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The Magic Of Writing Novels: Don’t Stop Believing, by Jenn J McLeod

Last month I discussed dreams – and how family and friends (usually unintentionally) tended to stamp on your dreams. I also introduced you to my standard response for disbelievers – “HOGWARTS!” – and to one of my favourite sayings:

“The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the magic happens.”

Sticking to the Harry Potter theme for a minute, let me reiterate…

For a writer, getting published does not involve magic wands. Every step is the result of plain, hard work and, much like Harry Potter’s main characters, some writers have to work harder than others to achieve the same level of success:

For example:

  • The bumbling Ron Weasley was born into a family of wizards. He hardly had to try (or be too smart about it.) Magic came naturally.
  • As a Muggle, Hermione worked hard, not so much at the magic, but at fitting in and always proving to others she was capable.
  • Harry had the magic, but he didn’t believe. Raised by an ordinary family, he saw himself as an ordinary boy. He had to be convinced about the magic.

Believing is a message woven through Harry Potter stories, and mirrored in JK Rowling’s own success story. For anyone who has been living under a rock, I’ll explain…

JK Rowling was a single mother facing depression and at the lowest point in her life when she started writing. At the time she saw herself as “the biggest failure she knew.” Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:

At the Harvard commencement address, 2008, she said:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J. K. Rowling,

She believed. She didn’t stop believing. She made it happen. (And it’s with her story in mind that I came up with “HOGWARTS” when someone dares suggest I can’t do something!)

You see, we have to believe. Imagine if Harry had missed the Hogwarts Express that day because he didn’t have enough belief in himself or in the magic to reach the elusive Platform 9¾! All Harry saw in the train station that day was a brick wall. Luckily there were people around who did believe in the magic – and in him.

There’s no magic for a writer faced by the impenetrable publishing brick wall. You just have to be courageous. Like Harry, surrounding yourself with people who believe and engaging with an encouraging community of like-minded people (online or face-to-face) can help you break through any personal barriers and self-doubt.

Do you agree? Have you faced your own Dementors? (The type that can suck the determination and self-belief from you.) What sort of writer organisations have helped you? (Online or face-to-face?)


Jenn J McLeod’s author website:

Jenn J McLeod’s bio page


House for all Seasons by Jenn J McLeod     Burning LiesThe Indigo SkyThe Fragment of DreamsRotten GodsHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Writing Novels in Australia

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lovely sentiment. A mindset like this is pretty important if you expect to get anywhere. We’ll probably never get the kind of payoff Rowling did but, to some, the sheer task of finishing a work and getting it out there to be read (whether by five people or five hundred) is enough.

    You can’t go wrong if you pick an attainable goal and don’t stop believing (like Journey) and you’ll do fine.

    March 8, 2013
    • We sure don’t write for the dollars!!!! You’re so right about attainable goals too. I think the saying is something like….. A dream without a goal is just a dream. Something like that. I set small goals…. Like stepping stones. With House for all Seasons out in stores this month I can say it works!

      March 8, 2013
      • Sola Ojewusi #

        Hello Jenn. I am an author based in Nigeria, West Africa. Your inspirational piece really helped me in staying glued to the dream because I am really surrounded by a lot of mountains in the quest to break through. I just finished writing a long Christian fantasy that I’m hoping to get published.

        March 8, 2013
      • Jenn J McLeod | Come home to the country... #

        Hello Sola, first of all well done on finishing your novel – statistically rare when compared to the number of people who start! I actually like your ‘mountains’ analogy because the process shoud be enjoyed – and a trek over mountains, while still difficult, sounds better than beating your head against a brick! Oh, and when you DO make it to that ‘other side of the mountain’ as a published author, be warned – there is a whole different mountain range waiting. (They don’t talk about the ups and downs of this busines for nothing.) 😉 Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

        March 10, 2013
  2. I’d given up the idea of getting published when I came across the writers’ site, Authonomy. By then I had three complete novels written – good ones. But opportunities in Australia are so few. It was those I met on Authonomy who helped me, and while my success has been modest, I do have my books published.
    It is work and perseverence, and ignoring family and friends who like to tread on dreams.

    March 8, 2013
  3. Really enjoyed your thoughts Jenn and I can relate to each thing you said. We all have our Dementors (they tend to love us to death by stifling us with their protection). Do you mind if I use the saying HOGWARTS too? It totally makes sense to me. You have even got me hoping for the ‘rock bottom’.

    March 8, 2013
  4. Belief in your self. Self-worth. The quote from JK Rowling apt. Concentration is hard when family want to talk to you in the middle of an idea or running paragraph. Or my own self-defeating distractions on the www.
    Managing bi-polar requires being balanced and feeding self-esteem. Thanks, I must get on with it now!

    March 9, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | Come home to the country... #

      It’s not easy. I fell over several times. And yes, the www can be your enemy at times–the biggest dementor of them all. The best thing I did was find a couple of local writers who I really clicked with and who picked me up (still pick me up.) Writers are a weird mob but we understand each other. I hope you are getting on with it – rather than reading this!!!! 😉

      March 9, 2013
  5. My personal Dementor is the voice that tells me to grow up, to stop writing fantasy stories and concentrate on more serious fiction (which I love, but don’t want to write). When this voice intrudes, so does another voice, a more friendly, yet cautionary one from Bedknobs and Broomsticks: ‘When you reach the age of not believing…’

    That said, there’s nothing like having a supportive group of like-minded people at your back. If you can find some, hold on to them!

    April 2, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | Come home to the country... #

      Hmm, so I should not mention Peter Pan, then!

      April 2, 2013

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