An epic journey.
- One, a quest of destruction. The other, a quest of discovery.
- One undertaken out of necessity. The other undertaken out of curiosity.
- One completed. One still underway.
- Both, a journey to faraway lands and places that stretch the bounds of the imagination.
The other day, I realized how much Frodo and I have in common—aside from the obvious things like a passionate love of food, stable lives, and a happy life in a beautiful corner of the world. (Colorado’s not quite the Shire, but its close.)
Frodo went on one of the most epic, well-known quests in literature.
While my journey is less widely acclaimed—understatement of the year—I feel that my writing journey is much like his quest.
The Quest Begins
Frodo started his quest from the innocent ignorance of the Shire. When Gandalf came and revealed the identity of the One Ring, Frodo had no idea what he was getting himself in to. As a plain hobbit, how could he imagine the dangers of the world beyond the Shire and anticipate the twists the road of his journey would take?
I started writing on a whim was I was seventeen. An idea popped into my head and I said, “Hey, I want to write a story about that.”
So I did.
Like Frodo, little did I know what treacherous territory I had ventured into, leaving behind the sheltered life of a regular person for the journey of a writer.
Out of the Shire and Into the Fire
All too soon, reality set in for Frodo. What with Black Riders, a huge world he knew nothing about, and the sudden threat of death, his quest took on a grim reality. No more fun and games. No more mushrooms with Maggot or happy thoughts of seeing elves. He was engaged in serious business.
As I recall, my first major setback came when, after completing a two-book series, I realized how awful they were and that they both needed a major overhaul. Instead of saying, “That was fun but I think I’ll move on to something else now,” I pressed through.
No amount of threats—I mean revisions—would deter me.
The Fall of a Friend
The scene at the bridge of Khazad-dum and Gandalf’s fall is one of the most vivid and moving parts of Fellowship of the Ring. Without warning, Frodo loses his guide and one of his closest friends.
In a time of such pain, it would have been easy to give up. To let the moment overwhelm and paralyze him. No one would blame him for quitting.
Two years after I began writing, I was out mowing the field on a hot summer morning. I came in only to learn that disaster had struck. Our computer crashed, taking every bit of information with it. No backups. Nothing to restore.
I had been literally 3 days away from finishing the final book in a science fiction trilogy. So close, and then puff, it was gone.
Thankfully, I had my original two books, as well as what I had completed in the trilogy, stored on the laptop. It wasn’t a total loss. Frodo wasn’t alone after Gandalf fell, and though I had to rewrite two-thirds of the final book, I hadn’t lost everything, either.
An Editor Closes the Black Gate
Further along his journey, Frodo thought he had a gasp on the situation. He would slip into Mordor through the Black Gate, the quickest route to Mount Doom.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as he’d planned. With the short way barred, he was forced to go the long way round, encountering numerous difficulties along the way. He refused to admit defeat and pressed on, driven to reach the end of the journey.
A couple years ago, I thought I was ready. My plans were laid and I was nearing my goal of being published. With a decent book in hand and four more in the series on the way, I found an editor who also wrote fantasy. A perfect fit.
I was in for a surprise. I knew the book wasn’t perfect, but she pointed out flaws I hadn’t even considered. She was kind but firm in suggesting I revamp the entire series from the foundation up.
I had reached a crossroads—press on in the hope it would turn out, or, like Frodo, turn aside and live to fight another day.
Devastated though I was, I took her advice, and I can say now with full confidence that it was the single best decision I’ve made in my writing journey. Taking a longer, more arduous route was daunting, but I had come too far to surrender.
The Quest Ends
Eventually, after months fraught with more trials than a small hobbit should be able to endure, Frodo reached Mount Doom. The goal, no more than a vague hope for so long, was before him.
After the task was complete and his quest was officially done, his sense of relief, of sheer joy at completing the journey and surviving, must have been overwhelming. He undertook an impossible quest lived to tell the tale.
All the effort he exerted was worth it in the end.
Where am I now, you might ask? I feel like I’m in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, imprisoned by the myriad other things going on in life that prevent me from writing. Some are more necessary than others, but the urge to escape and return the journey hasn’t faded.
Still, I know that one day I will escape, make the trek across Mordor—that will probably come in the form of rejection letters—and reach the end of the journey.
The ultimate destination of being published.
Unlike Frodo, I’ll be gaining instead of disposing. After thousands of hours spent plodding along the twisting path and enduring hardships, setbacks, and fleeting triumphs, the end will come.
And it will be glorious. The journey, so long, so tiring, filled with doubt and insecurity, will be worthwhile once I arrive. Because the view from the top of Mount Published will be amazing.
Thank you for indulging this interruption to your regularly scheduled spec-fic program.
Have you ever experienced a time in life that felt like going on a quest you would never finish? Does Frodo’s success despite the odds encourage you to keep striving until you reach your goal? I would love to hear your thoughts.