Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Every Frodo Needs a Samwise Gangee

Has it ever occurred to you that the road to publication bears a strong resemblance to the road to Mordor and we're all just Frodos obsessed with our "preciouses" i.e. our manuscripts? Think about it. We know where we need to go, but there are lots of ways to get there and even more ways to get lost. Some of those ways can be injurious to our health and some of them can make us downright crazy. There are all sorts of villains and weird creatures we meet along the way. And our worst enemy on the journey, more often than not is ourself!

We all have companions on this journey to publication. None of mine are as handsome as Aragorn or as cute as Legolas. We should all BE so lucky! But I don’t think anyone can make the journey through the perils of contests, critiques, query letters, rejections, rewrites and everything else without at least being aware of our fellow travelers.

While we’d all really like a Gandalf on our side – who wouldn’t want a wizard to conjure up the perfect query letter or the perfect synopsis or heck, while he’s at it why not the perfect book? And every quest needs a Merry and Pip for a little comic relief. I see myself as a sort of Gimli for the writers I know. I’m like a bull in a china shop and when I fall off the horse I say “I meant to do that.” Not to mention the fact that I’m about the same size as a dwarf and sometimes have to stand on a box to see what is happening!

Lord knows when I get those rejection letters or really bad critiques from contest judges I would love to have an Aragorn, or Legolas, or Borimir to shoot a couple of arrows or fling a sword in those judges’ or editors’ direction – not to draw blood, just to scare them a little.

But to me, an aspiring writer might be able to make the journey without all of those people, IF said writer had a Samwise Gangee.

A writer needs someone who is going to stick with them for the entire journey, someone who won’t lose them no matter what the road throws at you. “Don’t you lose him, Samwise Gangee. And I don’t mean to, Mr. Frodo. I don’t mean to.”

A good Sam will make sure you stay on the road every time you want to turn back. Your Sam will tell you when you are making a mistake, taking on too much or going in the wrong direction. When you put your faith in the wrong person, or the wrong idea or thing, Sam will tell you so – vehemently and if you insist on going forward anyway Sam will be there even then waiting for you to figure it out. Because a Sam doesn’t insist you do it his or her way or no way. A good Sam tells you about the possibilities, warns you about the bad choices, lets you make your own mistakes and doesn’t berate you when do, but says “Okay, that didn’t work. What do you want to try next?”

A good Sam believes in you. They’ll help you with the burden, but they’ll never take it over from you. A good Sam knows the one great truth – that while you may be on this journey together, ultimately the work is yours and yours alone. Your Sam is there to help you make the journey, not to make it for you.

Most important, when you question why you’re putting yourself through this, why you don’t just turn around and go home, your Samwise Gangee won’t let you quit. He/she will tell you why you are making the journey and why anything less than completion of the quest is just not possible. He/she will remind you why you started this journey and why you have to finish it. “There is some beauty in this world and it is worth saving.” You may not think your writing is beautiful or worth saving, but your Samwise will and he/she’ll remind you of that every time you try to quit.

A Sam will hold a mirror up to your writing to make sure you see all the wrinkles, warts and gray hair without pulling any punches. And when you cry about the impossibility of fixing all of that he/she’ll say “Let’s just start by getting down the hill.” When you are crushed by the latest rejection and feel completely devastated and exposed he/she’ll say “Let’s find you something to wear. You can’t go walking about Mordor in nothing but your skin.” (In other words – Toughen up. Put on some armor and keep going!)

And when you are hanging over the lake of fire and just want to let go of your dream and let the toughness of the journey consume you, a Samwise Gangee will tell you “Don’t let go.” And if you are half as strong as Sam believes you are, you won’t. Ever. Until the quest is done.

Do you have a Samwise Gangee in your life? Do you think every writer needs one? What has your Sam done for you to keep you going on the road to publication? And is it just me or do you sometimes have dreams about some of these editors as a big all-seeing eye just waiting for you to send your manuscript into their office so they can burn it and you alive?


Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Well said, Louisa, and yes, but I have more than one Samwise Gangee, each with his or her own finger in my not yet baked pie.

I have my CP who argues and reasons and lets go. I have a gal pal, who isn't a writer, but believes in me to the extent that I dare not even contemplate not believing in myself, and there is my sweetie who eats a lot of soup and is a great sounding board--even if he's totally clueless. I have long discussions with him that help me decide things, and the man never says a word!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Louisa, this is awesome. What a well-done analogy. And you in no way, shape, or form resemble Gimli, except that he's the comic relief and you make me laugh.

I've been lucky enough to find a good CP to keep me honest, and like Gwynlyn (love that version, I'm a Gwendolyn) I have a few cheerleaders who just think it's cool that I write.

I agree, the road would be much harder without a Sam to keep us grounded. Great post!

C.J. Redwine said...

Nice post, Louisa! :)

I'm blessed with several Samwise Gamgees. My hubby is my staunchest supporter, and I have a group of four amazing CPs who are both cheerleader and coach to me as I write.

Callie James said...

Wonderful analogy, Louisa! Everyone who knows me, knows my husband is my Sam. I don't think I ever would have quit writing, but with my Sam here, I think I'll actually make it to publication somewhat sane.

I also have a critique partner who is always positive and keeps me smiling. She's able to look for things in my manuscript that I ask her to look for, no more and no less. This is hugely important in a critique partner. As you say, she isn't trying to walk the road for me. She's just pointing out the rocks along the way. *waves to MV*

Susan Gee Heino said...

Great analogy, Louisa. My Samwise is my BFF, Melody. We met in college and have never given up on each other. She's not a writer, but she's an avid reader and always made me think that just maybe my pitiful efforts had what it would take to eventually get published. She helped me believe in myself and shake off those rejections. She also helped to keep me sane, not all-consumed by whatever "precious" I was working on at the time. She kept me connected to real life. Now that I actually am published, she still cheers me on and is passing out bookmarks and bragging to everyone about these great books they should read. I couldn't ask for a better companion on this journey.

Kat Jones said...

Great analogy!! I agree that we all need a Sam to pick us up and keep us going.

Darynda said...

This is a fantastic post, Louisa!!! I do have a Sam. Her name is Tammy. I shall call her Tam from now on so the analogy is more salient. LOL.

Just love this!

Lexi said...

Louisa, you KNOW I love LOTR!!! This is a beautiful post. I especially love the All-seeing Eye reference. Hee hee. I agree we need others to help us along the way. And, like hobbits, we have to have something worth fighting for (our writing is our Shire!) in order to be able to face the dark forces of Mordor.

Carla Swafford said...

OMG! This was great and such a truth! Without the people who support us, especially going with us every step of the way, we would never get so close to even get burned.

I have so many Sams (thankfully) and love every one of them.

Cari Hislop said...

Great analogy! I think every artist needs a Sam. There are a number of lovely people I've met over the years who have and do help me. I know I could NOT have come this far without them. Maybe I should send them some thank you cards. My husband is my biggest Sam. After we were married a year and I could legally go out and get a job (I moved to England from the States) I suggested one day it was time I find work. He encouraged me to work on my dreams of being an author instead. I adore him for that...and many other reasons.

Note to Louisa (and anyone else who loves the Regency era) If you've never heard of the book, 'Mrs Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life 1812-1823' It's utterly enchanting. I've put a few pictures in a blog post if you're interested.

The book is out of print, but there are lots of second hand copies around. The book has 70 tiny prints of paintings made by a young Regency woman painting her family life. It oozes story ideas!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey Gwyn !

Thanks for stopping by!

Sounds like you have your own "fellowship of the ring" going there.

And sometimes the wisest Samwise is the one who never says a word. He just knows!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey Gwen !!

Aren't you sweet! I'm glad I make you laugh. In this business sometimes it is REALLY hard to laugh!

And a squad of cheerleaders is always helpful!

Louisa Cornell said...

C. J. !! Great to see you here! Your hubby is SUCH a great guy! And critique partners are just the best, aren't they!

Louisa Cornell said...


A Sam who can keep you sane in this business is worth his weight in gold!

And you are fortunate in your critique partner. The ones who can pinpoint the problems in a manuscript, but NOT try to make you write the novel their way are priceless!

Louisa Cornell said...

Susan !

Hello Pixie Sister!

A BFF who loves your work and keeps all the every day aspects of your life sane is just a treasure. I suspect she is one of those "Preciouses" we all wish we had!

And she's right. Your books are WONDERFUL!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Kat !

You are SO right. This business tends to knock us down when we least expect it. A Sam who is always there to pick us up and get us back on the road is absolutely someone we all need!

Louisa Cornell said...


Tammy to Tam, I like it !!

And hey, everyone, Darynda's debut is burning up the reviews. Snatch up a copy of First Grave on the Right as soon as you see it on the shelves. You will love it!

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL Yes, Lexi, I seem to recall you mentioning your love of LOTR. (Ask her about her Legolas throw, ladies! She steals it from her daughter!)

And you are absolutely right. We Hobbits of Writing DO have something worth fighting for!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Carla!

And hey, you are a Sam for many of us in Southern Magic. You are a real inspiration. And it sounds like you are getting closer and closer to the gates of Mordor!

Louisa Cornell said...

Now, Cari, THAT is a great husband! He is a real Samwise in every sense of the word.

And THANKS for the heads up on the book! I will definitely look that up!

M.V.Freeman said...

LOVE this post Louisa!!!

I have been blessed with a Sam (Actually more than one). The steadfast friend. In turn, I try to give that back to them. What better way to get through this writing journey? Not by one's self--but with friends. Without them, the joy is not as sweet. And the failures hurt even more.

This is a great analogy!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you, M.V. !!

"Without them, the joy is not as sweet. And the failures hurt even more."

What a great way to put it! Love that!

Christine said...

I have a few Sams in my life. And I cherish their ongoing support and honesty. I also have support in the non-writing world. I try to be a good Sam for all my friends, too, but I think I tend to be comic relief on more than one occasion.

I wonder if Darling Hubby is my Aragon? Yes, I believe he is despite his more rustic exterior. After all, he never fails to go into battle for me. He's awesome.

Great post!

Louisa Cornell said...


What a lucky girl you are to have a Sam AND an Aragorn!

Every girl should have a hero to slay her dragons!

Just like every writer should have a Sam to keep her on track!