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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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Christina Desmarteau
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:12 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update, sir!
I admit to being disappointed that the book is not finished, but also a little relieved that this excruciatingly sweet anticipation is not yet at an end. We can remain the wide-eyed (if impatient) Children of Christmas Eve a little longer.
Also, at the risk of blaspheming, I may rant and rave at times about the Creator's devine plans and choices but I would never claim to be able to create something so great and beautiful as a single summer day. And so it is with you. The complexity and sheer vastness of your creation astounds me still. So write on at your pace. Whatever the wait may be we will not be patient exactly, but we will be vigilant and steadfast fans.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:12 am (UTC)
Shit happens
Take as long as you need to, sir. Your books are incredible and genius cannot be rushed. As much as I would love to have a copy of TWOW in my hands right now, I would rather have a well written book whenever it shows. Deadlines suck i am the same way and you need to write when it feels write

All the best and I will be first in line to buy the new titles, even if it's a decade from. Now

Good luck,
Kaushal Hooda
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:12 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update
Well of course we fans are sad that WoW is nowhere near completion, but we appreciate your honesty in giving us this update. Take your time man, we'll wait. Also, I want to apologise for the hard time the fanbase has given you over the delay.
Stephanie Schuer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:14 am (UTC)
So, it's done when it's done? :D
See, that is all I wanted. To know how far you are along. Obviously I would have been thrilled, if it was done, but it's not so I wait :) You should do this more often, let us know how it goes. It makes the wait easier on us. It is good to know if we are talking weeks, months or years for the book to be finished. :)

We would do with another chapter from Winds... Maybe Jon's first POV :P
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:14 am (UTC)
We suport you
Maybe if you working hard this last months, you can end the book and publish days before the new season of Game of Thrones debuts.
We support you, George.
Sorry for me awful english, I am a mexican reader, and i don´t know a lot of the language.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:15 am (UTC)
Good luck! I'am writing my first sci-fi novel and I understand you pretty well: writing and especially rewriting takes such a great deal of time! Every now and then I have to consult books and articles to make my story look true-to-life. Looking forward to your book, sure it will be awesome!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:19 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thanks for the update, keep up the great work. I was a bit pissed when I read your post yesterday, but I can see you're doing the best you can 👍🏽👍🏽
You the man x
Joanna Maryniak
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:20 am (UTC)
How do you recognize a great writer?
By the fact that even with a sad, down-to-earth but very heartfelt confession *in a blog post* he can make you cry. Up to the point of reading your post I thought that I would cry when I learn that the publication of Winds is pushed even further back in time. But I started to read and I saw my own inability to keep deadlines and I understood every bit of the text. Being no fiction author (but a PhD student) my writing has surely different qualities and purposes. Most importantly it needs to be turned up often - I should publish several research articles a year. Last year I managed to get invited into more then 10 collections and finish a measly 2 articles (I even don't know whether a single 1 will manage to be published).

So I wanted to salute you first on your honesty (it must have been exceedingly hard to confess a failure before the whole waiting and entitled world of the internet) and second (but more importantly for me) on your ability to capture the very essence of human experience and emotion - in a blog post no less.

And we'll all celebrate happily the release of Winds once it's finished :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:20 am (UTC)
Mr Martin, I have just created this LJ account to ask you not to beat yourself up over it.
You have done so much already. This books are huge, and complex, and amazing... Is season 6 approaching? There wouldn't be even a season 6 of a show if you hadn't written those novels.
Something that we've been discussing in the online communities for awhile is that, while we enjoyed the surprises along the road, Ned's death, Red Wedding, etc (ok, so maybe we didn't enjoy those surprises, but you know what I mean), we don't read the books for that. We read them because we want to read about those characters hearts struggling with themselves. The characterization, the themes, the atmosphere... Knowing what happens next doesn't really take that pleasure away.
Many people have remarked that they enjoyed re-reads more than they enjoyed reading for the first time, and I'm one of those. Hell, I reread some chapters after watching the show version of those same scenes, and my reaction was "WOW, I didn't remember it was this good"
Let's face it, the books are dense. If all we wanted were the big moments, we would only watch the show anyway. It's the how that matters. Besides, GoT sometimes seems like a different story from the books.

That was a really, really long way of saying "we still love you, and we will wait for Winds for as long as it takes"
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:21 am (UTC)
be brave!
Don't blame yourself is too easy, art and inspiration are harder than mechanical work, we all believe in you. I just bought all your books in hard cover, because I'm sure You will complete my collection one day! You inspire us all, your endurance in this voyage must be taken as an example of strength and not as an example of failure, you are still fighting your own war, for all of us! And we are with you!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:22 am (UTC)
Manuscript pages

Don't be depressed, we can wait some months.

One question only : How many pages do you have in your manuscript ?

Thank you and happy new year from French Alps ;-)Hi
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for this clarification! What do you think about publishing in two volumes? It could be great to read just a a part of story before start of the 6th season.

Edited at 2016-01-02 09:23 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:24 am (UTC)
I just thought you should know...
In my personal opinion, you shouldn't rush finishing the book. What I really respect about you as an author is that you have made A Song of Ice and Fire your own. What I mean is that you don't write towards what the fans are looking for. You write based on what you want to happen. I would hate for you to rush through writing The Winds of Winter, and risk being unhappy with what you wrote. Especially, since you write such beautiful masterpieces.

Unfortunately, I am not a famous author. Therefore, I do not understand the pressure that you must feel from fans and media alike. However, what is worth having is worth waiting for. Don't let missed deadlines bring you down. Your fans aren't going anywhere. Please, by all means, write and re-write chapters, edit what you have written already, and finish your masterpiece GRRM style. Whenever The rest of your fans, and I have the final copy in our hands, we will raise a toast to you and your masterpiece with whatever GOT ale or lager Ommegang has released for us to drink. I hope you will raise a toast with us and appreciate what you have created because you wrote a masterpiece. I would hate to think that you raised a toast with us because you rushed and tried to finish it since the show is about to surpass the books.

I just thought you should know that, at the very least, I am actually quite happy you're not done writing The Winds of Winter. Don't get me wrong, the anticipation to see if another one of my namesake is killed can be overwhelming. However, my appreciation for your work exceeds my obsessions with your series. The same goes for many of your fans.

I know many readers don't want the show to spoil the books. The good news is that the show has diverged so much that really we're watching an alternate dimension of what will actually take place. It's almost a completely different story... Not to mention, no matter how great the show is (which I am also a fan of the show) the books will always be better.

I hope I was able to bring up your spirits. A very Happy New Year to you and your wife.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:25 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Really, I am not sad and it was comfortable to read the post actually! Thank you for being so honest with us, don't worry we will wait, I don't care if the show will spoil the books, I enjoy the show too, a lot, It was because the show that I read the books, so, two ways to tell the same story, thank you for all the ASOIAF books, you didn't owe us any explanation, and HAPPY NEW YEAR GEORGE!
Maria Vosa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:25 am (UTC)
Weep not Our Moon and Stars
Don't start the new year in sadness. Yes, we all wanted the book (and only partly because we are now losing our ability to rub our knowledge in the face of non-book readers when we watch season 6).
Perhaps it will be easier to return to writing when the big deadline is no longer in play, I tend to react in the same way.

Never doubt our love and devotion.
It is known.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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