From Short Stories To Writing A Novel, by Rebecca Raisin
I’m a true bibliophile, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I can’t walk past bookshops. It’s impossible. The magnetic pull of unread books draws me in, and only when I’m virtually penniless, albeit with pile of joy secreted away in an unassuming brown paper bag, can I leave. I get butterflies at the thought of where these new novels may take me and what I might learn. A big cheesy grin plastered on my face as I leave, my dinner plans forgotten, T.V- who needs it? I just want to go to bed. With my books. And then, writing came along. Ah…a delightful conundrum.
I ‘met’ (or stalked is another way to put it) a writer online, whose book I have loved from the first time I read it at age sixteen, and consequently still love and learn something new from, every time I re-read it. After a few months of chatting about books and life he encouraged me to start writing. I told him in no uncertain terms, I’m a reader- not a writer, but secretly felt excited at the prospect of being able to write a book. Imagine walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on a book? Heady stuff. Could I write? With no formal writing education but a lot, and I mean A LOT of books under my belt, I gave it a go. I took a TAFE six week creative writing course, and like the nerd I am, did every piece of homework and then some more for good measure. I entered one of my short stories in a competition and was highly commended and published, which inspired me to continue writing and sending pieces in. Luck seemed to be on my side and two years later ten of my short stories have been published around Australia. It’s easy to become lost in the magic of short story writing. The satisfying feeling of finishing a story is a constant because they’re quicker to write, so I found it hard to push myself into starting a new novel.
When I saw The Australian Literature Review‘s Novel Manuscript Development Program, the first thing I did was delay, and promise myself I would try next year, if Steve ran it again. It’s so easy to blame the world around you for not having enough time to write, but Belinda, a friend and fellow writer convinced me to take the plunge. After all, what was there to lose? I’d make writing a priority, rather than a hobby. Self-doubt, though, can sneak up on you when you least expect it….
The first three weeks focused on writing a novel outline, and like the scattered and seriously troubled person I am when I’m alone with my thoughts, I good copped bad copped myself.
The interrogation room in my mind went like this;
Bad cop – “Writing an outline is not possible, I don’t know what happens, because I haven’t written it yet!”
Good cop – “Just start at the beginning, you know the story, it’s been swimming inside your head for a while now.”
Bad cop – “Yeah, as a short story, not a full length novel!”
Good cop – “How about you stop speaking to yourself in italics and get on with it!”
Bad cop – “Ok, ok.”
So I did. I always thought of outlines like maths, too many formulas and equations, and all that planning would take the joy out of writing, but it didn’t. And surprisingly it poured out. It turns out I did have quite specific ideas of how I wanted the story to go. I saw potential weaknesses in the plot that I wouldn’t have seen without writing an outline. So, that bridge effectively crossed, I decided to do a complete 180 and work on a book I started two years ago, and was one of the first pieces I’d ever written, called Mexican Kimono.
I figured if I didn’t MK a chance, while I had the help and resources available, then I probably would never go back to it. I hadn’t looked at it for over a year, and expected it to make me cringe the way things do when you read your first attempts. But it didn’t. It needs a lot of work, and is about twenty thousand words short, but I think it has potential. When I first read it again, I laughed so much I cried. Upon telling my partner I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading it, he mentioned I might want to look up the word humble in the dictionary. Humble? I patiently explained he might want to look up enthusiasm, or better yet the rental section in Saturday’s newspaper. He’s read MK, and is a very reliable sounding board for any writing related questions. Didn’t you think it was hilarious? I asked, somewhat miffed. Yes, he said, but still, you shouldn’t tell everyone how funny you are, or it is, you should act more humble. Act humble? I said. I’m a writer, not an actor!
So onwards I go on this journey of completing my first book, and if I have to forgo a few things to do it, I will. The washing for instance, it’s washed but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go. If I shut the blinds the floors look much cleaner. I hope by smiling a lot, and generally looking cheerful my partner won’t notice everything else has fallen by the wayside. Until then, I’m having so much fun with my main character Samantha, I have to keep reminding myself she’s not real…I hope you’ll like her as much as I do.
You can find some of my stories at: