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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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Sigurd Langseth
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:52 am (UTC)
Take your time. Don't rush it. Create a great piece of literature. We'll be waiting.

The books are the books and the series are the series, and never the twain shall meet.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:53 am (UTC)
We love ya anyway
Take your time Mr. Martin, I'm sure it will be worth the wait. Thanks for all you've given us.
Brad Barclay
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:53 am (UTC)
You keep doing you.
I've been reading your blog for years, but never took the time to post until now. I started reading ASOIAF back in the late 90's, the someone lent me what turned out to be the second book in the series (I was more than half way through when I realized it too!). I was captivated from the start, went back and read the first book, and every single once since (and have also bought a number of your other works as well. I even have a dog-eared copy of The Armageddon Rag; if we ever meet, I'd be honoured to have you sign it for me).

And I get it. As a computer scientist, I write code (and sometimes papers) instead of prose, and like you I abhor deadlines. Creation and creativity don't always have the luxury of having arbitrary deadlines put onto them. Sometimes you just need more time to get it right.

So please, from a long time fan -- do it the way you do best. Ignore the people who want you to create on their time. Meander. Work on other things. Everyone has their own way of working, and I know from experience sometimes doing other things isn't just procrastinating or a waste of time -- sometimes locking your mind on something else is part of the creative process. It can give you different insights and ideas.

When your book is ready, I'll be here to buy and read it. And if for some reason you decide to walk away from it all, that would be cool with me too. Do it because you love it, or don't do it at all. And do it on your own time, your own way. I think you've earned that right.

Thanks for giving us all so much joy from your work. I look forward to your next book, whenever it happens to eventually be ready. I appreciate that you give us the work that you're the most happy with; I wouldn't want to read anything less.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:53 am (UTC)
Excellent book in summer is way better than average book in spring! Pleace, write in your own pace, we can wait a bit more.
Mark Green
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:54 am (UTC)
Just keep at it George!!! 👍👍
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:55 am (UTC)
Thanks for taking your time writing the update!
Cheer up, you are the best for creating that wonderful world of westeros, free cities and great characters we all love and hate.
Take your time. Focus on your story and do not let anybody stress you out. I think people are being selfish about this spoiler thing. Sure you are going to present us another great book and the wait will be worth. :)

Sorry if you did not understand something I wrote. I'm still learning english and I do not usually write anything in english, specially book writers :(
Juan Carlos De Len Ozuna
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:55 am (UTC)
Dead Mr George R. R. Martin:

(Sorry about my english over all)
Let me tell you this, i was in the team of "I can't believe how many changes did they make on GoT series over the books, but then i realized...
- I kinda like the changes... i actually like the changes, this is no A Song of Ice and Fire books, is Game of Thrones TV Show -.
I also was afraid i have tosay, about you getting older and leaving unfinished the books (so sorry about this, i never thought about it until i read it online, then i couldn't get it out of my brain), but i also realized that is no a thing you (me) should even think, that is he's baby, of course he's gonna finish, whell, maybe im just saying ramdom stuff... the thing i want to say is, you are already one of the biggest writers that ever exist, don't get me wrong, im not saying this just for say it, is almost a fact, you can look over you shoulders and look at any writer at the same level, at least for me, you are the best, you don't have to hurry, if you do that, the only thing you (and us) are going to do is make it boring, and im sure you don't want to be bored of your baby, it's gonna be finishes when it is finished.
Thanks a lot for sharing all this, i would like to express myself better than this, but my english is not perfect, and im not like Google Translate.
Juan Carlos de León Ozuna
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:55 am (UTC)
chin up George it's a new year and that gives you plenty of time to finish the book :)
Andrew James (hyperfocus)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:57 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you so much for this update, George. I cannot express my appreciation enough.

While it has been difficult waiting for the release of Winds, knowing the current status of the book is the next best thing. I doubt that I am alone among fans in feeling encouraged by the effort you have put in to this post - particularly considering the emotional weight you described - simply to keep us updated.

Wishing you all the best for the coming year.
Caitlin Hainsworth
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:57 am (UTC)
Thank you for the update
George, I cannot imagine the pressure you're under but I'm so sorry for it. I for one don't at all blame you for going to cons and awards ceremonies and everything that makes your life a joy, you deserve that as much as anyone.

Yeh it sucks winds won't be out before the show, but really it isn't that bad, please don't think your fans feel anything except compassion for you (if only because we know you'll kill more Starks if we complain! :) )

So go to your fantastic cinema, chill out, and write when you feel like it. We can wait :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:58 am (UTC)
Thank you
I truly love your books.

I also have a lot of deadlines and things to write in my work, and I can't do that. It is very hard for me to respect deadlines and write faster because, as you said, sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn't.

So, thank you so much for this post. I totally understand what you mean and whatever the TV show becomes, I will always be faithful to your writing.

I wish good luck for new year.
Dany T.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:58 am (UTC)
Thank You
I just wanted to say thank you for this update. With all the wild speculation that's been flying around lately, it was helpful to hear from you even if the news wasn't what you'd hoped it would be.

I also wanted to say thank you for all your wonderful books - they've meant a lot to me and have helped get me through some difficult times.

I'm a writer too (currently revising my first novel) and I've borrowed your "one chapter at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time," mantra for when I'm worried I'll never finish. So thank you for that as well.

I hope you know that your faithful readers will wait as long as it takes for TWOW. As you've pointed out, there are many other great books out there to tide us over. Personally, I plan to read Station Eleven next - meant to get to it sooner but life got in the way.

Thank you again for the update. Goodnight, and good luck.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:00 am (UTC)
First, few years ago, I worried about the show catch up with the books, because I read them before the show began. I love them.

But now, I don't worry. The show is good, but not every part, so I know, the last two books will be better (my favourite female character, Arianne is missing from the show!). Yeah, I don't like spoilers, but if I don't watch it from now even so I will run into spoiler when I will read any news websites.

Patrick Rothfuss' last book of Kingkiller Chronicle, The Doors of Stone isn't finished yet (too), and as we read in this year, the Lionsgate plans a series from them. So,probably you aren't 'alone', and don't worry because I know you love this series as I love and you will wait for final ending as I wait. :)

Greetings from Hungary,

Eduardo Chavez Morin
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:00 am (UTC)
Don't worry!
Hey George!,
i am as bummed as every reader to find out your not done.. but that disappointment just passed away in a second.. the most important thing is "the story", this saga is your legacy for millions of people to enjoy, you should take as much as you need to deliver your best, i suggest you take a vacation to free your self form all the stress and disappointment. We have great spots here in México ( my country) :)
Best Regards!, PS there were rumors of you coming to mi city to "The Guadalajara International Book Fair", were these true? you should come in future years, is masive!

Edited at 2016-01-02 05:42 pm (UTC)
Tim Newman
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:02 am (UTC)
Pfffft Call that a delay
By my calcs I've been waiting 19 years for the last part of Melanie Rawn's exiles trilogy. This is what? A year late? I really wouldn't sweat it, we fantasy fans are patient.

Fantasy: the aged single malt wiskey of the literary world.
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George R.R. Martin
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