Five writing tips from J.K. Rowling | Sunday Observer

Five writing tips from J.K. Rowling

22 May, 2022

Joanne Kathleen Rowling or J.K. Rowling is a household name in most countries as her young adult novel series ‘Harry Potter’, its subsequent movies and other adaptations have become bestselling works all over the world. In March 2020, Rowling and Wizarding World partners launched ‘Harry Potter At Home’ initiative to entertain children stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, in which the first Harry Potter book read aloud by celebrities on video, and made available for free through audiobook and ebook streaming. And in 2021, she published her latest children’s novel which is ‘The Christmas Pig’.

J.K. Rowling was born on 31st July 1965 and grew up in Gloucestershire in England and in Chepstow, Gwent, in south-east Wales. Her father, Peter, was an aircraft engineer, while her mother, Anne, was a science technician. After becoming a widow and a mother of a child, she had to bear serious financial difficulties. She couldn’t pay for boarding house rental, and had to do various jobs such as a researcher at Amnesty International and an English teacher first in Portugal and then in Edinburg. It was in this environment she began to write her Harry Potter manuscript.

The time she conceived the idea of Harry Potter was in 1990 – it came to her while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London King’s Cross. Yet, it took another seven years to publish the book, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, which was followed by six more titles within 5 years, each achieving record-breaking success. In 2012, J.K. Rowling published her first novel for adults, ‘The Casual Vacancy’, and it has now been translated into 44 languages while adapting for TV by the BBC in 2015.

From an early age, Rowling wanted to be a writer. Mainly because she grew up surrounded by books. “I lived for books,” she said. “I was your basic common-or-garden bookworm, complete with freckles and National Health spectacles.” As such, she was at six when she wrote her first book – it was a story about a rabbit, called ‘Rabbit’. At just eleven, she wrote her first novel – about seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them.

At the moment, she is a veteran author of more than dozen novels which include seven Harry Potter novels, one separate young adult novel, ‘The Christmas Pig’, first adult novel, ‘The Casual Vacancy’, and the detective Cormoran Strike featuring six crime novels such as ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ (2013), ‘The Silkworm’ (2014), ‘Career of Evil’ (2015), ‘Lethal White’ (2018), ‘Troubled Blood’ (2020) and ‘Ink Black Heart’ (2021), all topped the national and international bestseller lists and have been adapted for television by the BBC and HBO. Following are some of writing tips which reveal her art of fiction as well. They were quoted from her official website,

1. Reading

J.K. Rowling is a writer who grew up with books. So his first tip is to read books more than anything else:

“You can’t be a good writer without being a devoted reader. Reading is the best way of analysing what makes a good book. Notice what works and what doesn’t, what you enjoyed and why. At first you’ll probably imitate your favourite writers, but that’s a good way to learn. After a while, you’ll find your own distinctive voice.”

2. Discipline

Then, she highlights the importance of discipline in writing:

“Moments of pure inspiration are glorious, but most of a writer’s life is, to adapt the old cliché, about perspiration rather than inspiration. Sometimes you have to write even when the muse isn’t cooperating.”

The thing she reiterates is to maintain some daily routine in writing. According to her, if you want to be a writer, you must write on the days when the words come easily as well as on the days they do not.

3. Resilience and humility

“These go hand-in-hand, because rejection and criticism are part of a writer’s life. Informed feedback is useful and necessary, but some of the greatest writers were rejected multiple times. Being able to pick yourself up and keep going is invaluable if you’re to survive your work being publicly assessed. The harshest critic is often inside your own head.”

Rowling reminds readers that it took seven years for her to move ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ from conception to publication. She admits this was due in large part to her abandoning the book for months at a time because she was “convinced it was rubbish.” As per her, success won’t come without perseverance and a willingness to accept constructive criticism.

4. Courage

Courage is crucial for creating good work. She says, “Fear of failure is the saddest reason on earth not to do what you were meant to do. I finally found the courage to start submitting my first book to agents and publishers at a time when I felt a conspicuous failure. Only then did I decide that I was going to try this one thing that I always suspected I could do, and, if it didn’t work out, well, I’d faced worse and survived.”

She also claims, “Ultimately, wouldn’t you rather be the person who actually finished the project you’re dreaming about, rather than the one who talks about ‘always having wanted to’?”

She acknowledges that, inwardly, she felt like a failure but decided that submitting her manuscript was worth the risk. In her words, she’d “faced worse and survived.” You have to have the courage to try in order to succeed.

5. Independence

What does it mean by independence for Rowling?

“By this (Independence), I mean resisting the pressure to think you have to follow all the Top Ten Tips religiously, which these days take the form not just of online lists, but of entire books promising to tell you how to write a bestseller/what you MUST do to be published/how to make a million dollars from writing.”

She further says, “Ultimately, in writing as in life, your job is to do the best you can, improving your own inherent limitations where possible, learning as much as you can and accepting that perfect works of art are only slightly less rare than perfect human beings. I’ve often taken comfort from Robert Benchley’s words: ‘It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up, because by that time I was too famous.’”

Here J.K. Rowling’s suggestion is that the necessity of self confidence for good writing. When a writer develops to some stage, this confidence factor automatically built in him. Then on, he does not depend on other people’s comment or criticism on his writing, he takes his own decisions on his ongoing work. As Rowling rightly said, a writer’s job “is to do the best you can, improving your own inherent limitations where possible.”

However, it is also important to mention that any of these decisions are not result from one’s consciousness, but unconscious mind which unfolds in writing.