How Did J.K. Rowling Learn To Write?

Harry Potterbooks have catapulted J. K. Rowling into stardom like no other writer. Rowling’s created some of the most memorable characters and magic spells, but we don’t often think about the laborious process of writing and coming up with the material. So, how did J. K. Rowling learn to write such complex books?

J.K. Rowling always wrote stories and novels (unpublished) since she was a small girl. She studied French and Classics in college, developing her reading and writing talent, and draws inspiration from her difficult life experiences when writing.

In this article, I’ll mention a few aspects that helped J. K. Rowling learn to write the excellent books that many love. Rowling’s personal story shows you don’t have to come from a wealthy family or rely on writing classes to be good at writing. A little imagination and some hard work can be just enough to make you a successful writer.

Did J. K. Rowling Take Writing Classes?

In the age of all kinds of online and in-person masterclasses, it’s a good question to ask if J. K. Rowling — the highest-earning author — took some writing classes herself. No one can be that successful without attending writing classes, right?

Well, there’s no evidence that J. K. Rowling ever attended any writing classes in her life. First, her family wasn’t well-off and couldn’t afford to pay for writing classes. Later in her adolescence, Rowling became a single mother without a job and lived in poverty, and all the money she had she spent on food and bills.

In fact, when publishers refused to print the first Harry Potter book (yes, that happened), one of the publishers advised the aspiring Rowling to take some writing classes, which she didn’t end up doing.

We also know that J. K. Rowling isn’t a fan of those masterclasses. So when a poster for one writing class appeared with her picture (without her knowing), she took the issue to Twitter and wrote: “Don’t waste your money, people.” Rowling proves that attending writing classes doesn’t mean you’ll become rich and famous, and you can write without taking them.

So how didJ. K. Rowling learn to write? Let’s look at how J.K. Rowling developed her ability to write.

Things That Helped J. K. Rowling Learn How To Write

J. K. Rowling wasn’t born with this exceptional writing talent, but she had a passion for it and used her experiences and life stories to shape her writing. We’ll look at how Rowling’s earlier years influenced her novels later.

J. K. Rowling’s Formal Education May Have Influenced Her Writing

J. K. Rowling wanted to go to Oxford University and study writing, but after being rejected, she decided to try something else. She applied to the University of Exeter and studied French and the Classics.

Although Rowling doesn’t have a degree in a writing-related field, her education at the University of Exeter involved plenty of reading and writing. Rowling herself wrote that one of the most important things for writers is reading as much as possible.

Studying the Classics can be a nerve-racking experience that trains your brain like nothing else. J. K. Rowling could’ve used all that knowledge from classical literature to see what works best for fictional works. Traces of classical literature be seen in the Harry Potter books in the spell names, for instance.

Rowling’s Personal History Played an Important Role

As I mentioned, J. K. Rowling didn’t grow up in a wealthy home, and her adolescent years weren’t that charming either. She lived in Portugal briefly and moved to Scotland with her daughter after she and her husband ended their marriage. After becoming unemployed, she received welfare, her only income for some time.

All of this helped Rowling to grow as a writer, and she recognized that different personalities could live in your mind and share all your emotions, good and bad. That’s why Rowling knows how to write deep characters like Harry, who go through various emotional states.

According to an Insider article, she used her personal experience with depression to base the Dementors around.

Writing Involves Training and Practice

We often think of writers as people who just sit around and wait for great inspiration that pours words onto a page. The truth is, writing books is just a job like any other, and you need to take a portion of time to:

  • Plan
  • Write
  • Reread
  • Make corrections

J.K. Rowling usually writes for around six hours a day, and she likes to create pages and pages of text, even though she knows most of it won’t be in a book. She knows that writing’s a passion, but it can also pay the bills if you practice enough and train your writing skills.

Planning as a Good Writing Strategy

J.K Rowling isn’t secretive about her planning tables, and she believes you must prepare a plan for complex plotlines and deep characters. That’s what Rowling did for all her books, and it makes things easier in the long run.

Rowling draws tables with different characters and writes down what each central character needs to go through throughout the book. She might also add some personal background information for some characters.

Here’s a video of Rowling explaining her planning process for a Harry Potter book:

The critical thing about writing for Rowling is to take the appropriate time to develop a story and work on it for as long as necessary. Read my article How Long Did It Take To Write the Harry Potter Books? to see how many years Rowling spent writing each book in the series.

Final Thoughts

You can become a successful writer with a love for writing and hard work. J.K. Rowling always loved writing, even as a small girl, and she had to learn her craft “the hard way.”

J. K. Rowling learned to write through these life moments and strategies:

  • She studied French and the Classics.
  • Rowling incorporated her difficult life to write more complex stories.
  • She approaches writing like a job that needs constant training.
  • Before writing, Rowling plans character developments and plot twists.


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