Fantasy writing Novel writing tips

Five great writing tips from J.K. Rowling

These days, J.K. Rowling is a household name all over the world – the first billionaire author on the planet and the creator of a world that many of us can’t imagine life without. But how did unpublished writer Joanne Rowling turn into this superstar with film rights sold to Warner Bros as well? Read J.K. Rowling’s best book writing advice and writing process:

J.K. Rowling on writing: 5 top writing tips

1.    Write in whatever time you have

One of the most famous quotes from J.K. Rowling is: “Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.” This is crucial advice on writing a book. It’s easy for us to imagine successful writers spending all day penning beautiful paragraphs, but everybody had to start somewhere. For Rowling, that somewhere included full-time work and finding stolen pockets of time to write her fantasy novels. Much as it might be a dream to take six months out to write your book, odds are you’re going to have to fit it into your everyday life and just find a suitable writing time. Rowling was working for Amnesty International when she conceived of the idea for the Harry Potter books in 1990.

2.    Planning is essential

Instead of diving right into line 1, J.K. Rowling advises taking the time to plan out the world your books will live in. She took five years to create and develop every last detail of the entire series of Harry Potter world. Every part of Rowling’s books was planned and work out, from conceiving the boy wizard, right down to how the Wizards and Muggles interacted (and the word Muggles, to begin with!) what the education was like, how magic helped in every day life and how the wizarding world of government worked. She also plotted out all the events of the Seven-Book series before she started writing the first.

Even J.K. had a Plan

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3.    Rewriting is just as essential

You would think after five years, J.K. Rowling would just be able to dive right in and write the whole of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, without much rewriting. She rewrote the opening chapter of her first book a total of fifteen times, however. It’s easy to imagine published authors writing with the greatest of ease, but actually the process is just as difficult for them.

4.    Be aware of plot and pacing

Even when you’ve plotted out all seven of the books you want to write in a series, you can trip yourself up. In fact, that’s one of the big things to be aware of when you’ve done the necessary planning: even though you know what’s going to happen next, your readers shouldn’t. They need to have a sense of excitement and uncertainty as the plot and pacing unfolds because this is where magic lies. After J.K. Rowling finished the first book in the Harry Potter series, she realised she’d given away the whole plot of the series. So she had to rewrite it, and hold back a number of integral plot points in her fictional world.

5.    Write your passion

Perhaps my favourite J.K. Rowling quote is: “What you write becomes who you are… So make sure you love what you write!” One of the reasons the Harry Potter books are so infectious is because you can tell she really loves the world she created – and all the characters in them. If you’re going to approach your book in a half-hearted manner, there’s no point even beginning it. Make sure you’re passionate about what you write and you’ll draw your readers along with you. Write like Rowling and create a fantasy world full of magic!

Rowling has also now gone on to write adult novels such as A Casual Vacancy. She has collaborated with playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany to bring the stage play to London.

Ready to write the next Harry Potter? Now Novel is the easy way to write a book. Try our story builder – a step-by-step way to outline your novel. You could join J.K. Rowling in the ranks of the published authors.


By Bridget McNulty

Bridget McNulty is a published author, content strategist, writer, editor and speaker. She is the co-founder of two non-profits: Sweet Life Diabetes Community, South Africa's largest online diabetes community, and the Diabetes Alliance, a coalition of all the organisations working in diabetes in South Africa. She is also the co-founder of Now Novel: an online novel-writing course where she coaches aspiring writers to start - and finish! - their novels. Bridget believes in the power of storytelling to create meaningful change.

39 replies on “Five great writing tips from J.K. Rowling”

I love this post – great tips. I didn’t realize she’d planned the whole series from the beginning! That’s fascinating.

i re-write a couple here and there..there are times that i feel to give up all the my entire work and re-write everything from scatch, but i end up throwing the re-write version because it didnt mix well with my original writing tone..

That is a tricky challenge. I think the key is to rewrite and try keep in mind that it is the story and characters you want to tighten up, rather than the style (a professional editor can always help with that).

I love J.K. so much. Currently reading the third book of the Cormoran Strike novels and the way she makes a man without a leg downright sexy and the plot and her finesse, and and and and and inspires me so much. Keep’em coming, J, you’re an inspiration. She is also completely right. If you truly write with passion, you do it whenever you. Between writing two bills and fixing the kid’s meal. Passion requires sacrifice. Because only these two ensure that you’re any good. This is what I take away from J’s story and her tips.

Thanks for that Ana – I also love the way she interacts with her fans on social media – she seems a truly generous and genuine person.

What she said is very true. With two novels under my belt and readying to publish a third I can attest to the rules/guidelines listed. I discovered them all on my own and follow them religiously. I now have two separate coinciding trilogies with multiple story line crossover points; incorporating real historical events, personal experiences, and they all reinforce each other making them all the more believable. #TimLillyNovels

Congrats on finishing your third novel, Tim. You’re both right that a novel has multiple creative sources and it’s important that each contributes satisfyingly to the whole

I love J Rowling’s ambition and passion with create a novel that keeps imagination fun to explore.

She is amazing I love Harry Potter and excited there is going to be a new book in the actual series which of course I pre ordered. I’m also excited they are doing a movie that’s part of Harrt’s world. I’m disappointed though the links here for her stuff didn’t work.

You’re right there, Peter. She is a woman of great imagination. Her education in Classics is probably one reason for that.

There’s a few vital tips she left out. Pilfer the work of others, get a crooked agent who can get professionals to ‘edit’ your stuff, hook up to powerful Masonic politicians like Blair and Brown to promote you and ruthless lawyers like Schillings to ensure your plagiarism is safe from snoops and victims; hire two PR firms to field an army of parrot bloggers on your behalf (there’s few preening their feathers on this thread)… and then bury your conscience where you can never find it again.

You can find more on Facebook, and I’m writing my own book; with any luck I’ll be able to do it full-time.

I would just call it “Happenstance” with a cool font. Overthinking is an writers nightmare.

It was originally published in Britain as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” – it was changed for the American printing.

I agree, Deborah – definitely when working with a story that has so much intricate detail of setting and world-building.

J.K. Rowling took over five years, beginning in 1990, she began to plan out the seven Harry Potter books in the series. Hard to believe she wrote in longhand. Not sure we’d all have that kind of dedication or the time to plan like her.

Thanks for your comments. You’ve hit on some very important points. All of these points are vital steps when you’re writing and completing your manuscript. I’d also like to say that getting someone else to edit your work, preferably a professional, is also so important. We sometimes miss things or fail to see a bird’s eye view of our manuscripts. 

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