A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The story is an uncompromising tale of history, lies, revenge, love, and betrayal. My paperback copy runs around 800 pages plus extra content on the great houses of Westeros. To me, this is storytelling at its finest and Martin knows how to write. The story is bold and rich in detail and is an example for all aspiring writers to emulate. Having written the story in the early 90’s after a frustrating stint in Hollywood, Martin went back to New Mexico to write a story unhinged from budgets, actors, or producer’s opinion. He shelved a Sci-Fi story called Avalon, when the first Bran chapter emerged vividly in his mind. For me, the chapter involving the dream is where Martin’s true genius shows. The central mystery of the story is hinged on the dream chapter, and twenty-years later it remains unanswered (though most subscribe to the R+L=J theory).
I believe if the same story was submitted by an unknown author today to agents and publishers, it would have a fair shot in the business of betting on “sure things” like celebrity autobiographies and TV personality cookbooks. I would estimate out of 100 agents, maybe 10 would respond back interested to see the full manuscript. (They don’t like prologues or they don’t doesn’t see where a YA love triangle is). Out of the 10 agents, probably 9 don’t offer representation for the straight-up incest at the beginning of the book, the dwarf banging prostitutes, throwing a kid out a window, a peasant kid getting murdered by the Hound, lots of exposition and backstory taking up half of every chapter, the POVs being more than 4, implied incest with Dany and her brother, and a 14 year old Dany getting raped by Drogo. Not to mention the honest Ned, the protagonist of the story, getting his head chopped off and Dany walking into fire to hatch dragons as the climax of the story leaving us with a cliffhanger end to the first book. The one agent would have a tough time selling it to a publisher, but I think they could get a deal done.
The unknown author might have to agree to cut it to 80,000 words, make it one POV character, preferably Dany, and have her sail to King’s Landing in the first third of the book, and discover she was really the long lost Targaryen as foreseen in the prophecy. Then maybe she is torn in a love triangle between the advances of Prince Drogo (maybe call him Prince Dirk to relate to the market better and make him 15 years old) and Prince Jon (but instead of a bastard who didn’t even know his damn mom, make him a simple peasant with a mysterious, yet noble lineage). Nice. I smell a sequel …
Fortunately for us, Martin was able to publish whatever he pleased at whatever pace he wanted. I look forward to reading the Winds of Winter when it comes out this year.