be rejected (unless your article is about how you taught your pig to knit).

Rejection is also based on purely economic grounds; the publisher may consider your wonderful novel not financially viable – they are in the business of making a profit, after all.

Rejection may be based on timing; the magazine may have published a similar article several months prior to your submission.

Coping with rejection

Rejection can be for a wide range of reasons, but no rejection is easy on the feelings. I’ve had my fair share of rejection letters over the years. It is hard not to take it personally. I try to remember that the publisher is rejecting my writing; he or she is not rejecting me as a person. Still – the self esteem can take a battering. I also try to remember that even great and well known writers get rejection letters. My lecturer, Rosanne Hawke at university was sharing recently that one of her novels had been rejected many times. This was despite the fact that it is a great story (she let me read the manuscript), she has had more than a dozen novels already published and she has won numerous awards.


During the last semester we had children’s writer Janeen Brian as a guest speaker. She has a very positive attitude to rejection letters. She calls them ‘returns’ instead. She just takes it as all being in a day’s work; that’s just one publisher she can cross off the list for that particular story, poem or article. Send it off to another publisher.

Another lecturer told the story of a fellow writer he knew when he lived in the USA. This writer received so many rejection letters for his book that he actually managed to publish the book – complete with all the rejection letters! Nice twist.

Keep submitting

The secret is not to get too down about ‘returns’. Keep sending your writing out – eventually you will find someone who will accept your work. And while you are waiting for that wonderful letter saying ‘the cheque is in the mail’ keep writing, and keep sending out your writing.

Good writing.