Who was J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing coach?

My free seminar saga – the conclusion.

But before that — I’d like to tell you I’m doing NaNoWriMo, for the first time ever, and I’m four days AHEAD of schedule. Steve Alcorn, my instructor from several Gale courses I’ve taken, convinced me I could do it. I didn’t share his optimism–I have a full time job and two teenage kids–but it turns out he believed in me more that I believed in myself. Thank you, Steve!

Ah, yes. Forgot to tell you how much I love challenges. So here I am. As of yesterday, November 21, I have 42,000 words. As of the title, I thought “Living Next Door to Elise”, but my heroine started her journey as Lucy and didn’t let me change her name. But I have the most gorgeous cover–hot and sexy and all mine.

Back to the main topic: One of the presenters spoke about the biggest mistakes preventing just-authors from becoming best-selling authors.  Mistakes 1-3 and the remedies can be found in my previous post.

So, mistake #4.

The presenter promised to give beginner authors the best piece of advice, something they should do right away. I held my breath in anticipation. It turned out to be something inapplicable to me: to hire a small army of coaches and mentors for various aspects of your book. Well, why then not throw in some more money and find someone to write you a book? (This is me asking a rhetorical question.)

Explanation: Writing is like sports. Athletes need coaches. Therefore, writers need them too. It’s a syllogism with the main premise incorrect, which makes the conclusion incorrect as well. But it still makes sense: coaching is the guy’s main business.

Coaching and mentoring, then.


Who mentored Tolstoy, Tolkien, Hemingway, Mark Twain…? I don’t say having a coach or a mentor is a bad idea, but honestly, how many authors and writers can afford them? Then he said, don’t rely on reading and learning from other writers.

Excuse me? Reading is the best way to learn how to write. Good books, average books, bad books… it doesn’t matter. You learn something from every one of them. The more you read, the better writer you are.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

People have been writing for millennia without coaches, mentors, courses… Some of them were successful authors, some not. Some became classics. Some were fashionable, but they didn’t pass the test of time. Some just weren’t good writers.

It’s not much different today. There is Annie Proulx, for example, or Marguerite Yourcenar, or Mikhail Bulgakov, or Kazuo Ishiguro, or Umberto Eco, or Sandor Marai, or Stephen King… Then there are thousands upon thousands of great, decent, good, intelligent, funny, fashionable, entertaining writers (George R. R. Martin being my recent favorite; in my humble opinion, the literary value of some of his work– yes, I do mean A Song of Ice and Fire; I think it’s brilliantis underestimated.)

And then there is Paulo Coehlo, a sad (and best-selling) case of mistaken literary identity, a changeling left in place of a true artist.

This is an entirely different topic, I know; I just couldn’t resist the temptation.

Back to the event. One of the leitmotifs of the summit was the famous e-mail list, but here I don’t know what to say. It’s a big catch 22. You can’t build the list if you don’t have a relatively successful book; for your book to be successful, you need an email list. The longer the better.

On the bright side, there was lots of talk about building relationships, not constantly bragging about your books and pushing people toward the ‘buy this’ button. What I really

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

liked was the simple philosophy of giving instead of taking. The famous JFK’s words, “… ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” applied to the author-reader relationship. It could be the key.

(JFK and I share the same initials, if you haven’t noticed.)

I shared bits and pieces I heard during the 5-day-times-3-sessions-per-day summit, some things I didn’t know before, tips that I found useful.

Now, to stay in the spirit of the event, I’ll try to initiate dialogue, or better yet, conversation, hoping that some of you will make it to this point of my blog.

What are your writing, publishing and marketing strategies? Is writing for you a way to express your creativity, or is it a business?

About jfkaufmann

Not unlike my characters, I lead a double life: by day I'm a mother, a friend, a colleague, and the queen of my kitchen. When the moon rises, however, I shift into my other self and, as Queen of the Night, I reign the magical world of my imagination.
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