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J.K. Rowling is a More Organized Writer Than We Will Ever Be

J.K. Rowling is a more organized writer than we can ever hope to be, and that’s totally okay. This past week an incredibly detailed, hand written spreadsheet resurfaced on the internet that includes Rowling’s own detailed plan for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in her incredible series.

rowling_outline2via Mental Floss
(Click the image to enlarge)

As a writer, just looking at this detailed organization of all the plot points of one of my favorite books gives me goosebumps. I think about the writing I’ve done, the books unfinished but halfway done, the corners I’ve written myself into, and I know that I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. Of course, if we were all as dedicated and detailed as Rowling, we’d all be multi-billionaire writers with legions of fans, right?

The spreadsheet has been making the internet rounds for a while from what we can tell, but everyone accredits it directly to Rowling herself, and Mental Floss indicated that there was even a further rumor that she posted it on her own website over a year ago for her fans. Either way, it’s pretty impressive. If you were unsure of things you might have been reading between the lines of as you read that volume of Harry Potter the first time, there’s a pretty good chance you can track down the detail you’re questioning right there.

Personally, I dig the squares that are just marked with “O of P” because they imply to me that Rowling so perfectly imagined those scenes of learning and friendship that she didn’t feel like she needed notes to keep it all straight. And since the friendships between the characters are so important to the overall story of the series, I love to think that she felt those just flowed right out of her fingertips.

Regardless of how much you love this particular chapter in Harry Potter’s journey, this is an excellent look into the mind of someone who is arguably one of the most successful writers creating new stories for us today. I kind of hope that another book’s outline surfaces soon. Don’t you? Tell us which book you’d like to see a breakdown for in the comments below or tweet at me and tell me there!

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  1. Dave B says:

    With a multi-book story that has many characters and plot twists, a writer *has* to be very organized to keep things straight and avoid inconsistencies. I’m kind of surprised her “spreadsheet” is a piece of notebook paper with things written and crossed out (granted, she may well have a more extensive series of aids).

    Authors often have tools like color-coded note cards and wall charts outlining the traits and actions of each character, plot developments, etc.

  2. Marty says:

    Last week?  This has been floating around the internet for years.

  3. D says:

    I’d like to see Prisoner of Azkaban, with all the time turning. It be great to get an idea of how she just kept that all straight.

  4. Dee says:

    This is the same layout that Kurasawa used to outline the Seven Samuir…. So maybe we should look to him….

  5. Chloe says:

    Honestly? I was expecting a stack of notebooks filled with this kind of stuff, not a simple diagram that charts the basic outline of the plot. Frankly it’s the mark of a great author that she was able to create such vivid detail with such little to go on. If you attempted to write a book and wouldn’t even put AT LEAST that much thought into then… I can kind of see why nobody has ever heard of you. Sorry.