David Mitchell's Advice to Aspiring Authors
When the opening credits roll, we the viewers are accustomed to seeing big names in bold print—names that we can put a face to. However, the oftentimes lesser-known name that follows “Based on a Novel By” deserves just as much attention, if not more. David Mitchell is an author of Cloud Atlas, the newest book-turned-movie and a dream-like exploration of how time and personages are related in the enigmatic expanse that we call life.
This past week, Mitchell visited the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus for various excerpt reading and lecture type of events. I, however, was even more fortunate to have heard Mitchell as a guest in one of my classes. Humble and charming, Mitchell addressed our queries lending great insight into both the novel and film. What was more valuable was the advice he shared with us as young aspiring writers:
1) Get to know your characters. “If you don’t believe that they’re real, why should you care about them?” Mitchell asks. He suggests writing your characters’ autobiographies or, better yet, letters from the character to yourself. In doing so, Mitchell notes that you will no longer have to think about how a particular character will respond to a situation. If you know their histories, you can better form their futures—from the actions they will take to the idioms they will use.
2) Do NOT ask yourself what you can do to get published. Rather, Mitchell advises to ask yourself: “What can I do to make this book work?” A book should exist in its own realm with its own set of goals. It is in working to achieve the goals set forth by the text that authors find their greatest success. As Mitchell put it, any given editor will have a desk covered in books that are begging to be published. But only a few books seem to have been written for themselves; those are the ones that stand out.
3) Expect that you cannot plan everything. “Stay open to the happy accidents,” Mitchell says. Ideas, themes, scenes and characters that you did not originally foresee to turn out in a specific way could turn into greatest assets of your novel. Writing is an art and genius occurs sporadically, even subconsciously.
4) Learn from your work. Mitchell affirms that “each book is the teacher you need.” Your work not only demonstrates the achievements but also could showcase your weaknesses. It is only natural to look back on your past work and think, there is so much that could have been done differently. Something you were once boastful and proud of could seem shameful and misguided later on. However, Mitchell encourages aspiring authors not to get discouraged but to embrace that your work evolves. Your work evolves and it is you, its author, who can best discern its shortcomings and therefore learn how to avoid them in the future, because writing is “one of the few jobs that you never finish getting better at. Ever. No matter how good you get.”
Get Top Stories Delivered Weekly
Discuss This Article
More Uloop Campus Life Articles
Recent University of Michigan News Articles
RECENT UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN CLASSIFIEDS
GET TOP STORIES DELIVERED WEEKLY
TOP UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN NEWS
MOST POPULAR UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN NEWS
BROWSE OTHER COLLEGES
- By CollegeAbcott InstituteAdrian CollegeAlbion CollegeAlma CollegeAlpena Community College Andrews UniversityAnn Arbor Institute of Massage TherapyAquinas CollegeBaker CollegeBaker College Center for Graduate StudiesBaker College of Allen ParkBaker College of CadillacBaker College of Clinton TownshipBaker College of JacksonBaker College of OwossoBaker College of Port HuronBay De Noc Community CollegeBay Mills Community College Bayshire Academy of Beauty Craft IncBlue Water College of Cosmetology IncBrighton Institute of CosmetologyCadillac Institute of CosmetologyCalvin CollegeCalvin Theological SeminaryCareer Quest Learning Centers-LansingCarnegie InstituteCentral Michigan UniversityCleary UniversityCollege for Creative StudiesCornerstone UniversityCranbrook Academy of ArtDavenport UniversityDavenport University - Treasury Site DimondaleDavenport University-Battle Creek LocationDavenport University-Flint LocationDavenport University-Grand Rapids DowntownDavenport University-Holland LocationDavenport University-Kalamazoo LocationDavenport University-Lansing LocationDavenport University-Livonia LocationDavenport University-Midland LocationDavenport University-Saginaw LocationDavenport University-Traverse City LocationDavenport University-Warren LocationDavid Pressley School of CosmetologyDelta CollegeDeVry University-MichiganDorsey Business Schools-DearbornDorsey Business Schools-LansingDorsey Business Schools-Madison HeightsDorsey Business Schools-RosevilleDorsey Business Schools-SaginawDorsey Business Schools-SouthgateDorsey Business Schools-Waterford PontiacDorsey Business Schools-WayneDouglas J Aveda InstituteEastern Michigan UniversityEcumenical Theological SeminaryEmpire Beauty School-MichiganEverest Institute-DearbornEverest Institute-DetroitEverest Institute-Grand RapidsEverest Institute-KalamazooEverest Institute-SouthfieldExcel Academies of CosmetologyExcel Academies of Cosmetology-TroyFerris State UniversityFinlandia UniversityFlint Institute of Barbering IncFocus-Hope Information Technologies CenterFrench Academy of CosmetologyGallery College of BeautyGlen Oaks Community College Gogebic Community College Grand Rapids Community CollegeGrand Valley State UniversityGreat Lakes Christian CollegeHenry Ford CollegeHillsdale Beauty CollegeHope CollegeHoughton Lake Institute of CosmetologyIn Session Arts of Cosmetology Beauty SchoolInternational Cosmetology AcademyITT Technical Institute-CantonITT Technical Institute-Swartz CreekITT Technical Institute-TroyJackson CollegeKalamazoo CollegeKalamazoo Valley Community CollegeKellogg Community College Kettering UniversityKeweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community CollegeKirtland Community College Kuyper CollegeLake Michigan College Lake Superior State UniversityLansing Community CollegeLawrence Technological UniversityM J Murphy Beauty College of Mount PleasantMacomb Community College Madonna UniversityManthano Christian CollegeMarketti Academy of CosmetologyMarygrove CollegeMichigan Barber School IncMichigan Career and Technical InstituteMichigan State UniversityMichigan State University-College of LawMichigan Technological UniversityMid Michigan Community College Montcalm Community CollegeMoody Theological Seminary and Graduate School--MichiganMott Community College Muskegon Community College North Central Michigan College Northern Michigan UniversityNorthwestern Michigan CollegeNorthwood UniversityOakland Community College Oakland Community College- Auburn HillsOakland Community College- Highland LakesOakland Community College- Royal OakOakland UniversityOlivet CollegeP&A Scholars Beauty SchoolPaul Mitchell the School-EscanabaPaul Mitchell the School-MichiganProtege AcademyRegency Beauty Institute-LansingRochester CollegeRoss Medical Education Center-Ann ArborRoss Medical Education Center-BrightonRoss Medical Education Center-CantonRoss Medical Education Center-DavisonRoss Medical Education Center-LansingRoss Medical Education Center-New BaltimoreRoss Medical Education Center-PortageRoss Medical Education Center-TaylorSacred Heart Major SeminarySaginaw Valley State UniversitySalon AcademySchool of Missionary Aviation TechnologySchoolcraft College Sharps Academy of Hair StylingSiena Heights UniversitySouth University-NoviSouthwestern Michigan College Spring Arbor UniversitySt Clair County Community CollegeTaylortown School of Beauty IncThe Art Institute of MichiganThe Salon Spa AcademyThomas M Cooley Law SchoolTwin City Beauty CollegeUniversity of Detroit MercyUniversity of MichiganUniversity of Michigan-DearbornUniversity of Michigan-FlintWalsh College of Accountancy and BusinessWashtenaw Community CollegeWayne County Community College DistrictWayne State UniversityWest Michigan College of Barbering and BeautyWest Shore Community College Western Michigan UniversityWestern Theological SeminaryYeshiva Gedolah of Greater Detroit
- By State
- By City