George R.R. Martin asks Stephen King the one question we’ve all wondered

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.

[via io9]