13 Writing Tips from Cloud Atlas Author, David Mitchell

This year’s Taunton Literary Festival has been the best ever, not least because it featured one of my favourite authors of all

David Mitchell's novels include Cloud Atlas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and most recently, The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell’s novels include Cloud Atlas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and most recently, The Bone Clocks

time, David Mitchell. He of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks fame came to Taunton and I must have been one of the first to buy a ticket. It was a very inspiring event. Not only were we treated to a reading, but Mitchell also took questions from the crowd and this was an invaluable chance to find out what makes a real author tick. Lucky for you, I’m willing to share.

Bare in mind, some of the tips are paraphrased and some of them are direct quotes, depending on how well I could remember what he said. Here’s what I learnt:

Author David Mitchell’s tips on writing a novel

On re-writing or deviating from you original idea:
  • Your mistakes are your friends
  • Take things out, if they don’t work, that’s okay
  • Rewriting adds texture to novels, because there’s always a remnant of what was there before
On keeping going:
  • Just get it written
  • Finish something, you can’t work on nothing
  • Trust your instinct – you wouldn’t have started that story or scene, if there wasn’t something there.
  • It doesn’t have to be brilliant, it just has to be finished
On research and locations:
He’s been to a lot of the places he writes about in his novels, but not all of them, so he has several ways to get a sense of place.
  • Writing about the Australian outback – thank goodness for Google street view
  • A Swiss ski resort – I’ve never been skiing and wouldn’t want to, so I read books on misadventures in ski resorts to give me enough of a flavour of the place and ski culture
  • Part of being a writer is being a location scout
  • Elements of the world become implants – bits of real life I can stick in a novel to make it seem real
  • Writing a novel is about creating an illusion
David Mitchell

The most important tip from David Mitchell is, ‘Just get it written’

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4 thoughts on “13 Writing Tips from Cloud Atlas Author, David Mitchell

  1. Pingback: Writers Anon’s Guide to Taunton Literary Festival 2015 | Writers Anon - Taunton's Writing Group

  2. ‘Finish something, you can’t work on nothing’

    That’s what I try to keep in mind, you can’t edit nothing 😉

    Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad it was of interest. Thanks for reading.
      Cloud Atlas is a favourite for me. If I write a book even half as good, it’ll be pretty fantastic.

      Like

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