Renae is a teenage reader with eclectic tastes. She posts reviews on YA novels, literary fiction, historical works, etc. at her blog Respiring Thoughts.
Like many people, I first came to Tolkien when I was young. My dad reads The Lord of the Rings every year or two, and, the way my five-year-old self saw it, if it’s good enough for Daddy, it’s good enough for Renae. Since then I’ve taken to reading The Silmarillion every year instead of The Lord of the Rings, but that’s another story altogether.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing takes up a large minority of my reading time. As a reader and as an ocassional writer, he’s taught me a lot. About dedication, about significance, about what matters most in a book. So I thought I’d share a few of those lessons with you.
1. You think you’re finished. But you’re not. Stick with it.
Middle-earth was a lifelong project of Tolkien’s, one he never fully completed. The Silmarillion as we know it is probably not The Silmarillion J.R.R. would have wanted it to be. Any man who can spend decades creating a fictional world and mythology is a man I admire.
So the next time you want to give up (say, if your characters have gone out of control or your plot has more holes than Swiss cheese), don’t. Some things take time. Some things need to be constantly worked at, constantly refined.
2. It’s the worldbuilding, stupid.
The biggest factor I took away from The Lord of the Rings when I was a kid is the importance of building a realistic setting. Tolkien wrote volumes of material on Middle-earth, most of which were published posthumously. The world he created, quite simply, is the best I’ve ever read. I find myself constantly comparing the worldbuilding in books I read with Tolkien’s. I know I’ve set my standards high and I know I’ve set myself up for disappointment.
But then I read some recent YA releases. The worldbuilding in some of those books isn’t even comparable to Tolkien’s. And whether or not you’ve read Tolkien, it’s important. It’s very important.
3. The stories that stay with you.
There are some books that make an impression on you that sticks. You can’t stop thinking about the story. Maybe it’s a book from when you were younger or maybe it’s a fantastic new release. But it’s one of those books that you love, sometimes without even knowing why.
Look for those stories. Make a little dragon stockpile of them. They’re the ones you’ll wish you had more of.