Is it all right to be angry that the release date for the new Song of Ice and Fire book has been pushed back? Again.
I get it, I do. People have been reading and following and adoring this series for longer than some young adults have even been ALIVE. Then the TV series came along and it got even more popular and the knowledge that the TV show will end before the book series is like a slap in the face to some long time fans. But does that make it ok to rant and storm about the man being lazy or wasting too much time blogging?
Blogging? Seriously? Even a non-reader can surely appreciate that blogging and writing deep, complex fiction from multiple points of view are two very different things. A lot of authors use their blog like angsty teenagers use their diaries, it’s a relatively safe space in which they can talk about what interests them and just generally let off steam like a REAL PERSON. If you’re not an author you might not appreciate that we spend an awful lot of time ALONE, struggling with the angst of self-doubt (doesn’t matter how popular you are, it doesn’t go away) ALONE, grinding away at our stories like they are sculptures in marble. ALONE. Did I mention we do it alone? Anyone who has met me will attest that I talk A LOT once you get me going and that’s because I don’t get to do it very much. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, chat apps – these are our social outlet. You may as well complain about the words he wastes on his damn shopping list. I bet he writes plenty of emails, perhaps even personal letters, birthday cards, he probably fills in forms too because life isn’t getting lighter on red tape.
Another thing is that you need to stop thinking about writing as a jigsaw puzzle. A series, especially one this long, doesn’t get easier to write as things move toward the eventual climax. It gets harder. MUCH harder. When you’re writing a first book everything is possible, no characters or events are locked into place yet, you don’t even have to have a complete idea of where the story is going or what each of the character’s fate will be. Then the second book is a bit harder because now some things are locked into place, you’ve introduced characters and now have to ensure they remain interesting and make steps toward achieving, or not achieving, their goals, and you have to consider the ramifications of any new direction on the books coming later. In a lot of ways the second last book is the hardest of all because you have to build to a point just below the full climax, holding it all together and be sure, VERY SURE, that everything is laid and in place for the ending to come after else we’re shifting into pulling-it-out-of-your-arse territory.
And as Neil Gaiman said very eloquently over here many years ago, (and John Anealio put brilliantly to music), George RR Martin is not your bitch. Buying the first book of a series is NOT a contract. In paying your money (or paying nothing and borrowing it from the library) you are getting nothing more and nothing less than the joy of reading THAT BOOK. It is natural to expect there will be more books in a series, that it will one day be complete and you will get your closure, but that first book is no guarantee, no contract, just a book.
No matter how much you want to see A Song of Ice and Fire finished, you do not want it finished more than George RR Martin wants it finished. He is not wasting time. He is not being lazy. He is diligently working away at what is surely an excruciatingly difficult project.
On Saturday night I finally hit send and The Grave at Storm’s End went flying through the internet-ether-satellite-space-dohicky system thing and magically landed in my editor’s inbox (or inbos as we like to call it). FINALLY.
It has been two years. TWO YEARS, since I last sent the manuscript to my editor. She got it back to me in very good time ready for the next pass, but it never returned to her because shit had hit the proverbial fan. Marriage breakup. Moving back to Australia from the other side of the world to start all over again with two young kids. New relationship. Moving house. Baby. Moving house again.
Talk about a mess.
And honestly working on the book became associated with a lot of pain, so whenever I did sit down to hammer it out, I struggled.
In fact I struggled so much that I restarted this pass nine times in those two years. Sometimes I got as far as halfway before everything went downhill. Sometimes it was only one or two chapters. As soon as I hit an issue I couldn’t immediately solve I became a depressed mess. And then the words dried up altogether.
Some people write because they enjoy it. Some people write to make money. I write because I’m yet to find anything else that fulfils my existence. When I don’t work I’m miserable and cranky because quite frankly I’m dying inside without the words to feed my soul. I love that people enjoy my books, but I don’t really write for anyone else and even if no one read them I would still write them. You don’t want to meet me when I’m not working.
The point of all this? Well, it took time, it took the constant loving support of a truly amazing partner, it took visits to a psychologist and a lot of perseverance, but I did it – I just hit send on the email that once again flew The Grave at Storm’s End to my editor’s inbox.
All I can say to my fans who have been waiting forever for this book is that I am very sorry, but life is an unpredictable beast. Thank you very much for bearing with me while I fought it and I hope that when the book finally comes out later this year that the wait will have been worthwhile.
For me the release of The Grave at Storm’s End will be more than the completion of a trilogy, it will signify closure. This is the beginning of a new era.