JK Rowling’s Writing Process: 9 Principles You Can Use From Rowling’s Philosophy of Writing

by Ruthanne Reid | 85 comments

If you're like me, you loved the Harry Potter series. Maybe you watched the movies or even visited the theme park, and you wondered about JK Rowling's writing process and the strategy she uses to write her best-selling books.

If you're like me, though, you've also been deeply hurt by things Rowling herself has said. On Twitter, on her website, in interviews, and more, Rowling has promoted harmful views of trans people, and you might be one of her many readers who find it painful, or even impossible, to return to the Harry Potter books you once loved.

JK Rowling Writing Process

I understand. Before I dive into the wisdom we can draw from Rowling's writing process in order to write our first draft (or others), allow me to share a principle with you.

Death of the Author: Or, How to Love the Book, Not the Author

In 1967, a French literary critic named Roland Barthes wrote an essay called La mort de l'auteur, or Death of the Author, in which he states that any piece of writing should be separated from the author that wrote it. In other words, he believed in judging the written work completely on its own merits, without involving personal beliefs or actions of the author in question.

Sometimes, this is possible to do.

Sometimes, it isn't, and we readers have to apply discernment to what we read and the lens through which we view things.

I have two examples for you.

HP Lovecraft

First, HP Lovecraft, whose incredible work literally created today's modern horror genre. Do you enjoy any kind of tale with Elder Ones, or chaos gods, or even just good old Cthulhu? (I know I do!) His work was so creative, so new, that you'd be hard-pressed to find any horror story that doesn't show at least some of his influence.

Unfortunately, Lovecraft was also an extremely xenophobic racist.

Now, I enjoy a good chaos god, and I've made the decision to separate his xenophobia from his writing. That means, of course, that I must view critically anything he wrote that implies white English people are somehow the pinnacle of humanity.

It means I purposely do not allow his racism to infect my way of thinking. By doing so, I am practicing la mort de l'auteur.

JRR Tolkien

Here's a second example: JRR Tolkien, whose work defined modern fantasy. Do you enjoy anything with elves and dwarves or made-up languages? We owe Tolkien for that. He redefined and polished the fantasy genre so well that everything from movies to MMORPGs still use his templates.

Unfortunately, he also described his orcs as “squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.”


Now, was Tolkien a racist? Not exactly. In fact, according to the standards of the time, he was absolutely liberal and anti-racist. So then what do we do with this bizarro and racially horrifying description?

We see it and choose to discard it. Generations of artists and authors have done exactly that, turning orcs into anything but “least lovely Mongol-types,” and aiding this genre.

Again, it's important to see the problem so you can avoid letting it influence your work. We enjoy the good parts while consciously discarding the bad, rather than being influenced by it.

So What About JK Rowling?

She's not dead. In fact, she's still saying harmful things, even as we speak.

Instead of listening to her readers, who (at least initially) approached her in love, trying to help her understand, she doubled down, rejected their experience and their words, and in the process, caused an unbelievable amount of pain.

Here's the thing about la mort de l'auteur: it is entirely up to you whether to apply it to what you read, or to simply discard the whole thing and find less troublesome authors. 

Both roads are valid.

In no way do I condone her attacks on the trans community, or her persistent sharing of misinformation. I choose to apply la mort de l'auteur for the simple reason that I benefited from the good things she's written, and I wanted to share them with you.

However, if you aren't comfortable doing that, you are absolutely welcome to walk away. In fact, I'd suggest these writing articles instead: Neil Gaiman's rules of writing, or how to create your own rules of writing.

Okay. Awkward stuff done. Ready to dive into the process stuff instead? Let's go!

9 Rules From JK Rowling's Writing Process

Over the course of her writing career, Rowling shared a lot of solid writing wisdom, and in my opinion, eight writing rules stand out—along with a ninth we can apply from her choices since.

Whether or not you're writing your first book like Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) or last book in a series (like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), I think these rules speak to Ms. Joanne Rowling's philosophy on writing.

They are great writing tips for you to reflect on in your spare moments and then apply to your writing process, for short stories, novels, bestsellers, or even the first time you've ever attempted a book.

Rule One: Protect your writing time

Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it.

This is especially hard for those of us with family. Our loved ones come first, and while that is important, our loved ones also need to understand that we need time to write.

Setting reasonable boundaries is a crucial step for a writer—even if they're as simple as, “Mommy needs fifteen minutes of quiet time, okay?”

If you have trouble setting boundaries with loved ones, try setting a reasonable boundary for one week. See how it goes.

If it's too much time or too little, tweak it. Establish a routine that signals to others that it's your writing time, but also lets them know that outside of your writing space, you're there for them.

Not only will this teach the importance of flexibility and discipline to others, but also that your writing is valuable. It's your work, and your dream! Needing quiet time to write doesn't mean that you don't love your family.

Your writing deserves your time, too. Open communication about this can help everyone understand and respect that.

Rule Two: Treat your writing like a job

You've got to work. It's about structure. It's about discipline.

It's easy to forget that writing is a job.

We don't always feel like doing our job. We certainly don't always feel inspired. To be writers, we must train ourselves to sit down and write even when we don't feel like it. Those moments are the ones that really matter, even more than the shining, flying, muse-kissed moments.

Writing when we don't feel like it is what turn amateurs into professionals and rough drafts into polished manuscripts.

Rule Three: Believe you ARE a writer

I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.

Yes, writing is possible with another job.

Yes, writing is possible with other responsibilities.

Are you a writer? (I know your inner critic snarled no, but I also know a tiny candle-flicker of unquenchable hope in you whispered yes with so much longing you could cry.)

You ARE a writer. That means you write.

A runner runs.

A painter paints.

A cook cooks.

You are a writer. You write. Accept this, fight to believe it, and be amazed at how far that takes you.

Rule Four: Write what you know

Write what you know: your own interests, feelings, beliefs, friends, family and even pets will be your raw materials when you start writing.

This doesn't mean you need to experience aliens in order to write about them. It means that all good stories have universal application. A great example is this Google Doodle. (Trust me. I'm going somewhere with this.)

Take two minutes and thirty-six seconds to watch this.

Halloween 2017 Google Doodle: Jinx's Night Out

It's adorable, right? Without a single word, this video told an effective story. You felt for the little ghost, both when it was sad and when it was happy, right?

News flash: you're not a ghost. That was universal application. 

It doesn't matter what culture you're from or what language you speak; all human beings know what it is to be lonely, to feel left out, to be frustrated, determined, and to finally be with friends.

That story works because the creators used their interests, feelings, beliefs, friends, family and even pets to tell this story. (I'm fond of the kitty, myself.)

I'm greatly oversimplifying, but here's the gist: you already know how to tell a moving story because you live one. If you've ever had emotions, ever responded to anything, then you already know what universal application looks like. Listen to the people around you, and apply empathy.

You don't have to be a ghost to write a good ghost story.

Rule Five: Read

I always advise children who ask me for tips on being a writer to read as much as they possibly can. Jane Austen gave a young friend the same advice, so I’m in good company there.



Read some more!

The more you read, the bigger your arsenal of words will be. The more you read, the better your grasp of metaphor, poetry, beauty, passion, and empathy will be. The more you read, the greater you will be as a writer (and probably human being).

It's like learning more dance moves or impressively difficult notes on an instrument. The more you learn, the better you'll be.

So read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Get in the habit of finding time to pick up a book instead of your phone (unless it's to open up another book.)

You DO have the time to read.

Even if that's just ten minutes a day.

Any time counts.

And the more stories you read, the more likely you'll start to implicitly develop the skills you need to become a great writer.

Rule Six: Persevere

Perseverance is absolutely essential, not just to produce all those words, but to survive rejection and criticism.

This is one of those unpleasant truths about publishing: you're gonna get rejected. A lot.

I wish there were a way around this. Harry Potter was turned down again and again because that's just the way it goes sometimes. And it isn't only publishers: when you get published, and your work is out there, you'll get bad reviews, too.

Mostly, they'll just be people who don't understand what you're doing. Intellectually, you'll know that. Your heart, on the other hand, is going to break into a thousand pieces.

But here's the secret: you can't stop writing because of push-back.

You MUST NOT stop writing because of push-back.

Keep going. Don't stop. When you get rejected, pick up your pen and keep going (and use the way you feel to put more universal application into your work).

And when you're feeling really discouraged? Remember that when someone doesn't like your book, they might also just not be your ideal reader. That person just wasn't your target audience.

If your book isn't to someone's taste, that's all right. It will be to someone else's.

Keep writing your book, because your ideal readers need it.

Rule Seven: Bring your whole self to the page

What you write becomes who you are … So make sure you love what you write!

Writing is a little like a Mobius strip, in a way:

Your beliefs and experiences and feelings all help craft your writing. However, your writing clarifies, corrects, and often reveals your beliefs, experiences, and feelings.

As you write, you'll discover things about yourself. You'll clarify things, too, because it's only as you come to write them that you realize they needed clarification in the first place.

Now, understand: this means that if you haven't given yourself a good look to find your biases (we all have them), you will bring those to the page, too.

It's important to see who you are as you bring your whole self to the page. Writing is a brave, bold venture, and life-altering discovery is part of the journey.

Rule Eight: Accept that failure is part of the process

Failure is inevitable—make it a strength. You have to resign yourself to the fact that you waste a lot of trees before you write anything you really like, and that’s just the way it is. It’s like learning an instrument, you’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot. I wrote an awful lot before I wrote anything I was really happy with.

Failure is normal. Also, it is okay.

You're going to write a lot of crap. You're going to push past those things and write more crap. It may take you twelve years. It may take you a million words. If it does, then you're on the right path—the same one your favorite authors walk.

Accept that it will take time, and that sometimes, your pencil won't be your friend. If you accept it, then when it happens, you won't throw in the towel and set the house on fire. Instead, you'll be able to go, “Well, dang; that sucked, didn't it? Knew it would happen. Time to write some more.”

Rule Nine: Respect Your Reader

Sadly, this rule doesn't come from writing advice she's given, but in a way, it's the final conclusion of the previous eight.

This involves bringing your whole self to the page. This involves empathy and universal application. This involves perseverance, never quitting, and willingness to tackle your writing troubles.

If your readers value what you created, they will listen to what you say. Your words have the power to uplift or hurt others.

None of us can ever really know where someone else is coming from, and it's essential that both our stories and our interactions reflect respect.

Respect yourself enough to be a better person. Respect your readers enough to hear what they have to say.

This sounds scary, I know, but I promise you, it's worth it.

Writer, Persevere With the JK Rowling Writing Process

You can do this, fellow writer. We're all on that same path, and that means we can encourage each other on the way. Please don't give up.

And if you feel like giving up, reach out to the writing community here.

We all struggle with moments when we're ready to quit—but maybe that just means it's a chance to apply some death of the author logic. You don't need to feel guilty if you still love characters like Hermione Granger , the Weasleys, and Snape, settings like the wizarding world or Hogwarts, or the children's books as a whole.

But you don't need to love the author to learn from a Harry Potter book or the Harry Potter series as a whole.

And if you want to walk away from both books and author, I understand that, too.

Whatever you decide to do, as a writer, make sure to acknowledge your struggle, fight your  fear of not finishing or being good enough, and then toss what's holding you back in the trash with your other messy manuscript pages.

Non-fiction, fiction, or memoir writer—publishing with Bloomsbury Publishing or Amazon—that voice trying to get you to stop doesn't respect your writing.

But you should.

It's time to write some more.

Which of these rules from JK Rowling's writing process speaks to you?  Share in the comments.


Write what you know! Set a timer for fifteen minutes and take a single experience from your life—one that you responded to with emotion—and apply the universal application to your current story. Or, start a new story based on that experience. This may be about loss or love, anger or fear, rejection or acceptance.

Whatever it is, after you write it, post it in the comments, and don't forget to comment on three other writers' practice.

Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.


  1. Paul Nieto

    These are great tips – i just need to quit being a slacker.That means serious work on Rule #2. But I do stick to Rule #5!! I often read a book per week if its less then 350 pages.

    • Luthman Wanda

      I think the discipline of writing every day sounds harder than it is. I write emails every day. I write recommendation letters for students. I write letters to parents. I write announcements for the PA. I mean I write every day and surely you do too the way we are on computers all day long now. I know that’s not the same as creative writing but it is putting your thoughts into words and communicating them clearly and that’s all part of it.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      It’s very hard! I’m often not able to do it, but as long as I have it as a goal, i definitely write more often than I don’t!

      As for the communications thing, that doesn’t really count as this kind of writing. The challenge is leaving something in the bucket so that when we switch from emails, etc. to OUR writing, we have words left to give. Make sense?

    • Luthman Wanda

      Yes, I know emails don’t count but we do have to express ourselves clearly and use good punctuation. I haven’t actually made it a habit daily but I can say I write creatively more days than n.

    • Irrevenant

      Good point.

      IMO, there’s something to be said for the “build consistency then scale” approach. eg. Set yourself a goal of writing a minimum of two sentences per day – then, only once you’re confident you’ve got that nailed, increase the minimum amount.

      Professional authors may have a daily minimum of one page a day – or three. But I’m betting that’s not what they started at…

    • Luthman Wanda

      I can do that and often one or two sentences leads to many more…

    • Ruthanne Reid

      You can do this, Paul! 😀

    • nerd engage

      Hehe, I didnt mean in that way,sorry 🙁

    • Ruthanne Reid

      🙂 No worries! I figured that – it actually gave me a really good giggle!

    • nerd engage

      I guess she misunderstood because of the title of the post :p

  2. Victor Paul Scerri

    I have tasted most of the rules, and I am getting better by being on the 100 day writing a book challenge with Joe Bunting, and so far my attention to focus and diligent to write has gotten the better of me. 🙂 It’s not for the fain hearted to construct and write with structure five to seven thousand words a week.

    • Luthman Wanda

      So true that it’s not for the faint of heart. You get so much rejection and criticism and even lack of support and people not taking you seriously. You have to really know that you know that you are a writer and then slowly everyone else will believe it too!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Definitely! You have to want to write more than you want anything else.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      SO glad to hear that, Victor!

  3. emmalewis

    Write what you know – a very important one for me. But ALL these rules are fundamental and critical!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I agree! It’s definitely a growth process.

  4. Judy Peterman Blackburn

    Felt all those emotions during the video, so sweet. These are great rules. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • Ruthanne Reid

      You’re so welcome, Judy!

  5. Luthman Wanda

    Rule #3 resonates with me because I remember when I first started calling myself an author to my family and friends and then others. It felt surreal. It was something I had believed inside myself forever but I was very scared to say it out loud. But, I continue to live into that statement and stop pretending every day. My family doesn’t really take me serious and others think it’s just a hobby because I have a “real” job but to me, it’s who I really am. It’s like I finally feel like I’m living in my skin.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      *hug* I really think most writers aren’t taken seriously – and I don’t know why that is, but you’re definitely in good company. Keep at it. You have TWO real jobs – the one they acknowledge and the one that they don’t. 😀 Write on!

  6. Katie

    Here’s my 15 minute piece. Well, a bit more that 15 minutes…

    It was the fourth time I was pregnant so I figured I knew what I needed to know. I was an expert in this. I went to my first appointment alone, knowing that I would just be measured and the midwife would listen to the heartbeat and go over the basics. Easy-peasy. I got this. Besides, my husband had a lot of meetings that day and he couldn’t reschedule them. My sister was watching the other kids for me while I went to the appointment.
    I sat on the exam table, I didn’t even have to undress for these appointments, just have a shirt I can pull up so she could measure and listen. She came in. “Wow, here again! You’ve already got a pretty big file.”
    “Yeah, this will be baby number 4.”
    “Who do you have at home?”
    “My daughter is 8, and I have 2 sons, 5 and 1.”
    “Busy momma.”
    “Yup. It’s wonderful, though.”
    “Well, let’s take a listen, shall we?”
    She took the bottle of jelly like stuff from a warmer and squirted it on my belly. Then she put a microphone like instrument on there so we could hear the heartbeat. There was a lot of static as she moved the instrument around my skin. She looked off into space, concentrating on finding the sound. I knew that sound, it was a rhythmic pshew, pshew, pshew sound. It connected me to my baby and this would be the first time I would hear it with this one.
    “I’m having trouble finding the heartbeat,” she said.
    “It’s normal when you come in at 12 weeks that it might not be strong enough to pick up, or the baby me be positioned where we can’t really hear it well. Let me try for another minute.” She continued to move around the jellied area and pressed hard into my belly for a few more minutes. Finally she gave up. “I’m going to go check with the technician to see if she can get you in now for an ultrasound. Sometimes, if we can’t hear the baby, we can see it. Here you go,” She handed me some paper towels to wipe the sticky jelly off of me and she walked out.
    Okay, I thought, I had to do this the last time and everything was fine. Plus, this way I will get to see some pictures. Usually they don’t do that for another few months.
    I sat in the exam room, proud of my composure and that I was not thinking the worst like I usually did. Although part of me was worried, a bit. I mean, something could be wrong, couldn’t it? If they can’t find the heartbeat then… The door opened and she walked in.
    “Good news, there is an opening in a few minutes. Let me just move you into another room and you can wait there. A little quiet time for a busy mom, right?”
    “Okay, thanks.” I sat in a big, leather reclined usually used for non-stress tests towards the end of the term. I’d been in here before because all my babies had come after their due date and this was where they made sure things were still okay in there. She left the lights off but the door open and I picked up a magazine and started to page through it, looking for something to divert my focus.
    It seemed like ages before she finally came back and told me I could go to the ultrasound room. I walked down the hallway and went in. The technician greeted me with a warm smile. She handed me a gown and told me to undress from the waist down then she left. I did and then opened the door and walked over to the exam table. Because it was so early in the pregnancy, she had to use her internal device. It was unpleasant but I’d done it before and knew the drill. Soon I could see on the screen the outline of a tiny body. There’s my baby! I thought to myself. I watched, waiting for a hiccup or a kick. And I watched. And I watched. I couldn’t see the heartbeat. The technician was very quiet. “It’s not moving is it?” I said quietly.
    “No.” She said, “I’m sorry. I have to capture some images.” She did her measuring and clicking and I just stared at the motionless form of my baby. Empty.

  7. Jola Olofinboba

    Thanks for this clear summary of JK Rawling’s 8 rules of writing. I like the emphasis on the need for discipline in doing and finishing your writing. It is gratifying to know that such a successful author as JK Rawling applied the same rules that Joe Bunting and his team have been teaching us at The Write Practice Community since day one. That fact supports the view that writers borrow ideas from one another.

    Rule 5 about read, read, and read is the one I find most difficult to apply. The more I read, the more books and materials I still need to read. I wonder, does anyone have suggestions about how to cope with the reading requirement?

    Rule Seven says: “What you write becomes who you are … So make sure you love what you write!” At first, I misunderstood this rule, but I later agreed that your writing is a reflection of the person you are.

    It’s an interesting and informative article!

    • Mary Enck

      I am a writer. I am also a reader. I do it every night. I love novels of several different genres. That is how I am able to use Rule 5. I enjoy it. I believe I have learned so much about what not to do in my own writing. Some novels that are published are not particularly to my liking. I get disappointed at times and other times I finish a novel and sit for a while quietly staring at empty space. I let the world I just left depart slowly and often I am sad to see it go and feel as if I want to stay there longer. That’s when I know I have learned something valuable.

    • Jola Olofinboba

      Hi Mary,
      Thanks so much for your input on the benefits of reading to the writer. I like your point that reading various types of books gives you an idea of what not to do in your writing. Let’s keep reading more. My best wishes to you,

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Different genres = good stuff! The more widely you read, the bigger your writing arsenal. 🙂

      It’s okay to not like a novel, too – even if it’s critically acclaimed. I appreciate the reminder that not all readers like all things; that way, when someone doesn’t like mine, I know it may just not be the kind of thing they like.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Hi, Jola! For me, I try to make lists of books I need to read. Yes, the list is never-ending! However, I read at the pace I can. Sometimes I’ll do something like enter a Goodreads challenge to read a certain number of books in a year – that helps. Other times, it’s just setting aside time to do it.

      There will always be more things to read. You’ll never read it all! Just keep your reading varied.

      A book that might help you figure out HOW to read and what to look for is this one: READING LIKE A WRITER by Francine Prose. It may take a little while to work through, but it changed how I read books, and it’s really helped me. http://amzn.to/2zbvNFn

    • Jola Olofinboba

      Hi Ruthanne,
      Thanks so much for the tips and for the reference. I’ll surely try them. Have a wonderful weekend,

  8. Marlene Samuels

    The fifteen-minute strategy, at first attempt, seems as though it’s a worthless effort however after making this a daily practice I have yet to adhere to fifteen minutes! Once I get rolling, ideas, emotions, and details flood my pages. One interesting method, at least for me, is that writing by hand on paper is vastly more productive. Possibly because it’s more difficult to “self-edit” as I move forward. Another reason — and about which much research has been done, is the brain-hand connection. I say this suggestions is a DEFINITE go!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      That is WONDERFUL, Marlene!!

      Ah, self-editing – I hate that. 🙂 I fall into that rabbit-hole all the time!

    • RAW

      Marlene – I say, “Do whatever works for you!” I am so married to my keyboard that I struggle to write longhand anymore. But I don’t argue with what works. Just keep on writing! Then hide your work for a week or two and then come back to it. I guarantee you will be amazed at how much more objectively you can look at your work after taking a break from it.

  9. Alyssa

    I have less problem liking what I write just after I’ve written it than I do later on, when I’ve become a better writer. I saw my writing as pretty good, which it was at the time I wrote it, but once I learned more it wasn’t as good and needed either a lot of work or to be entirely scrapped and replaced.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      We all do that, Alyssa! It’s part of the normal writing process. Most authors have what they call the ‘trunk novel’ – the novel that stays in the trunk under the bed, and no one will ever see it, haha!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Keep writing, Kathy!

  10. Swapan Kumar Rakshit

    Simple rules for rulers of simply designed minds.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      What rules would you suggest, Swapan? 🙂

  11. Ajarn Nelson

    Rule number 7 provides me the most valuable insight. The whole love what you write part can come from any direction of life. Whether, its from friends or experiences or emotions we feel as we interact with other objects, humans, animals, environments and institutions. Writing these things causes one to reflect and gain clarity. This is what happen to me in my assignment for this post. Clarity was followed by love, because after reflecting on the writing, I realized what I loved about myself: growth and strength and the beauty of other.

    Secondly, you write what you become part that was mention turned on a flashlight. I have become what I wrote in the past.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      That’s beautiful, Ajarn! I’m glad that this advice has really helped you.

  12. Tinthia Clemant

    Is there a rule for when you feel your writing sucks?

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Yes, and it isn’t easy: write it anyway.

      Writing is just like learning a musical instrument, or even a baby learning to walk. At the beginning, we’re ALL terrible – all of us, no matter what talent we have.

      The key is to keep reading and keep writing. The more you write and the more you read intelligently, the better you’ll get – just like a baby who keeps trying until they learn to walk gets better at walking, then better at running, and if they practice a lot, really, really good at it. You can do this, Tinthia!

    • Lyn

      Tinthia, I felt that way about my YA novel (first time writer here). I felt there were too many inconsistencies and I couldn’t do anything about it — it was just too hard a job to sort it all out. I reached the point where I wanted to shred the whole thing. I’d spent six years writing it while working four days a week and babysitting grandchildren two days. I felt I’d wasted those six years for nothing. And then I read James Scott Bell’s “Write Your Novel from The Middle.” It lifted my spirits so incredibly. I found myself constantly saying, “Hey… that’s what I do!” Knowing that I was actually getting the process right most of the time, gave me such a boost, my whole attitude towards my writing changed.
      Do you have any other writers to support you and encourage you, ‘cos that’s important?

  13. Charlotte

    Love this post – thank you for sharing! <3

    • Ruthanne Reid

      You’re welcome, Charlotte!

  14. RAW

    That was the best Pep Talk I’ve had in a long time. And it came at just the right time.

    I self published a novel (Father John’s Gift) but got depressed because I’ve been unable to generate any sales or even any reviews by the few people who have read it. I thought it was good, (and I still do) but I’m forced to conclude the world sees it as junk. But you know what? I don’t care. I will press on. I will persist. Why? Because I write for myself, and I am unique! If no one sees my point then they are clearly wrong! ha, ha!

    But seriously, I watched an old film the other day. It was a 1951 black and white movie (on Netflix) entitled, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. I love that film. I have seen it a dozen times and know it by heart. It is classic Science Fiction and the 1951 special effects are cheesy. But besides telling a good story, it has an underlying message about the danger of nuclear weapons that still resonates today.

    Why did I tell you this? Because I want to write something that good! I want to write a story which will still resonate 100 years after I am dead. Write on. Write on. Write on!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Wow, I’m so glad to know it came at the right time! You’ve got the right idea there; sometimes, it’s really hard to get your work out there and seen by the right people. The important thing is to keep creating.

      If you want to write something that good, there’s no reason you can’t. It’s just going to take a lot of work – as it does for us all! Stephen King was right: read a lot and write a lot. There are no shortcuts.

      You can do this. Don’t give up.

  15. Ruthanne Reid

    You’re welcome! (Adorable jack-o-lantern!)

    • TerriblyTerrific

      Thank you!

  16. RAW

    I know this topic is a little off the subject but…

    I have started a blog and would like to try to make one blog entry per day. (This will keep me focused on writing.) I have been using Google Blogger but am told that Word Press is much better. Do any of you have (or know about) a favorite program you use to blog? Do you use your own web site hosted by a good company which is not too expensive?

    Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions you might pass on!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I personally love WordPress. It’s got the largest userbase and support out there, the most options for customization, and the best ease of sharing on any platform. 🙂

    • RAW

      Thanks Ruthanne! I will migrate to WordPress.com
      Do you get hits on your Blog?
      I have decided to write about our current political situation.
      How can I improve the odds that someone will see what I write? Any thoughts?

      R. Allan Worrell

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I don’t get a ton, but my focus is shuttling people to my books, not my blog. 🙂 I really suggest Jeff Goins’ stuff as a way to build your blog audience!

  17. Sheila B

    I relate to rule 8. I like to write but I have yet to feel fully engaged with one of my characters or stories, even when I’ve finished one. But persevering with the idea that one of these times, some character or story will really grab and engage me, as JK experienced inspired me today.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Sheila, that’s fantastic. It can be frightening to tackle that step – it means feeling what your characters feel, and in order for a story to be good, they HAVE to go through stuff.

      It’s worth it. That journey is worth it. You can do it!

  18. PoppaDom

    In the words of Howard Tayler – who knows of what he speaks, having gone from writing a webcomic for fun to making it his full time job – “Failure is not just an option, it’s mandatory. The question is whether it will be your last option.”

    • Ruthanne Reid

      That. Is. Fantastic. I’d not heard that quote before. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  19. Geri Lennon

    I just had an awful email telling me that our book is NO good. It came from my co authors wife after ONE rejection from an agent, and ONE comment from her daughter. The rest of the beta readers fabulous applause did not matter. Sigh. People don’t get the arduous walk toward publication. It is daunting and very much alone.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Negative responses are SO hard to get over; I know it all too well! My debut book in 2012 had great response, but the few negative reviews really threw me for a while. It takes a special kind of determination to keep going.

      It IS daunting, but it doesn’t have to be alone. A good writer’s group (note: a GOOD one, not one that rips you to shreds) can make all the difference.

  20. G M Sherwin

    I love this

    I work 12 hour days never have 3 young children and an exhausted wife. Discipline is all important for writing.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      It really is, GM! I know this is exhausting; you can do this – even if it’s just in five minute increments. Those add up!

  21. Lori Paradis

    “It smells different here”

    “It’s called fresh air”

    “It’s so dark!”

    “Look up, you can actually see the stars!”

    “There is nothing but cows and cornfields!”

    “And us, we have each other.”

    Norman breathed deeply and held his arms out and up above his head in complete contentment. Julie and their three children, Matt, Amy, and Karen stood staring at him. Julie was a ridged woman with a certain elegance about the way she held herself but in this instance, her mouth was hanging open slightly and giving her an comical look which was wholly foreign to her features.

    “I thought you said we would be at our new home tonight. I can’t handle another dirty Airbnb Norman. I just can’t!” her voice wobbled at the end of her sentence and was slightly too high pitched. Norman winced.

    “This isn’t another Airbnb sweety,” his words were at first cautious and then welled with enthusiasm, “this is our new home!” As Julie didn’t seem to comprehend, he gestured to the house in front of them. Sudden understanding dawned on her and she froze and became statuesque. Norman’s stomach flopped uncertainly. Julie was a high profile criminal lawyer in New York City. Nothing surprised her. It was her job to know everything. She knew her clients, knew all of the evidence, knew how the defense would construct their plea. She knew and counteracted every point prior to it happening. When taken off guard, which rarely happened, she froze contemplating everything before she made a move. Before she dropped a hammer on whatever contrivances the other party had concocted to uproot her. Norman would wait for the hammer to drop.

    Karen, eight-years-old with sunny, slightly mussed, blonde hair was the only other party in their family to be excited about the move. She had never seen a cow before and jumped on the wooden fence beside them attempted to peer into the night. Matt, 13 going on 30, decided to take matters into his own hands and do away with the unfamiliar darkness. He drew out his 18M Brite-Nite Mega Spotlight which lit up the scene. There, standing before them, was a stone house. It looked to be about 100 years old and there was yellow tape draped about the door and windows warning everyone to be cautious.

    “Are people supposed to be living here?” Matt asked. “It doesn’t look safe”

    “I’m sure this caution tape was placed here as a Halloween prank!” Laughed Norman but his eyebrows raised and then came down together as he saw how bleached the tape was from the sun and how many spiders had taken up residence, constructing their webs between the door and draped tape”

    “It says, condemned by the city of Masopeakwa” Amy read from a piece of paper that was nailed to the front door.

    “Well, there you have it. This is Wabash! There must be a rivalry from a town close by who did this as a prank.” He would later find out that their house had originally been charted under Masopeakwa 10 years ago before the county lines had been re-drawn.

    Norman and his family had a lot to learn about the county life. Two lessons they learned then and there on the front lawn of their new home. The first being that this would not be easy. The second being that one could not simply shine a light in a dark space without drawing out the nearby inhabitants of the night. Mainly, big juicy June bugs. The June bugs came crashing down on the little family from all sides, again and again, trying to stay close to the spotlight. And with that they all ran screaming into their new home.

  22. Einar Strandberg

    I find rule seven interesting–or, more specifically, the commentary on it. I got my start writing fanfiction: one day after several hours spent looking for a particular type of fanfiction (a “Peggy Sue”, where a character travels back in time, often mentally replacing themselves at the beginning of a story) I went “That’s it, I’ll just write one myself.”

    It was awful, of course. I haven’t looked at it pretty much since I posted it, but I know that it was awful. But the wonderful thing was that suddenly I didn’t have to go “Oh, that would be really cool–I should see if someone has a fanfic about that.” I didn’t have to dismiss these sudden moments where I desperately wanted some new twist on a story: I could write them myself.

    As time went on, my ideas became, well, better. They weren’t as superficial, or momentary: they became deeper, because I was learning how to think about stories, how to have ideas about stories. It’s an interesting process, and one that continues to this day–but the key to it all was going “These ideas mean something; I shouldn’t just discard them.”

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I LOVE this, Einar! What you experienced is the core of becoming a writer: the desire, the choice to write even if it’s not (yet) good, and the persistence to keep going. That you wrote something you wanted to see and couldn’t find is even better.

      Definitely don’t discard those ideas.

  23. aRcana

    Those are fantastic! Thank you for sharing! My favorite is: What you write becomes who you are…so love what you write.

    I recently sent a writing to a friend of mine that was based on events that happened to me with a fictional twist. His reaction was that of negativity and fear. Though that wasn’t what I was thinking when I wrote it (and he didn’t know the twist I was going to later add and he admitted that he was projecting his own knowledge of the situation into what he read), I realized that wasn’t what I wanted my readers to experience so I am careful now when I write, to read it over with a neutral perspective to try to see if it could be taken a way that isn’t intended.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      WOW! What an incredible experience – and what confirmation! Thank you for sharing this!

  24. Julie Franks-Murray

    Very heart-felt, informative, practical, entertaining read. Thanks!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Julie, I’m so glad to hear that. I really hope it helps you write!

  25. Noah Anum-Satsi

    Thank Youu

    • Ruthanne Reid

      You’re so welcome, Noah!

  26. Nisha

    thank you for the advice. it is really interesting.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I hope it helps you write, Nisha!

    • L D Elliott

      How sad that she could be so harsh for what is actually good advice. To call them rules is probably inaccurate, and Ms. Rowling probably should have politely asked Ruthanne to change the title to “8 great writing tips from JK Rowling.”

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Naw, there’s nothing to feel bad about here. I detect definite British sarcasm in her tweets – and the fact that she went on to give MORE rules (such as “write what’s in your heart, not what the market says will sell”) just made it even more fun for me. 😀

    • Alice Sudlow

      The funny thing is, these “rules” are her own words, taken from her past interviews. I suspect she objected to the idea of storytelling rules like “write a book with this many words” or “write a book about this kind of character,” but the takeaway here is really about discipline and choosing to write even when it’s hard, which is something I’m sure she’d agree with.

      That’s what comes of critiquing something without reading it. Don’t judge a book by its cover, as they say.

      (Of course, we in the Write Practice office are very excited she tweeted the article!)

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I know! She’s then went on to give more rules (including “don’t follow the rules,” which is a rule), and examples of them, such as knowing what’s out there in writing – e.g. school stories – and then writing what you want to write, regardless of whether it’s in fashion. Which is a rule.

      This whole thing has delighted me beyond words. 😀

    • nerd engage

      I guess she means to say is things work out differently for different people. You must have different rules of your own that work for you. But we love copying the style famous people, why not? 😀

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Well, none of these were about style. 🙂 They’re actually the same kind of advice that Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Steven Pressfield, and all the rest give! It just tends to carry weight when we see that writers we love also believe in those ideas.

  27. Kathryn Hack

    I love the part about writing what you love. The emotion shines through and readers can feel it, too! It is authentic.

  28. Jennifer Lilley Collins

    Rule one…making the time to write! I just decided that after the holidays, I’m going to go to the library on certain scheduled days and write. I can’t stay home because there are too many distractions. I can’t go to the local coffee shop because I will see too many people I know. I’m going to find a quiet spot at the library and write….even when I don’t feel “inspired”. I have learned that it comes. I just have to do it.

  29. Rachel Rose

    Rule Number Three is the one that most speaks to me. To define oneself as a writer is paramount.

  30. Peter Moles

    I think the hardest issue with writing (and probably any creative activity for that matter) is failure and how to deal with it.

    I have approached a few literary agents (are there any publishers in the FSF genre who will receive unsolicited manuscripts, by the way?) who basically either don’t respond or turn around and say “No thanks [thanks, optional]”

    Rowling is an interesting case of publishers’ remorse since she has been phenomenally successful. How do they expect to succeed in the creative sphere if they aren’t willing to take some risks in publishing?

    Anyway, for someone trying to get stuff published, getting reject emails — or nothing — this is probably the hardest thing. It delves deeply into the psyche of the creative process. I am not surprised that some give up at this point.

    But J.K. soldiered on and eventually made it.

    So there is hope!

  31. obxnc

    You use JK Row;ing to get people to click on your article, and then you diss her. You are using HER fame to benefit yourself, then talking crap about her. That’s disgusting.



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