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The Literary Rants: George RR Martin’s Writing Pace

February 5, 2017
Why is Martin making public appearances? He should be writing Winds of Winter!! (image via wikimedia)

Why is Martin making public appearances? He should be writing Winds of Winter!! (image via wikimedia)

As an aspiring writer, I probably shouldn’t criticize author George R.R. Martin much.  He’s more successful than I’ll probably ever be.

As a potential reader, however, I can criticize him a lot.   George R.R. Martin has been writing his Game of Thrones series A Song of Ice and Fire for over 20 years, and he still has two more books left to finish.  At the pace he’s going now, nobody is sure when (or if) he’s going to finish.

When Martin began the series, the first three books came out at a reasonable clip.  The fourth, fifth, and sixth books, however, have taken at least five years each, and they’ve been long and convoluted, and to some fans, unsatisfying.  Take a look at the list below, and you’ll see what I mean:

A Game of Thrones  August, 1996

A Clash of Kings  February 1999

A Storm of Swords  November 2000

A Feast for Crows  November 2005

A Dance with Dragons  July 2011

The Winds of Winter  2017????

A Dream of Spring    ?????

At some point, Martin had hoped to have Winds of Winter completed by the end of 2015, and now supposedly he’s hoping to have it done sometime in 2017.  Critics say that Martin is taking too long to finish this series.  Fans say he should take his time and make the final two books as awesome as possible.  Critics then respond by saying that the longer the books take, the worse they are.

Since I haven’t read them, I don’t have an opinion about book quality, but five years between books seems like too long.  When I was a teenager, the three years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was an eternity.  Five years as an adult is shorter than three years as a kid, but a movie should take longer to make than a book (I don’t know if that’s true).

One problem is that Martin writes a bunch of stuff that is Game of Thrones related but isn’t Game of Thrones.  If I was waiting for Winds of Winter (and I’m not), I’d be pissed.  In fact, I’m pissed and I’m not even reading the books!

I’m pissed that Martin writes Dunk and Egg stories instead of finishing Game of Thrones.

I’m pissed that he writes Targaryen history instead of writing Game of Thrones.

I’m pissed that he’s involved with short story anthologies when he should be writing Game of Thrones.

I’m pissed that he does a bunch of speaking engagements when he should be writing Game of Thrones.

I’m pissed, but I’m not a danger to anybody.  I’m not going to riot in the streets and break windows and pepper spray people who disagree with me.  I’ll go read the Tom Bombadil chapter from The Lord of the Rings.  That always calms me down (or puts me to sleep).

To me, Martin’s one job should be to finish the last two books of Game of Thrones.  No more Dunk and Egg.  No more Targaryen history.  No more speaking engagements.  Just Game of Thrones.  24 hours a day.  7 days a week.

If Martin can’t do that, he should get James Patterson and his coauthors to finish Game of Thrones. They could be done with both books by summer.  I have a problem with a lot of what James Patterson does, but at least he doesn’t make fans wait long between books.

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What do you think? Will you read a series even if you know the series isn’t finished yet, or am I the only person who does that?  How long is a reasonable wait between books?  What do you read to calm yourself when you’re angry?

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8 Comments
  1. I think, as a writer myself, that he should finish the books at his own pace. Yes, I understand being annoyed he is taking so long, but it’s his world and characters, not the fans. I’m a slow writer myself, and if I’m not feeling the story, I can’t write. Also, he is older now and we don’t know what health issues he may have.

    If he doesn’t feel like writing, then forcing him to write the books isn’t going to make anyone happy. I know it sucks, but like I said before, it’s his world and characters, not ours.

  2. Well, being the writer for such a deep and popular series, I believe the ‘burden’ that he is shouldering to satisfy the readers through his writing is simply immense. Not to mention that writing heavily depends on one’s emotional condition and motivation (it took me months to actually finish a chapter at one time). As for reading a series, I usually don’t read a series that is more than one book away from its completion 🙂

  3. In my day….I know, it was in the dark ages, but still I have to share. Way back in 1982 I started reading Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. I was hooked and it turned me into a kind of Dark Tower Junkie. It was years between almost every book. Here are the years of publication: 1982, 1987,1991, 1997…and then they really, really slowed down – the next book (and he had left us hanging and wondering exactly what was going on)…the next book didn’t come out until 2003. I was nearly beside myself. During that time he was in a terrible accident (1999), I couldn’t even blame him for not working on the book. It was the first time I sought out a fan site on the internet, hoping to connect with others who were heartbroken and despairing over ever reading the end of this fantastic series.

    It could happen to George RR Martin’s series that it never does get finished. I know it is hard to wait. But, let me tell you. It was worth the wait. He outdid himself with the last three books – my all time favorite ending of any book anywhere. I can’t judge Martin, and, although I, also, am not reading his series, I expect wonderful things.

  4. I’m sorry, but I am not going to pander to the artist’s side, “A writer must ‘feel’ his work…don’t rush creativity.” Bull*#^%! (Insert playfulness here just in case you don’t get my sarcasm.) But in all seriousness, Writing is a business like any other. You have a commodity to produce, a marketplace to satisfy, and a bottom line to be responsible for. Especially after becoming successful. Otherwise, you have failed. Trust me when I say, there are thousands of other writers who would be happy to replace five years of time with their work! Time to create, or waiting for inspiritation, is a debut author’s luxury…and a successful author’s burden. I don’t read Game of Throwns so I have no skin in the game (no pun intended.) But even though writing is an art, it is also a business. To forget that the two coexist would be a misjudgment. So, I agree wholeheartedly…get the book done, then write the other things, Five years is too long!

  5. I can’t speak for Martin but I can share my personal experience. I wrote “Scripting” in less than 45 days. I published it ten months later and people love it. My second book I have been working on for 5 years now. And every time I do another round of beta people complain. I have lost the damn plot myself now on this thing. Too much time + too much tinkering = not a good idea.

  6. I hope you realize that if Martin partner with Patterson to finish the Games of Thrones books, there will be 15 new GOT books coming out every year for the next decade.

  7. Not sure why you’re so angry if you haven’t read the books. As an inspiring writer you should read and analyse what makes other people’s novels work. Then write your own.

  8. Anyone stuck on reading serial fiction when the writer has no idea when, where and why it will end, has much more faith in the world and in writers than is merited. These books are not great literature. If you want to learn to be a writer, whether prolific or not, have an idea about the excellent books in the language. Criticize and downgrade from there.

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