Six queries sent out, and 3 rejections so far. All professional and courteous, so I’m feeling pretty good about that, but the road ahead is rough. I’m in it for the long haul, y’all.
I’d like to take the rest of this post to talk about one of my favorite authors: J. R. R. Tolkien. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings about 3 times now all the way through in my life, and I just finished my first read-through of his epic history of Middle Earth, The Silmarillion. One of the things that strikes me as odd about Tolkien’s style while reading through LotR is that at some points I feel as if I’m reading a history book – not a textbook, but like a classical, Herodotus-y history of events: duly chronicled, full of seemingly insignificant but painstakingly noted minutiae of details, and sprinkled examples of heroism and mighty deeds noted by the narrator throughout. It does, at points, make for dry reading.
This should not be taken as a knock against Tolkien as a writer – I have immense respect for his work, and overall, I greatly enjoy the narrative of LotR – but it is a fact that the epic can be difficult to read through for long periods at a time. I think part of this was probably intentional, for what it’s worth; within the context of the book, as it comes to us, it is supposedly (mostly) written down by Frodo, who himself was well read in many of the texts of Middle Earth. It reads like a history because it’s meant to have been written by a consumer of such histories in the context of the world of Middle Earth. So, points for authenticity there.
I say all that to say that while the scope of The Silmarillion is much gradner than that of LotR, it is less difficult to read while paradoxically being even less novel-like in construction. The structure of it is laid out from front to back as a dry mythology/history compendium, but the world-building that goes on in immense and detailed and wonderful. It’s as if Tolkien wrote the story of LotR, and then wrote out another book on the scale of the Old Testament of the Bible as backstory to it. I enjoyed my foray into the history of Middle Earth, and will likely reread it again sometime in the next few years, just as I return to Frodo, Gandalf, and the rest. The stories are not without issues, but they stick, and that’s all that matters in the end.
Write your story!
-J. E. Ayers
Jeff Ayers writes books that are pretty good.