Image: ©2014. Warner Brothers Pictures. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. All Rights Reserved.
Well, not the complete end–just the second completion and final completion of Book II: The Saga of Thranduil from The Kingdom of the Woodland Realm Trilogy. What I have learned writing my first book (and my first trilogy)?
- It was fun. I could hardly wait to get to writing it. In all that excitement, I had to face the reality of the fact that I had made two promises: first to my father who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and the second to J.R.R. Tolkien. I promised my father I’d finish my book and I promised Tolkien to write a story that followed Middle Earth History to the letter while being completely original.
- I learned three Tolkien languages in 3 months. Well, I’m still learning but the basics had to be learned first and applied. Though Black Speech is the easiest of all of Tolkien’s languages. Elvish requires a Ph.D I think. Le melathon bronadui. Sîr, teithathon parma nîn adui. Im Thranduil Tárisil Oropherion, aranon od Eryn Galen a Taur-e-Ndaedelos. Onnen bal a peth nîn methen. Namárië. Now I’m a grammar viking in two forms of Elvish, Black Speech, Khuzdul and a little Adûnaic. Eight years of French, three years of Spanish and a little German; it also forced me to relearn English tenses. My Bachelor’s Degree in English in Shakespearean and Chaucerian Literature was useful.
- I had to learn the history of an imaginary world. Ironically, this is where my Master’s in History came in handy. Using every Tolkien book and myriad of volumes (and then some) as my guide, the research for the story made great use of my research skills. Being a member of the Mythopoeic Society, I have been able to tap into their rich knowledge and expertise to guide me through the “perilous realm” of writing beside canon. It was great practice and preparation for the return of my own “imaginary world” I began in high school that has its own history (and language) that I was asked to resurrect recently by the person that thought writing TKWRT was a great idea and the only known human being to have read the original 21 chapters that were 360 pages in 2016. Today, I’m over 467 pages with four chapters left to complete.
- Patience. I can’t stress that enough. I am the most impatient human being alive. I can’t wait to do anything. I can persevere via biting my tongue off. I was impatient to write when I knew I had to read and learn. I was chomping at the bit to get to the story but I knew in order to get it right, there were just some things I couldn’t put off. I had to read Tolkien’s Battle of the Five Armies over and over alongside The Atlas of Middle Earth–Revised Edition by Karen Wynn Fonstad (approved by Christopher Tolkien) in order to place the first person recounting of Thranduil. That came about when I accidentally left Beorn (skin changer) out and had revise what I had (which at the time was not a lot, admittedly). In the end, what Tolkien described in about 4-5 pages turned into a 33 page chapter from Thranduil’s experience–from his clandestine meeting with Thorin Oakenshield to when he returns home (not before receiving the Emeralds of Girion from Bard, giving Bilbo the title “Elf Friend” and having Bilbo give him the necklace that was not his wife’s as mentioned in Peter Jackson’s film, but rather part of his cut of the treasure in Erebor). I even had time to bury Thorin Oakenshield where Thranduil laid with him the Orcrist he confiscated in Mirkwood along with Bard returning the Arkenstone. Enter: Patience. I realized I have to add the confiscation of the Orcrist which I myself did not detail.
- It takes time to learn. I don’t have to rush so much. I am addicted to stress and love doing things at the last minute. I don’t know where I got that, but this time around, I had to realize being stressed won’t always mean good writing. Only worked in college. I took creative writing in undergraduate and post-graduate studies and coming up with stories on the fly (today known as flash writing I hear) was something I excelled at–especially if I got a B (which I got once). I would throw a silent tantrum and do an “I’ll show you” paper that always amazed my professors. This time, I had to learn not to rush anything because I had time. I didn’t have and deadlines. I now only give deadlines when I know I can finish stress-free. And since I am not signed with a publisher for any of my works, I can change my deadlines as necessary. I had to change the first deadline due to my father’s illness. The April 28 deadline may change (though only by a day or two if needed). I’ve learned that rushing doesn’t really work with storytelling. It’s a process I know well, but never actually thought about. Writing The Kingdom of the Woodland Realm Trilogy has forced me to stop and think for the first time what I was doing, wanted to do and could do.
- Boundaries: they actually exist. Unlike limitations, boundaries actually have to be drawn. Most fan fictions color outside the lines. I knew the moment I began that I was holding myself to account by remaining within the realities and boundaries of Middle Earth. I couldn’t add anything that changed the original stories while having to add new things that had to be “possible” within the story. Most people might think that would be hard to do. It is challenging if you don’t understand the original story. I had to reread and re-educate myself on Tolkien. When I looked beyond the rote ramblings of ME fans on blogs and Facebook pages, I found a wealth of new information that broadened my own view of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings. I had boundaries, true, but I also discovered I had more possibilities within those boundaries.
- I don’t know everything. There is a big difference between a Tolkien fan and a Tolkien expert. Fans think they’re experts and experts don’t want to be fans. Both of them are intense and they love making people feel bad for not knowing everything about Tolkien. It is like the glue that holds them together. During the writing of this story, I heard it all. I can’t do this, I don’t know that. This word is so Second Age. I had a discussion with someone for an hour over the age of Elves (all they knew came from a website and I have yet to find it in Tolkien literature). I tried to explain I had to ‘think as an elf’ to write about them. I had to mathematically figure out their age using the information given to me by Tolkien. That took three months to do, but it worked perfectly. I enjoy talking to both–but they often think they know everything or have to know everything. I’ve practically memorized The Unfinished Tales and I have no problems admitting I don’t know everything. Tolkien didn’t write his story knowing everything. He wrote an open world where anyone was invited to visit and discover for all time. While reading things, even I found minor mistakes in a few Tolkien Companion books* that were either missing or incorrect. The books aren’t wrong, but the Estate has been doing a lot of updating so things may change (and have) over the course of 80+ years.
I have two more books to write in this series and I will continue writing as I have been. Nothing will change–except maybe my perspective on writing. In the beginning, I saw the world as a desolate place full of darkness. Today, it still has the shadow of desolation but there are rays of light peering through the clouds. Being in the world of Tolkien reminded me that no world is perfect and isn’t supposed to be. The world will be what we put into it. Nothing more and nothing less.–J.
Image: ©2012. Warner Brothers Pictures. The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. All Rights Reserved.
“The adventure is far from over. I was very much like Bilbo when I started. I didn’t want to take a risk not knowing where I would end up. But I suppose some adventures you don’t take, they take you. It scares me to think what I might have missed had I not done any of this. I look back now and I can’t see where I started because I’ve come so far. I don’t think I want to be the same anymore.”–Jaynaé M. Miller
- Tolkien, J.R.R. The Peoples of Middle-Earth. ed. by Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2015.
- Foster, Robert Tolkien’s World From A to Z: The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth. New York: Del Rey Books, 1978.
- Tyler, J.E.A. The Complete Tolkien Companion. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976.