Sometimes We Don’t Write Fast Enough

In my days as a bookseller, I heard a common complaint about most authors: They don’t write fast enough.

This isn’t a bad thing to have someone reading your work say.  I’ve only had two short stories in print and I’ve had people tell me that about my own work.  Typically, it’s a sign that people want to read more of a writer’s work.

Sometimes, it’s an actual complaint.

The most well-known case of time working against an author is now A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin.  (TV fans simply call this series Game of Thrones.)  With the recent revelation that the television version will end with season seven, fans of the book series are left to wonder if they’ll see the adaptation of the last two books before the last two books are released.

For those who don’t know, let me explain the situation.

A Game of Thrones was originally released in 1996.  Two years later, A Clash of Kings arrived, followed by A Storm of Swords two years after that.  Fans had to wait five years for the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, then they got to wait six more years for A Dance with Dragons.  What makes matters worse is that the three most popular characters (Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys) don’t appear in the fourth book since it and the fifth book were once a single outline.

George Martin writes slowly, deliberately, crafting high-quality prose in the process.  He has also edited no less than six anthologies in the past decade, along with contributing a script for one episode per season of Game of Thrones.

With the success of Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire has grown in popularity to vast degrees.  It’s the most pirated show on television and a ratings blockbuster for HBO.  With ten episodes a year, it delivers large stretches of the story covered in the novels.  In three years’ time, the show has covered two and a half books of material, while drawing on elements of all five books that are in print.

The show is catching up to the novels.  We’ve passed the point of speculation on this note and driven directly into an oncoming reality.  Ultimately, there is one question to consider with this situation:

Will fans read a novel that’s the basis of a show they watched years ago?

For many, the answer will be “Yes.”  There is no reason to doubt that the sixth and seventh books will be successes when they arrive.  Can the novels shift from being the paragon of unpredictable plot twists to being a backdoor adaptation of a television show?

I have no answer to this question.  I would not want to be forced to make this decision.  I can only hope that I write fast enough to keep readers in suspense, regardless of how they arrive at my prose.


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