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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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Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:38 am (UTC)
Take your time George
It'll be reafy when it is ready. Book and show is already so different that spoilers are a non-issue
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:39 am (UTC)
We're waiting, Master. :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:39 am (UTC)
The post that we needed
I feel your disappointment, Mr. Martin, and of course there's going to be some of that on our end as well, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for this thoughtful post. I completely understand why you established radio silence over the last few months in regards to 'Winds' but in truth, I think that this kind of update was exactly what we needed. Things can get weird in a vacuum. People can get discouraged or unnecessarily upset. All this worrying about whether or not the show will spoil the books has taken over the conversation, and I have to say, I really think you ripping off the band-aid was the right move.

One way or the other, it's always better to know. As you've said, it'll come when it comes. Even if it's still months away, knowing that you are making progress is a huge load off of everyone's mind. I hope you will keep us updated on both the good and the bad in 2016.

Just in case you weren't aware, there were three different threads over on Reddit tonight, fans excited for any news, good or bad - comments on which totaled in the 9000's. I just thought that it was important to point out, yet again, the kind of excitement that your work inspires.

This is turning out longer than I thought it would be, but I just really felt like all of it was important to say. Happy New Year, Mr. Martin! I hope 2016 finds you happy and healthy.

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:41 am (UTC)
Luminous Brilliance
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:40 am (UTC)
You know how it ends.
It's simple and elegant.

You've been doing this for 40 years.

Best wishes, sir.
Leah Graham
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:40 am (UTC)
Best of luck
I hope you are able to find joy in the writing process again. Creativity on demand...just doesn't work. Best of luck to you. I enjoy your books.
Reid Linwood
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:40 am (UTC)
Thank you
You're only one man. A pretty remarkable one at that. If you stopped writing tomorrow it wouldn't detract from the enjoyment myself and others have received through your books, TV shows, and other projects.

I'm excited to enjoy the TV show in April, and enjoy Winds whenever it is done. My opinion I realize means very little, being a random reader out in the middle of nowhere, but I hope you still do find some enjoyment in the story and the world you've created, and not only stress.

Thanks for giving millions a creative, thought provoking, excellent story. Happy New Year Mr. Martin.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:40 am (UTC)
Happy New Year!
Thank you for the update and good luck! Hope you took some time to celebrate New Year too.
Don't worry, we still love you and we still love the books. And when Winds of Winter will be released, we will love it too.
And now I'm looking forward to season 6.
Greetings from Belgium!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:40 am (UTC)
Indeed, I am glad I stayed up for this, and thank you George for taking the time to re-write all of this for us, and being generous with the details! I know it had to have been hard to write this last entry.

While I'm a little emotional to learn we won't have WINDS before Season 6, it's not the end of the world, and not for a fear of the show spoiling anything for me. If anything, I appreciate what you've written leagues more now by comparison, but (in my opinion) they are too different now to consider similar enough to "spoil". Even if some of the same twists and events happen, the show has changed the context so much that they're still hardly the same (some deaths/non-deaths come to mind), and like with most things, the journey is often far more important than the destination...I think the same is true for stories, maybe especially so. After all, butterflies and dragons might both have wings, but they're beyond comparison. Major events might be the same, but if the past is an indicator, the journey leading to them will be far different...it will make all the difference. To me, at least.

Another adage comes to mind: all good things come to those who wait. I wait with bated breath, but I know WINDS will be better than good, it will brilliant...and the wait will be well worth it in the end, even if waiting is hard. Harder than waiting, though, is writing. People who cannot understand that will be the ones who are most negative, I think, and for your own sanity I hope you ignore them and focus on enjoying the process, rather than feeling rushed to the finish line. Even if you chained yourself to the computer and didn't leave the house, it would not speed anything up. I think people need to understand that as well.

Thanks again for all the posts, they've been a pleasure to read. I hope you do cheer up, though! You've had a very busy and successful year, and have much to be proud of and happy for; I hope 2016 will bring more of the same (and more, and more!).

Sorry to talk your ear off. Brevity's never been my thing. Happy New Year!!
Abby Binion
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:41 am (UTC)
Not Disappointed
I've never commented on your blog before, but I feel compelled to post tonite (this morning).

I'm a huge fan and, like many others, have been checking your blog periodically over the past two days waiting for this post. Thank you for it, and for your candor.

I think all of us know what it's like to have a deadline looming over our heads, that impending sense of doom as it draws ever closer and the clock is ticking. Loudly.

The difference is that most of us only have our bosses or our families looking over our shoulders. I can't imagine what the weight of the number of eyes staring over your shoulders must feel like.

I will enjoy WINDS when it comes. I will enjoy Season 6 when it comes. And in the meantime, I will enjoy all of the other books and shows that I like. And I will also enjoy reading your thoughts here on football (Go Hawks!), and politics, and your theater, and your adventures, and your travels, and whatever else you want to share with us.

I have varied interests. Everyone does. It makes me sad that there are people out there who would begrudge you yours.

You'll finish WINDS when you finish it. And we'll all read it when it comes out. And then we'll all find something else to get angsty about.

It's a new year, a time for optimism and renewal. I wish you well in yours and, again, thank you.
Craig Speer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:42 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you for the update. Couldn't have been easy and obviously not what everyone hoped for but still! I would hate for you to be so discouraged by disappointing people you have brought together because of your work. I am a part of numerous ASOIAF communities and I can spend hours of my week eating up scraps of information or theories based around the world you have created.

Please don't let this dishearten you. Your update was honest, informative and gave us the kind of closure we needed before Season 6 began.

I'm still undecided whether I'm going to continue with the show, but that's life.

Thank you for the world you have created. Thank you for everything you have done and the countless sleepless nights you've pushed on yourself at the thought of disappointing us.

Looking forward to TWOW :)
Renee Parisio
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:43 am (UTC)
I've never regretted taking the time to do something right, but have often regretted doing a lesser job just to meet a deadline. I'll savor the book all the more because you gave it the time it needed. Cheer up, soldier on and a Happy New Year you!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:43 am (UTC)

It's not the answer anyone wanted but I doubt that it comes as a surprise. Don't worry, I still love you and so do all your other fans! Don't be dissapointed, we're not (entirely) and we know that the waiting will be worth it! So buck up cowboy! Its a new year and the book will come when its ready!

P.S.... So umm. Dunk and Egg? Just kidding. :D

Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:43 am (UTC)
It's okay.
I love your writing and I want to know you're satisfied with TWOW when it's published. And if you need to fill yourself up with travel, friends, other projects, well, how could you not? ASOIAF is a truly special series and I want your best writing for the final books, not some slapdash deadline beaters or ghostwritten monstrosities, so do what you have to do. And don't sweat it. We'll wait.
Ben Torres
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:44 am (UTC)
Take as much time as you need!
It's no easy task to write a series that rivals Tolkien's. It's even harder to create the realism and ignore the standard fantasy tropes that your series is so well known for. To top it off you're writing this in an age where millions of fans eagerly await for what's next, wether they've started with the books or the adaptation.

What you hope to accomplish with A Song of Ice and Fire will revolutionize the fantasy genre for generations to come. Rather than adhering to the simplified tropes of good and evil, the genre will now have to respect the fact that realism and moral ambiguity are as equally important to consider when creating a fantasy. Your works will inspire thousands of writers just as Tolkien did for you.

With that said you should remember that many of us waited six years for A Dance with Dragons. All of us will gladly wait patiently again to see your series through to the end. So take all the time you need to ensure that both books are published with the care you know they deserve.

Also, Game of Thrones would not be the first televised series that surpassed its source material. This happens every so often in Eastern television; the most notable series called Full Metal Alchemist. The televised series finished several years before its novel counterpart, yet fans came to accept and enjoy both for what they were. I wholehearted believe that your fans will also come to enjoy both mediums of your series.
Barles Cayley
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:44 am (UTC)
Thanks for your candor, Mr. Martin. I thought I wanted Winds more than anyone. It hadn't crossed my mind that you might want it even more. I hope you get to do some more traveling soon. I'm going to India next week and I can assure you Asshai and all the lands of far Essos will be on my mind.
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George R.R. Martin
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