Writing Wednesdays: How Harry Potter influenced me as a writer

It's 20 years since the first Harry Potter novel came out, so this week I'm talking about what the Boy Who Lived means to me.

I know that this whole blog series is to offer advice on writing, but this week, I wanted to do something different. You might have noticed on Twitter, or Facebook, or from the special Hogwarts House editions of The Philosopher’s Stone in shops at the moment – but on Monday, it was 20 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published.

And Harry Potter means a lot to me. Everything from the books to the movies, to the soundtrack and the Very Potter musicals by Starkid. So this week, I wanted to use Writing Wednesdays to talk about what Harry Potter means to me, and how it’s influenced my writing.

I remember being six or seven and coming home from town with my mum. We stopped by my grandparents’ on the way home, and I showed off the new ‘grown-up’ book I’d just bought: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Up until that point, I’d been a big reader. Jacqueline Wilson was my favourite. (And as much as I’ll chalk up my love for books to Harry Potter, she played a big part in my passion for books, too. I adored her books growing up. She’s also so sweet in person, and I damn near screamed/fainted/died when I met her.)

But The Philosopher’s Stone was my first real ‘grown-up’ book, like I said. Small print, quite thick (for a six/seven-year-old, anyway), no pictures.

I devoured it. I devoured the second and third book, and the doorstop that was the Goblet of Fire. I had to wait about a year for Order of the Phoenix to be released, during which time I re-read the first four books (to death).

I got so impatient waiting for the fifth novel that I started writing my own Harry Potter. Now, obviously, you’d call that fanfiction. I can even kind of remember how it started: Harry at the Dursleys’, and Fred and George had used a Portkey to break him out of the house.

I also remember my mum rolling her eyes at me, sick to death of my obsession with the Harry Potter universe, and telling me to ‘write my own story’, if I wanted to write. I didn’t want my own story, though: I wanted to know what happened to Harry in his fifth year, after Voldemort had returned. What else could anybody, never mind an eight-year-old, possibly want to read?!

I’d always liked writing. Whenever we were given some kind of ‘write a story about…’ project in school, I threw myself into it. I did the same with my fanfiction while I waited for the next Harry Potter, and whatever other stories I wrote after that.

Most of the stories I wrote up until I was probably about fourteen/fifteen were all fantasy stories. I read a lot of fantasy novels, too. I wrote this huge trilogy about witches when I was twelve – literally, a trilogy, of nearly 600,000 words total, or something like that. Chances I’d have done that if I didn’t have a love for fantasy and magic thanks to Harry Potter? Pretty close to nil, I’d say.

And it’s not even just the fact that I felt inspired to write because of this series.

It’s because of characters like Hermione.

Hermione Granger: top of her class, bookish and smart, a bit of a misfit and outcast, big bushy hair. Did she care about being a nerd? Hell no – she was just herself, and entirely unapologetic about it.

It meant a lot to me to have a character like Hermione, growing up, because I saw so much of myself in her. And look at how phenomenal Hermione was, even if she wasn’t ‘cool’ or ‘popular’ or ‘pretty’.

Characters like Hermione helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin. Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while will know that I was embarrassed about my love for writing for years. I didn’t tell anybody, even my parents, that I was writing, until after my work started to become popular on Wattpad.

But then I started owning up to what I liked (writing, physics, the lot), and being unapologetic about it, and being myself. I was so much happier once I did that.

One more mention I want to make is Queen JK herself: J.K. Rowling, whose manuscript was rejected about a dozen times, at least, before a publisher took it on. We all know what kind of struggles she’s faced, too, especially around the time she started working on the series. But she never gave up on Harry or herself. Which is pretty goddamn inspirational, if you ask me.

So yeah, I guess you could say Harry Potter means a lot to me, and it’s fair to say that it’s a huge reason why I love writing and reading as much as I do.

I’d love to hear what the Harry Potter series means to you, and what books have inspired you to write – share in the comments!

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