A Novel Can Be Cleaned Up. Life Is One Big Messy Rough Draft

Harlan Coben? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A best-selling author once stated something like the following: The world of fiction is superior to the real world because a writer is capable of altering and improving a fictional realm, but the real world is always a big messy rough draft. Would you please help me to identify this author and find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Harlan Coben has written several top-selling mystery novels and thrillers. In 2010 he wrote a piece in “Parade Magazine” that discussed his writing process. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 2010 May 16, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Section: Parade Magazine, Don’t Run Afoul of Bobby Knight by Harlan Coben, Quote Page 18, Column 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

Let me back up a little and tell you why I prefer writing to real life: You can rewrite. A novel, for example, can be cleaned up, altered, trimmed, improved. Life, on the other hand, is one big messy rough draft. You forget your line in your third-grade play, you screw up spelling “occurred” in the fifth-grade spelling bee … you can’t take any of that back.

Coben further stated that sometimes he wished he had a delete key for real life. In conclusion, Harlan Coben deserves credit for the quotation above.

Image Notes: Illustration of a fantasy book from thommas68 at Pixabay. Image has been resized and cropped.

(Great thanks to writer extraordinaire Vic DiGenti who included this quotation in a newsletter of the Florida Writers Association. This led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

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