George R.R. Martin has often compared architects and gardeners, as a metaphor for novelists who outline the story before writing vs those who develop the story as they go along. Martin considers himself a ‘gardener’, which also explains his slow pace. Had he been an ‘architect’, he’d have probably finished A Song of Ice & Fire series by now.
Speaking to author Carrie Vaughn at his theater Jean Cocteau, Martin explains why he can’t go the ‘architect’ way:
“For me, when I go architect, when I try to outline something, if I’m successful in doing it, it almost feels like I’ve written the book, and now I don’t wanna write the book anymore. You can look at The World of Ice and Fire…my book of fake history…and there’s a lot of stuff in there about what led up to Game of Thrones, all the preceding kings and the conflicts of their era and all that, and people have said to me, ‘You have 50 other novels in here. You could write a novel about Aegon’s conquest, and all that.’ And yes, I could, but I don’t think I will because I already wrote those 20 pages about Aegon’s conquest and that’s the important stuff that happened in Aegon’s conquest…I’ve made up the fun stuff, and the twists and the characters and the cool lines of dialogue, you know? I skip over the boring lines of dialogue…The few times I actually quote dialogue it’s great lines of dialogue said by famous historic figures at fraught points. There’s very little of ‘Hey, what’s for dinner’- [the kind of lines] you have to do when you’re doing a fully fledged novel to make the characters come alive. And of course I love the fully fledged novels, so that’s why I’m mostly a gardener when I write a novel. I know that highlights. I haven’t written them yet, though…and I’m getting from one cool thing to another cool thing.”
Martin then explains the drawback of being a ‘gardener’ which decreases his writing speed:
“Sometimes the cool things are very very difficult to write, because they’ve existed in your head for some time and they’re awesome. And then you put them in words and they’re less awesome.”
Check out more in the video below [Skip to 53:40].