The writer’s road through Mordor

My recent journey through The Lord of the Rings had a business purpose. As I’ve mentioned already, I’m struggling with my work in progress. I thought maybe reacquainting myself with the best of the best might inspire me and shake a few things loose.

And it may have helped. About the time I finished reading, the words finally started flowing again. I solved my plot problem, at least for the moment, wrote a scene I actually liked, and now I’m nearing 70,000 words. I’d like to fill out 100,000 words, because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days, but I expect it won’t go that far. Which means I’m within sight of the finish line, metaphorically speaking.

I think I’ve figured out the main reason I’ve been blocked. Ruthless self-analysis indicates I’m terrified of this book. I really want it to be an epic, a saga on the grand scale. And in my heart I’m not sure I can do it. I have this fear that I’ve reached the ceiling of my talents, and no effort will get me any higher.

Which is nonsense, at least theoretically. I’ve spoken and written countless times about the Two-Thirds Slump – the delusion most writers get, around two-thirds of the way through a first draft, that what they’re writing is total dreck nobody will ever want to read. (This is exacerbated by the fact that first drafts generally are dreck – that’s also part of the process. But that’s another lecture.)

So, get up, Mr. Frodo. It’s time for another day’s walk.

One thought on “The writer’s road through Mordor”

  1. This is good news!

    Tolkien himself had more than one slump. Many people will remember his account of writing up to the point at which the four hobbits reach Bree, and there they encounter … Trotter, a hobbit who wears wooden shows.

    Tolkien had to draw, probably unconsciously, on memories of reading Rider Haggard’s Heart of the World, to get past this point, as I’ve argued.

    Around 1944 he dropped LotR and wrote two lengthy sections of an interesting science fictiony fantasy called The Notion Club Papers.

    In the end, he wrote his epic, but it had taken him 1937-1949 to do that.

    Be of stout heart! You will do it, too.

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