Thursday, July 14, 2011

Working for a Living: Why My Job is Easier Than Yours

Some of you might not be aware that George R.R. Martin has been for some years catching a lot of flak because he takes so long to finish a new episode of his bestselling fantasy series. Got hate websites up and running, and people pissing in his direction hither and yon.

Fans can get real possessive of a story, and come to believe they are not only entitled to it but that they know better than the guy writing it how it should go. 

Me, I figure it's his business, and he can do it like he wants. We don't like it, that's our problem. Sure, a writer has to consider his or her fans, but in the end, writers are the ones with asses in chairs producing stories, and how they do it is up to them. 

That fans want them to hurry is a given. I have a list of writers I like who are too damned slow for me, and I want them to go faster. George is right up there.

Still, I can understand how fans might crunch the numbers.

Martin's latest book, ADWD, runs about a thousand pages, and that works out to about 1500 manuscript pages, plus or minus a few.

If it took five years from start to finish, then that's 300 pages a year, or about 8/10ths of a manuscript page per day. Less than this blog post.

But, hey, nobody can expect him to work 365 days a year. That's not fair. Give the guy a break.

Let's say his working year is close to what most people do on a real nine-to-five, job, call it 200 days. That's weekends and holidays, off, plus a five-week vacation.

So he'd have to average a page and a half a working day to get the 1500 ms pages in five years. 

That's not a lot of words, even with rewrites. Do a few days of ten or fifteen pages, you can take a couple more weeks off and still get your average, right?

Now, of course, writing fiction is not a science, and writers don't always write every day, but still,  that doesn't sound like nose to the grindstone hours, does it? Given that most writers I know can crank out a page and a half in fifteen or twenty minutes.

And how long is your work day? And what do you make compared to what George makes?(see the immediately prior post for some theoretical numbers ...)


steve-vh said...

But also, does said writer have a limitless well of stories already in his head, just waiting for him to decide to put them in words?
For instance many of Alan Dean Foster's books are directly extrapolated from places he has extensively visited. If he hadn't the experiences (call it research) the stories might not be as rich.

Anonymous said...

I just finished slogging through those damm books. Thankfully the only money I paid was the portion of my taxes that supports the city libraries.

The Wheel of Time bored Robert Jordan to death, is Martin trying to join him?

Steve Perry said...

The convolutions are what the fans want. I knew JIm Rigney (aka Robert Jordan) and I couldn't get through his Wheel books. Didn't stop them from being best-sellers and making him rich.

Doesn't seem to be stopping George, either, though I think he's a better writer than Jim was.

If you pick up a thousand page book, you have to know going in that it's going to be something other than a half-hour sitcom. When you know there are four more just like it?

It's a take-it-to-the-beach-for-two-weeks read.

heina said...

Working through the latest. I started in on them when I was traveling a lot and found I had loads of extra time on planes and in airports and hotels. Not always wanting to do something productive, these were a good escape.

I really enjoy his writing style, but I feel like this is the literary version of "Lost". I don't honestly think he knows where any of the plot or mythology is going. There are dozens of questions that would be reasonable to ask, but I have no faith that any of them will be resolved.

But again, he's got a great writing style. He's an exceedingly visual writer. A lot of colors and imagery that works, although the florid descriptions of every meal and leaf do get a might tedious. I'm sure this is all covered territory.

As for the writing speed, I was under the impression that he had already delivered 2 books. So that means he's up to mayhaps 3 pages a day. Could be wrong.

Last comment -- I'm reading it on my iphone 4. It's not ideal, but not too shabby either. TC has a kindle and loves it. She reads in bed with the kid and a little book light. I'll shell out for one soon, and I can already feel that any non-reference purchase (that excludes music books, tech books, maths books, and probably cook books) are definitely going to be electronic from here on out.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, and George has apparently become a foodie. Lot of stuff in the books I wouldn't be surprise to see on the cooking channel ...

When he started, I did an interview with him on his first book's tour and he knew where he wanted to go then. It was pitched as a trilogy but he figured he'd need four books to round it out. I think he had a beginning, middle and end in mind, but it looks as if the middle has taken off on a rampage.

The question is not so much does he know where he is going as it is, will he live long enough to get there?