Making Stories: How Ten Australian Novels were Written

Kate Grenville, Sue Woolfe: Making Stories: How ten Australian novels were writtenMaking Stories: How Ten Australian Novels Were Written By Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe; Published by  Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, 2001 (1993) RRP $26.95 (paperback). Update: Currently unavailable on either Fishpond or Amazon, although you can sometimes get a second hand copy of the later edition (which includes 11 novels!) on Amazon or Abe Books. (Update to the update- April 2017 – it is apparently available on Booktopia for $24.99, although they say they don’t have it in stock and would need to order it from their supplier…)

ISBN: 1863733167

This fascinating book consists of interviews with nine Australian authors along with extracts from their manuscripts at various levels of completion.

It is so interesting to read all the different ways in which people write, and comforting to see that the assumptions Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe make (before meeting the authors) about this process are often as wrong as mine were. The only author who isn’t interviewed is Patrick White, who was not alive to tell his tale, but manuscripts are included for his book Memoirs of Many in One.

The manuscripts will probably be most interesting to those who have read the specific books, but the interviews are fascinating to read in any case.

Thomas Keneally says in his interview “This isn’t the way everyone should operate – the biggest rule is, if a writer starts telling you that there’s a particular way to write a book, that’s not the truth.”

Well, if you don’t believe Keneally, just read this book and you’ll see that no two of the authors interviewed follow the same process in writing. Some of them make jottings and work from those, others start at the beginning (or what appears to be the beginning) and go from there; some let the characters write the book, while others retain very firm control and plan it out in full before writing a word.

The writers included in the book are Helen Garner, Jessica Anderson, Peter Carey, David Ireland, Elizabeth Jolley, Finola Moorhead, Patrick White, Thomas Keneally, and of course Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe, who interviewed each other.

(This brief review was first published in 1999 and referred to the 1993 edition of the book.)

Other Kate Grenville books on the subject of writing include: The Writing Book: A Practical Guide for Fiction Writers and Writing From Start to Finish: A six-step guide.