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8 JK Rowling Writing Tips

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2013: postage stamp printed in USA showing an image of Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, three Harry Potter main characters, circa 2013.


You probably know JK Rowling for her work on the Harry Potter series. With more than 400 million copies sold, she is one of the best selling authors in history. What you may not know is that she is also an outstanding crime author, writing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.

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What makes her perspective so unique is how fast she was able to rise. Just 5 years before writing Harry Potter, Rowling was living on state benefits. Now her estimated fortune is approaching $1 billion. This is, in part, due to these fantastic writing tips that she follows without exception.

#1. Write whenever you have time.

Even if you only have 5 minutes, that’s 5 minutes where you could be writing. There are always spare moments available to a writer, but the perspective sometimes needs to change. Instead of phasing out to watch a favorite TV show for 30 minutes, try writing for those 30 minutes. If that doesn’t work, then write during the commercial breaks. Life will always have demands. Write when those demands take a break.

#2. Plot out your stories ahead of time.

Some writers prefer to jump right into a story. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, Rowling prefers to take the time necessary to completely plot out the world that will be written about. For the world of Harry Potter, she took 5 years to go over every last detail of the world before the writing began, right down to the unique terms that the characters would use within the story.

#3. Don’t trust your first draft as a final draft.

Rewriting a story is just as essential as the initial creation of it. The first draft of any story should really be treated as another outline draft instead of a polished final draft for the story. Rowling actually rewrote the opening chapter of her first Harry Potter book 15 times before she was satisfied with the results. Give each draft of your story the same attention that you give the first draft, with the goal of making it better each time it is rewritten.

#4. You must keep track of your plot and pacing.

According to Rowling, she had given away all of the plot points for the Harry Potter series when writing the first book – even though she had plotted out a several book series. This mean she had to go back and adjust her pacing in another draft of the book to keep certain aspects of the story a surprise for readers. Pace your stories so that the reader feels like they are part of that world, but let them discover what happens as the characters discover it. Giving answers away for free will just cause readers to stay away from any sequels you might have planned.

#5. Be passionate about what you write about.

When you’re a writer, it becomes a definition of who you are as a person. This means you must be passionate about your writing. You must love the worlds that you create and the characters that are set within the world. If you’re not thrilled about what you’ve written, you can guarantee that most readers are going to hate your story as well. Whether you write about magic or something tragic, create something that comes from your heart.

#6. Stop the adverbs.

This is advice that originally comes from Hemingway and Twain, but Rowling fully agrees with it. During an interview with Charlie Rose, she mentioned that she wished she could go back into the stories and remove most of the adverbs that she’d put in initially. Why? Because adverbs are lazy writing. Instead of conveying emotion through the dialogue of characters, adverbs put the emotion into the narrative. It’s a small, subtle, but very important difference.

#7. Make every chapter a cliffhanger.

Readers need to be hooked into completing a story of any length. This means there needs to be some level of suspense or uncertainty in every chapter of your story in order to keep the reader engaged. It doesn’t have to be a life-or-death cliffhanger to be effective. Some of Rowling’s best transitions are, in fact, about character relationships and world interactions, like Hermione’s time-turner necklace.

#8. Make characters that seem real in real life.

Stories are defined by their characters. When they seem real, it creates a real form of escapism for the reader. When fans of Rowling ask questions about her characters, they treat them as if they were real people. Draw your readers in with identifiable characters and the story will hook them.

These writing tips from JK Rowling show that with some patience, a little ambition, and a willingness to make writing a priority, anyone can be an author. Incorporate these tips into your habits and your created worlds will soon become just as real as the world of Harry Potter.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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