Monday, May 12, 2008

The Magical Worlds of the Lord of the Rings

Hello, hello!

So I finished the Magical Worlds of the Lord of the Rings. I've wanted to read this forever, and then I finally bought it. Here's my take:

I thought that it was pretty good, but it had a bunch of stuff in it that I already knew. I felt like I was just rereading a bunch of stuff without all the details. I'm also just a little skeptical about some of it....this guy is writing from a secular outlook, I think, and so I think that he might be guessing a little about some of it. The cover even says that it wasn't authorized by the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien in any way and isn't connected to the movies at all. I'm just a little skeptical about some of because it isn't authorized, and for most of the book, he doesn't give quotations for what he says to be true. I didn't like that about it.

On the other hand, I did learn a few things that I didn't know, and it also deepened my appreciate for what Tolkien did with his work and what I hope to do with mine someday. I like that. I'm also more eager to read the Silmarillion now.

I thought the book had a ton of interesting stuff, stuff that I didn't know before, but since it wasn't authorized, I kind of get the impression that Colbert might be making connections. But then again, authors like that MUST do a ton of research. I'm just not binding to everything he said as truth and fact.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, but for those of you who have already a Tolkien bio, I'm not sure that it is worth it. If you haven't read any other books on Tolkien, I would say that it is.


Clint Johnson said...

Anna, my name's Clint Johnson. I'm an author friend of James Dashner (my first nationally published book will come out next summer). I've been keeping up on his blog, and I've been impressed by your comments and question (and, frankly, that you're working hard at writing at your age). I thought I might be able to help reinforce some things James told you about writers block.

The first thing you need to understand is that writers block isn't some mystical condition, something that can't be understood and so to fix it you have to guess and experiment. The truth is, writers block is a physiological condition. It's biologic.

Think about it: all art requires two types of thinking, creative and analytical. The human brain has evolved to do both these activities, but it has evolved different sections of the brain devoted to each. Creative and analytical thought are meant to be conducted alone, not at once. Have you heard of the writing process: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing? These are stages of writing not because of some academic set of rules or regulations; its because each stage requires specific types of thought.

Writers block results from trying to do different stages of writing, namely creative and analytical stages, at the same time. Being creative means considering lots of options, which means you will be sloppy, and erratic, and contradictory, and, well, stupid at times in this stage. That's what creativity is, considering a whole lot of options to find the good ones. Analysis is the opposite--its a reasoned, logical approach to and evaluation of something. It does not allow for slop, it eliminates erraticness and contradiction, and it doesn't settle for stupid.

Now imagine trying to do these two types of thought at once. See how that could be a problem? Creative thought cannot be achieved while you analyze and critique what you are imagining. Analysis kills creativity, and creativity thwarts analysis. In trying to do both, you end up doing neither. This is writers block.

Think of it this way: writing a story is like crafting an item out of metal. First, you have to mine the metal to work with, so you dig around in the ground and store all the nuggets you see. These nuggets come in all shapes and sizes, they are ugly and impossible to work with, and none of them are really that pure. This is the most creative phase of the pre-writing and drafting stages when engaging the analytical portion of your brain will kill your story. Here, you're being purely creative, generating as many ideas as you can and putting them on paper without judging them. You are generating the material with which you are going to work in later stages.

Next, when you have the nuggets or ore to work with, you need to smelt it down, purify it so that it becomes usable metal. This is the first analytical phase of revision, or going over your ideas for the first time analytically to see what has potential and what needs to be changed. You won't be too judgmental here, you're just trying to see what can become something good. But if you don't have a complete rough draft, you will kill your ability to finish the story.

The last stage is to take your smelted metal and to cast it into a final form. This is the late revision to editing stage of writing, when you are engaging in judgmental analysis, making sure everything is right.

If you try to write a story all at once rather than in stages you're are going to become blocked and fail. As you become more experienced it's easier to switch gears from creative to analytical, so you have more room for error, but when you begin allowing any analysis in early phases kills your story.

So, after all that, here is the great secret to finishing a novel (are you holding your breath?): don't care if the rough draft is terrible. In fact, expect that it will be. If you finish all that work with a terrible, horrible, embarrassingly bad first draft, stand up from your computer, pat yourself on the back, and go out and celebrate. You have just completed the first stage of writing. You've written poorly. Congratulations. Now you can take that poor writing and make it less poor. Then you can take that less poor writing and make it better. Then you take that better writing and make it good.

This is the way it works, especially in the beginning. Give yourself the freedom to write poorly; it's the only way to ever write well. Do as James says, and finish a draft of a book. Finish a bad draft of a book. Doing this one thing will move you from the 99% of would-be novelists into the 1% of true novelists. Competing with that 1% for publication is tough, but it's a lot easier than fighting with that 99% for something that will never happen, because no one has ever published a book that can't get written.

I hope this helps. Keep up the writing. If you stay determined and work really hard at your craft, you have a chance to be a terrific writer. Your age is a huge, huge advantage. You can have ten years of serious practice before you turn 25. That's a formula for professional success, if you want it bad enough.

Keep me in mind. My web site should be up in a few months, and you can ask other questions there. I'll even have a members' section where I post writing related articles in response to questions just like yours. The name's Clint Johnson. I hope to hear from you again.

And again, good luck with the writing!

Anna said...

Thanks for the advice. It really helps a lot for somebody to tell me to buckle down and finish the book, even if it is terrible. I see what you guys are saying now. what kind of book are you publishing?

I hope to finish a draft of my book this year, (even if it is terrible) and maybe combine some of my better ideas.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy explanation. It really did help. And thanks again James for doing a whole blog post my question. That helped too!