George Raymond Richard Martin (born in 1948 in New Jersey), often referred to as George R. R. Martin, is an American novelist and short-story writer in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, screenwriter, and television producer. He is best known for his series of epic fantasy novels “A Song of Ice and Fire”, which was later adapted into the HBO series “Game of Thrones”.
His family first lived in a house on Broadway, belonging to Martin’s great-grandmother. During his childhood, his world consisted predominantly of “First Street to Fifth Street”, between his grade school and his home. This limited world made him want to travel and experience other places, but the only way of doing so was through his imagination, so he became a voracious reader.
The young Martin began writing and selling monster stories for pennies to other neighborhood children, dramatic readings included. He also wrote stories about a mythical kingdom populated by his pet turtles; the turtles died frequently in their toy castle, so he finally decided they were killing each other off in “sinister plots”.
He became an avid comic-book fan, developing a strong interest in the superheroes being published by Marvel Comics. A letter Martin wrote to the editor of Fantastic Four was printed in issue No. 20 (Nov 1963); it was the first of many sent. Fans who read his letters then wrote him letters in turn, and through such contacts, Martin joined the fledgling comics fandom of the era, writing fiction for various fanzines. He was the first to register for an early comic book convention held in New York in 1964. In 1965, Martin won comic fandom’s Alley Award for Best fan fiction for his prose superhero story “Powerman vs. The Blue Barrier”.
Martin is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and became the organization’s Southwest Regional Director from 1977 to 1979. In 1976, for Kansas City’s MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), Martin and his friend and fellow writer-editor Gardner Dozois organized the first Hugo Losers’ Party for the benefit of all past and present Hugo-losing writers, their friends and families, the evening following the convention’s Hugo Awards ceremony. Martin was nominated for two Hugos that year but lost both awards. The Hugo Losers’ Party became an annual Worldcon event thereafter, and its formal title later changed.
Although Martin often writes fantasy or horror, a number of his earlier works are science fiction tales occurring in a loosely defined future history, known informally as “The Thousand Worlds” or “The Manrealm”. He has also written at least one piece of political-military fiction “Night of the Vampyres”, collected in Harry Turtledove’s anthology: The Best Military Science Fiction of the 20th Century (2001). In 1983, Martin published a vampire novel titled “Fevre Dream” set in the 19th Century and the critic Don D’Amassa has praised “Fevre Dream” for its strong 19th Century atmosphere and wrote: «This is without question one of the greatest vampire novels of all time!». In 1984, Martin followed up “Fevre Dream” with another horror novel “The Armageddon Rag” but its commercial failure was unexpected. Later, Martin said «Essentially destroyed my career as a novelist at the time!»
However, that failure led him to seek a career in television (after a Hollywood option on that novel led to him being hired), first as a staff writer and then as an Executive Story Consultant, for the revival of the “Twilight Zone”. After the CBS series was cancelled, Martin migrated over to the already-underway satirical science fiction series “Max Headroom”. He worked on scripts and created the show’s “Ped Xing” character. When ABC show was cancelled, in the middle of its second season, Martin was then hired as a writer-producer on the new dramatic fantasy series “Beauty and the Beast”.
So, for anyone who admire his writing style and want to learn more about his writing rules, here are 10 of his most famous advice for aspiring authors:
1. Read Everything!
«This is possibly the single most important piece of advice any writer can give. Good writers are great readers. They are constantly exploring all genres: fiction and nonfiction, and in the process learning grammar, syntax, plot structure and, most importantly, what makes a book an effective reading experience. Reading is one of the only things that will teach you how to write. And you’ll be learning right from the best (and worst) in the world!»
2. Figure out what kind of a writer you are!
«I’ve always said there are – to oversimplify it – two kinds of writers: there are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another, and I am definitely more of a gardener!»
«Successful writers learn which methods work best for them and work to improve them so that they can turn out their best work with each new project!»
3. Begin with Short Stories!
«Given the realities of today’s market in science fiction and fantasy, I would also suggest that any aspiring writer begin with short stories. These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That’s like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest! Short stories help you learn your craft. They are a good place for you to make the mistakes that every beginning writer is going to make. And they are still the best way for a young writer to break in, since the magazines are always hungry for short SF and fantasy stories. Once you’ve been selling short stories for five years or so, you’ll have built up a name for yourself, and editors will start asking you about that first novel.Whatever you do, though… good luck. You’ll need it!»
4. Write every day!
«Write every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you’ll get. But don’t write in my universe, or Tolkien’s, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out. If you don’t exercise those “literary muscles”, you’ll never develop them!»
5. Learn to self-edit!
«There is a technique I learned in Hollywood, where my scripts were always too long. “This is too long”, the studio would say. “Trim it by eight pages”. But I hated to lose any good stuff – scenes, dialogue exchanges, bits of action – so instead I would go through the script trimming and tightening line by line and word by word, cutting out the fat and leaving the muscle. I found the process so valuable that I’ve done the same with all my books since leaving LA. It’s the last stage of the process. Finish the book, then go through it, cutting, cutting, cutting. It produces a tighter, stronger text, I feel!»
6. Write great characters, not great heroes!
«I do think there are things worth fighting for. Men are still capable of great heroism. But I don’t necessarily think there are heroes. That’s something that’s very much in my books: I believe in great characters. We’re all capable of doing great things, and of doing bad things. We have the angels and the demons inside of us, and our lives are a succession of choices!»
7. Explore the deep issues!
«One of the things I wanted to explore with Jaime, and with so many of the characters, is the whole issue of redemption. When can we be redeemed? Is redemption even possible? I don’t have an answer. But when do we forgive people? You see it all around in our society, in constant debates. Should we forgive Michael Vick? I have friends who are dog-lovers who will never forgive Michael Vick. Michael Vick has served years in prison; he’s apologized. Has he apologized sufficiently? Woody Allen: Is Woody Allen someone that we should laud, or someone that we should despise? Or Roman Polanski, Paula Deen!»
«Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another, and what do we do with these people? How many good acts make up for a bad act? If you’re a Nazi war criminal and then spend the next 40 years doing good deeds and feeding the hungry, does that make up for being a concentration-camp guard? I don’t know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what’s the answer then? Does the Queen of Thorns need redemption? Did the Queen of Thorns kill Hitler or did she murder a 13-year-old boy (King Joffrey)? Or both? She had good reasons to remove Joffrey. Is it a case where the end justifies the means? I don’t know. That’s what I want the reader or viewer to wrestle with, and to debate!»
8. It’s okay to “borrow” from History!
«Although my story is fantasy, it is strongly grounded in actual Medieval History. The War of the Roses was one of the major influences, which had the Yorks and the Lancasters instead of the Starks and the Lannisters. But I like to mix and match and move things around. As the famous saying goes; stealing from one source is plagiarism but stealing from lots of sources is research!»
Martin excels at writing the kind of characters readers–and viewers–love to hate and he does it by being ruthless; ruthless to the characters and, to a certain extent, to his readers, but we’ll get to that later.
«I believe that a writer learns from every story he writes, and when you try different things, you learn different lessons!»
10. Don’t limit your imagination!
«I knew right from the beginning I wanted the story to be large and complex. Before “A Song of Ice and Fire” I had been working in television for ten years. Whenever I turned in a script it was a common scene where they would say “George, this is great but it’s too big and expensive; you need to cut it down. You currently have 126 characters – we have a budget for six”. When I went back to prose, there were suddenly no limits: I could write something huge with all the characters I wanted, with battles, dragons and immense settings. Of course, I thought this will be unfilmable and that I’d never have to worry about Hollywood again. But that’s [Game of Thrones TV producers] David Benioff’s and Dan Weiss’ problem now!»