July 27, 2011
I finished the Harry Potter series several years ago but having just watched the last movie, I want to state how much I admire J.K. Rowling.
When Harry Potter first moved into the limelight, everyone loved the series, then of course, the nay-sayers found voice. I don’t want to pretend here that I find the Harry Potter series the best literature I’ve ever read, or that I believe J.K. Rowling to be the most adept wordsmith, but the truth is, what Rowling did is phenomenal. Her story is immense—and because it was being published as she wrote it, she couldn’t go back and fix things. My heart races and sweat drips from my brow at the mere thought of it.
The idea of publishing part of a story before the full story is written terrifies me. In a stand-alone novel, if I get near the end and decide that it would work better if the protagonist didn’t have a brother, I can go back and fix it—or turn him into a sister. If the strange rash that breaks out on her hands in chapter two doesn’t evolve into anything, I can go back to chapter two and delete the whole rash incident. If J.K. Rowling had decided that it would be better for Harry’s …. well, I can’t even think about what she might have wanted to change because she couldn’t “fix” anything. She was forced to work with what she had previously decided, and she was able to make it work. Always. Stupendous!
In addition to being unable to revise those early books, J.K. Rowling was under an incredible amount of pressure. Can you imagine trying to finish a story when you know millions—MILLIONS! of people are waiting to see what you write? And they want you to hurry. What if you don’t feel like writing today? What if the characters stop talking to you? What if the story has become boring to you? J.K. Rowling had to finish, with critics and fans and practically everyone in the world looking over her shoulder.
Some people will lean back and rub their fat stomachs and say, “Well, she got paid a lot of money for all that,” as though money causes the creative process to flow smoothly and perfectly. I don’t think money is the recompense so many people seem to think it is.
As much as I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and as much as I’d love to write something that was as beloved as the Harry Potter series, I don’t think I would ever want to write under that kind of pressure.
I realize J.K. Rowling will never read this blog, I will pretend for a moment that she is:
Well done! Brilliant! <insert standing ovation>