An open letter to George R. R. Martin
Dear Mr. Martin,
With the next season of Game of Thrones (GOT) around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about dragons and wildfire and tiny not-quite-adults who kick a lot of ass.
And I’ve been thinking about you.
You’re a living legend in some people’s eyes, right up there with J.R.R.T. But for every word of praise you receive, you’re harangued ten times over. You’re criticized for buying old movie theaters instead of attending to your writing. You’re labeled a “sell out.” You’re blasted for your casual portrayal of rape and incest (no denying that one). People have told you to hurry up and finish GOT before you croak (to which you’ve aptly replied with a big ol’ F$&% You).
I want to talk about one specific criticism — the accusation that you’re doing everything in your power to avoid writing.
I get that fans want their big payoff — a series wrap-up — before every Tom, Dick, and Harry with an HBO Go account gets it. That’s their reward, they claim, for sticking with you since the beginning.
But, as a writer, I also understand YOU.
I understand why you’re not writing (at least not the story that we all want you to write).
You worked your tail off for years, spinning a web more complicated than one woven by a spider on peyote. You earned your place in fan’s bookshelves and conversations.
Finally, your decades of excruciating plot mapping, late night writing, and fan-building reached a head in 2014. Your story exploded into public consciousness with a flick of the magic HBO wand.
Every writer’s dream, right? To be picked up by Steven Spielberg or by a major TV network?
You’d finally arrived. After years of tormenting yourself over every complex character profile and story line, you became a household name, a Twitter trend. You picked up millions of new fans…and millions of dollars.
And you finally wanted to rest — or at least do something else for a while. You earned it, didn’t you? Writing is hard, dammit! It’s time consuming and tedious at times (especially if you have to keep track of dozens upon dozens of character motives and plot lines!).
I get it, George. I don’t pretend to be a big-time author, but I’ve upped my game with every novel or short story I write. I’ve become brutally hard on myself, to the point of paralysis. I’ve started to question every word choice, every scene. Is this line superfluous? Is that character coming across as I intended? My pickiness has made me wonder if my current WIP will ever see the light of day (the last manuscript is festering in the proverbial drawer).
If you’re anything like me, you’ve also grown increasingly self-conscious of your writing. You cringe over the little flaws others point out. You hold yourself to impossible expectations that tower over you like the vertiginous Wall.
Not to mention, millions of eyes are watching you. Millions of mouths are ready to criticize your story.
But, no pressure. Just write the damn thing.
George, I understand. I may not like that the TV show is gobbling up Westeros and taking over the story. I may squirm at the thought of an open-ended book series, never finished. But I do understand.
In many ways, your story no longer belongs to you. It’s been wrested from your hands by fan forums, TV interpretations, and a whole host of people with opinions. It belongs to the world now, and you’re probably wondering if the world really needs you to finish the story.
Aren’t we authoring the story on our own? Wouldn’t your voice be one in a roaring chorus?
Although that may be true, George, I argue that your voice is stronger than all of ours combined. You were the original soloist, and we all joined the choir once we realized you are damn good at singing.
Despite the pressure, despite the drudgery you’ll face in tying all the story lines into neat ribbons, I hope you’ll do it. I hope you’ll keep up your F$&% You attitude and write the end of your story, despite all of us.
Sure, you have little incentive to do it. You don’t need the money or fame. You’ve already divulged your ending to HBO. Writing the final two books, then, would be an entirely selfless act — a gift to your fans.
But it would cement your legacy in a way the TV series never could.
You write about bravery, despite fear. Now is the time to pick up your sword and start swinging.
Kate Bitters is a freelance writer, founder of Click Clack Writing, and author of Elmer Left and Ten Thousand Lines. She regularly writes stories on the Bitter Blog and Medium. Subscribe to follow her journey.