From Boot Camp to Novel Writing

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to write is not an easy feat, but University of Utah student Matthew Mitchell was up for the challenge. Mitchell recently completed the yearlong honors novel writing workshop taught by Professor Michael Gills, where students commit to a rigorous writing schedule to complete a full length novel.

Mitchell is a United States Marine Corps veteran studying computer science and philosophy of science at the University of Utah. He had always thought about writing a novel and thought the class would be both a challenge and a break from the monotony of school.

Over two semesters, Mitchell completed a 250-page manuscript based on his experience in boot camp. The novel starts with Mitchell signing up for boot camp and ends with him graduating, with time jumps showing what led him to join and what the fallout was once he was out, exploring the contradiction between what was simultaneously the best and worst time of his life.

“It’s therapeutic to write about your past as if you’re a character in a book,” Mitchell said.

The course requires that students write two pages a day, completing an original novel by year’s end. Mitchell said his biggest accomplishment in the workshop was just making it through.

“When I started the course, writing ten pages a week was easy,” he said. “By the end, it was hard to write anything at all.”

Though he has set aside the project for now, he hopes to revisit his manuscript in the future.

“Eventually, I think this idea could turn into a series,” he said. “There are so many stories I didn’t get to tell.”

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About the Author:

Despina Giannopoulos Despina is the marketing coordinator at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. She grew up in Salt Lake City and has a B.S. in communications from the University of Utah.

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