Writers On Writing: Mitch Albom

I read the following quote in a Writer’s Digest interview with Mitch Albom, and I felt really moved by what he said about the process of writing his first novel. As someone who also transitioned during NaNo from mainly nonfiction writing to a full length fiction piece, I was similarly transformed by the process.

“Writing a novel for the first time was the biggest challenge. Until The Five People You Meet in Heaven, I had always dealt with the truth and the facts. As a result I’d been both limited by it and able to relax in it. When you’re writing a nonfiction story about somebody and he had two sisters and no brother, that’s the story. You never have to consider, What if he had two brothers? What if he had a handicapped brother? What if he had a brother who used to beat him up? All those possibilities start to haunt you when you write a novel. That really threw me.”


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dayner
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 16:42:00

    This is one of my favorite things about writing fiction. If the problem doesn’t work itself out I can kink the circumstances slightly so that they do. I just have to take the time to convince myself. However, it’s hard to step out of that box once you have your mind set. Sometimes I worry about a problem I can’t solve then I want to smack myself when I realize if I just change one little element I cat fix everything.
    Does this make any sense?


    • kathanink
      Dec 03, 2009 @ 11:58:57

      Yes! One thing I read about fiction writers (though I never experienced till I wrote my novel) is that sometimes the story ends up being written differently than you planned. For example, I had written a friend for the protag, but then he ended up disappearing out the story. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get him back. Even late in the story I was trying to get him back, but by that point it was too late.


  2. Natasha
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 15:17:58

    Writing fiction is so empowering — you can fix your characters’ lives in ways you can’t with yourself, your friends, family, whatever — no matter how you try. And sometimes in the process, you can get some insights into your own life. At least I’m finding that to be the case…


    • kathanink
      Dec 03, 2009 @ 12:00:22

      So true, I didn’t experience it as much in this story that I know of, but in Mean Girls, I definitely was able to fix a situation that had been frustrating in my own life (not that it was exactly real, obviously). But it made me feel better to write some characters and “get rid of them.”


  3. darksculptures
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 13:58:10

    This is so true! One of the things I love most about writing is the ability to fix most if not all of my hero’s problems. Or at least if I can’t fix them, I can make them live more comfortably.

    We, as writers, begin to put so much of ourselves into our writing. We draw close to our characters and begin to think as they would think, or feel the pain, elation, saddness, joy, hate and love that they experience. With fiction we can manipulate these feelings for that moment of catharis. Unfortunately in read life and nonfiction, this is not always possible.

    I believe that is why I have been drawn to the craft of writing. So I can work through some of my internal hurdles and bring them to a satisfying resolution.


    • kathanink
      Dec 03, 2009 @ 12:01:41

      One of the things that really got me is where Albom says, “All those possibilities start to haunt you when you write a novel.” They really did haunt me. Especially at the start of the month, when I didn’t know where it was going, I was totally obsessed with thinking of directions it could go.


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