In Defence of GRRM

With the new season fast approaching, news is leaking out all the time about Game of Thrones, with hints thrown at fans as to what direction this season might take. The last season already diverted from the books, and with characters cut out or merged, and story lines completely dropped, it’s safe to say that the TV show has, for a while, been heading somewhere different from the books. Yet despite this, with almost every new piece that comes out, someone will berate the author of the popular A Song of Ice & Fire series for still not finishing the next book.

A lot of people refer to prolific author Stephen King when arguing that it cannot be that hard to produce a novel regularly for the fans. And yes, King does come out with novels at a fast rate. As a King fan I can’t keep up, but among the books that come out are short stories and novellas, not just full length novels. And not everyone writes like King does, not everyone can produce work that fast. And, secondly, let’s not forget that it took over twenty years for him to complete his Dark Tower series. The first book came out in 1982, the last book in 2004 and a further novel in 2012. In contrast, A Song of Ice & Fire had its first book in 1996 and the fifth book in 2011. Yes, the latter is going to take longer but King only returned to Roland and his ka-tet after a pretty bad car accident.

Furthermore, although there were many people writing to King asking him to complete the series, it wasn’t on the same global mainstream scale as GRRM is now facing. Personally, I can’t imagine how much pressure he must be under to get the next book done. But that pressure, the knowledge that so many people are now waiting for it, is probably going to filter in and cause the dreaded writer’s block. And it’s not like he hasn’t done anything.

GRRM has been working on other stuff, other stories, working on the show, etc. And people complain about that, about getting short stories or spin offs or whatever and not the real thing. Problem is, and I’ve felt this myself with novels that are yet to see the light of day, sometimes you get stuck. Sometimes the characters just refuse to budge from a certain situation and the only way to get around it so you know you can come back with a clear idea is to work on something else.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe he has been procrastinating and putting it off and to be honest, I’ll be cheering along with everyone else once the book is finally released and I can actually read it but, if I’m honest, I’d rather him take his time and deliver something decent rather than give us something not that good just to get people to shut up.

And in the meantime…there are literally thousands more books out there I want to read, and some of them include GRRM’s older works too (so far I’ve read the Wild Cards anthology, his Dreamsongs collection but just volume 1, Windhaven, and a couple of the Egg & Duck graphic novels…) so it’s not like I, or anyone else for that matter, is sitting at home twiddling their thumbs with absolutely nothing to read until the next book comes out.

Taking Inspiration

Over Easter weekend I went to Margate to visit my brother and his girlfriend with my dad. Basically, it’s a journey directly east across the country, mainly on the motorways. On the way there I fell asleep before we left Cardiff, and woke up near Reading. On the way back, I fell asleep for about an hour. Most of the rest of the time was spent reading; there’s not a lot to really look at on that journey.

cardiff to margate.png

We arrived on Good Friday. Went out in Margate in the evening and by Saturday I realized I desperately needed a notebook. Not that I was planning on doing some serious writing, just something to jot things down in. Despite having countless notebooks at home, I’d forgotten to throw one in my bag when we left. (The perils of packing while hungover last minute because of a decision to go for ‘one or two’ drinks the night before)

Luckily for me, we were going on a day trip to Canterbury. There were two things I wanted that I thought I would easily be able to get hold of; a nice notebook, and a copy of Canterbury Tales.

As it turned out, I was wrong.

I didn’t get either in Canterbury, though I did fall in love with the place. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of history behind it, and it was just a shame we couldn’t spend more time there to look into the museums or the cathedral. But I did pick up a couple of books at an awesome charity bookshop, had lunch in a lovely pub, and got really, really freaked out by something I saw there.

By the way, I don’t like dolls. Or dummies. They scare me. And what I saw involved dolls, and it was…strange. Very strange. I won’t go into too much detail here but it has now inspired a short story.

So as soon as we got back to Margate and stopped at Tesco, I grabbed myself a cheap notebook. Nothing fancy, just something I could jot down ideas in.

This notebook is now going to live n whatever bag I am carrying with me at the time. Because whether it’s Margate or just going out for a day trip, ideas can strike anywhere and at any time. It’s one of the first rules as a writer and one I’ve let myself down on, a lot. Always carry a notebook and pen. Always.

Lesson learnt. Because, really, you never know when you’ll see something that creeps you out enough to make you think it might just make a good horror story to creep out other people, too.