J. K. Rowling’s Top 10: Good Tips for Writing a Book

By on March 22, 2015

Sam Dutta has deduced some great writing tips from J.K. Rowling’s interviews, her works, her process, and her life.


I bet J.K. Rowling could give us some good tips for writing a book – she does, after all, epitomise a modern day ‘zero to hero’ story.   Since J.K. Rowling’s global success many aspiring authors have been born.  By giving rare interviews and immersing herself instead into writing and charity work, Rowling has done very little to quench the insatiable appetite for finding out what her ‘J.K. Rowling tips on writing’ are.

But, if you look closely, you can see how she has sprinkled some handy top writing tips into the public domain.  By observing her works, life, process and interviews, once can deduce quite a good ‘J.K. Rowling tips on writing’ list.  Here’s mine:

1.       Fail to plan, plan to fail

One most commonly preached top writing tips is to plan well.  ‘Harry Potter’ was born in Manchester, on a train during a delayed journey to London.  Rowling proceeded to spend the next five years outlining the plots for the other stories in the series before even writing her first novel.

2.       “Kill all  the adverbs!” Mark Twain

Ok so this is technically a Mark Twain tip which has been famously backed by Hemmingway.  But, when searching for good tips for writing a book, scattering adverbs sparsely is one that Rowling agrees with.  When interviewed on the Charlie Rose show, she commented on how she wished she could rehash her earlier Potter novels and remove all the adverbs.

3.       “Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.”

As writing is a creative sport, writers often feel like they can and should only write when they feel inspired.  Rowling unguardedly disagrees and claims a work ethos that she drops into her top writing tips – treat writing like work.
Most aspiring author’s are desperately trying to write themselves out of a 9 to 5 and if nothing else, can feel reassured to know that J.K. Rowling used to write through the night.  Since having a family she waits for the house to be empty but still puts in a solid eight hours daily into writing.  If you want your writing to pay out, treat it like a job.

4.       You are allowed to have more than one on the go

Many of us writers are guilty of this – pursuing more than one novel idea at a time and feeling guilty for doing so because none of them are getting finished.  To our reassurance, listed in the J.K. Rowling tips on writing is the admission that she often does the same.  She admits that novels get completed faster if you focus on just one, but it is not an unrealistic prospect to be working on multiple projects.

5.       She re-wrote her first chapter fifteen times…

No matter how well you have planned your novel, one of the top writing tips that J.K. Rowling imparts is that, re-writing is essential.  She herself reworked her first chapter fifteen times until it was perfect.

6.       Keep your readers on the edge of a cliff

Out of all the good tips for writing a book this is the one that Rowling had to learn the hard way.  I flinch at the thought of it.  After J.K. Rowling had written her first of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, she realised that she had given away her entire plot – for all seven books!  She had to re-write it in order to keep the readers wanting more.  How?  Well, that leads me to the next of the J.K. Rowling tips on writing.

7.       Write strategically

If you follow the first of these top writing tips you will be in a position to think strategically.  In order to avoid the above mentioned mistake Rowling made, you should ensure that you do not give too much away.  This sounds obvious but, is in fact an easy thing to trip up on because you know what is going to happen so, can struggle to see it through the eyes of the unknowing reader.

8.       “What you write becomes who you are” J.K. Rowling

… “so make sure you love what you write!”
Any successful writer will tell you that they did not wake up one day and say to themselves “Today I have decided to become a writer”, they simply are one.  If you want to write, just do it.  If your aim is to publish, one of the good tips for writing a book is to bear in mind that not everything is publishable.  But, it is important to write from your heart.  One of the most alluring things about the ‘Harry Potter’ series is its passion – the only thing that could possibly drive such a concept that has been so intricately designed.

9.       Create good characters

In a QA session hosted by Stephen Fry, at the Albert Hall, unlike a typical ‘Aftrenoon with..’ style questions, most of them were about the Harry Potter characters – as thought they were real!  One member asked “Professor Snape has always wanted to be Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. In book five he doesn’t get the job. Why doesn’t Professor Dumbledore let him be the DADA teacher?”
Create a world – it doesn’t have to be a fantasy based one – but one that your readers will be drawn to.  After all, most readers read as a form of escapism – make people want to escape into your world and hang out with your characters.

10.   Be patient
J.K. Rowling openly talks of her struggles to get published – it certainly wasn’t easy for her.  Given that it took around a decade from ‘Harry Potter’s’ inception to being published, being patient is a crucial trait.

It is true that if you have been rejected by every publishing house in the world, it may be time to accept defeat but, equally, consider this. An unknown Joanne Rowling, an unemployed woman living on state benefits became J.K. Rowling, billionaire author within 5 years.  ‘Harry Potter’ was rejected by numerous publishers for a year.  She waited patiently and it paid off.

Big thanks to freelance writer Sam Dutta!  J. K. Rowling’s Top 10: Good Tips for Writing a Book.

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