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If we chart out a 2 tiered timeline, the upper tier being the in-universe events and the lower tier being the period in which J. K. Rowling is writing the Harry Potter books, does the lower tier ever out-pace the upper tier?

In other words, as an example, when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone did she already have the events of books 2, 3, n... sketched out in a notebook somewhere?

It is an exceptionally long series, one which became wildly popular before it was complete. I am very curious how much of it she managed to write ad hoc (stretching it on and on) and when exactly she conceived the final stages of the story.

  • I figured after all these years she might have gone on the record about it somewhere... – Drew Jan 27 '13 at 22:09
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Yes. As a very specific examples, she wrote several things for CS which were removed and ended up in HBP. From Defunct FAQ via Wayback Machine:

'The Half-Blood Prince' might be described as a strand of the overall plot. That strand could be used in a whole variety of ways and back in 1997 I considered weaving it into the story of 'Chamber'. It really didn't fit there, though; it was not part of the story of the basilisk and Riddle's diary, and before long I accepted that it would be better to do it justice in book six. I clung to the title for a while, even though all trace of the 'Prince' storyline had disappeared, because I liked it so much (yes, I really like this title!). I re-christened book two 'Chamber of Secrets' when I started the second draft.

She also had the main outline of the plot from the beginning for the whole ark.

I'll try to dig up more proofs, but at the very least the whole Snape arc was known in advance, as it was told to Alan Rickman; and the Horcrux arc as I noted above was known as far in advance as CS (and Horcrux was one of the planned book titles as far back as 2003).

The "I open at the close" thing and Snitch memory was also there from the beginning: source

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Most of the story was outlined beforehand, especially between the time that book 1 and 2 were published. In fact, one of the first things written in the Harry Potter universe was the last chapter of book 7 (Source). Of course, even the most well planned large work has deviances, and there were several reported as the books were written, the most notable being that Mr. Weasley was supposed to die in book 5 in her original masterplan. Still, she did keep the main points of the story as originally intended.

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