How to Write Like Roald Dahl

From the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, the BFG and a whole host of other fantastic stories:

1. “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it…The life of a writer is absolute hell compared to the life of a businessman. The writer has to force himself to work He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him…”

2. “Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people.”

3. “When you’re writing a book, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it’s got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you’ve done all ties up. But it’s a very, very long, slow process.”

4. “The prime function of the children’s book writer is to write a book that is so absorbing, exciting, funny, fast and beautiful that the child will fall in love with it. And that first love affair between the young child and the young book will lead hopefully to other loves for other books and when that happens the battle is probably won. The child will have found a crock of gold. He will also have gained something that will help to carry him most marvelously through the tangles of his later years.”

5. “A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not.”

6. “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”

7. “I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”


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Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.


  1. Ah, but he says nothing here about the necessity of being a little odd. It does help.

  2. Such an interesting study!
    1. Man is his own god; but he is not omnipotent nor is he sovereign.
    2. Man is his own god; but he is not omnipresent
    3. Man is his own god; but not Creator, who already knows His creation
    4. Man is his own god; but only hopes that others will appreciate what he provides and only hopes the love he inspires is enough to sustain another through life and only hopes that he can help others.
    5. Man is his own god; but lives in fear that others won’t recognize him as so.
    6. Man is his own god; but not immutable
    7. Man is his own god; but while being self-sufficient, is completely dependent.
    Thanks, Roald Dahl, for revealing the holiness of God by showing the alternative!
    Love this post!

  3. I just read Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl and was sucked into his writing style just like I was when I was a child. Dahl has a way of carrying you along through the story; and before long you’ve read dozens of pages because he stirs your imagination in a way that makes it feel as if you are watching pictures – not reading text.

    By the way, if you haven’t read Switch Bitch, it’s nothing like his children’s books. It’s purely for adult audiences.

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