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Last Year (Winds of Winter)

The last post from the Lost Post, and the one you've all been waiting for.

Back when this was one long long long post, before Live Journal sent it to the cornfield, I mentioned opening with Dickens' line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." So it was for me in 2015. I've spent much of the day recreating (in Cliff's Note summaries) my own personal "best of times" from the previous year, all the wonderful things that went down for me in 2015, the awards and the publications and the bestseller lists, the cons and the parties, the travel, all the exciting new projects underway at HBO and right here down the street in Santa Fe. But inevitably that brings me to my own personal "worst of times," and that is considerably less fun to blog about, so do forgive my reluctance to do so.

You wanted an update. Here's the update. You won't like it.

THE WINDS OF WINTER is not finished.

Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You're disappointed, and you're not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed... but no one could possibly be more disappointed than me. For months now I have wanted nothing so much as to be able to say, "I have completed and delivered THE WINDS OF WINTER" on or before the last day of 2015.

But the book's not done.

Nor is it likely to be finished tomorrow, or next week. Yes, there's a lot written. Hundreds of pages. Dozens of chapters. (Those 'no pages done' reports were insane, the usual garbage internet journalism that I have learned to despise). But there's also a lot still left to write. I am months away still... and that's if the writing goes well. (Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.) Chapters still to write, of course... but also rewriting. I always do a lot of rewriting, sometimes just polishing, sometimes pretty major restructures.

I suppose I could just say, "Sorry, boys and girls, still writing," and leave it at that. "It will be done when it's done." Which is what I have been doing, more or less, since... well, forever. But with season 6 of GAME OF THRONES approaching, and so many requests for information boiling up, I am going to break my own rules and say a little more, since it would appear that hundreds of my readers, maybe thousands or tens of thousands, are very concerned about this question of 'spoilers" and the show catching up, revealing things not yet revealed in the books, etc.

My publishers and I have been cognizant of these concerns, of course. We discussed some of them last spring, as the fifth season of the HBO series was winding down, and came up with a plan. We all wanted book six of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE to come out before season six of the HBO show aired. Assuming the show would return in early April, that meant THE WINDS OF WINTER had to be published before the end of March, at the latest. For that to happen, my publishers told me, they would need the completed manuscript before the end of October. That seemed very do-able to me... in May. So there was the first deadline: Halloween.

Unfortunately, the writing did not go as fast or as well as I would have liked. You can blame my travels or my blog posts or the distractions of other projects and the Cocteau and whatever, but maybe all that had an impact... you can blame my age, and maybe that had an impact too...but if truth be told, sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn't, and that was true for me even when I was in my 20s. And as spring turned to summer, I was having more bad days than good ones. Around about August, I had to face facts: I was not going to be done by Halloween. I cannot tell you how deeply that realization depressed me.

Early August saw me back east for my nephew's wedding and an appearance with the Staten Island Direwolves. I took advantage of the visit to have another sit down with my editors and publishers and told them that I didn't think I could deliver by Halloween. I thought they'd be sick about it... but I have to say, my editors and publishers are great, and they took it with surprising equanimity. (Maybe they knew it before I did). They already had contigencies in place. They had made plans to speed up production. If I could deliver WINDS OF WINTER by the end of the year, they told me, they could still get it our before the end of March.

I was immensely relieved. I had two whole extra months! I could make that, certainly. August was an insane month, too much travel, too many other obligations... but I'd have September, October, and now November and December as well. Once again I was confident I could do it.

Here it is, the first of January. The book is not done, not delivered. No words can change that. I tried, I promise you. I failed. I blew the Halloween deadline, and I've now blown the end of the year deadline. And that almost certainly means that no, THE WINDS OF WINTER will not be published before the sixth season of GAME OF THRONES premieres in April (mid April, we are now told, not early April, but those two weeks will not save me). Even as late as my birthday and our big Emmy win, I still thought I could do it... but the days and weeks flew by faster than the pile of pages grew, and (as I often do) I grew unhappy with some of the choices I'd made and began to revise... and suddenly it was October, and then November... and as the suspicion grew that I would not make it after all, a gloom set in, and I found myself struggling even more. The fewer the days, the greater the stress, and the slower the pace of my writing became.

Look, I have always had problems with deadlines. For whatever reason, I don't respond well to them. Back in November, when I returned to Northwestern to accept my Alumni Award, I told the Medill students that was why I started writing fiction instead of getting a job on a newspaper. I knew even then that daily deadlines would kill me. That was a joke, of course... but there was truth in it too. I wrote my first novel, DYING OF THE LIGHT, without a contract and without a deadline. No one even knew I was writing a novel until I sent the completed book to Kirby to sell. I wrote FEVRE DREAM the same way. I wrote THE ARMAGEDDON RAG the same way. No contracts, no deadlines, no one waiting. Write at my own pace and deliver when I'm done. That's really how I am most comfortable, even now.

But I won't make excuses. There are no excuses. No one else is to blame. Not my editors and publishers, not HBO, not David & Dan. It's on me. I tried, and I am still trying. I worked on the book a couple of days ago, revising a Theon chapter and adding some new material, and I will writing on it again tomorrow. But no, I can't tell you when it will be done, or when it will be published. Best guess, based on our previous conversations, is that Bantam (and presumably my British publisher as well) can have the hardcover out within three months of delivery, if their schedules permit. But when delivery will be, I can't say. I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out.

I am going back to my stance from last March, before all this. It will be done when it's done. And it will be as good as I can possibly make it.

Having said all that, I know what the next question will be, because hundreds of you have already asked it of me. Will the show 'spoil' the novels?

Maybe. Yes and no. Look, I never thought the series could possibly catch up with the books, but it has. The show moved faster than I anticipated and I moved more slowly. There were other factors too, but that was the main one. Given where we are, inevitably, there will be certain plot twists and reveals in season six of GAME OF THRONES that have not yet happened in the books. For years my readers have been ahead of the viewers. This year, for some things, the reverse will be true. How you want to handle that... hey, that's up to you. Look, I read Andy Weir's novel THE MARTIAN before I saw the movie. But I saw the BBC production of JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL before I finally got around to reading Susanna Clarke's novel. In both cases, I loved the book and I loved the adaptation. It does not need to be one or the other. You might prefer one over the other, but you can still enjoy the hell out of both.

Of course, there's an aspect to our situation that did not apply to either the Weir or Clarke cases. Those novels were finished before they were optioned, adapted, and filmed. The case of GAME OF THRONES and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is perhaps unique. I can't think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written. So when you ask me, "will the show spoil the books," all I can do is say, "yes and no," and mumble once again about the butterfly effect. Those pretty little butterflies have grown into mighty dragons. Some of the 'spoilers' you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all... because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so.


Just consider. Mago, Irri, Rakharo, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, Pyat Pree, Pyp, Grenn, Ser Barristan Selmy, Queen Selyse, Princess Shireen, Princess Myrcella, Mance Rayder, and King Stannis are all dead in the show, alive in the books. Some of them will die in the books as well, yes... but not all of them, and some may die at different times in different ways. Balon Greyjoy, on the flip side, is dead in the books, alive on the show. His brothers Euron Crow's Eye and Victarion have not yet been introduced (will they appear? I ain't saying). Meanwhile Jhiqui, Aggo, Jhogo, Jeyne Poole, Dalla (and her child) and her sister Val, Princess Arianne Martell, Prince Quentyn Martell, Willas Tyrell, Ser Garlan the Gallant, Lord Wyman Manderly, the Shavepate, the Green Grace, Brown Ben Plumm, the Tattered Prince, Pretty Meris, Bloodbeard, Griff and Young Griff, and many more have never been part of the show, yet remain characters in the books. Several are viewpoint characters, and even those who are not may have significant roles in the story to come in THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING.

GAME OF THRONES is the most popular television series in the world right now. The most pirated as well. It just won a record number of Emmy Awards, including the ultimate prize, for the best drama on television. It's an incredible production with an incredible cast and crew.

WINDS OF WINTER should be pretty good too, when it comes out. As good as I can make it, anyway.

Which is a long way of saying, "How may children did Scarlett O'Hara have?"

Enjoy the show. Enjoy the books.

Meanwhile, I'll keep writing. Chapter at a time. Page at a time. Word at a time. That's all I know how to do.

((And yes, this is my final Cliff's Note for the day. You can all go to bed now)).


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Mike Pohjola
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:13 am (UTC)
Take your time
Dear George,
we love your books, and we love the tv show. We understand that the reason for that love, the reason they were and are so good, is that you and others took your time in making them that way.

Take your time. Write another great book. We'll still be here, eager to read it.

Sincerely on behalf of your fans,
Mike Pohjola
Christopher Britt
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:13 am (UTC)
It is, what it is
As much as I would like to be reading WINDS in the coming season, I can say for myself that at this point only the best can come from book not being ready as planned. Certain stresses can be alleviated, and with that comes a better chance at production and the opportunity to retool or readjust the situation as a whole, which im sure you will know how to use to its most advantage. We may not always be comfortable with our standing when opportunity comes around, but experience gained from those times is what gives us the ability to seize the shit out of opportunity when our standing is sound. Only difference now is that we get two takes on the same great story.

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:15 am (UTC)
Benjamin Anderson
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:13 am (UTC)
Do not worry
Mr. Martin,
Thank you so much for the 5 A Song of Ice and Fire novels you have already written. Thank you for Game of Thrones, thank you for actively engaging with your readers. I understand it can be frustrating missing deadline, but please do not be so hard on yourself. You are a fantastic writer and the book shall be finished when it is finished. There is absolutely no need to rush it. Take time for yourself, do not allow corporate and reader's pressure get to you. No one who has your interests at heart will mind that it is taking longer than expected. Your books have changed my life.
Thank you,
Nic Walsh
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:14 am (UTC)
George, I hope you're not beating yourself up over this. Everyone on the forums has nothing but huge support for you at the moment and we are just relieved to have an update, which we really, really appreciate (however hard it might have been to type!).
I hope you feel you can give us more updates like this in the future, We do appreciate all of the hard work you do, and love this world you have created for us. Best of luck with your future writing.
David Beatty
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:15 am (UTC)
Thank you for being honest and upfront with us, Mr. Martin.

I'm confident that I speak for most of your fans when I say: take all the time you need. We aren't going anywhere, and we'll still eagerly read every page of The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring whenever they're ready, even if David & Dan have already fed us the main plot beats. There's so much more to your story than who lives, who dies, and who sits on the iron throne at the end, if it's even still there to be sat upon.

As you say, the scenario of the adaptation being finished before the source material may be unprecedented, and I'm sure none of us can imagine how it feels to hand over the initial telling of your biggest work to other writers--skillful stewards though they may be. But hopefully you find some solace in the notion that this oddity in the telling is the mark of a modern masterpiece--one that has beguiled the hearts and minds of thousands around the globe.

All the best to you!
Maribel Medina
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:15 am (UTC)
I don't mind if the book is publish after the show, is more exciting to read the book. Everyone has to understand that you also have other things in your life right now. Best of wishes and have a good year.
Tripp Stelnicki
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:15 am (UTC)
Take your time, George.
You are a hero and inspiration and the indescribable depth and magnitude and beauty of your series is why we're all reading this blog post. You don't need anyone to tell you to what to do or not do, but damn it, George, take as much time as you need. Your readers will be here when it's ready. We love you. Godspeed.
Amber Moody
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:15 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Thank you sir for taking the time to write all your posts today. I am a huge fan of your work and am eagerly waiting for this book to be finished however I know it cannot be rushed to be the best it can be. I am also excited for the new season to start. In the mean time I have the world of ice and fire as well as a knight of the seven kingdoms. Thank you for sharing these wonderful works of art with the world, you have done a fantastic job creating the world's of essos and westeros. I will forever be a fan of yours. Don't be to hard on yourself because I know creating something so incredibly detailed and in depth cannot be easy. Thank you once again and I hope the New Year is kind to you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:16 am (UTC)
It's all good, I'll just be re-reading books 1-5 again in the meantime.
I can relate to deadlines being a source of stress that tend to squelch creative output, and I appreciate your candor.
For my part, I'd rather the book be something you're happy with even if it takes longer to finish. I'm so very excited to read it now, but I'll still be excited whenever it may come out.

As for "spoilers" and the HBO show, while I realize it is a separate entity, I likely won't be tuning in for season 6, as I can't abide the way it has treated my favorite character from the books: King Stannis (as well as many others)-- and I don't just mean by killing him off. That's a can of worms there's no need to open, though.

In any case, I wish you the best not just in your work, but all aspects of your life, and look forward to seeing the fruits of your labor in good time.
Thanks for keeping us updated. Here's hoping 2016 is nothing but "the best of times".
(no subject) - K26dp - Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:17 am (UTC)
Courage, Merry. You'll get there when you do, and we'll all be excited to read it.
Colin Bramble
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:17 am (UTC)
Don't Rush!!!!
I'm disappointed that The Winds of Winter will not be publish soon. However, the completion of the story is more important than my desire to read The Winds of Winter. Please continue writing and don't forget about the patient readers. Thank you for the adventures.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:17 am (UTC)
Thanks for the status & the insight into the process alike!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:17 am (UTC)
Keep on chugging! While it saddens me that there may (or more likely will) be spoilers for us readers this season, we'll get by.

Reminds me of the Full Metal Alchemist series. It was created before the manga was finished, and caught up to it, so they continued. When the manga was finished, they went back and re-made it as Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I've seen both versions, I love both versions. I'm sure it will be the same for the show and the books.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:18 am (UTC)
Thanks for putting this all out there, been good catching up with your posts throughout the day. At this point, I just ride the waves as they come, believing that TWOW will be as good as you can make it.

Here's to hoping for more good days this year.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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