Stop Trying to Be “the Next J.K. Rowling”

Please stop.

“I’m going to be the next J.K. Rowling.”

“My book series is the next Harry Potter.”

OK. Maybe we’ve all at least imagined it could happen someday, once or twice.

But we’ve never actually said it out loud to anyone … at least I haven’t.

No one actually still seriously thinks this way — or writes it in their queries — do they?

Sure, we’d all love to write something large audiences love. But … really?

Do you really want to follow the same path as another writer — mimicking someone else’s success story instead of creating your own?

Do you really think success is only about how much money you make, how many people read your stories, whether or not your published books become “classics” that become movies that win awards?

Is that really what you crave?

Of course it is. It’s the story every writer hopes to tell someday. “I started out with nothing. One day I got an idea for a story … and the rest is history!”

But aren’t all our stories like that?

We’re nobodies, we write something that sticks, and all of a sudden we’re somebodies?

It just so happens that Rowling created something that not only resonated with a specific audience, but continued to appeal to them for years to come as they grew up along with those fictional characters.

Who knows? You might be really good at what you do. You might be lucky enough to create a name for yourself like she did.

But you’re going to waste a lot of time trying to create something “revolutionary” instead of sitting down and writing a good story — the story you want to write.

You’ll never know if the thing you start writing today will be “as good as Harry Potter” 10 years from now. If that’s the most important thing to you — being famous — you’re just setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment.

I’m not saying you don’t have the potential to write amazing things. We all do.

But you have to learn to measure your success in more realistic terms. No one — especially not agents or publishers — wants to read another query letter written by an unknown claiming their work is going to be as successful as Harry Potter.

You’re also setting the bar too high for yourself. Most of us can’t perform under that kind of pressure, no matter how “seasoned” we are. It’s great to have reach goals. But why not start small and work your way up?

J.K. Rowling likely didn’t think her book about magic would gain as much traction as it did. She certainly didn’t think she was writing “the next Harry Potter” because it didn’t exist yet. She had an idea for a story. She sat down, and she started writing it.

And do you know what else? She finished it, too.

Then she thought, “I wonder if anyone will publish this?” And had it in her mind to try.

That’s a part of all of our stories. Or it should be. Taking an idea, putting it into words, and seeing where we can take it — knowing full well it may go nowhere.

You’re writing your own story here. Literally and figuratively. Stop trying to make someone else’s yours. Reach high, but not so high that you never accomplish much of anything. Start small. Start slow. Set one goal. And then another.

Figure out what makes your story important. Pitch it that way. Make it count.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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10 thoughts on “Stop Trying to Be “the Next J.K. Rowling”

  1. I admit this all the time! Not in a serious “this is definitely going to happen” kind of way but I think it’s healthy to vent your hopes, even the ridiculous ones. And then I sit down and write :D I like your Blog Meg. It’s real and down to earth and one of the few I consistently read.

    1. Ahh! This comment made my morning! Hey, I’m just here for real talk. No fluff allowed. Writing is fun, but it’s also work. Sometimes, you have to take it seriously. Sometimes. :)

  2. I really love this advice, and it reminds me of the saying that you should write with yourself in mind first; that is, that you should write something you’d enjoy to read.


  3. I don’t think it’s always even only a matter of the writer setting out to act this way.

    I am always seeing articles proclaiming the next big YA/middle grade novel as the next JK: it feels to me that it’s a very specific tack the marketers use.

    Nevermoor and Children of Blood and Bone are two recent examples: two authors who received massive deals and were in the media as the next JK.

    I feel sorry for them as it’s a lot of pressure and, as you point out, a new writer shouldn’t be forced down a trodden path.

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