We All Have A Little Gollum In Us

The book. The book. It’s always the book. So by the end of this week I will have finished the third draft of ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles – Skelly’s Square’. 120K words. 90 plus chapters. 400 ish pages. I’m now in a position where it can be printed out, bound and attacked with a red pen. I have beta readers waiting in the wings and the pressure is most definitely on. Suddenly this dream of mine is starting to feel very real.

Last night in bed I had a mini panic attack. I suddenly didn’t want to be a blogger or aspiring author. I wanted to step back into the shadows of anonymity and forget I ever started this crazy journey. I didn’t want the attention, the expectation, the pressure. I wanted to bin the manuscript, delete the blog and pretend the last 15 months never happened. Why did I ever think I was talented? I can’t even decide on Meredith’s hair colour for goodness sake?

It was as if I was a nervous groom on the eve of his wedding, dithering on whether or not he was going to put in an appearance on the big day itself. All the hard work had been done and people are relying on him to be there. Without him there is no wedding. Without me there is no book. But the world will still keep spinning. Thousands of other books will be written and published. Civilisation will muddle on and survive without learning of Kirkwood Scott and his strange story.

As I edit I am plagued with doubts. Why do I keep using the same words over and over again? Why does the plot resemble a leaky, old boat in places? The list goes on. I know that the beta reading process is designed to pick up on a lot of this but the actual thought of letting real people digest and dissect a years work? Well it’s terrifying if I’m honest. Will my skin be thick enough to endure the feedback I know is needed in order for this project to get off the ground?

I’m chain drinking Diet Coke as if it’s going out of fashion. My nails are bitten to the quick. I’m driving Fionnuala insane. Okay, no change with the last point but you get my drift. I’m sacrificing time and energy in order to drag this albatross around my neck to completion. And for what? To be torn asunder at the beta stage? To be rejected again and again and again by countless agents and publishers? To fritter away my money on self publishing only to never recoup a fraction of the money.

These are my fears and doubts. This is me being honest. I’m sure I am not alone in these thoughts. Most competitors are afflicted with pre-match nerves before the start of an event. The knees of soldiers always knocked together on the eve of battle. This is part of the journey, the process, the experience. It goes with the territory. Aspiring authors are paranoid, despairing, needy creatures. We are the Gollums of the literary world.

Oh to be a Sméagol again I sometimes think. A carefree, happy go lucky hobbit whose only concern was what he was going to have for his second breakfast. Before he stumbled across The Ring and was submerged into a world of obsession and darkness. I don’t want to be a Gollum. I seek the light for I have lived long enough in the abyss. I’m a little bit like Kirkwood Scott in that regard. Now there’s a coincidence.

For here’s the thing. The book is one of many beacons in my life, keeping me on this path less traveled. It might seem pie in the sky to some but it grounds and focuses me. It is my reality. Which steels my resolve and convinces me that it is worth the worry and the doubt. It is worth the tossing and turning at night and the bitten nails. We all have a little Gollum in us. Just don’t let him take over my precioussssssss readers.

Are you a Gollum or a Sméagol?

Do you struggle with worry and doubt?

113 thoughts on “We All Have A Little Gollum In Us

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  1. I know that it’s terrifying to be on the cusp of something so daunting and life changing, but you sweet friend will carry that ring like a champion and ideally will have significantly less orcs along the way. 😉 You’re a rockstar. Never forget that. ❤️

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  2. Love this post! There’s definitely a bit of both Gollum and Smeagol in me LOL. You’re feeling vulnerable, but the risk is worth it! Chin up, it’ll be fine – you’ll wonder what all the stressing was for once it’s over 😊

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  3. I’m new here, have just stumbled on your blog (and subscribed), and your writing is excellent, and with all of the Golllum/Sméagol references, I can’t help but love you already. We all have our inner demons. You know this is normal. The anxiety and doubt are good signs that you’re highly critical of your work, which will push you to make it the finest piece possible–if you don’t let it destroy you in the process (the ring? 🙂 ).

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  4. Anxiety? Yes, I can relate. But regardless of the mistakes which beta readers will inevitably find, YOU ARE A GOOD WRITER. You’ve proven it over months of blogging. So don’t feel too bad when you see all those red marks on your manuscript. Seasoned writers have to deal with those, too. It’s not about criticizing YOU, it’s about making THE STORY better.

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  5. Can you believe I’ve neither read nor seen the Hobbit? As I am feeling wiped out physically today, this might be the day for movie watching. I will also say prayers for your faith and fears. Blessings!

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                  1. Oh yay, I had no idea how long it would take to arrive, since it wasn’t first class, but I’m glad it didn’t take too long. My handwriting was actually quite messy there but thanks so much! I used my “special” pink pen 😂

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                    1. Ooohhhhh yes… For example, this morning, I hadn’t eaten yet and my mom was being cheerful for some unknown reason and I was being an unpleasant person. I was fine after eating though 😉

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  6. I have several remarks to make, so I’ll submit them separately, to keep from overwhelming the WordPress spam filter (it doesn’t like long comments).

    For a 400-ish page, 120K-word manuscript, 90-plus chapters may be excessive, which could be a reason for some of these doubts and fears. Perhaps the continuity of the story has been fragmented by too many major divisions: many of those chapter breaks may actually be scene breaks, instead. Re-reading it to find the rhythm of the narrative may reveal that the chapters are too short. Longer chapters of 5,000 to 6,250 words can accommodate the flow of most major plot episodes, which, when divided by naturally occurring scene breaks, take roughly 30 to 40 minutes to read (easily done during typical bus or train commutes, as well as bedtime winding-down reading sessions). Using this standard, the novel may have only 20 to 24 chapters.

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  7. Meredith’s hair colour may not need to be decided. Unless hair is a detail that really matters for character development (is she in the habit of dyeing it odd shades?) or plot movement (is this a Rapunzel re-telling?), it can be left out. If necessary, there are many other ways to describe hair other than its hue: is it curly, shiny, greasy, fine, fluffy, short, long, plaited, tangled, carefully coiffed but infested with nits, or (as in the case of the main male character in my first novel) balding?

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  8. There may be a good reason for an author to keep using the same words over and over again. Pay close attention to those words in their context: they may indicate meaningful foreshadowing, repetition, symbolism or parallelisms. These things can arise spontaneously when writing is inspired, and may need only a little gentle polishing to make them shine.

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  9. The plot may resemble a leaky, old boat in places, simply because the characters live on the island of Ireland, as the main female character in my first novel experienced, in this excerpt: “Now Lana gazed gloomily up at the canopy of the four-poster bed. Life itself hardly seemed worth the effort of getting up and living it. She listened lethargically as the wind picked up speed while it rushed through the orchard– Not another storm! Nature had already served up so much soft weather all summer– ‘Soft’, my foot! Squishy – sodden – seeping – sorry excuse for weather! Ireland was a leaky old tub adrift in the North Atlantic, shipping water faster than Lana could bail it out.”

    Be careful when editing parts that may not seem to hang together: they may not all be defective. Some may be just fine, although written strangely, because they reflect the state of mind or represent the perceptions of a character. Others may be perfectly good writing, but are misplaced pieces of the puzzle: once they’re relocated to their proper positions in the narrative, they connect seamlessly to what goes before and after them.

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  10. Authors need not fritter away money on self publishing only to never recoup a fraction of it. Use of a print-on-demand (POD) provider such as Lulu or CreateSpace costs only as much as the price of one or two proof copies, which are sold at printing cost, plus postage and packing. With POD, an Indie author-publisher need not invest in any inventory, either: after the author-publisher designates the distribution channel(s) and writes a blurb, the POD provider takes over, sending the marketing information to online retailers and aggregator sites, who catalog the book and fulfill any orders. To personally sell copies at a promotional event (such as a reading or a book-signing at a shop or library), buy only as many copies as are reasonably saleable – there is no minimum purchase, although volume discounts may be offered.

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  11. I’m a hostage to the darkness of Mordor, forever searching for the Light.

    Please don’t forget the little people you’ve met along the way. You’ve got this!!!! 😊

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  12. I think your feelings must be common among writers. My daughter went through it with her first book, “Faith’s Journey” and is doing it again with her second one. I will say, it’s not quite as bad the second time around because she knows a little of what to expect. I also have a friend from our writer’s group going through it now. I know it doesn’t help much but at least you’re not alone.

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  13. I had a panic attack/mini depression that lasted a few days in June. I doubted blogging. I doubted the book. I wondered about my calling that God had set me on. It happens. 🙂

    Something I’ve noticed when it comes to test readers. Hear what people have to say. See if there are multiples if more than one or two people are giving you the same feedback, especially if relating to something not clear. One people may struggle with a particular part or be confused, but if all of your other test readers have no feedback on that piece, consider what is said, but there is no requirement to fix things. Also, I read the comment about the chapters. I’ve read a few articles about chapters and they honestly can be as short or long as you want. I think chapter length, personally, is a preference.

    (I actually break chapters when a scene ends because as a reader, I personally enjoy shorter chapters. It makes me feel accomplished and always gives me something to look forward to.) But see what your readers say. And hey, if people think some chapters could be pulled into two, make sure to ask 🙂 This is all about editing too.

    About feedback, I’ve noticed when I’ve given feedback before it did not matter how positive I was overall. The pieces I was strong about, especially when dealing when a writer goes over a topic lightly when it is not a light topic, the writer got defensive about the reason and choice they went with. I’ve been on both sides, a reader and a writer. I think it is easy for us to want to defend our choices. However, we know the full story, we created everything. A reader is not a creator of the story. They only can go with what we gave them. Like we may write a scene, for example, and we have the whole scene in our mind, with less written details. Our reader cannot visualize what we see in our mind if we do not give it to them.

    It helps too knowing your test readers. If you know they are not cruel, then trust that they are not purposely trying to hurt you 🙂 they want you to succeed and part of that comes from mutual honesty. I’ve learned a lot taking this perspective and approach.

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      1. Being your first time with reader feedback it may take adjusting to. But it is not easy for a lot of people. 🙂 I’m glad you are happy with your chapter length! If it works with you and the story you are telling, go for it!

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  14. Nope, I’m afraid there’s no running away from this one … well you could I suppose, but then I’d get Fionnuala to publish it anyway and take all the credit for herself (well she has had to put up with you!) Nope, you’ll just have to start on your toenails – ha! What a grim thought! Don’t worry, the next book will be a breeze in comparison. Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back. Ps I bite my nails too (not toenails though)

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          1. Yesterday I arrived at Rochefort and am at a Municipal campsite again which is the loveliest I’ve been to yet. There was pétanque being played by all the men and yoga going on for the women .. meanwhile I spent a wonderful evening chatting to my neighbour Serge who has now written 9 books! Lovely man. Today I go to Royan and will be off my Velodysee route and taking to the minor more direct roads. You ok? Book ok? K

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              1. I loved your post – I reckon it was your best one. And I think someone else said that too … The game is like boules – one little ball and lots of bigger ones trying to get close to it. It seems to be rather a national sport here, played by men and women, young and old. Lovely.

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                  1. Yes the best one for sure – I say that without hesitation. As for the boules, they will play it anywhere it’s roughly level and normally is a rectangular sort of shape on thinly gravelled ground. I wish I knew if you were online as I’m pondering over a post and I wanted your advice. It’s certainly going in the book, but … it might be a bit much for a blog. I’ll email you if that’s ok. Very limited WiFi so will see if you’ve read it tomorrow when I’m back in internet land again. Is that ok?

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  15. We likes it! I am definitely more Gollum at times, though I prefer my fish cooked, and I don’t care for caves all that much. But I certainly talk to myself.

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  16. And I think you should decide on Meredith’s hair color so that you can fully visualize her. Those sorts of details help the reader imagine your character as well. So is she a spunky redhead? Serious brunette? Luscious blond? Or somewhere in between? How is her hair cut? Believe me, that says a lot about a woman.

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  17. I don’t know…my advice – forget all doubts. You should 101% believe your book is the most awesome ever and love it even more than 101% 😂😂
    and if you does (I believe u do 👀😉) – everything will be fine💕✌️💕
    Good luck!

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  18. Stephen, In my office I have a “note to self” for when I feel this way. It says, “SHUT UP AND WRITE!” It’s supposed to shock me out of my anxious thoughts – and it works pretty well. 🙂 You are a born writer! Get on with it!! 🙂

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