George R R Martin is Not Your Bitch

12 Jul

I’ve just read this brilliant post from Neil Gaiman about audience entitlement (“why is George R R Martin doing anything else rather than writing his next book for me?”) and I could not agree more. (Read from the bold bit on down.)

One thing I heard loud and clear when I was studying creative writing at UEA (only the BA) was that more life makes for better, more complex writing. Life is the time when you experience and learn things which you will then want to write about, and that it’s also the time when your brain starts to untangle threads, notice patterns, and work out what’s worthy of harvesting and analysing.

This is why a lot of juvenilia suffers from melodrama overload: if you haven’t had much life experience yet, you’ll crowbar in ‘drama’ in the way of THE MOST DRAMATIC THING YOU CAN THINK ABOUT – OH GOD WHAT IF A LION TORE HIS MOTHER APART IN FRONT OF HIM WHEN HE WAS SIX YEARS OLD! ON HIS BIRTHDAY! THAT’S WHY HE’S ALWAYS HATED BIRTHDAYS!

In the last few weeks I’ve finished up a centrepiece of my Edinburgh Fringe show and it’s about a verbal tick I observed in someone NINE YEARS AGO. It took me nine years to go off, have a life, get built up and knocked down a few times and come back to this interesting little thing I’d observed with more grownup, sympathetic eyes.

One of our professors at UEA swore by DIY as a great writing tool. Tinkering about the house was the time he was occupied by something else so his subconscious brain could get to work.

They said for creative writing MA applications, that in quite a lot of cases they’d tell people “you write very well, but you’re still green. Go piss off for a few years, go experience more life, and then come back to us when you’ve had more life to write about.”

If George R R Martin is doing things other than writing the next Game of Thrones book, then I know you want the next one, but be patient. In addition to the sleeping, eating, chores and all the other crap that we all have to do: he’s also living. Every moment not spent chained to his keyboard is a moment he is experiencing other things which may, in a roundabout way, work their way into his next book. It might be a facial expression he observes, it might be something he reads, it might be some documentary on trauma which makes him think about how he’s plotted a character and that actually, after X, Y and Z have happened to them, they might be more likely to respond to this new situation in a different way.

George R R Martin is not your bitch, and if you stuck him in a deep dark cell with only a typewriter and a large supply of amphetamines just so he could finish ‘your’ next precious Game of Thrones book: it might hit the bookstores earlier than if you left him to it, but it might not be a better book for it.

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One Response to “George R R Martin is Not Your Bitch”

  1. Michael B. Fishman July 12, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    I have to disagree about Martin. If the guy doesn’t want to write, fine, he doesn’t have to write. If he never wants to pick up a pen again, that’s his right. The problem with Martin is that he made himself his reader’s ‘bitch’ by the way he crafted his books. It would have been possible, and perfectly reasonable, for him to end each volume in his series rather than leaving readers on edge the way he did. Plenty of sci-fi/fantasy writers who write epic stories end each book while leaving the greater storyacrs running. Terry Goodkind is just one writer who’s done that with his “The Sword of Truth” series and he’s far from being alone. Martin chose not to do that. He chose to tell us a story in one sprawling seven-volume series (again, his right to do that), but when he made that choice then I think he also became obliged to finish the thing and not walk away from it the way he’s done. And it’s not just fans anymore, HBO is screaming for him to finish the thing already. At the current rate he’s going, I think it’s up to about 30 years now from book one to book seven.

    Here was my take on his output from three years ago if you’re interested: http://michaelsfishbowl.com/2011/03/09/george-r-r-martin-is-my/

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