Friday, June 24, 2016

Which camp are you in? Is it the writer's job to write or do you think the writer doesn't owe the reader anything and can do whatever he wants?

What took place in New Mexico this last week? George R.R. Martin and Stephen King got together: two chairs, one table, and two microphones. Stephen King opened it up, talking about how he hadn't read any of the Song of Ice and Fire books. He couldn't get through any of the Robert Jordan ones, so he figured it would be the same thing for George's books. Later, situations changed and he decided to give them a try. He said they were page turners, and he couldn't put them down.

Other things I learned: George R.R. Martin (in playing poker with Stephen King in the 80's) said you couldn't bluff him out even if you raised him a whole quarter. Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, is now a New York Times bestselling author. Joe didn't want to use his "King" name to achieve success. Something tells me though, that agents probably already knew who Joe Hill was ;).

Also, George R.R. Martin's laugh is half an octave from becoming a witch's cackle.

In waxing poetic about his own writing career, George said he got his start in a writing assignment when a teacher was going over the story "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allen Poe. Everyone in the room was assigned the task of writing a different ending to the story. George's ending had the guy get consumed by rats. They came out of the walls, ate his face, ate his toes, and burrowed into him while the pendulum descended and cut the guy in half. He said that his classmates loved the ending.

But the best part of the hour-long conversation was probably when George R.R. Martin wanted to know how Stephen King writes so fast. It turns out that King just writes and writes and writes while Martin doesn't. In a way, this whole staged event was a luminous peek into the contrasts of the greatest writers of our age. It's "the writer doesn't owe you anything and can do whatever he wants" versus "it's the writers job to write." Both writers have written some genius stuff and a lot of crap. Who can say which method is better?

Honestly though, it makes me wonder one thing about George R.R. Martin. I think he's worried about how people view him as a writer now, and he's worried that he'll disappoint them with future pieces of work. In other words, I think that his success now looms over him like a titan, and it terrifies him that his next book might be viewed as utter refuse. It's weird to think this, but George R.R. Martin may be one of the most insecure writers out there BECAUSE of the very fact that his name is now everywhere.

And maybe that's the true reason behind why it takes George R.R. Martin so long to write a book.


  1. I think it just has to do with style. Personally, I fall somewhere in between. I want to please my fans but I also want to just write something I would enjoy. (I'm a slow writer just because I'm a slow typist.)

  2. I saw that those two did this. I haven't watched the video yet, though. It's bookmarked for later.

    I like to think that I fall somewhere in between those two camps, but as much as I want to keep my five total fans happy, I first and foremost want to write a book with which I'm happy.

    And I can't even imagine the pressure that G.R.R.M is under.

  3. George is a notoriously slow writer. I wonder if he'll ever finish this massive story.

  4. It's the writer's "job" to write in so much as he wants to get paid for doing it. A writer my write whether s/he's getting paid or not, but it's only his/her "job" if there's money involved. Now, whether or not the writer owes it to his/her readers is a different question entirely, one I don't have a good answer for.

    (I was in SF last night. City Hall is all lit up in Pride colors for the Pride event that's happening. I have pics, but it will probably be a while before I post them. My computer crash has... caused all kinds of problems.)

  5. I don't think the writer owes the reader anything (except making sure he only releases good quality stuff) but I think writing regularly makes writing easier. I know, as I've been experiencing a forced gap and am really having trouble getting going again. But I think you may be onto something with the high profile of ASoIaF and George having some fear about living up to himself. Kings books all stand alone and some hit and some miss and his attitude seems to be a bit "meh, you win some you lose some". George is having his first GIANT success (he had successes earlier I'd be happy with, but you know what I mean) and it is all part of the same big thing and has been epic... and the ending needs to also be epic... Epic enough to make us forget the Meereenese knot...

  6. George must feel that weight of keep on producing writing, maintaining glory and drawing readers in. I understand that, and admire that in him. He is a careful, meticulous writer. King can let it rip, like he is on a roller coaster. Awesome.

  7. I think you've figured Martin out. I saved the video to look at when I have some more time, for I really want to hear the whole thing.

  8. A writer doesn't owe readers anything and readers don't owe writers the cost of earning a living.

  9. No, I don't think a writer owes readers anything. Although...if Martin really wants to get more done he might want to consider outlining because it really does help. He's also getting older and perhaps slowing down.