When I think of George R.R. Martin, I can’t help thinking of Alan Moore, too.
Both have been wildly successful in popular genres (fantasy, graphic novels). Both are old guys. Both don’t know how to trim their beards.
They’re opposite sides of the same coin.
Martin writes novels accessible to wide audiences (they couldn’t get any wider), he likes his fans and likes mingling with them, and in photos he usually has a friendly grin on his face. If he ever stumbled into Dr. Jekyll’s lab and mistook a potion for a good black lager, I could seem him gag and cough, drop to the floor, roll around in agony for a while, then stand up … as Alan Moore.
Moore’s disdain for popularized versions of his work is legendary. His avoidance of fans and the marketplace is so un-Martin-like. In photos there’s usually a scowl or a perplexed look on his face.
But here’s another thing they have in common: Moore, like Martin, is inspiring to any and all writers out there.
The Guardian gave readers an update last week that Moore’s million-word novel about a small postage stamp of London earth, “Jerusalem,” has been finished. “Now there’s just the small matter of copy editing,” quipped his daughter in a Facebook announcement. When I read that line, I couldn’t help thinking of another incredible understatement, from the movie “Jaws,” about needing a bigger boat.
I don’t envy the editor of that book, but I do admire Moore. In the end, you know he’ll successfully publish his behemoth with a solid publisher, he’ll receive many reviews, he’ll get sales because we’re curious — even though he doesn’t care for any of it.
During his career, he’s layered a cocoon around himself that’s a good cautionary example for any writer, I think.
What does his example teach us? Write for yourself. Write what pleases you.
But don’t misunderstood this message. It doesn’t mean that you can get lazy and do anything you want. Don’t indulge in bad habits. Don’t settle for writing that’s “good enough” when you know you can do better.
I’d add — not to aim for a million words, either: If you haven’t published a novel yet, a big book is anathema to most publishers. Especially by an untested quantity. (An earlier version of my novel, a big fat padded thing, made the rounds and received a bunch of rejections — many commenting on its length .)
Ok, but… if your narrative can’t help growing to an enormous length and that growth is truly organic, truly necessary …. well, then just hope a sympathetic editor finds you and is willing to make the case for you.
Such questions have been on my mind a lot lately, my friends, as my own book finally approaches (yet again) its completion — but in a state that satisfies and pleases me.
So in the weeks and months ahead, I think I’ll mostly be dedicating Call of the Siren to aspects of my experience, and my preparation to run the gauntlet again. I hope that’s ok with everyone. It’s where my mind is.
Maybe I’ll also let my beard start growing again. Stop trimming it, too.