George R. R. Martin’s Mindset Shift that Made Game of Thrones a Success

George R. R. Martin

In the 1980s and 1990s George R. R. Martin was working in television as a writer. He was writing scripts and getting paid pretty well, but his movies just weren’t getting made.

“Although I was making a lot of money in Hollywood writing these screenplays and developing the pilots, they weren’t getting made and it was just ultimately unsatisfying. No amount of money can really take the place of… you want your stuff to be read.” — George R. R. Martin (source)

During the early 90s, Martin had an idea for a book in the back of his mind. He kept thinking about it and writing it here and there, but never gave it the time it needed to turn into something publishable.

The idea was epic — so epic it couldn’t possibly make sense to write it.

Yet, the idea continued to come back to him. The characters stayed with him. He had to make his return to books.

This time, he decided, he would create something as big as his imagination could make it. It would have hundreds of characters, because that is what the real world is like. It would have dragons and direwolves and yet be uniquely human and dark.

Ultimately George R. R. Martin decided to write the he wanted to write, not the one he thought would be made into a TV show or a movie.

And it was that decision — the decision not to create a TV show — that ironically lead to the creation of one of the most popular TV shows in the world right now.

Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice, which is better known by the TV show title, Game of Thrones, is enormously successful. The books have all become New York Times bestsellers. The TV show has gone on to spur a cultural phenomenon.

All this success because George R. R. Martin decided to write the book he wanted to write, the book he had to write, not the book he thought would get sold or optioned.