George R.R. Martin believes there are two types of writers - architects and gardeners. The architects have everything sorted out before they begin writing. The gardeners, on the other hand, just have an idea. They plant their idea, start writing, and wait to see what grows.
Here's the full quote from Martin:
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.*
Knowing this about Martin makes peaking into his working life all the more interesting. While writing A Game of Thrones in the early 1990s, Martin sent his publisher the first 170 pages and a 3 page letter outlining the rest of the trilogy (1). That outline was been made public for the first time (links below).
Now, I know what you're thinking... isn't Martin a self-declared gardener? What's he doing with an outline? At least, that was my immediate reaction.Well, it's not as damning as it seems. The outline contains the broad strokes of the story, and the published books differ greatly from the outline. Which shows that even though Martin had an idea what would happen, he still let his metaphorical garden grow where it would.
If you're a fan, you ought to read through the outline. It's really interesting to see where Martin started and ended up.
1) At the time, Martin believed The Song of Ice and Fire series would end after the third book. It obviously grew, which might be the biggest understatement I've made.
Thoughts from a Midwestern Librarian