How to write long fiction – my next crash course

To write long fiction (a novel) is one of my dreams. Some people probably think that a person with a PhD (Writing) would be able to write anything. To write long fiction

That’s definitely not so! The sad truth is that the two novels I’ve written sit (in some sort of state of order) on my laptop. Both served a purpose. Both now seem to read like rubbish.

The topic for my PhD burned in my brain for a few years before I retired for the first time from paid employment. The memoir which eventually resulted, along with the exegesis (long essay) that made up my thesis, resulted from serious negotiation with my wonderful supervisor, Dr Jill Durey.

Jill thought I should write a novel based on my experiences in the Aboriginal Community at Jigalong in outback Australia. I knew that my experience as a nurse in an Aboriginal community needed to be written as narrative non-fiction, even if the preferred form of creative writing for higher degrees at the university was fiction.

While my colleagues wrote their amazing novels, I beavered away in a different direction. I read everything I could find about the craft of writing non-fiction, memoir, biography.

It didn’t occur to me that I should also find out at least a little about how to write fiction. Now I want to start a new learning journey. There seems to be a long way to go, but if I don’t start now, I may never learn how to do it. And, anyway, I love new challenges and finding new things that excite me.

Why I want to learn how to write long fiction

Three main reasons present themselves

  • There’s a gap in my knowledge
  • The challenge appeals to me
  • I want to learn new things and perhaps put them into practice.

I’ll be eighty-two next month. Don’t ask me how old I think I’ll be when I finish this project, and maybe another! As a friend once said,

I’ll be as old then as I’ll be if I don’t do it.

That’s always a good excuse for starting any venture regardless of age. In the past, planning, timelines and goals worked to help reach my goals. I hope the same processes will work this time.

So, pinned on the notice board above my desk, my somewhat grandiose ‘Master Plan’ encourages me. Specific dates for specific tasks and a clear end date create confidence. Already, with three happy marks against them, some items are out of the way. When more items are ticked, my sense of satisfaction will soar.

To keep me accountable, I plan to post occasionally about my new adventure on my blog. That will be one way to keep myself accountable for learning how to write long fiction.

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For those who haven’t known me long, the creative writing component of my PhD was published as Other People’s Country by ABC Books in 2008 and reprinted by Stone’s Publishing.

9 thoughts on “How to write long fiction – my next crash course

  1. I continue to admire you, Maureen. I don’t seem to have any ambition or inclination for anything new at the moment, that could change, at least I hope it does.

    • Hi, Sue. My energy and inclination flow and ebb, and I never know what’s going to happen next, except that I have a tendency to throw myself into new interests and endeavours, and find myself wondering how I got there. Quite a good way for me to live, one that makes life interesting, anyway. I’m sure your present state will change. Nothing in life stays the same.

  2. As you know I wrote my first novel in four months. I never had a writing lesson or joined a club. I just sat down and wrote headlines. I did not find out utill later it was full of mistakes and the writing was simple. I have learned along the way better things to do. Publishing on the other hand is confusing and difficult. One thing that did happen was I got caught up in the story. So what started as one book has ended up in being four. Thank God I am writing on a new topic now.

    • I did know that, Miriam, and am full of admiration for your spirit and energy. It’s good you are writing something different now. What is the new topic, or is that still private information? I agree about self-publishing.

    • Hi, Fiona. Thanks for your enthusiasm about my new project. I think at this stage, however, I’m talking about learning how to write a novel! Perhaps the next phase will be actually writing one. My new project absorbs much of my time and energy and I love it.

  3. A wonderful journey Maureen Helen and we are with you all the way. I even learnt a new word tonight ‘exegesis’. Thanks for the education along the way Maureen….Keep up the good work too Cheers Tricia

    • Thanks, Tricia. I keep going in and out of being enthusiastic about my project. It seems enormous and there is so much in my life already. But I will just take it slowly and see what happens. Thanks for your support.

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