Archive for March, 2011

What is the hardest part about writing?

I was chatting to friend Sue earlier this week and she posed the following question:

“What do you think is the hardest part of any major creative project? For me and for my writing it is starting. Taking that leap of faith that your idea will work and that it is worth investing your time and energy into.” Sue Jeffrey

I’d have to agree that starting can be very daunting. It’s a bit like starting a train rolling, taking off in a plane or a moving large vehicle of any kind. Most of the energy is expended in starting. Once moving, the energy needed to keep going is vastly reduced.

Writing is very similar, but once started I find that the story builds its own momentum and carries me along with it. That’s exciting, and momentum builds its own form of energy and sustains the forward movement. I have found that to be true when writing my most recent work, a novel for children. I struggled to get the first few chapters going, but once I was several chapters into the story, it developed its own momentum, building up a head of steam that kept the wheels of my locomotive turning faster and faster until the destination was reached.

One of the interesting observations from all those who have read the whole book, including my examiners for my MA, is that the latter two thirds of the novel are far stronger than the beginning, with the exception of the first chapter. I’d agree because once I’d built that momentum the writing became progressively easier. That first chapter went through many revisions and major rewrites, so no wonder it is good.

Harder yet

While I agreed with Sue that starting a new writing project is hard, I find that rewriting and editing can often be the hardest part for me. Once I get under way I find that the story often carries me along, an enjoyable place to be. I just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Yes, sometimes the ride can get a little bumpy, but the thrill of discovering what happens – even when I have a strong plan and outline – outweighs any periods of momentary discomfort.

I find the necessary stages of rewriting, editing and proofreading to be tedious, mind numbing and even boring at times. I know what happens, I know the characters and I want to leave them and start something else – to go on a new adventure.


These latter stages are terribly important, especially if one wants to see the story published. During my degree I learned to not only appreciate this vital process, but I also realised how creative editing and rewriting can be. The finished creative work is much better, stronger and publishable than that rough gemstone we call our first draft.

Still harder yet

There are three even harder elements to the creative process like writing a novel or story.

  1. Deciding when the story is polished enough to send to a publisher.
  2. Deciding where to send the story.
  3. Waiting for a reply.

The best thing is just to get on with writing the next story or novel.

If you can only get started.

Good writing.

Further reading:

Lollipops and rejection letters

Rejection letters are a fact of life for writers.

Every writer gets rejected.


Perhaps I should qualify that statement. Every writer who submits to publishers gets rejection letters. No-one is exempt; it’s a fact of life for a writer. If you keep on submitting stories, poems, articles and novels to publishers you are going to get rejected. Not every piece of writing will get accepted, nor will everything you slave over will see publication. Fact.

No writer likes getting rejection letters. I’ve sometimes heard speakers or read in books about writing that we should not be upset about getting a rejection letter. Everyone gets them, and the publisher is rejecting the story or poem and not you. While there is some truth in that, getting such a letter still hurts. Sometimes – many times – we find it hard to divorce ourselves from our babies, er… writing. You don’t like my poem – therefore you don’t like me. It’s an easy conclusion to come to, and it can be quite harmful. And it hurts. I know; I’ve had my fair share of rejection. A few years ago I sent out over 30 submissions to various publishers and every one was rejected. I nearly gave up writing.

The good news

Now for some good news. Not every letter from a publisher is a rejection. If you keep on writing the best work you can produce and keep on sending it out, sooner or later you will see your name in print. And when you get an acceptance the feeling is great. You are entitled to do the Writer’s Dance. Yell and scream in excitement. Tell your family and  friends. And then get back to writing and do it all over again.


Now what about the “lollipops” mentioned in my title? I’ve just read a wonderful story about “How to turn rejection letters into a positive.” The writer of this article learned a valuable lesson from lollipops.

  • Keep working hard at your writing.
  • Only submit your very best work.
  • Keep on striving to improve.
  • Keep on sending out your writing.
  • Enjoy those acceptance letters.

Good writing.

Finetuning a manuscript

I have written about my journey towards my Masters degree on many occasions. A few weeks ago I wrote about how I managed to pass my degree with a distinction for my thesis paper. This paper was a 40,000 word novel accompanied by a 10,000 word exegesis essay about the writing of the novel.

I was very humbled by the comments made by both examiners. They praised the story in many ways, and both agreed that my novel is of publishable standard. After all that hard work, long hours, many frustrations and long nights of doubt, the story had come through. One of the examiners said she couldn’t put it down; she had to keep turning the pages to see what happened next. Wow! Exactly the response an author hopes for from his readers. One comment like that makes all those anguished feelings just melt away into nothing. That’s why I write.

I am preparing to send the manuscript off the prospective publishers. In the meantime I have to do a few minor revisions before having a few copies printed and bound for the university library, the humanities department and for my supervisors. Just a few typos that slipped through everyone’s keen eyes. Then I’m done. And I get to wear the gown and funny hat in a few weeks’ time. I’ll get some photos to show off here when it happens.

Stay tuned.

Good writing.

Studio – a journal of christians writing

Studio Journal has been publishing poetry, short stories and book reviews for over 30 years. I’ve been a subscriber for at least 20 of them and thoroughly enjoy reading every story, poem and review. Studio is published quarterly and usually runs to 36 pages (A5 size) packed with literary gemstones.

Because it is essentially a compact journal, competition to be published in it is intense. I’ve only managed to get one story published in this journal, but I should be fair to myself as I really haven’t bombarded the editors with submissions. The submissions do not have to focus on spiritual topics, though some do.  On the web page is says:

Studio is a quarterly journal publishing poetry and prose of literary merit, offering a venue for previously published, new and aspiring writers, and developing a sense of community among christians writing.

I highly recommend this fine journal. More information, including submission guidelines, can be found on the Studio website here.

Good writing.

Catching up on some reading

Over the last week I’ve been catching up with a considerable backlog of reading. I’ve been reading several recent issues of Australian Author, the quarterly journal of the Australian Society of Authors. I’ve subscribed to this magazine for many years now, and find it to be very useful in keeping up with current trends in publishing, news of coming events as well as well as articles about the life of a writer.

The Australian Society of Authors is the major professional association of literary creators here in Australia and has a membership in the thousands. The membership list reads as a who’s who of writing in our country. While I haven’t yet taken out membership of the group I am seriously considering it. You are able to subscribe to  the magazine without being a member. Membership enables one to receive extra information not in the magazine, advice on contracts, access to mentorships, grants and seminars as well as discounts on books.

To check out the website of the society click here.