Top 5 Writing Lessons from Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling

I’ve been meaning to blog about J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, for a long time now… The other day I replayed my Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Blu-ray. Definitely the best of all the Potter movies, in my opinion. But I’m not here to blog about the movie itself. No, I’m here to discuss A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe, a special feature that revealed the answers to some big Harry Potter questions and also indirectly offered fantastic writing lessons for writers. Here are the top 5 writing lessons that I discovered while watching that special feature:

  1. Persist: Here’s where some aspiring authors fail. They get caught up in a get-rich-quick mindset and expect overnight success. They hear stories about how the idea of a spectacled wizard boy popped up into J.K.’s mind…and then they hear jk rowling (2)about the billion dollars she’s made and see her name all over the media. According to her own words, writing the complete story of Harry Potter was a 20-year process! 20 years! Maybe you’re struggling with writer’s block at the moment or you’ve developed some doubts. Please, don’t give up. Persist. Don’t give up after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, a decade, two decades, three … If you love writing, write and persist. Don’t expect overnight success. It’s a marathon, not a race, right?
  2. Treat your characters as real people: J.K. Rowling said this of her characters: “They’re in your life the way real people are … I love writing dialogue … I miss Dumbledore the most … He was telling me things I needed to hear sometimes …” Notice the connection J.K. Rowling has with Dumbledore. She apparently misses hearing from him like she would a far-away friend. As a writer, you need to form a special connection with your characters. Let yourself go and allow each character to speak without interruption. Don’t get in the way of your characters.
  3. Know where the story’s headed [SPOILER ALERT]: “Within the first year of writing, I wrote a sketch for what I thought the final chapter would be… I knew we were always working towards the final battle at Hogwarts. I knew that Harry would walk to his death…”
  4. Stay true to the story and yourself: “I went where my pen took me, and bad though it may seem to some people, I never really considered my readership in that way… I wrote what I wanted to write…” Rowling didn’t allow critics or readers to influence her writing. She wrote the story that was meant to be told.
  5. Focus only on relevant backstories: Many writers, especially newbies, get lost in backstory. They write as though the reader needs to know everyone’s backstory in excruciating detail … Now, many of us heard through the media that Dumbledore is gay. Rowling never mentioned his sexual preference in the Potter books, but did confirm that he’s gay. She said, “The relationship he [Dumbledore] has with Grindlewald — he fell really hard for this boy… His [Dumbledore’s] one great experience of love was utterly tragic. It was with someone who was dangerous and demonic [Grindlewald]…so that was my idea of Dumbledore’s tragic backstory…” But why didn’t she add this backstory to the books? Because it wasn’t relevant to the story, she implied. I also gathered from Rowling’s conversation with Radcliffe that Professor McGonagall had a somewhat tragic backstory as well, but Rowling ultimately felt that that backstory wasn’t relevant to the story either…
J.J. Hebert, the author of this article, is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He has personally helped thousands of writers nationwide, through consultations and publishing services, and regularly blogs on writing and self-publishing. He is also the president and owner of MindStir Media, a leading self-publishing company that offers services such as mentoring from a bestselling author, book design, illustration, editing, printing, ebook conversion, distribution and marketing.
J.K. Rowling image via Daniel Ogren
*Disclaimer: MindStir Media is in no way affiliated with Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling or Warner Bros.