Why I think fans should lighten up on George RR Martin

11 Jul

So it seems some fans got under George RR Martin’s skin with their self-centered concerns about his health: “What if he dies and I don’t get to read how A Song of Ice and Fire ends?” (Those are the books Game of Thrones is based on, if you were wondering …)

And George fired back with an expletive and a hand gesture. (I call him George because of the nature of our relationship: Someone close to me met him once.)

While I hope I never react like that to people who want to read what I write (or anyone, for that matter), I’ve learned some things in writing my series, The Day Magic Died, that make me want to cut George some slack.

Writers have one speed. Someone who writes slowly, as George does, writes slowly. Someone who writes quickly, as I do, writes quickly. You really can’t change that.

I already knew that. Even way back in high school, I was that annoying kid who always got done with the test first. I usually scored in the high 90s, but never 100 percent. Teachers tried to get me to slow down. “You should be able to get 100 if you slow down,” they’d say. And being the kind of annoying kid who thought scoring 100 was a good thing, I tried. And tried. And I always did worse.

While I already knew that I had just one speed, the process of writing a book series has made it all that much more apparent. I write quickly … and I need a good editing team to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Which is especially important because …

A big book series takes a massive amount of focus. Sometimes I find the scope of my series – all the things I have to keep track of – overwhelming. I am on the fifth of five books, all told from the perspective of one character, and the series covers less than one year of her life in about a half-million words.

I cannot imagine the focus required by the complexity of A Song of Ice and Fire.

I can tell you that as I am working on Book Five, The White-Silver House, I have a set of notes I keep coming back to. Yet as recently as two weeks ago one of my critical readers/editing team members asked what happened to one particular character, and I had to admit: “Oh. I forgot about that.” (Not to worry, it was a minor character and a minor incident, but it bears wrapping up.)

But as much as you want to just buckle down and focus …

A writer cannot simply focus on the books. Come on, you know this if you’ve followed me. I got bogged down in Book Four, The Dwarf’s Legacy so I stopped for a bit and made my wife an Elizabethan doublet gown. It meant Book Four took longer to finish, but it also meant it was a better book.

George said something similar himself. The Independent quoted him as saying, “I found out long ago that when you look at the overall task, the cathedral you have to build, it looks so daunting that you just give up and sit down and play a video game.”

Now, as I am wrapping up the series, I am finding it even more important to step back from Book Five. Frequently. The intensive focus it takes to pull this together is not something I can maintain for long. Maybe it’s time for me to make that Viking outfit I’ve been thinking about.

So, fans of George RR Martin, please lighten up. He’s going at his speed, and working through his process. If you get the books any other way, they won’t be the same.

Shameless plug alert: While you’re waiting, you can check out my series. Four books are out, and the fifth and final one is due out this year. Start with The House in the Old Wood

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