Patrick Rothfuss, George R. R. Martin, and the Speed of Writing - Part 1 of ?

Every time you see George R. R. Martin mentioned there is a long list of people complaining about how slowly he is writing the A Song of Ice and Fire series. It annoys me, so I'm going to do some comparing.

First of all, we have to figure out what we're doing, and then how we're doing it. I'm going to mostly use for book lengths, and if I need to. I think good metrics would be words per day and years per book.

I imagine that Mark Twain's short story The Death Wafer (or Death Disk) is going to be our slowest rate, because it's a very short story and it took him 12 years to write. But it was worth it, it's good stuff. Let's look at Twain first, then we'll dive into epic fantasy.

I did a simple word count of the story and came up with 3,358 words. That's 0.77 words per day (I rounded up), and one short story per 12 years. I think that's going to be our slowest rate no matter what else we look at.

I'm also going to look at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain started it is 1876 and it was published in 1884. We are talking about published words here, that's all we care about as readers, so these numbers work well for us. That's 8 years between beginning the writing and publication, and it's 105,590 words long. That means 36.16 words per day and 1 book per 8 years.

Mark Twain
Words per day: 0.77 - 36.16
Years per book: 12 - 8

I might need to change the format of the summary for these crazy series. Let's see how that goes.

Next, let's look at Patrick Rothfuss. His writing is truly incredible, which is why he has a bit of a fanatical following. The Kingkiller Chronicle series currently has 2.5 books out. The novella is long enough that I'm going to include it in these calculations, and it's only one thing to add so logistically it's pretty easy.

The Name of the Wind took him about 14 years to get to publication, I believe, and it came out in 2007. It's 255,986 words in length. That's 50.09 words per day and 1 book per 14 years.

The Wise Man's Fear came out in 2011, that's just 4 years after The Name of the Wind, but Rothfuss had most of it written when the first book came out, I assume. The Wise Man's Fear is 397,179 words long. That puts that book at 272.04 words per day and 1 book per 4 years.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things came out in 2015, that's another 4 years. It's 31,755 words long. That makes it 21.75 words per day and 1 book per 4 years.

So, up to 2015 Rothfuss had 3 books over 22 years, or 7.33 years per book. He had 684,920 words, or 85.29 words per day (of published material in this series). I could figure out future timeframes and such with guesstimates, but I'm not going to.

Patrick Rothfuss
Words per day: 50.09 - 272.04 - 21.5 - 85.29
Years per book: 14 - 4 - 4 - 7.33

George R. R. Martin could be quite the task to figure out. Any series where the thing is spreading all over the place will be. There are some short stories in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (that's Game of Thrones to the non-readers), and those stories are really good. But, I'm just going to go with the series so far. A full-length prequel novel is coming out this month too. It's confusing, it would be easier if the series just plodded forward one book after the other, but then you wouldn't have George R. R. Martin as the writer. Let's just keep it simple and do the major books in the series.

A Game of Thrones came out in 1996 and is 292,727 words long. I'm assuming this graphic is correct and it took 5 years to write, That puts it at 160.39 words per day and 1 book per 5 years.

A Clash of Kings came out in 1999, that's just 3 years later. It is 318,903 words long. That's 291.23 words per day and 1 book per 3 years.

A Storm of Swords came out a year later in 2000, it's obvious that the actual problem is setting up false expectations here. It's 414,604 words long. That's 1,135 words per day and 1 book per year.

A Feast for Crows came out 5 years later in 2005 at 295,032 words long. That's 161.66 words per day and 1 book per 5 years.

A Dance with Dragons came out in 2011. It's 414,788 words long. That's 189.40 words per day and 1 book per 6 years.

These 5 books were done over 15 years. 1,736,054 words. That's 317.08 words per day and 3 years per book.

George R. R. Martin
Words per day: 160.39 - 291.23 - 1,135 - 161.66 - 189.40 - 317.08
Years per book: 5 - 3 - 1 - 5 - 6

These are seeming like quite productive numbers to me so far for George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. Now, it's true that there are very fast writers, but it seems to me that they often aren't as good. Also, they don't usually write epic fantasy. Robert Louis Stevenson did write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde twice in 6 days while bedridden. That's insane. And there is the story about James Joyce complaining to a friend that he had only written 6 words that day. The friend was surprised and said that that was quite a productive day for Joyce, and Joyce informed him that it would have been, but he wasn't sure which order the words needed to go in yet. So, writing is a crazy thing that seems to go at its own pace. I think a good example of that is a fast writer, Stephen King, who when he took on epic fantasy seemed to move like cold molasses. Let's figure out what the numbers actually are for The Dark Tower series.

Why does this have to be so complex?! Ahhh! Oh well, that's probably why no one does it. Here we go.

King started writing the story in 1970, published the first short story in 1978. The first 5 short stories we turned into the first novel in 1982. So, Dark Tower 1 (yes, I'm just going to use the numbers) took 12 years. It's 55,376 words. That's 12.64 words per day and 1 book per 12 years.

The Dark Tower 2 came out in 1987 at 125,948 words long. That's 69.01 words per day and 1 book per 5 years.

The Dark Tower 3 came out in 1991 at 173,489 words. That's 118.82 words per day (I'm using simple rounding at the hundredths place by the way) and 1 book per 4 years.

The Dark Tower 4 came out in 1997 at 254,691. That's 116.29 words per day and 1 book per 6 years.

The Dark Tower 0.5 came out in 1998 at 23,434 words. That's 64.20 words per day and 1 book per year.

The Dark Tower 5 came out in 2003 at 242,776 words. That's 133.02 words per day and 1 book per 5 years.

The Dark Tower 6 came out in 2004 at 118,221 words. Two books came out in the same year here, really throwing things off. The inconsistency of the speed in these writers is very interesting, and very heartening considering my own inconsistency. That's 647.78 words per day and 1 book per 0.5 years.

The Dark Tower 7 came out in 2004 at 272,273 words. That's 1,491.90 words per day and 1 book per 0.5 years.

The Dark Tower 4.5 came out in 2012 at 91,857 words. That's 31.45 words per day and 1 book per 8 years.

That's 42 years worth of a single series with 1,358,065 words. That's 88.58 words per day on this series and 1 book every 4.66 years.

Stephen King
Words per day: 12.64 - 69.01 - 118.82 - 116.29 - 64.20 - 133.02 - 647.78 - 1,491.90 - 31.45 - 88.58
Years per book: 12 - 5 - 4 - 6 - 1 - 5 - 0.5 - 0.5 - 8 - 4.66

King did have people write him letters asking him to finish it before they died. They died, it wasn't finished.

Well, I think I'm just going to do one more today, J. K. Rowling.

Rowling worked on plotting the entire series for 5 years before she began writing. That's impressive, and in stark contrast to George Martin and Stephen King.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (yes, I'm going with the American title) came out in 1997, after 1 year in addition to the 5 years she had already been working on the series. It's 77,508 words long. That's 35.39 words per day and 1 book per 6 years.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets came out in 1998 at 84,799 words long. That's 232.32 words per day and 1 book per 1 year.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came out in 1999 at 106,821 words. That's 292.66 words per day and 1 book per 1 year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out in 2000 at 190,858 words. That's 522.89 words per day and 1 book per 1 year. With that outline in hand she was darn productive.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out in 2003 at 257,154 words. That's 234.84 words per day and 1 book per 3 years.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out in 2005 at 169,441 words. That's 232.11 words per day and 1 book per 2 years.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in 2007 at 198,227 words. That's 271.54 words per day and 1 book per 2 years.

Overall that's 15 years and 1,084,808 words. That's 198.13 words per day and 1 book per 2.14 years.

J. K. Rowling
Words per day: 35.39 - 232.32 - 292.66 - 522.89 - 234.84 - 232.11 - 271.54 - 198.13
Years per book: 6 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 3 - 2 - 2

There are a lot of other authors and series that I'm interested in looking into, it will just depend on how much of this I want to do. Some of the people on the potential list are:

Ursula K. Le Guin
C. S. Lewis
J. R. R. Tolkien
Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Mull
Christopher Paolini
Diana Gabaldon
Winston Graham
James Joyce
Robert Louis Stevenson
Anne Rice
James Patterson
Dean Koontz
Terry Brooks
Terry Pratchett
Lev Grossman
Robert Jordan
Rick Riordan

At least, those are the ones that I can list off the cuff. But, that is for another day. It seems to me, from what we can gather and gleam so far, it's about the consistency. The speed isn't really the issue, it's all about the expectations. Don't set up false expectations and people won't be angry that they weren't met.


I've written two fictional pieces that I like so far.

"The City of Peace" - A future history science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather.

"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.

Here are three of my most popular posts.

"The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction"

"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"

"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"

You can find more of what I'm doing here:

You can support this page at


Popular posts from this blog

Why is Slytherin House Bad?

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 1 of ?

Pro-Global Warming

Donate to Jeff's Work