The secret of George R.R. Martin’s success: WordStar on a DOS machine

Author George R.R. Martin writes his "Song of Ice and Fire" series, the basis for "Game of Thrones," using a 27-year-old computer program.
(Evan Agostini/ Invision/Associated Press)

George R.R. Martin has created -- and killed -- beloved characters in his books and on screen. And he’s done it all running a computer program that’s older than many of his fans.

Martin appeared on “Conan” on Tuesday night to talk about “Game of Thrones,” his books and his writing habits. He explained that when it comes to fiction, he writes uses WordStar 4.0 on a desktop DOS machine. DOS came before Windows and all those Mac operating systems with cute names; WordStar 4.0 was released in 1987.

“I actually like it, it does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn’t do anything else,” Martin said. “I don’t want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital letter. I don’t want a capital. If I wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key.”


Martin isn’t a total Luddite; he uses a laptop computer for going online, answering email, doing his taxes and updating his blog.

Using WordStar, Martin has written five enormous volumes of his “Song of Ice and Fire” series. Two more installments are planned, but with Martin, the publication dates are never known for sure. Martin just told TMZ that he’s still at work on the next novel, “The Winds of Winter,” which means the last one, “A Dream of Spring” is far in the future.

Here’s hoping WordStar 4.0 holds up.