George R.R. Martin has been roundly (and unfairly) criticized by Game of Thrones fans for taking his sweet time with the sixth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire, a situation that has resulted in the HBO fantasy drama actually moving ahead of its inspiration”s plotline. The fact is, Martin has been a slower writer than his fans would like for quite a long time now; fifth installment A Dance with Dragons, for example, took a full five years for the author to complete. Game of Thrones' enormous popularity only makes the demand on his output more pronounced.
As something of a slow writer myself, I can appreciate Martin”s dilemma. How do other people churn out finished works so damn fast? I often wonder. And why can”t I be more like them? These are questions that plague me daily, and I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that they plague a writer of Martin”s A-list stature as well.
Speaking of which: at a recent hour-long conversation with fellow author Stephen King in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Martin voiced what I, and many others, have often pondered but never had the opportunity to ask: how the hell does King pump out so many books?
“How the f–k do you write so many books so fast?” asked Martin when King prompted him to pose a question he'd always wanted to know the answer to. (Unrelated sidenote: Martin”s laugh is unbelievable.) “I think, ‘Oh, I”ve had a really good six months,'” Martin continued. “'I”ve written three chapters.” You”ve finished three books in that time.”
The question led to a rather fascinating back-and-forth between the two that saw Martin trying to wrap his head around King”s seemingly-infallible six-pages-a-day process. If you care about the craft of writing or are an aspiring scribe yourself, this is a worthwhile watch/listen (the relevant exchange begins about 50 minutes in). I've transcribed King's answer and Martin's followups:
King: “Here”s the thing, okay. There are books and there are books. The way that I work, I try to get out there and I try to get six pages a day. So with a book like End of Watch, when I”m working I work every day, three, four hours, and I try to get those six pages and I try to get them fairly clean. So if the manuscript is let”s say 360 pages long, that”s basically two months” work. It”s concentrated, but it”s a fairly — but that”s assuming that it goes well.”
Martin: “And you do hit six pages a day?”
King: “I usually do.”
Martin: “You don”t ever have a day where you sit down there and it”s like constipation, and you write a sentence, and you hate the sentence? And you check your email and you wonder if you had any talent after all, and maybe you should have been a plumber? Don”t you ever have days like that?”
King: “No I mean, there”s real life. I can be working away and something comes up. And you have to basically get up and you have to go to see the doctor or you have to take somebody a care package, or you have to go to the post office…whatever. But mostly, i try to get the six pages in. Although entropy tries to intervene.”
If you have an hour free, you can watch the entirety of King and Martin”s conversation below.