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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 09:26 am (UTC)
I'm that "House Bolton fan" from the Direwolves game!
My feeling has always been, by all means, please take you sweet time writing the remaining books, Mr. Martin! I understand and respect the fact you want to deliver the best books possible, and the creative process isn't like an on/off switch. You don't own anyone an explanation. With some of my favorite characters being the likes of Cersei Lannister, Tywin Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon, Littlefinger, and Ramsay Bolton, I find myself very alone in the GOT/ASOIAF fandom, and I know I'm pretty much alone when it comes to my sense of patience as well. hahaha. Happy New Year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:29 am (UTC)
sorry, but I am disapponted
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:29 am (UTC)
Better done than Never done
I always appreciate updates on your progress, but let me just say how much I'd rather have a done and well written book than a done and hastily written book!

I can easily wait on any of the next books as long as is needed! Keep on keeping on!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:30 am (UTC)
Thank you
First time commenting. Just wanted to say thank you.

It's not the news some people were hoping for, but let's be honest they had their suspicions anyway.

I'm so relieved and even happy to know for sure.

Best of luck with the rest of the writing process. Now that it's definitely too late and you've officially told the fans, I hope it will be a weight off your mind and you'll be free to carry on writing without letting it get to you.

Happy new year George.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:31 am (UTC)
We will wait as long as it takes. What i don't understand is what's changed so much between the 90s and now? I know you started ASOIAF in 91 but you didn't really get into it until 94. Therefore It took you 6 years to write three huge books. In the 16 years since you have managed 2 1/2. So what's changed?

Is it that you have too much other work and commitments going on? Are you not as "hungry" as you once were? Are you simply are mot enjoying it anymore? Maybe you are not as fast a writer in your 60s as you were in your 40s? Too many distractions? Or is it something else?

Whatever the reason, as Neil Gaiman once eloquently put it - you don't owe us anything. Keep writing and we'll keep reading.
Thomas Schneider
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:33 am (UTC)
We love you George, no matter when it will be published. Thanks for the dreaming anyway.

Eager to read this one ! ;)
Maria Vosa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:34 am (UTC)
Also - I got my GOT fix this year by reading (obsessively) through World of Ice and Fire. Great fun!
Go back to thinking about all the great things that happened in 2015 and ill undoubtedly happen in 2016 as well.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:35 am (UTC)
What a refreshingly human post, Mr Martin. Very few of us can claim to have authored a book, let alone as many and as richly as you have. It's easy for us to complain when we have no idea how difficult that process must be (after all, if anyone could write a book, everyone would do it, and they sure as hell don't. I've tried and tried to finish my own and it's hard. Really hard. It seems almost impossible, and my respect for you grows).

And then you have the added anxiety of writing to catch up with a TV show with dozens of writers - it's not fair on you, really. I'll admit I'm one of the ones who quit over a particular storyline last season (not hard to guess which) and I'd been praying for Winds to ease me over. But like that character, I'll have to draw on resilience and hope to get through it, just like you will. Write at your own pace, people have fallen in love with your characters so deeply to be so obsessed with the book's release - im sure that in itself is a comfort as you write. Have faith in your abilities, because you are a truly remarkable writer any one of us would gladly wait years for (despite the grumbling) and we will love whatever comes of this tireless work you've been doing.

You are awesome. I hope 2016 is kind to you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:36 am (UTC)
Noob writer and old fan here :)
I'm a noob writer and this profession is so solitary, I love it. I know this is your moment and it's amazing, congratulations. But I can't avoid feeling sad :(
I hope you have more good days than bad days. I know is not easy with all those characters and history!
And yeah... I don't hate or love Game of Thrones. I know is an amazing TV Show with a lot of Emmy's and stuff but I can't connect with the characters... they are so two dimensional and sometimes I only can see the actor trying to be Arya, Sansa or Daenerys without results :(
Sending you love and support from a little lost city in Mexico. I hope you have a good night and an amazing new year. You are the best!
Neil Randall
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:37 am (UTC)
Good luck.
George I hope I speak for the vast majority when I say this, I love the book and I love the shows however I would never want you to rush the books. I think of them as two different entities. Also depression is a many headed beast which we all handle in different ways, good days and bad becomes the way of it. I wish you the best and I hope there will be nothing but goodwill from the asoiaf community. All the best for the new year.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:38 am (UTC)
Yes, the long awaited post at last. Perhaps a little disappointing, but nothing to get too worked up over. As a fan of all of your work, I really, truly appreciate the transparency.

People are mad; they'll renounce their love for the series and they'll get angry on the forums and the subreddit. But it doesn't matter. I can guarantee you that they will end up reading Winds regardless. I think they'll ultimately be glad that you took your time to give us a quality book, even at the cost of a few more months of waiting.

With that said, I finally got my hands on A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and I really hope we've got more D&E stories to look forward to soon.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:39 am (UTC)
Thanks so much George. You didn't owe us this, but it's sure as hell good to hear. I hope the rest of TWOW goes more smoothly for you now that you don't have the "threat" of the show passing you by hanging over your head.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:39 am (UTC)
Thank-you for EVERYTHING :)
Thank you for this detailed update on TWOW I know myself and thousands of people are so thankful that you'd even spend the time to create this blog post. Honestly for me, when you finish.. you finish. I've always enjoyed books more then the shows but that's purely for the fact that you get more detail and the inner thoughts happening inside the characters heads and several more stories lines to follow. That being said I will always support the books/show and everything to do with the ASOIAF world. I think a lot of people get so caught up in the story line that they often forget that you don't owe us anything, we're the ones who owe you for creating such an amazing universe to get emerged in. I spend hours on Reddit just reading theories and peoples more in-depth reviews of chapters from the previous books. It's amazing that something you created has so much depth and ability to keep people so intrigued even on days when nothing of the books/show are released.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for everything Mr. Martin. I hope you have an amazing 2016 and many years to come with lots of fun travel opportunities!
Ingrid Grnfeld
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:40 am (UTC)
I am so grateful
Dear Sir,

Thank you for letting us know! You've transformed so many dull mornings, evenings and even days and weeks into pure magic for so many readers all over the world and we can only be extremely grateful.

How can we possibly be mad and disappointed of you? That's just outrageous! I myself feel so relieved that you couldn't make it. It sounds a bit weird, but I'd rather wait another 2 years to read a marvelous book, than have it in April, written poorly, not revised nor polished enough.

I can only wish you to stay healthy and hope you still enjoy writing the book, in spite of all the pressure, because we, the readers, can sense that happiness and love of yours between the lines.

Karen Bowler
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:43 am (UTC)
creative process
You've already created a marvel, rest on those laurels. Deadlines are death to creatvity so yes, it'll be done when its done, and writing is a painful process when you want to do it right. So sod 'em all, have a great new year, and I hope the depression lifts.
With best wishes, and thanks
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George R.R. Martin
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