Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Seven Writing Tips From Roald Dahl To Celebrate His Birthday

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Three days left to finish my rewrite. And since it's September 13, and September 13 was Roald Dahl's birthday and is now Roald Dahl Day, I'm celebrating the literary legend.

Roald Dalh grew up in England. He moved to Africa at the age of eighteen to work for Shell Oil Company. After that he was a fighter pilot in World War II. As if all that wasn't adventure enough, when he was twenty-six he moved to America and began to write. (This is especially sweet to me, because I also started writing later in life. I started at the age of twenty-eight.)

Roald was twenty-seven when he published his first book, The Gremlins, which was about little creatures from the Royal Air Force. Walt Disney started making a film based on the book, but it never got made. Click here to see a cool picture (that I was afraid to use, because Disney) of a very young Roald and Walt with some stuffed Gremlins. (It's the second picture in the post, so you have to scroll down a bit.) Random Factoid #1: The 1984 Spielberg movie Gremlins was loosely inspired by Roald's mischievous little creatures. Random Factoid #2: You can see the original gremlins in the Epic Mickey video games. My kids were super excited to discover this. (Google "Epic Mickey Gremlins." They're cute.)

Photo by Carl Van Vechten, 20 April 1954

Roald went on to write short stories about his war experiences for The Saturday Evening Post, and for years he wrote for adults. It wasn't until 1960, when he was living in England again, that he started publishing children's books again, beginning with James and the Giant Peach in 1961. Some of my favorite Dahl books are The BFG, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Roald also wrote two screenplays. One for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (which is the one where Sean Connery has to fight the Japanese ninjas) and the other for the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (about a fine, four-fendered flying car), both based on books by Ian Fleming. Roald also wrote for television.

Talk about an amazing and inspiring career. You can learn more about Roald Dahl on his website.

Seven Writing Tips From Roald Dahl 

I found these tips as part of an extra in the back of the book The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six Morewhere Roald talks about how he became a writer.


"You should have a lively imagination."

"You should be able to write well. By that I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader's mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift, and you either have it or you don't."

"You must have stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up, for hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month."

"You must be a perfectionist. That means you must never be satisfied with what you have written until you have rewritten it again and again, making it as good as you possibly can."

"You must have strong self-discipline. You are working alone. No one is employing you. No one is around to give you the sack if you don't turn up for work, or to tick you off if you start slacking."

"It helps a lot if you have a keen sense of humor. This is not essential when writing for grown-ups, but for children, it's vital."

"You must have a degree of humility. The writer who thinks that his work is marvelous is heading for trouble."

What's your favorite Roald Dahl book? Share in the comments. Mine is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

[FYI, my sources are: Roald Dah's bio in the back of The BFG, the extra section in the back of the book The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six Moreand Roald Dahl's Wikipedia page.]


  1. Definitely a childhood favorite of mine! I can never decide if I love Matilda or the BFG more. I read both over and over in grade school.

  2. I actually haven't read much of his stuff myself, but a school librarian used to read us his books. I really liked them, but I don't know which would be my favorite :)

  3. I love his books so much - horror comedy I call them. I don't like horror.. but he does something different ;b I love so many of his books I can't pick a favorite... and I didn't know he wrote the screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 😱

    1. Isn't that funny? He did a lot of different types of writing.

    2. which is what makes him an interesting author, I suppose ;)

  4. I loved his books, especially when I was younger, and they're still a fun read. I think the only thing that frustrated me about Dahl was that the adults were almost always despicable. But that is part of the fun, after all. I think one of my favorites is The BFG. Catching dreams and all of that fun stuff. ;) Great post!

    1. Yes, and the Queen wasn't despicable in that book. She was quite lovely. Charlie's grandpa was nice. But I totally know what you mean about evil adults. Ex: Matilda's parents!!!

  5. I have only read three of his books but I liked them all. I can never decide on a favorite book. Thank you for the post.
    - Book Dragon

  6. I always loved Dahl's books! They were so fun and imaginative. My favorites are probably James and The Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG. Awesome post, definitely brought back some memories! =)

  7. I did tech for the Willy Wonka musical at my school, so I'd have to say Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    By the way, the link to the picture won't work for me. It says D23 members only. Did that happen to anyone else?


    1. Weird! I'm not a member... try this link: