I don’t talk a lot about my writing in specific because it’s not an easy thing to talk about. Other writers all seem to have a “WIP” or Work in Progress that they are focused on and can discuss in detail. For me its different. I believe I suffer from what I’m going to call “Silmarillion Syndrome”.
What is it?
Everyone knows Tolkien for his masterpieces The Hobbit and The Lord
of the Rings, but the work that Tolkien devoted his life to was the body
of legends that would become The Silmarillion, only published after his
death. Tolkien began the stories that comprised The Silmarillion in his
youth and some of them went through dozens of permutations. From early
on he had the idea of fitting them together into a mythology of the
Elves. First there was The Book of Lost Tales, wherein the tales of the
Elves were told to a mortal Man who had found his way to the Elves’
island home. Later versions removed the Man and the told story aspect
and made them into straightforward mythological accounts collected in a
body called the Quenta Silmarillion. Tolkien wrote several versions
which he was never quite happy with which is why it later fell to his
son to edit together the sometimes fragmented legends into a publishable
volume. Tolkien never saw his beloved Elven history in print.
This desire for an overarching structure to the tales and need to
have them fit together seamlessly into a single legendarium is all too
familiar to me. As is the perfectionism that led to countless versions
and revisions. I too want a comprehensive mythology for my world that
was full of origin stories and heroic legends. For the past year I have
been studying and ruminating and plotting and planning to come up with
my own overarching structure for my fantasy stories. I have been
obsessed with the Big Picture, trying to create a structure that every
idea and every story element I have ever had and will ever have can
easily fit into.
Wow, writing it out like that makes it sound stupidly ambitious.
Which is, I think, a phrase that perfectly describes me when I start
getting creative. Sarah McCabe: Stupidly Ambitious Fantasy Stories. It
Anyway, I’ve been trying to work out this overarching narrative for
some time now and I believe I’ve made a real breakthrough. Puzzle pieces
are starting to fit together, the Big Picture is almost in view. It’s a
dizzying feeling actually because I had begun to doubt whether or not I
had the skill to formulate an overarching narrative that created the
sort of depth you get from Tolkien’s work. Now I think maybe I can
actually plan it out, but it still remains to be seen if I can turn it
into a well told story. And whether I can manage to finish such an
ambitious project in my lifetime.