George R.R. Martin (1948 – not befor finishing GoT, please)
1. “The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.”
2. “The most important thing for any aspiring writer, I think, is to read! And not just the sort of thing you’re trying to write, be that fantasy, SF, comic books, whatever. You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do).
And write. 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.
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.”
3. “I hate outlines. I have a broad sense of where the story is going; I know the end, I know the end of the principal characters, and I know the major turning points and events from the books, the climaxes for each book, but I don’t necessarily know each twist and turn along the way. That’s something I discover in the course of writing and that’s what makes writing enjoyable. I think if I outlined comprehensively and stuck to the outline the actual writing would be boring.”
4. “I get up every day and work in the morning. I have my coffee and get to work. On good days I look up and it’s dark outside and the whole day has gone by and I don’t know where it’s gone. But there’s bad days, too. Where I struggle and sweat and a half hour creeps by and I’ve written three words. And half a day creeps by and I’ve written a sentence and a half and then I quit for the day and play computer games. You know, sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. [Laughs]”
5. “Life is very full of sex, or should be. As much as I admire Tolkien — and I do, he was a giant of fantasy and a giant of literature, and I think he wrote a great book that will be read for many years — you do have to wonder where all those Hobbits came from, since you can’t imagine Hobbits having sex, can you? Well, sex is an important part of who we are. It drives us, it motivates us, it makes us do sometimes very noble things and it makes us do sometimes incredibly stupid things. Leave it out, and you’ve got an incomplete world.”
6. “I don’t write the chapters in the order that you read them. I do switch. I’ll get in a Tyrion groove, where I’ll write four or five Tyrion chapters, and I hit a stopping point or something like that. Or I’ll realize that I’m way ahead on Tyrion, and I gotta catch up with the other characters. And I’ll go back and switch to Arya or Sansa or something like that. It’s always difficult switching gears, because the characters have very different voices and very different ways of thinking about the world. I’ll be writing up a storm and doing pages every day, and the minute I switch to a different character, that first day it’s like, “Oh, God, I have to read all these characters again. I have Sansa sounding like Tyrion, and that’s not good.” I have to read more of her chapters and immerse myself in Sansa.”
7. “In creative writing classes in college, the professors will say, ‘Write what you know.’ And that’s often misinterpreted to mean you should write a thinly veiled autobiography. [Like] a graduate student in English Literature at University, writing a story in which the hero is a graduate student in English Literature at University. It would seem to, on the surface, disallow science fiction and fantasy and so forth, since none of us are actually barbarians or knights or lords or even peasants. But I think you have to interpret ‘Write what you know’ much more broadly than that. We’re talking about emotional truth here. We’re talking about reaching inside here to make your characters real. If you’re going to write about a character witnessing a loved one die, you have to dig into yourself, and say, “Did you ever remember losing a loved one?” Even if it’s only a dog that you loved as a child or something. Tap that vein of emotional energy. In some ways, it’s not terribly different from what method actors do…. We observe other people from the outside. The only person we ever really know inside and out is ourselves, and we have to reach into ourselves to find the power that makes great fiction real.”
8. “I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”
9. “I don’t like the strictly objective viewpoint [in which all of the characters’ actions are described in the third person, but we never hear what any of them are thinking.] Which is much more of a cinematic technique. Something written in third person objective is what the camera sees. Because unless you’re doing a voiceover, which is tremendously clumsy, you can’t hear the ideas of characters. For that, we depend on subtle clues that the directors put in and that the actors supply. I can actually write, “‘Yes you can trust me,’ he lied.” [But it’s better to get inside the characters’ heads.]”
10. “In order to get inside their skin, I have to identify with them. That includes even the ones who are complete bastards, nasty, twisted, deeply flawed human beings with serious psychological problems. Even them. When I get inside their skin and look out through their eyes, I have to feel a certain – if not sympathy, certainly empathy for them. I have to try to perceive the world as they do, and that creates a certain amount of affection.”