Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, November 11, 2010

J.K. Rowling and the Art of Being a Clutch Writer

In sports there's an elusive and important quality called clutchness: the ability to deliver under pressure. From Michael Jordan to Robert Horry to Joe Montana, there have always been performers who rise to the occasion, even beyond the occasion, when it matters the most. Through determination, focus, imperviousness to pressure, they come up big when it counts.

If there were ever a clutch writer, it's J.K. Rowling.

But what does that mean for writing? In sports, clutchness means hitting a big shot, leading a winning touchdown drive, or getting an important hit when it matters. One play or a couple of plays requiring focus and determination.

To be a clutch writer is something else entirely. It's a long, slow burn of dealing with daily distractions while staying on course. It's a marathon, not a few key moments of focus.

J.K. Rowling had to have faced some of the greatest pressure of any modern writer. Not only was she hugely successful, but we're now in the era of paparazzi and the Internet. While, yes, I would assume phenomenal success does come with its rewards, it also surely comes with manifold distractions: the pressure of living up the expectations of a rabid fan base, sudden loss of privacy, lawsuits from nutjobs, not to mention the temptation of resting on one's laurels and letting your writerly guard down.

And that's what's so amazing to me about Rowling. She never stopped improving. While Order of the Phoenix was my favorite in the series, that has more to do with its place in the series rather than the overall quality of the writing and the work, which just kept getting better. And in order to get better at something you can't be self-satisfied and think you've made it and become convinced of your own genius. You have to keep digging deep and keep being skeptical of yourself and keep trying to spot your own flaws and resist the temptations that come along with success. And that is hard!!

That's what's clutch about J.K. Rowling. She led us on seven consecutive touchdown drives over the course of ten years, never wavering in focus and quality, and always coming up big when it mattered the most.

And maybe some of that ability to stay grounded has to do with her phenomenal track record in charitable giving. Wikipedia has a whole section devoted to the many ways she's given back, including a recent £10 million donation to multiple sclerosis research.

That is perhaps the most inspiring thing of all - you can be both a phenomenally successful writer and a great human.

But it doesn't hurt to be clutch.

Image source






76 comments:

craveVSworld said...

It's nice to see a piece on children's literature related to the sports world. Interesting perspective and insight. A fun read!


Crave Cravak
www.cravewriting.wordpress.com

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

It's now hard to imagine the world without the Harry Potter series. It's kind of like trying to imagine the world without Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and other greats =). I can't wait to see what comes next from others as well as JK Rowling. What will the world be unable to live without next?

The Survival Mama said...

Not only is she an inspiration as a writer, humanitarian, but as a mom. I watched a recent interview with her and it was inspiring to see where she's been and how some of her lowest lows were fuel for the highest highs.

Great comparison! She is the Michael Jordan of authors. (or maybe Milsap the other night :)

The Survival Mama

Nicole L Rivera said...

Love J.K. Rowling, especially the picture of her reading her own book. I've often wondered how that would feel. You book is published, the world loves (that's and understatement) it, but can you separate yourself from your memory of writing it to sit down and enjoy the wonderful world of Harry Potter? I mean, she's seen the first draft. She knows all the stuff we don't that never made the final cut. Can she separate from that? If not I feel bad for her, because it is awesome!

Rick Daley said...

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE) has a great TED talk in which she discusses (among other things) the pressure of following up a hit, and the fear that she'll never be able to do it again.

I imagine her pangs are a drop in the bucket compared to the pressure Rowling was under as she wrapped up each installment in her series.

It's tough to keep a story going that long. Look at how many TV series "jump the shark" around the fifth season. Plot lines become absurd. Character quirks are over-exploited and evolve into absurd caricatures, taking what was once unique and charming and morphing it into something ridiculous.

WORD VERIFICATION: stiesin. Opposite of when (hi)s tie's out? That's a tough one. I think my word verification jumped the shark.

Sidni M. said...

I really enjoyed this sports/writing metaphor. And you're right, Rowling just keeps improving as a writer. A goal for all of us to have.

Patrice said...

I agree that she got better and better. If you look back at the first charming book, it was far less sophisticated than the last. Rowling grew in ability as her readers aged up (my older daughter kept pace, pretty much, with Harry's age as she read the books) and the novels matured accordingly.

But does anyone agree that they were sometimes bloated? That if she hadn't been such a huge phenom, she might have been edited more tightly?

Pamela Hammonds said...

Nice post, Nathan. She's always seemed like such a talented class-act. And I'll always credit her for turning my son into a reader.

Joseph L. Selby said...

I got pulled into the series by the movies. I was going to wait until all the movies were out before reading the books, but after seeing the 4th one, I gave up and read the books. By the time I got to the sixth book, I would actually read it at red lights. While she has flaws (unnecessary bloat), I am not on the bandwagon that hates JKR just because she's successful.

With that in mind, I contend that she is clutch in that she's a quarterback that mounts an end-of-game two-minute drive and on the last play of the game, slides into a tackle rather than taking the hit and scoring a touchdown (the fundamental difference between Dan Marino and John Elway, incidentally).

She built the entire literary world into a frenzy and when it came to the 7th and final book, she completely collapsed under the pressure. She had established so many challenges for the seventh book (learning how to cast without speaking, facing off against Snape before meeting Voldemort, etc) that were completely ignored in the last book.

The seventh book is the perfect example of what goes wrong when you try to preach with your writing. It took a hard left turn, left its main characters complaining in the woods for 300 pages, then rammed home a conclusion disparate to the groundwork previously lain.

A clutch player pulls out the W at the end. The end was the seventh book and JKR folded like a rookie drafted too early.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Agreed! I also love that she gives back to help others.

I'm with Pamela, J.K. Rowling has been a tremendous influence on my young daughter's life, both academically and personally!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

This is a timely post for NaNoWriMo participants. Each day I have to push myself to put down 1667 words, well out of my normal daily writing word count, despite obligations of work and family. And each late night as I plug in my word count, I go to bed knowing I'll have to get up and do it again tomorrow. J.K. Rowling is a great inspiration to us!

lindsey said...

So true, Nathan.

Here's my image of Rowling's final clutch touchdown: My daughter and I are standing in the parking lot of BookPeople in Austin, Texas. It is the midnight release of the seventh book. Thousands of people up and waiting. The Austin Symphony is playing Hedwig's Theme. Bookstore employees and fans are dressed as HP characters. All manner of games, mazes and foods related to the world of HP are tucked into different areas of the parking lot. My daughter looks around at some of the fans and says, "They're so old." (She was ten, 'they' were 20-somethings.) And that's when I got Rowling's amazing play: She reached generations of readers with this story. She created a world and we all entered in. Parents, grandparents, children, teens...we all know what a muggle is.
What a run, what a marathon.

coffeelvnmom said...

For some reason the song "Don't Stop Believin' " popped into my head. I think it's wonderful that an author who worked so hard can be such a great inspiration to so many writers. And I didn't know about her donating money for the MS cause - thanks for sharing that. My mother has MS. It's such a frustrating and debilitating disease, but for some reason it always seems to take the back burner compared to more "popular" causes people walk/donate/speak up for in the media.

Mira said...

Joseph, I agree that Deathly Hallows needed work - I suspect they stopped editing her once she became uber-popular - but I think folding would have looked different. DH was still very satisfying, and many people's favorite of the series, if you look at yesterday's poll.

Personally, I deeply admire J.K. for even writing the book at all. I think I would have been a gibbering mess under that kind of pressure - especially the last book - where basically the whole world is watching you and pressuring you to produce something astounding. I would have cracked, cracked, cracked. I can handle pressure around some things, but not about writing.

I like your point, Nathan, that a Clutch writer, unlike in Sports where it comes down to a quick moment, has to sustain their momentum over a very long period of time. That takes a different strength of heart and intention. Not less, not more, maybe, just different. You have to have an intense level of trust and faith to maintain under that - and I think Rowling is just amazing for not becoming completely blocked. I can think of another writer who is dealing with a similar thing, who is totally stalled at moving their series along despite intense pressure from their fans. Visibly stalled for years. My heart goes out to that person.

Dealing with celebrity - that's something rather new for writers - and for those of us who are introverted, private, sensitive and terrified of both failure and success, I think J.K. Rowling is a role model - a testament to the 'just do it. it's important' method of meeting an intense challenge.

terryd said...

On behalf of those of us working on second books, with deadlines that are beginning to resemble garrotes, I thank you.

Great post. Hope your second book is going well.

hannah said...

I love the books. But. I don't love the amount of time she spent between them.

The gaps were ridiculous at times (before and after OotP). Part of being clutch, I think, is being able to make your deadline. I can only imagine how many times her publisher had to bump hers forwards.

Chris Phillips said...

Interesting/good topic.

Anonymous said...

I also noticed right away that she was learning how to write better as she went. The leap her skill took from the first to the second book was phenomenal. And then her stride just kept on getting better and better.

What an inspiration.

Nicole Zoltack said...

J.K. was definitely a clutch writer. With her wild success, it probably would have been all too easy for her to rest on her laurels and turn in sub-par stories as the series went on. Instead she got better with each book. The overreaching arch, the plots in the individual books, the character developments, everything worked together to give us the story of Harry Potter and his life. She's a huge inspiration.

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

Imagine if you will, not only millions of book fans waiting for your next or even last installment, but even more movie fans and even Hollywood itself, waiting for the next book so they can know what the next movie will be. So much pressure!
May we as struggling authors, get and successes at such endeavors. May we use her as our example.

Mary E. Ulrich said...

"To be a clutch writer is something else entirely. It's a long, slow burn of dealing with daily distractions while staying on course. It's a marathon, not a few key moments of focus." This is my new favoritist quote.

Mystery Robin said...

You know who isn't clutch? Alex Rodriguez, but perhaps that's a topic for another day...

I agree about Rowling. Every book was beautiful. None of them let the reader down. While the characters grew and changed, you never feel like they aren't being themselves or that they're just puppets for the writer. And under so much pressure... it really is astounding.

Theresa Milstein said...

If I could meet any writer alive today, it would have to be J.K. Rowling. 5 was my favorite because it upped the ante, but I agree that 6 and 7 were amazing as well. It must've been pressure I couldn't imagine to keep topping herself, but she did it.

And she does seem like great human as well.

Anita Saxena said...

I agree that J.K. Rowling scored seven touch downs, but I think she did more than that, she got the two point conversion on each one.

Livia said...

Funny, because I tend to think she peaked at book 3 and 4. The later books seem to lose their focus, and I was also disappointed in book 7, and parts of five and six. Of course, this is not to say that Rowling can't still write circles around me while blindfolded with one arm tied behind her back, but comparing her books to each other, those are my thoughts.

James said...

Okay, okay, hold on.

First off, I think she's an excellent writer for all reasons thoroughly covered in this weeks posts.

But!!

Both the Chamber of Secrets & the Half Blood Prince didn't do all that much. They were fun to read, but after I read the Half Blood Prince I felt like I had gotten a bug-crusher sized book made up primarily of exposition. Dumbeldore simply filling in the cracks.

I would have liked her to find new tricks to move her plots forward. How many times did we have to learn some big plot point by the kids hiding below a table or behind a curtain, etc etc and overhearing a conversation? Plot was very often spoon fed to them & us instead of...you know, happening. That invisibility cloak was a masterful plot wrench.

And I'm not saying it wasn't enjoyable, but I think when she put together the 7 year story structure she hacked herself off at the knees in a way. She had this whole world to explore and sometimes I felt she just plain had too much to room to bounce around in with this 7 book structure she set forth from the start. So we got books like HBP (CoS is no big deal, she was still working stuff out then) that pretty much were just plaster filling in the structure.

And the size of the books...

I dunno, I loved them too, believe me. But you have to admit...it bloated. I think I'm responding primarily to the sacred cow nature of JK Rowling worship. She's an INCREDIBLE writer, but sometimes everything reads like she did everything perfectly. And that doesn't do any writer trying to learn how to write any good.

So her clutchiness - in my mind - wasn't as concise as Renteria knocking that ball out of the park in Game 5.

As an addendum to yesterday's post, I outlined & plotted out every plot point and chapter spin in Prisoner of Azkaban. The woman was at her height of powers with that book. If the whole series were as tight and if she had explored other basic plot wrenches beyond that blasted invisibility cloak, I'd be worshipping her myself.

But the market demands more work and now, doesn't it? :) One can hardly blame her.

She's a fantastic human. We need more like her.

Josin L. McQuein said...

I see that some people have complained about the "gaps" between Rowling's books...

*surgically removes tact*)

Writers don't owe the people reading a quick pay-off, and often the more said readers complain about the weight and their "right" to a speedy resolution they make the writer lock down. (Either by choice or by initiating writer's block.)

I've seen how thick some of those books are, and I have to wonder if there wouldn't be just as many complaints if she'd broken the larger ones into multiple volumes. Sure, it would have (maybe) shortened the wait time, but it would have meant buying more books.

I'm sure those gaps were no picnic for her, either, considering how many derivative stories had time to pop-up and then their authors turned around to claim she'd stolen their story components.t

Elizabeth Mueller said...

I truly feel that Rowling was inspired of God to write the series. Where does passion that deep and well-rounded come from?

You're right, it doesn't hurt to be a clutch writer. Success is also a gamble with everyone else. It's all subjective.

Gotta love writing!

~Elizabeth :)

Tahereh said...

hells. yes.

sing it!

Kim said...

Hi Nathan! Just for fun, let's start a talk about our brushes with Harry Potter people...here are my glory day memories:
My two brushes with Harry Potter fame:


1. I had breakfast with Arthur Levine (American publisher of the Harry Potter series Arthur A. Levine Books and one of Ms. Rowling's two best friends in the world). Okay, so A.L. and I were at separate tables, but we were inches apart!

2. At the lake in front of my house, I bumped into actor Devon Murray, the star who plays Seamus Finnigan. When I saw him, I said hello because I knew that I knew him…I thought maybe he was familar because he's a waiter at one of the restaurants I frequent. But when we spoke, I quickly figured out who he is (with his thick accent, it didn’t take much of a detective to do the math.)
My full J.K. Rowling story is on my blog www.kimscritiquingcorner.blogspot.com

PatriciaW said...

As much as I love the Harry Potter series, I have to disagree. See, those other people that you named, they became known as "clutch" players because they did what they did--hit a big shot, threw a touch down, created a top 10 hit--over and over and over.

I guess you could consider Rowling in that context, if you look at each book individually as opposed to on a series basis. But I see Rowling's series as a single entity, more like Jackson's Thriller album, an unprecedented success to be sure. To be known as a "clutch" writer, though, she has to come out with huge, maybe not as big, completely unique hits several more times.

Bane of Anubis said...

How much does it hurt to write Robert Horry's name? :)

Perry said...

Spot on. I have been disappointed too many times be authors who don't even keep the level of storytelling and writing as the go through a series.

As you point out, readers expect improvement as the series unfolds. And the more you write, the better you usually get.

I think it gets hard to write another story in a series and be fresh and exciting, but at that point it's not about the author, it's about the reader. As an author, you build the expectations in a series and you need to deliver.

D.G. Hudson said...

Sometimes the timing is just right too. At the time Harry Potter became popular, there wasn't a lot of good writing for kids 8-13. Rowling had the right product for the right time -- it's the perfect age for fantasy reading -- before the child becomes a teen.

Rowling is a survivor. Survivors don't give up, ever.

Enjoyed the post, Nathan.

Matthew Rush said...

Another thing I have always loved about Rowling was her insistence that all the actors in the films be British. I realize some people may find that ethnocentric or arrogant or something but I think that's foolish.

She had a vision for her story, knew how she wanted it told, and stuck to her guns. I have the utmost respect for that.

Hart Johnson said...

I have a friend who runs an... I'll call it an arts foundation in London, since it isn't my story, that received a donation from her. My friend, at an event, gave her a thank you card and apparently she is also incredibly gracious--she was so appreciative of just that simple gesture when most people around her were lining up to have books signed... yes, truly a class act in every way. I think her integrity though, also plays into her success--not willing to sell movie rights until they agreed to keep the stories based on the books--had she sold out anywhere, they may not have done what they did.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate how difficult it must have been to reference Robert Horry for you.

M.A.Leslie said...

She is one of the most influential people in our time. It is amazing to think that she was passed by so many people before she got her yes. Not only was she a clutch writer, but she was determined. Thank all that is good that she just kept writing.

E. Elle said...

If I can be one millionth the quality writer that J.K. Rowling is, I will consider myself a success.

I love reading about the many ways people who achieve notoriety use it for Dumbledore instead of Voldemort.

Er, I mean, good instead of evil.

Anonymous said...

Rowling's progress and endurance as a writer reminds me of Richard Bachman's, aka Stephen King, The Long Walk. For that matter, it's a metafictional description of any writer's journey.

hannah said...

Josin--but it's business. Books need to come out at predictable, reliable times. It's cold and it's cruel, but it's just the truth. Plenty of other writers make their deadlines, and it's insulting to them to act like it's an arbitrary thing that must have been easy for them. It's not.

Jan Markley said...

I think we all have to be a bit of a clutch writer - the slow steady burn whilst dealing with lots of distractions - I like that. Did I just use the word 'whilst'?!

Anonymous said...

When you place someone on a pedestal, they have a tendency to fall off.

Not with the HP series, obviously, but God forbid JKR try to write something else and be lambasted because it doesn't go further and reach higher than HP.

As good as Stephen King is, some of his cavalcade of books wouldn't be considered publishable if he WEREN'T Stephen King. I know, I've read them. They read like second drafts. Is that a clutch writer? Or is that a writer whose name is so big they can get anything published, even if it may not be up to par?

When Grisham got a million dollar advance for a MG series, I thought to myself -- wow, how does he do it? Writing for adults and now kids, two very different markets. Guess what? He isn't doing it. I got halfway through the first one before my eyes started bleeding. He got away with TONS of crap that no other MG author would ever, or should ever, get away with.

Mira said...
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Mira said...
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Josin L. McQuein said...

She didn't sell all 7 books at once. (Her original contract was rather small, actually with an average advance and below average print run) She fulfilled the contract for the initial sale, and the subsequent books were sold after. THAT's the difference in the timetable.

By the time book 4 started setting records, her publisher was working on HER timetable for the rest of them, not the other way around.

She's under no obligation to adhere to terms that don't exist.

Mira said...

Hannah, I was arguing with you, but then I took my comments down because I don't want to argue with you. :)

I think J.K. Rowling walks on water and can do no wrong. Ever. She's perfect. Everything I want to be as a writer. I'll just leave it at that.

Jeff S Fischer said...

Nice image. As always, Nathan comes through. What position would that place you? Offensive line coach? Offensive coordinator?

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I clutch some chocolate chip muffins pretty hard. Does that count?

hannah said...

Josin--Fair enough. Didn't know about the broken up contracts--I'd wondered about that, actually.

Mira--I love her books. And God knows it worked for her. I just think it's worth mentioning that it's an aspect of her career that isn't going to work for a lot of people.

I've had a lot of people point out JKR as an exception to rules for me, which is fine--she IS an exception! The problem is, people think that the fact that she's an exception invalidates the rule.

It doesn't. By all logic, Harry Potter--the hype, the 7 book long series, the absolute love of it--should't have happened. It was like the publishing world getting struck by lightening. And I'm so, so glad it happened, but it isn't something we can count on happening again, and that's what worries me when people idealize her career.

(I know someone's probably thinking "wait, but Twilight did the same thing." No it did not. Twilight was big advance and big print run. The success was, I'm sure, more than anyone expected, but it did not come out of nowhere the way Harry Potter's did.)

It's an amazing story and an amazing series, but I hesitate to laud JKR as a career model. She's fantastic, the books are fantastic, but taking that long between books is not something that's going to fly for most authors. And I think that's worth pointing out when we're talking about her as role model for writers.

By all means, dream about her kind of success. But also prepare for the likelihood that you'll have to churn out books fairly quickly. It's just the reality.

Other Lisa said...

Wow. Yes. Great post.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Clutch? The new entry, number 72 in my Book of Words.

JK is my hero.

The only time I turned pages, instead of read, was Harry on the moor in book 7.
The final section sounded and felt like book 1 - I guess that was when she conceived it.

Mira said...

Hannah - you make some good points. I think she is the exception rather than the rule.

And I realize that J.K. had to prove herself before she was given the type of latitude she probably was given (or demanded) in the latter books.

But, I have to gently disagree, she is a career model for me! Because that's my goal. I want to be such a good writer that I have POWER. I probably won't use it as wisely as Rowling did. I mostly just want to boss everyone around. I want them to cower when I walk into the building, and run at my beck and call and get me ONLY the green M&M's or I get to throw a temper tantrum.

Boy, that sounds like so much fun.

But I do tend to dream big, Hannah. :)

Anyway, good discussion. :)

hannah said...

Mira--totally make not having rules the goal, just realize that you have to follow rules before you get there. And we're good. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm usually just a lurker on your site because you get so many comments. I just wanted to say how much I've been enjoying the posts this week. I love the Harry Potter series. It rekindled my love of fantasy and got me to start writing.

Hope your new job is going well.

Courtney Odell said...

I completely agree Nathan. Rowling is phenomenal! I wish she would write and On Writing book/ autobiography. I think it would be very insightful.

Anonymous said...

"As good as Stephen King is, some of his cavalcade of books wouldn't be considered publishable if he WEREN'T Stephen King. I know, I've read them. They read like second drafts. Is that a clutch writer? Or is that a writer whose name is so big they can get anything published, even if it may not be up to par?"

Many big name artists are like that. Take the Beatles, for example. We would never have Yellow Submarine, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, or Strawberry Fields if some other band had made them. But because it was the Beatles, and all the popularity that it implies, we have those songs.

Back on topic, I would like to say that J. K. Rowling is one of my favorites authors, but not necessarily the best, for all reasons pointed out above: she was able to consistently turn in epicness.

J. T. Shea said...

I thought Americans didn't do clutches? But 'automatic transmission writers' doesn't sound quite right...

Matthew, some of the Harry Potter actors, notably Richard Harris, the original Dumbledore, were Irish.

Hannah, if you truly believe that you'll have to churn out books fairly quickly, then it will be true for you. Everyone is an exception to one or more rules. No two writers have the same career, any more than any two writers write the same book. J. K. Rowling wrote seven HP books, mostly long, at an average of one every two years since 1996. An awesome achievement.

Neither Nathan nor Joisin are lauding J. K. Rowling as a career or role model in the sense of assuming any other writer can or should do exactly the same thing. And if sheer sales are the target, Agatha Christie is a better model. Her eighty short books have sold TWO BILLION copies!

Mira, it is not enough that they get you only green M & Ms. All other M & M colors must be banned on pain of death! And throw a temper tantrum anyway. Every hour, on the hour. And don't walk into the building. They must CARRY you into the building.

Mira said...
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Mira said...

J.T., sometimes I think you're the only one who truly 'gets' me.

Hannah, how about this for a meeting of minds? I will acknowledge that the path of following the rules until you can break them is a time-honored, respected and effective path that is followed by many great people, including, but not limited to J.K. Rowling, Nathan and you. An honorable path indeed.

I hope that is a place at which we can agree. :)

Tahlia said...

So true. I love her community service profile and the fact that her writing kept getting better and better.

She's an inspiration in so many ways.

Josin L. McQuein said...

J.T -- FWIW, Hannah DOES churn out books quickly. Insanely so, in fact.

She's rather infuriating at times.

;-P

J. T. Shea said...

Good points, Mira. Though I don't think success should necessarily change my attitude to the 'rules'. As I've commented several times before, they're more guidelines than rules. A bit like the Pirate Code in PIRATES OF THE CARRIBBEAN... I learn and respect them, but will break them if I consider it necessary and desirable. And live with the consequences, of course.

But I do not consider rule breaking to be a desirable privilege of success if the results irritate the reader, who is, after all, the ultimate enforcer of the rules.

Josin, apologies for misspelling your name. Hannah's publishing record is indeed most impressive. But I would not take her as a career model any more than J. K. Rowling or Agatha Christie, or anyone other than J. T. Shea.

Mira said...

J.T. - I feel it's an honorable path - that of following the rules. But I don't feel it's the only path. I'm sure Hannah would agree. Seriously doubt it's my path either, since I couldn't write to demand with a gun at my head.

But we all have our different paths. For example, getting back on topic, J.K. Rowling is capable of producing extraordinary works under great pressure. Whereas I would fold like a wimp noodle. See? We all have our ways.

hannah said...

Thanks guys :)

Kristin Laughtin said...

While I agree with James' assessment--many of her later books could have been tighter, although I find myself noticing more details with each re-read--I think she did up the ante with each book. She may have repeated many of the same devices (Hermione infodumps and "as-you-know"s, knowledge learned by eavesdropping while wearing the invisibility cloaks, etc.), but she found new ways to keep us engaged, play with our emotions, shock or leave us breathless, with each book.

And she's a fantastic human being. She already had to have tremendous dedication to finish the first book, and then to make each book better. She loved the world she had created so much that she wasn't content to simply rest on her fame, knowing they'd sell no matter what. She tried very hard. And she remembered where she came from, and that the rest of the world isn't as fortunate as her, and she continues to give back in staggering amounts. It's commendable.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion about rules. I think there are tiers of authors. The super-talented genius types of authors often spend a great deal of time creating masterpieces, and the world is willing to wait for that. Masterpieces are rare, but they're worth the wait.

Anonymous said...

About those gaps in the series.

Worth considering that when those last 4 books went to press they occupied a quarter to a third of the printing capacity on the planet! It takes time to free up and coordinate all those presses. It's also time consuming to the acquire paper in sufficient quantity and secure shipping for the tonnage of books involved.

Continuity and copy editing for any book of that length is also a very time intensive process. Furthermore, Scholastic had other important books to put out that decade--books that deserved not to be overshadowed by HP. These were scheduled for release in non-HP seasons.

Knowing all this, I'd never assume that it was Rowling who was off schedule, nor that she was bending the rules, nor that she was calling the shots at her publishing house. I think the timing of those releases was meticulously planned and successfully executed--a testament not just to her but to her editor and publisher.

Anonymous said...

Anon @10:46 PM - I agree with what you're saying. I had always understood that J.K. Rowling was extremely good at making her deadlines and that she put herself under tremendous pressure to do so. Release of the Harry Potter novels involved even more than the actual publishing, which was complicated enough - parties were scheduled in bookstores and so on, and involved some rather elaborate planning.

Sheila Cull said...

Nathan, your recent posts about Rowling have been outstanding. Perhaps since you left lit agenting, you have more time to dedicate to your blog?

When I first learned that you walked away to continue down a different path, I was disappointed. I don't know why. But you're making up for it with posts like these.

Anonymous said...

I agree that her storytelling became a lot better from one book to the next. But two things seemed to have gotten worse: her edits and her pacing.

Her first three books were very tightly written. Her later books read far slower. And her last book could have easily been cut in two. I'd say cut the last book before and after the chapter the book is named after.

I think the person that also received a lot of stress that folks seem to be ignoring is her editor. Think about the stress that person went through as her popularity grew.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I like your perspective. Writing under pressure isn't just about writing to a deadline; it's also about writing under the pressure of matching what you have written before. She did a phenomenal job.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, another Harry Potter post.

lotusgirl said...

I love how her books got better and better. She didn't let her success make her lazy. I also love that she is so charitable. She has a big heart. I respect her for that more than her writing.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I really disagree that the books got better. But I don't blame her. I believe her style stayed consistent. I feel that at some point they stopped editing her so rigorously, cutting where it needed to be. I love the earlier stuff best and the last book was a disappointment. All that time in the tent...

Still love the stories though, and even without the rigorous editing, they are some of the best out there, so she's got writing chops.

Leslea said...

Congrats on making the transition from agent to author. Been awhile since I've kept up with your blog.

Rowling is my favorite author for many reasons, and there is no doubt she rose to the immense challenges of the pressure HP put on her. And bravo to her, for doing so.

However, the quality definitely did waiver. She needed much stricter editing in Book 7 than ever before. That plot was the weakest of the series, by far, and there's no way she doesn't know that. I suspect she found it quite difficult to get her editors to play ball on that one--they were gilding the lily, after all. Who's going to risk ticking off the golden goose?

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