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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Thomas Keneally part one

In their own words

Recorded 1967

Thomas Keneally part one
Audio: 2 minutes

The method of work is usually to write the entire novel, with these last two novels, write the entire novel morning by morning. The first draft, at the rate of, if possible, 1000 to 1500 words a day, but that’s not always possible.

I’m always having blackouts, losses of confidence, losses of vital energy. However, I’m convinced that the writing of a novel is not an inspirational business and can be done efficiently, and in fact must be done efficiently, by applying yourself to it every morning. I therefore attempt to write about at least 1000 words a morning. I write all morning – this is for the past two years – write all morning, go to school in the afternoon, come home, generally write again. I still am plagued by the good old Irish Catholic guilt and feel that I should work every night. But night work is usually ineffectual, disastrous, hard to settle to, not worth much when it is done. Of course, there’s no one way – I’ve found this out by questioning, asking other novelists as I do shamelessly, specially to overseas visitors – there’s no one way of writing a novel. And some people do, like myself, feel that once they’ve got that first draft done in totality, then they’ve got some chance of fixing the thing up and even adding extra material.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Thomas Keneally is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

Related people

Thomas Keneally AO

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency