Tag Archives: Australian authors

How Long Should A Good Short Story Be?


Are Australian short story writers an endangered species?

I found this review by Geoffrey Dean, an accomplished Tasmanian (Australian) writer quite interesting especially while editing some of my short stories for competitions recently.

I enjoy writing short stories, ranging from “Mondays Finish the Story” (Barbara W. Beacham) flash fiction challenge of 100-150 words to stories I have written in 1500 to 3000 words in our Creative Writing Workshop with Isabel D’Avila Winter. In short story competitions, the limit to the number of words you are required to write can really change a story, as I have found recently while reducing one of my 1500 word short stories to 1000 words for a competition. I have felt in the past week that I probably could have spent less time and written a better story, if I wrote a completely new story. On the other hand, I found it much easier to increase the number of words of another short story from 800 words to the required number, 1000 words. The additional 00 words may have slowed the phase of the story, but it is work-in-progress.

Submitting to literary magazines also calls for a fit. You have to write to specific requirements with type and paragraphing or head-lining, but the main challenge is the number of words to fit a page or a column.  So how can you fit into the system? Can you be less descriptive or reduce the number of characters without taking from your plot or could you do without long passages of back-stories without killing the story?

In the following review, “Are Australian short story writers an endangered species?”, see how author Geoff Dean writes about his process of creating a short story and his discussions on the steps that took him to the end where the answer about short stories and their lengths are quite clear.  As Dean writes, one must always aim to write a good short story first and foremost before trying to fit the story “into the system”, i.e., the magazine page size or competition requirements…in other words, to hell with the system, I am going to write my story my way and eventually find a place for it.

“Are Australian short story writers an endangered species?”

Geoffrey Dean has published 80 short stories. The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre (TWC) in conjunction with Island Magazine and the Geoff and Elizabeth Dean Foundation have just launched the Geoffrey Dean Short Story Competition which is now open to Australian writers.

Born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1928, Geoffrey Dean (Geoff) had his first short story published in the mid-1950s. Scores of his stories have appeared in eight collections of his work (Mysteries, myths, and miracles; Under the Mountain; The Literary Lunch; Strangers Country and other stories; Cold Dean Monday and other Australian stories; Summerbird and other stories; Over the Fence; and the Hadlee Stories), as well as magazines, anthologies and collections in Australia, the UK, USA, Norway and China. He won many literary prizes and awards, including the State of Victoria Short Story Award and the Arafura Literary award. His story, The Town that Died was made into a TV drama and broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1986. Geoff died in August, 2011.


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The Australian Government and the ABC – A Christmas Special

I am sharing this post for friends and writers in Australia and others who follow the work of the ABC. The article was posted by the Australian Society of Authors today.

The Government and the ABC – A Christmas Special

In the ricochet of the Abbott government’s $254 million, 5% cut to the ABC over five years, it has been announced that more than 300 ABC staff would lose their jobs over the next period.

Impacts on Australian writers.

This will have a serious impact on writers. Among the departures will be people who create scripts, intros, narrative, jokes, segues, back-announces and such other incidentals that radio and television production need. Producers, program makers, presenters, commissioning editors – many of whom wield precious word skills to produce ‘content’ – will also be eliminated.

We express sympathy and solidarity with salaried or contract staff who will find themselves terminated – but equal sympathy must go to the freelance writers who have relied on the meagre copyright or broadcast fees payable for use of their work.

The proposed closure of Poetica, Mike Ladd and Krystyna Kubiak’s long-standing program celebrating and supporting poetry in Australian life, is a further betrayal of the national broadcaster’s Charter, which includes: “… programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community …”


Poetica has run every week since February 1997 bringing poetry to a mainstream audience on ABC Radio National. From this program alone it appears that 9 out of 18 producers – i.e. writers – are to be sacked. At its peak Poetica reached 90,000 listeners per week, with many more via the internet.

Poetica made 900 programs, 60% of which featured contemporary Australian poets. It brought their work to a wide audience and provided the poets with some much-needed income through the fees paid for broadcast. Their publishers benefitted through some exposure. And booksellers reported a rise in enquiries and sales of the poetry titles featured.

In the absence of a dedicated poetry program with its own timeslot and separate website, assurances that poetry will continue to be featured on Radio National are merely a sop.

Poetica is one of many culturally valuable writing-centred programs to have been axed in recent years; others include The Book Reading and Short Story. It appears that this latest is a ‘specialist’ program of a kind that no longer lies within the brief of the broadcaster – or if it does, is not worth paying for.

Despite the ABC Charter, ABC programmers more and more ignore the need to respond to and facilitate ‘special interests’. If the ABC does not actively and vigorously support such an interest as literary creativity – something that is central to education and the nation’s intellectual life and arts – what exactly does it support?

The ABC’s efforts to ape the styles and motives of commercial media and internet organisations are meanwhile risible. 100 people are to go from News and Current Affairs to fund a $20 million digital investment program and 70 new digital jobs, suggesting it will now seek new space in a highly competitive online environment, with no guarantee of further reach or loyal audiences.

The ASA accuses the ABC of ill-informed, uncaring behaviour and helping to send writers broke. Shame on ABC management and shame on its political masters.

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