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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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Ian Babbitt
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:44 am (UTC)
Keep it up!
Keep it up GRRM and don't get too down!

We'll wait for as long as it takes!
Lucas Romero
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:44 am (UTC)
Thank you.
Mr. Martin,
First of all, please allow me to congratulate you on a year full of achievements! I have been a fan of your writting for nigh on 15 years now, having found your books back in a dark dark 2001, and words cannot express how happy I was when I first found out that HBO would be taking on the job of recreating your world for the small screen that I happen to love so much (yes, I am a binge watcher as well as a binge reader), or how happy I am today, being able to enjoy such an incredibly well done adaptation of your work.
That said, I would also like to apologize, since English is not my native language, and even though I try really hard, this will undoubtly have too many mistakes; that being the main reason why I never had the courage to comment on any of your blog posts althought I would have loved to, many many times.
Today I decided that even if you never read this at all, I would at least take a few minutes to let you know how I feel, which of course is by no means an important or truly educated opinion, but I do consider myself to be a big fan of your work. And being such a fan I understood something early on, that you work at your own pace, that you care about us and the quality of your work and would never deliver anything less than perfect; that meant your process would sometimes take longer than we would have liked, but also that when the results came in they would be WELL WORTH THE WAIT. I don't think I ever read something so frenetically as I did a Storm of Swords, or ever loved a character more than I do Tyrion (I can honestly say he and I would be best of friends, if he's not trying to kill me). Having first incursioned into the world of fantasy by the hand of the great Tolkien, I don't think I can give higher praise than that, even if it matters so little.
All I can truly say is THANK YOU, and please, take as long as you need. Those of us that truly love your work (so much that reading translations was so out of the question - no offense to the increidble work translators do - that at age 12 I decided I would take the time needed to truly learn english so that I could enjoy your words as they were written) know very well what kind of light lies at the end of the tunnel.
To a happy and successful 2016! Can't wait for GOT season 6!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:44 am (UTC)
Thank you for the update. I guess most of the fans saw it coming but it's really appreciated that you decided to tell us how the things are. We will wait paitientlly and hopefully now you don't have such an obvious deadline things will go smoother. I wish this to you and all th fans. And a Happy New Year :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:45 am (UTC)
looking forward

Don't be depressed! You're still a great dude. Instead of having the regular way of story unfolding, you get to make history instead by having the strangest, polyvocal adpatation situation ever. I, for one, am more pumped about this unfolding in this manner.

Also, since I only follow via RSS reader, I didn't realize that you were making a big announcement today. Until I did.

Good luck getting back in there.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:45 am (UTC)
We should all at some point realize that we're not really upset or angry and remember that we're reading a post of a fellow human being who's struggling with deadlines and is under stress for multiple reasons. I think most of us have been in that situation, but none had an army of people yelling at us to finish as soon as possible. George, I wish I could say I'm speaking for every one of your readers, but unfortunately I'm not. Just know that there are many of us who understand and want you to take time off, which in turns begets a betterment of the artistry of the mind, which is I think what everyone wants. There's more to life than work, even if the work is something as wonderful as writing. So George, know that we're here, waiting patiently, and reading other stuff while we're waiting for The Winds of Winter, which I know is going to be worth the wait. There are so many amazing authors out there! I urge fellow readers of ASOIAF to check out Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb, Michael J. Sullivan, Catherynne Valente ... All these authors are worth your time while you wait for The Winds of Winter.
Brianandcarina Thorgersen
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:45 am (UTC)
Thank you
Hmmm... Not sure if my original post went through. Feeling a bit like the original lost of yours and don't have the energy to recreate, yada yada, not loving livejournal.

So main points - thank you for your creative vision, and for bringing us into this world you've created.
Thank you for the update. It obviously isn't the update we wanted, but it's fantastic to at least know, and to therefore be able to decide about this upcoming GoT season. It's a painful decision, that I hoped not to have to make, but I get it. And then, we get to point three... The painful point but the best. Thank you for staying true to your art. I'd rather wait to read the story that is your true story than a rushed, forced, whatever it would've been. Keep on rocking, and please keep on traveling, I was in the same boat and just got to go to Europe for the first time this year. It was magical and I hope you get more amazing experiences.

OH! As a huuuuuuge fan - let's go Jets! Let's hope for some FitzMagic. Playoffs, here we come.
Emmy Greene
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:46 am (UTC)
Winds of Whenever
Thanks for the update! Don't stress over it. We'd rather have a good book than a rushed book.

It doesn't matter if the show gets ahead. HBO has changed the story so much, it's almost a whole different thing. I like getting two versions of the story, and I hope the books and the HBO story continue to diverge.

It's an odd feeling going into this TV season blind & with no idea what will happen. Well, yes, we all have our theories, but no one really knows for sure. I kind of like it.

So relax. Take your time. We'll still be here when the books come out, & we can get the REAL story.

As the song says, "Write like the wind!!"

Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:46 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you for the update GRRM. It certainly seems like it has been an elephant on the chest for you (which saddens me somewhat) and I hope your revelation provides you some sort of levity.
At the end of the day we are all here because of the way that you have done things. You've done it your way - and it works.
I for one, will always prefer that magic is maintained through your natural approach. And we will all celebrate and enjoy it regardless of the date.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:47 am (UTC)
Don't worry
I know us fans are needy, but we are also understanding.
I'm glad you are still polishing the book. This post was to me (paraphrasing the opening paragraph of A tale of two cities) less of a winter of despair and more of the spring of hope.
Jeremy Court
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:48 am (UTC)
Don't worry George, work how is best for you, creativity needs freedom, not regimentation to grow. You will get there! Your high quality output proves your method and approach are working very well. I'm a DJ and know well about doing an average show in my mind and when my mind is 'in the zone' so to speak. People who may criticise won't be writing any incredible series of books in the near future i'd expect! Sending positivity and thanks from the Isle Of Wight!
Jake Blackwell
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:49 am (UTC)
Thanks George, that couldn't have been easy to write. 1,000 worlds' worth of respect to you for that.

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:50 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:50 am (UTC)
Thanks for the post. Take your time!!!

Greetings from germany.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:50 am (UTC)
How difficult it is for fans to realize that they don't own you - or have any claim on your time and energy - simply because they've bought a book or DVD (or five) and enjoyed the products of your imagination. :)

I'm going to enjoy the next chapters in the lives of my favorite inhabitants of Westeros in whatever format they present themselves. I'd much rather read *your* story whenever it gets written than see you take (for random example) the road that George Lucas inevitably took with Star Wars once he realized his heart wasn't in finishing the final trilogy.

For what little it is worth from a total stranger... life is far too short to spend time depressed about what you aren't getting done. Likely it is best spent enjoying your tremendous success, doing things with people you love and writing as you write best.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:50 am (UTC)
Thank you
I know from reading comments on the Reddit thread that a lot of the fans (me included) really appreciate you taking the time to give such an honest and considered update - it's a shame that the show has caught up for sure but I look forward to seeing how both the show and the books reach their conclusion in their own ways. And I'd rather wait longer for the book and have it be done right. So chin up and thank you for creating this whole thing that drives us so crazy :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:51 am (UTC)
You wrote: "I can't think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written."

I belive that was the case for 2001: A Space Oddysey. The movie and the novel were in development at the same time which is why the movie goes to Jupiter but the book goes to Saturn, IIRC.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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