I’ve noted before that comparing one author’s process and career with another’s is a situation fraught with difficulty (and often, some stupidity), so take the following with a grain of salt. That said, for everyone who ever bitched about George Martin taking so damn long to write A Dance With Dragons, allow me to make the following observation:
George Martin’s previous novel, A Feast for Crows, came out in 2005, the same year as my novel Old Man’s War. Since OMW, I have written The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, Fuzzy Nation, and my upcoming 2012 novel (Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream were written prior to 2005). Martin’s written A Dance With Dragons. So I get credited with being reasonably prolific whilst Martin gets slammed by the more poorly socialized members of his fan base for slacking about.
The Ghost Brigades is about 95,000 words. So is The Last Colony. Zoe’s Tale is about 90,000. Fuzzy Nation and the 2012 novel are about 80,000. Add all those up, and I’ve written roughly 440,000 words worth of novels since 2005. A Dance With Dragons, so I am told, clocks in at 416,000 words. So, in terms of total novel words written for publication since 2005 (and omitting excised material), there’s a 5.5% difference between the amount that I have written for novels and what Martin has. If we’re talking about the actual words published, written since 2005, there’s a 13.5% difference — in Martin’s favor, because my 2012 novel won’t be published until, well, 2012.
Shorter version: During those years the unsocialized were snarling at Martin for being lazy or procrastinating or indolent or whatever, he wrote about as many words for novels as I had. By this superficial but easy-to-quantify metric, on the novel front he was as productive as I was, and most people seem to agree that I’ve been pretty productive these last six years. I just spread my words around five novels while he poured all of his into one.
Yes, but — some of you are about to say. To which I say, yes but what? Martin should have been releasing the story in smaller chunks? Well, and if he did, how much crap would he have gotten for milking his fanbase and releasing books that weren’t sufficiently complete as stories in themselves? The publisher should have sat on him to write faster? To what end? So he could have sold more books? Look, I’m a New York Times bestselling author and I sell perfectly well, thanks for asking, and by the end of its first week of sales, it’s entirely likely A Dance With Dragons will sell more hardcover copies in the US than I have sold of all my novels, in every printed format, since Old Man’s War came out in 2005. How many more books can one human reasonably be expected to sell? Waiting six years and releasing a novel large enough to herniate a small human works just fine for Martin. His publisher would be foolish to mess with that. And so on. Any “yes, but –” argument one can make can be refuted on entirely practical terms.
In the end it comes to this: Why did it take six years for A Dance With Dragons to come out? Because that’s how long it took. Martin wasn’t being lazy, any more than I or any other author lucky enough to be regularly published these days has been. One hopes that those who are already primed to bitch at Martin about why The Winds of Winter isn’t instantly on their shelves will keep this in mind. Martin’s writing as much as anyone. He’s just writing big.