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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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Brooklyn Ann
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:18 am (UTC)
I am happy with this news. I know you are bothered constantly about this book and will be pressured even more about the next one, but I actually take joy in just hearing that progress is being made. Sometimes the pessimism in internet-land gets to me, glad they're wrong as usual.

As an author, albeit a "small potatoes" one, I even understand the circumstances and resulting crushing disappointment of not making a goal. My anticipated March release will probably not happen in March due to life, blocks, revisions, and other projects getting in the way.

But anyway, hearing "dozens of chapters" "writing a Theon chapter" (not my favorite character but definitely a fascinating perspective) and that you will be writing tomorrow, (hopefully, so will I) this is heartening news and an optimistic start of a new year of ever voracious reading.

Happy New Year, George.

Oh, and I've been wanting to say this for awhile: Thank you for creating Sandor Clegane. I have no idea whether he will be mentioned in Winds, and even if he's not, I'm grateful for all of his scenes in your first three books, and mentions in the last two. He's one of the most fascinating characters I've ever read. My son gave me a Sandor action figure for Christmas and he looks very comfy on my desk. :D
Michael James
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:18 am (UTC)
No worries/Bowie
Good luck with Winds, and thanks for the candor! The show passing the books should at least relieve the pressure to publish before the show, which might make the writing easier. Who knows? Not me. I never lost control. You're face to face with the man who sold the world.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:19 am (UTC)
Thank you George for your honesty about the progress of the book, as much as we were all hoping for more positive news before season 6, I appreciate that you took your time to give us such a detailed update. As someone that can really stress out and panic when deadlines are approaching I can definitely relate to how you prefer to write without them. I will definitely be watching and enjoying the new seasons of the show and whenever Winds is out I'll buy it and take my time reading and enjoying your amazing writing.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:19 am (UTC)
Winter shall come, and so shall spring.
Thank you for this post George, while WINDS OF WINTER shall remain awaited until it comes out and read, you do what you do best, only that counts first.

The show is incredible, I personally know a lot of people who turned readers after watching the show, so perhaps this can be (as they say) 'a blessing in disguise'?

And seriously, I'm myself waiting for the last book, nothing is more exciting than the grand finale. 2015 gave us The Witcher 3, and perhaps 2017 will give us how everything (GAME OF THRONES) comes together in the end?
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:20 am (UTC)
Winds of winter
No biggie man, you jus keep doing you, these and first law are some of the best books I've read and I don't think authors should rush greatness. Can't wait for winds but for now I'll jus keep rereading these amazing books. Thanks for all your hard work and happy new year.
Rab Andrews
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:20 am (UTC)
Screw the deadlines
I love your work george, the most important thing for me is that it is another masterpiece and going by some of the chapters youve already released, mercy and sansas latest, the confidence in them, they are brilliant! They bring me lots of joy. So screw the deadlines! Screw depression and TWOW will be a masterpiece. ❤️
James Johnson
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:21 am (UTC)
Regardless of what happens on HBO, I'm still going to buy, and enjoy Winds of Winter
Ken Burnside
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:21 am (UTC)
Winds of Winter
Good luck, George. Sincerely. A bunch of us are eagerly awaiting the book, but I think I speak for many of us: we'd rather you took the time needed to do it to your satisfaction than see it rushed.

You don't "work for us" - we don't have the right to rush you, or push you, or harm your mental health with our expectations.

I know what it's like to have the words flow. And what it's like to squeeze out three pages, delete them and get into a funk.

Your only obligations with regards to Winds are to yourself: to do the work that your heart demands and to take care of yourself.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:22 am (UTC)
A night of happy and sad
I can't help but admire your truthfulness. When it comes down to it, we have no power to rush you. You have given us the drug of Westeros, and we are all addicts in our own way. I cant wait to read what you end up with, for now will sit here with my thumb up my ass dreaming of those new chapters. Best Wishes Mate!

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:23 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:23 am (UTC)
Keep pushing George. Keep pushing. Deadlines, sorry for being crass but, deadlines suck. They really do. I'm sure that what you deliver will not disappoint and I can't wait to read it.
Eugene Toussaint
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:23 am (UTC)
Keep Your Head Up
As a fan who discovered The Song of Ice and Fire series in 2006 because The Game Of Thrones was assigned reading in my Science Fiction and Fantasy class (a class where the teacher used the term paper crack to describe your books several times), who read A Dance of Dragons during my 1L year when I probably should of been studying, I know and I would assume a majority of your fans would agree with me, that the wait is worth it. Whats most important is just you delivering the best book possible like you always do. Sorry this process has become stressful for you. Thanks for the update, we appreciate it.

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:26 am (UTC)
Jeff Washburn
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:23 am (UTC)
Ugh. I work 18 hours a day as a small business owner and i wouldnt trade my stress for yours. What a burden. As a fan of your works, Im dissappointed. But from one human to another, chill out about it man. Take solace in the fact that youve provided countless hours of truly riveting entertainment to thousands of people the world over. I can feel the weight of your words and this post was tough to read. Dont let anyone give you any shit for wanting to enjoy your life just so they can eat up another few hundred pages. Itll come when it comes. Stay happy grrm.
Sincerely, a devoted fan...
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:23 am (UTC)
Thanks for the news, George.
We'll keep waiting for you.
I have confidence that at your pace, you'll finish it, and it will be another great book.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:24 am (UTC)
George thank you so much for this post. It really does mean a lot that you actually connect with your fans and keep them updated on important things in your life. I think you're a brilliant writer, and I love your Song of Ice and Fire series. I can hardly wait for The Winds of Winter, but the best things in life are worth waiting for. I'm glad that you're not rushing it, and that you're making it the best book it can be. It will come when it comes, but I promise you that I'll be buying it at midnight on the day its released. Your true fans support you no matter what. Keep up the good work ser!

Go Jets! Beat the Bills, make the playoffs, and make it to the superbowl!
Ignacio Tapia
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:24 am (UTC)
Thank you George!
I appreciate the update and the honesty, and I'm sure your entire fanbase does too. I sincerely hope 2016 is good to you, George. More of those best of time, and less of those worst of times! (maybe even less secrecy regarding your writing progress?).
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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