Without further ceremony, I'm going to turn today's post over to Susan for some insights about J.K. Rowling and the writing process.
A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter and the Lasting Impression of J.K. Rowling
by S.P. Sipal
Harry Potter made a lasting impression on JK Rowling. And, no, I'm not talking about the billions she made off of telling his story. I'm referring to something a little deeper and more emotional.
You've heard the story I'm sure, about how how Rowling met Harry while waiting on a train headed for Kings Cross in London. She didn't have anything to write with, and so she sat and pondered for the four hours while the train was delayed. In that time she asked herself questions that would in time form the plot of the story that was to enthrall fans around the world.
But Rowling did not rush to publish. She spent five years developing that story. Five years in which life happened. She lost her mother, a traumatic event that left a strong impression on the development of her series. Rowling moved from England to Portugal, where she married and had a baby. Then divorced. Back to the UK to Edinburgh, where she became a single mother living on the British welfare system.
Still, Harry kept her company. She worked on Philosopher's Stone diligently, through walks about town until her baby fall asleep, then scribbling madly in cafes. She took time, lots of it, devising all the backstory that she would throw into 15 versions of the first chapter and then relentlessly take out until there was nothing left but pure mystery. Time to create an intriguing antihero, Severus Snape, who would keep readers spellbound as to the nature of his loyalty for 7 complete books. Time to devise all the rules of magic that filled a world so fantastically fun, fans longed for their own letter to Hogwarts. Time for a plot so thoroughly thought-out that she could sprinkle Sirius Black's name into the first chapter of the first book though his story would not take place until the third.
Even once her story was taking shape, Rowling did not act quickly. No, she delayed submissions while she pondered and plotted a seven-book series before even submitting the first. Like we're all told not to do.
Nor did things happen quickly for her once she submitted. Philosopher's Stone was rejected by agents before being acquired by Christopher Little. The story was then rejected by 12 publishers until finally landing at a small house. The first print run was only 500 books (some sources say 1000). Either way, Harry Potter did not get a big marketing push out of the publishing gate. He got his start the old-fashioned way--word of mouth from playground to playground.
When we see how far Harry and his headmistress have come, it's sometimes hard to believe that it took seven years to bring his story to life. And that the little orphan Boy-who-Lived has lived in JK Rowling's imagination now for 26 years. Over half her life.
This lengthy brew is in high contrast to what I see so often from authors around me... mostly myself. There is such a strong need within many of us to rush to publish that we sometimes put out work that is not our best. We often forget that the slower the cook, the more delicious the meat.
For myself, I believe that my rush to submit is the downside of being an optimist in a glass-half-empty publishing business. I'm always so hopeful, so positive of what excites me about my work, so confident in my ability to work hard and fix what's wrong that I forget that I'm sending my stories out to people who don't know me at all. Into slush piles with other writers as equally determined and hard-working. Into a very tight market that's flooded with wonderfully written and highly creative stories.
Publishing, though, has a way of slowing you down. I released the original version of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter with my usual excellent timing, just as the Harry Potter fandom was winding down from the end of the last movie. Thus I've had several more years to deepen and sharpen the material in this book I've been working on now for twelve long years. Both virtually and physically, I've presented it at writing conferences and fan symposiums, at home and abroad, at schools and colleges. I've learned from the numerous fans and writers with whom I've been fortunate enough to meet along the way. I've slowly nurtured these ideas, and am thankful to Deep River Press for so skillfully and carefully publishing the updated and expanded 5th year anniversary edition.
Rowling thought Harry had wound down for her. She didn't plan to revisit his story. But the world she created had been such a part of her life for so long that she couldn't let it go completely....nor could her fans. So now she's revisiting it, nine years later. The stories have been once again brewing in her mind, though now she's taking her reader for a spin as she crosses into new formats and storylines.
I'm especially looking forward to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the fall. With a new film trilogy to span four years, I believe fans are ensured that Rowling will be hiding as many clues and red herrings as she did in the original series. I'm preparing myself for the hunt to discover them all.
I'm also excited that we writers will have more to learn from Rowling herself. In writing this, I realize that in addition to all the other insights that I've shared in A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter about how she wove a spell over entire generations of readers, perhaps the greatest lesson she has to teach us is about taking the time to simmer our skills and stories.
If we want our stories to make a lasting impression on our reader, we have to first allow them to make a lasting impression within ourselves.
To celebrate the release of both A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter and JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I'm giving away a copy of Cursed Child + a complete paperback box set of the Harry Potter series! US mailing only.
The same winner will receive ALL EIGHT BOOKS!
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About the Book:
|A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter|
Improve Your Writing with Harry Potter as Your Text!
The Harry Potter magic lives on as J.K. Rowling expands her wizarding world into new stories and formats. For five years, writers and fans from all continents have used A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter to delve beneath her pages' surface to discover the skill and artistry which created a story that enchanted audiences across generations. In this newly revised and expanded edition, S.P. Sipal takes you even deeper than before, exploring new techniques, and even peering into the artistic and marketing vision behind the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
No matter your genre, this guide will help you strengthen your writing by virtually apprenticing under a bestselling mentor. Through fifteen lessons, discover the expert techniques Ms. Rowling employs which makes her series such a phenomenal success and which will help improve your own craft and style.
myths and archetypes
and author-driven publishing and promotion.
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