How Long Did It Take To Write the Harry Potter Books?

Harry Potter is the most popular book series of all time – or, at least, the best-selling series of all time. Written by J.K. Rowling, it has taken the world by storm and led numerous writers to dream of replicating her success. However, there’s a lot for you to consider before you can start writing a series of this length, such as the time it takes to write it.

The Harry Potter books took 17 years to write. J.K. Rowling first thought of the series in 1990 and finished writing the first book in 1995 – six years in total. This book was published in 1997, and the seventh and last book of the series was published in 2007.

This article will explore the writing of Harry Potter in more detail, explaining how long each book took to write and giving some suggestions for why the first book took the longest. Additionally, it will also answer some other popular questions you may have about this series, including how long it took to make the movies and how long it would take you to read all the books.

How Long It Took To Write Each Harry Potter Book

As mentioned above, it took 17 years to complete the Harry Potter books, from when J.K. Rowling had the first thought for the series to when the seventh book was published. 

But the real question you’re likely asking yourself is, how long did it take to write each of these books?

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: The first book, as discussed above, took six years to write. It was written from 1990 to 1995 and, despite being the shortest book in the series, took the longest to write.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The second book took between one and three years to write and was published in 1998.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The third book took about a year to write and was published in 1999.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The fourth book took approximately another year to write and was published in 2000.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The fifth book took three years to write. It is the longest book in the series, coming in at 766 pages (UK version) and 870 pages (US version). It was published in 2003.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The sixth book took two years to write and was published in 2005.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The seventh book took two years to write and was finished in 2007.

But why did it take Rowling so much time to write her shortest book?

When we talk about the time taken to write the Harry Potter books, there are a few things that we must consider, which help explain the writing of these books a little more. 

For one, it’s essential to keep in mind that the lengths of time given above for each book are approximations. Aside from the first book, the times mentioned for the other books also include the time taken for editing and publishing. 

So, it is possible and probable that Rowling had finished writing the book at least a few months earlier. After she finished working on it, it would be sent to an editor. This would perhaps be followed by a few sessions of the manuscript going back and forth, with the editor suggesting changes and Rowling deciding whether or not to incorporate them.

Once the manuscript was ready, it would have to be sent to the publishers. There, other publishing elements had to be considered, such as designing the cover, creating the typography, and printing the books in the numbers necessary to meet the demand for them. 

So, while we don’t have proof of the same, it’s highly likely that Rowling’s writing time was shorter than the publishing dates imply.

However, we do not have information on the exact dates between Rowling starting and completing her books. In fact, Rowling herself may not have this information. Instead, we must depend on the publishing dates to get an approximation of the timeline.

This is also why we aren’t sure how long it took Rowling to write her second book. We know that she finished the first book in 1995 and that she published the second book in 1998. However, we do not know if she started writing the second book immediately after completing the first book or after she secured a publishing deal for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Another factor to consider is the presence of editors and agents. After the popularity of the first book, Rowling was given a multi-book contract and would likely have been given the help of dedicated editors. Some editors who worked on the books include Barry Cunningham and Arthur A. Levine.

However, before signing a deal with Bloomsbury Publishing, Rowling would have had to edit her first manuscript herself. 

Though it’s almost certain that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone went through at least one round of professional edits, this would have happened after Rowling signed with them in 1997. She would still have had to edit her manuscript before submitting it to agents and publishers for consideration, which would have taken some time.

Additionally, it’s essential to consider that while Rowling finished the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone manuscript after six years of writing, she was not only working on a single book in this period.

Rowling also spent the time creating the world of Harry Potter and fleshing out many of the characters in ways that only became evident in later books. 

It’s well known that portions of the later books had been written while Rowling wrote books one and two – for example, Rowling had sketched out much of what would become the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows “very early on.” She has also said that she had written the last chapter “in something like 1990.”

So, in a sense, Rowling didn’t spend six years writing a single book – she spent it writing one book, portions of six others, and creating an entire universe. It was because she had such a good understanding of the universe and what climax the books were building towards that she was able to write and publish the other six books in a relatively short amount of time.

Where Was Harry Potter Written?

Now that you know that the Harry Potter books were written over 17 years, your next question is likely, “Where were they written?”

J.K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter books in a flat in Clapham Junction, London. She also wrote portions of the book in Portugal. However, most of the books were written in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she moved in 1993.

As mentioned above, Rowling started writing the Harry Potter books in 1990, when she still lived in Manchester and London. Specifically, she has confirmed she started writing the books in a “flat in Clapham Junction.” 

She has also said that she worked on her first manuscript for several years until it was completed in 1995. She moved to Portugal in 1991 after losing her job in Manchester (and following her mother’s death). She spent two years there, marrying and separating from her first husband and having her first child.

In 1993, she moved to Edinburgh with her daughter – and the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Given this fact, there’s a good chance she worked on the book while she was in Portugal. 

She has also stated that she worked on a portion of the first book in a now-defunct hotel in Manchester – specifically, she has said that it was the birthplace of Quidditch.

However, she wrote most of the books in Edinburgh, where she moved in 1993. In Edinburgh, she worked on the books in her house – but more than that, she worked on them in local coffee houses and cafés. 

However, after the success of the first few books, she could no longer spend time at cafés. She was recognized by fans too often to be able to write, and instead, she started spending more time working at home. This changed for the final book – instead of working at home, she shifted to a hotel to complete it. 

While we do not know all the Edinburgh locations she spent time in when working on her books, there are a few that we do know. These include:

  • Spoon, located on Nicholson Street. She spent a significant amount of time in this location working on the first Harry Potter book. However, the café shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Elephant House. Though the café calls itself the “birthplace of Harry Potter,” it is more likely that Rowling worked on the second and third books of the series in this location. The venue was damaged due to a fire in 2021. However, the table used by Rowling to write her books managed to survive. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction.
  • Traverse Theatre. The café at the theatre opened in 1992, and Rowling did a significant amount of writing during this time at this café. In fact, it is here that she met John Tiffany, who would later direct Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the stage, years before they worked together.
  • Balmoral Hotel. This is the hotel in which Rowling worked on the seventh Harry Potter book. Specifically, she worked on the end of the book in room 552 and signed a marble bust in the room when she finished the book as proof of her stay there. The suite is now known as the J.K. Rowling Suite.

How Long Does It Take To Read the Harry Potter Books?

Cumulatively, the Harry Potter books have 1,084,170 words.

If your reading speed is an average of 300 words per minute, it will take about 60.23 hours, or two and a half days, to read the seven Harry Potter books. However, you may be able to read it faster, depending on your reading speed.

As expected, it will likely take you the most time to read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the longest book in the series. 

How Long Did It Take To Make the Harry Potter Movies?

The popularity of the Harry Potter series owes not only to the books but also to the enormously popular movies. In fact, many fans have only seen the films and haven’t read the books.

It took 12 years to make the eight Harry Potter films. Chris Columbus was appointed director for the first movie in March 2000, and Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Harry in the same year. Later in 2000, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were cast as Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

The first movie started filming in September 2000, and work on the movie ended in July 2001. The following movies were filmed soon after:

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets started filming in November 2001, three days after the first film’s release, and concluded in July 2002.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban started filming in February 2003 and finished in November of the same year.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire started with principal photography in May 2004 and concluded in March 2005.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix started shooting in February 2006 and concluded in December of the same year. This period included a two-month break to allow Radcliffe (then 17) and Watson (then 16) to sit for exams.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was filmed from September 2007 to May 2008.
  • Principal photography for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) began in February 2009. Though it was released separately from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2), both films were shot together, and filming on the two movies (and the series as a whole) concluded in June 2010.

There are several reasons for the time between the end of filming and the movie’s release. After filming, a movie first has to be edited, after which the final cut is approved by the directors, producers, and distributors. 

Additionally, production and distribution companies plan release dates carefully to maximize their projected profits. In the case of the Harry Potter movies, they likely knowingly scheduled the releases to ensure some time between the release of each movie, especially with the last two films.

Final Thoughts

Writing the Harry Potter books took J.K. Rowling about 17 years – however, given the series contains seven books, she wrote them relatively quickly. This is because she had spent the first six years building the world of Harry Potter, and, once she had published the first book in 1997, she wrote and published the other six within a decade.

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