Tips from writers: Roald Dahl

Welcome to the first instalment in my new series on writing where I’ll pick a writer, research their tips and advice, and then bring my findings to you here. I thought to myself where better to begin than with one of my favourite authors, so today the spotlight falls on Roald Dahl.

Happy reading!

Roald Dahl - Books, Characters & Death - Biography

The bulk of my research came from The Official Roald Dahl Website which I really recommend having a look at if you haven’t already, it has lots of really interesting articles.

All images sourced from Google.

Author Bio

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a British writer. Perhaps best known for his children’s books he was also an adult literature writer, screen writer and a fighter pilot in the Second World War.

Writing tips

“You should have a lively imagination” 

This was the first tip that I came across and I love it because it’s so important yet so easily forgotten. Whilst there are many important aspects of writing the crux of it is imagination because it is from there that a story is born. 

“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”

Another important point; I have read many books with a wonderful plot but which I have not enjoyed because they simply haven’t been written well. 


I know from many projects that I have started that stamina is key. It’s an area that I unfortunately lack in. I start off strong but then I struggle to maintain the stamina to see a project through to completion.

“be a perfectionist”

In this sense I think being a perfectionist is a great thing. Whilst editing and rewriting over and over can be disheartening at times, the end result will be a piece that brings such a sense of pride and achievement. 

“have strong self-discipline”

How easy is it to make excuses of being too busy or too tired?! A good writer will find the time to write without needing somebody else to make them do it. 

“a keen sense of humour”

Dahl stated this is “not essential for writing for grown-ups, but for children, it’s vital.” I would say it helps in general for any writer to have a good sense of humour whether their audience is an adult or a child.


This is so important. A writer will always be judged, or rather their work will be, and so a sense of modesty is vital in order to be able to accept the inevitable criticism.

Seven lessons from Roald Dahl on how to be productive | British ...

Further research

The above points were the seven writing tips that Roald Dahl put forward when he was asked specifically about this topic. He did however, share so much more advice and wisdom with how to approach writing, his own routines and habits, and what generated success for him in various conversations and interviews.

Roald Dahl described writing a book as “a very long slow process”. He likened it to walking in nature and “getting different views of the same landscape” until eventually the view will be a completed book. Of course this can be attributed to any writing, not just a book. I have found this fits with many, if not all of my blog posts. I write, edit, write, delete parts etc until I eventually have a post that I am happy to publish. 

For Dahl a book begins with a “tiny little seed of an idea” which must immediately be written down because it “disappears otherwise rather like a dream”. However, he didn’t write up every idea that he had because committing to a writing project is a big decision. Instead he would “walk around it and look at it and sniff it” before deciding whether it was a viable idea after all. 

Dahl stuck to the same straightforward routine when it came to writing. He only wrote in two hour stretches because “after about two hours you are not at your highest peak of concentration”. Whether he was writing well or not he stuck to this time frame. His opinion was that “you have to keep your bottom on the chair and stick it out” either way. It’s far too easy for walking away to become a frequent habit. 

He also thought it important to stop writing before the end of a chapter because “if you stop when you’re stuck you’re in trouble”. For him it was vital to return to writing with the flow already established so he was excited and aware of where the story was going.

All quotations taken from audio clips on The Official Roald Dahl Website (link to website can be found above).

Inside Roald Dahl's backyard writing "hut" / Boing Boing

Some relevant quotes

I could spend hours reading Roald Dahl quotes, I just find them so lovely and relatable! Whilst reading through many I found four that I believe to be the most relevant to this post and I wanted to share them with you.

“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.”

“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.”

“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.”

“Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained.”

I really enjoyed researching and writing this post so I hope that you have found it both helpful and enjoyable, and that you will stick around for further instalments in this series.

What are your thoughts on Roald Dahl’s tips and advice? Any points that you strongly agree/disagree with? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!

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Until the next time…Jess x







16 thoughts on “Tips from writers: Roald Dahl

  1. So cool to unpack everything! Especially with my shared love of Dahl, I found this beyond interesting! Very few adults can pull off as wild of an imagination as he can. Fantastic post (as always!).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh definitely go for it! I was surprised with how many little things I picked up on in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Plus, the books are so short you won’t be wasting any time!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely agree with the humility. I did a writing course in undergrad and our lecturer is published and well known in the Caribbean. As the owner of your piece you think it’s perfect lol. She would really rip apart your work until she was satisfied with it. Back then I was young and not entirely appreciative of what she was trying to do. I honestly thought she was old and extremely stuck in a post colonial thinking. Skip down to present time and I now understand and appreciate what she was trying to do.

    I can attest to writing being a long and slow process. All of my blog posts have countless number of revisions. It actually takes me anywhere between four to six weeks to have something I am comfortable posting. Sometimes in reading over I realize the post is too long and I have to either cut out content or split it into two parts. But I always remind myself that my name is being attached to my work and I want something that I can proudly stand by and say yes this is my work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! Humility is so important. As you say, it can be more than a little difficult to receive criticism on your writing but when it comes from a good place it is so useful to ensure we produce our best work. As you say any writer wants to be able to stand by their work proudly and if it takes a while to get to that point then who cares, it’ll be worth the wait 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was such a lovely post to read! Roald Dahl is one of the most endearing writers I’ve come across and I loved his books so much as a child, and they still fascinate me!

    Liked by 1 person

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