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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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Lindsay Travis
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:44 am (UTC)
I know you are worried about disappointing people, but you giving an actual update about Winds is still very exciting. At least now I can make an educated guess that I should start my series re-read this year.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:48 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update
Hi George, your work is fantastic. Even if you never finish it (which you will) you've created a world that people can cherish. Live your life, write when you are able and always keep in mind what a gift you have given us. Like the rest of your fans, I'll just keep waiting with excitement and anticipation.
Amanda Scott
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:49 am (UTC)
Don't let people get you down!!
Dear George,

It is a shame people are pushing you to rush through this process. I would much rather see you take your time and write the book YOU want to write, so that you are happy with it in the end and not wishing you had the time to do something differently. People need to remember that you chose to share these wonderful stories with the world, which is something you did not need to do. I know that there are many of your fans out there who feel the same way. I would just like you to know that I am thankful that you chose to share these books with us, and I will be thankful for your writing whether your book is released 6 months from now or 6 years from now. I sincerely hope, you are able to focus on enjoying writing the book and try to block out all of the negativity coming your way right now.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that your new year is filled with amazing things.

Thank you again and know that you are appreciated,
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:50 am (UTC)
George, I really appreciate your work and your creativity! Thanks you for that world which you have created for us in which we can forget about daily problems and give vent to the imagination. I have for a long time ceased to look a serial, but I always am and am the big fan of your books, and not only series "A Song of Ice and Fire". I also consider that any work, including literary, should be first of all qualitative, instead of made too quickly to the detriment of this quality. I and the present admirers of your creativity, we will wait, how many it is required, and we will not hurry you because nobody has the rights it to do. Thanks you once again!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:51 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update, Mr Martin. I am not angry, I an not disappointed. I am happy that you are doing everything you can to get the book out. I have the upmost respect for you and your writing. Take your time, when the book is out, I will still buy it and read it.
Soru D'Alo
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:53 am (UTC)

I know that you do not like to hear it but game of thrones is a big shit that will remain for uneducated people who do not like to read and do not read or will ever read.

Then how can I even read someone of your excerpts from the winds of winter, history always keep me in breath because I like very much your kind of writing. Do your best, gambatte!

Thanks for all.
Marjatta Takamaa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:55 am (UTC)
Huge thank you for the update. I can feel your pain. Inspiration and creativity knows no deadlines. It is the same thing with drawing and painting. The paper stays empty if the mind can't travel freely without pressure and stress.

Just take your time with it and I'm sure it'll be as amazing as the previous ones. Happy New Year!
Thomas Evans
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:55 am (UTC)
Thank You
After reading your post and sitting there thinking to myself what all of this meant to me I came to the conclusion that I had to leave a comment telling you how much I truly appreciate you 1 giving an update on the book 2 doing it despite it being one of your rules. It truly means a lot knowing that the person who has written something that has become such a huge part of my life cares this much about his fan base, to write his fans and let them know of the situation, it's truly incredible to see. As a person who started watching the show then read the books, currently finishing the last two in the Beast of Ball edition if you know what that is, I couldn't agree with you more watching the show has in no way affected my love of your books. In fact it has made me love them more, as you said the show has done an amazing job adapting your story and because of that I have had such a great time reading and watching both. While I am sad that I won't be able to read your next installment soon I am happy to know that you aren't rushing or doing anything that you don't feel comfortable doing because more than anything I want to read exactly what you want to write. Even though I have not had as long a wait as those who read your first book I can honestly say I'll wait until whenever they are ready to read your next installments. I hope you read this comment and understand that we all truly appreciate your post.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:57 am (UTC)
Don't worry
Speaking for myself, George, I'd rather you got it right than you did it fast. Do what you have to do.
Mac Schmitz
Jan. 2nd, 2016 09:58 am (UTC)
Thank you
Dear George,

You have given the world such a wonderful piece of art. For that I want to thank you.

However, calling your work art, one has to admit that real art does take time to create.

So, while I -and countless more- almost cannot wait to savour the latest verse of the 'Song of Ice and Fire', I support your decision to not give us something done only half-right, but to continue refining your piece until you see fit to present it to the world.

Thank you for this decision and all you have given the world in the past. May the muse be with you. Always.
Charles Allen
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:00 am (UTC)
Writing is tough business that never gets easier even as you gain master level experience! I can't wait but I can wait! May the 7 guide your hand!
Julien Durand
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:02 am (UTC)
Thank you and good luck
Thanks. Just take your time and finish the book at your pace.
It's been great to watch the shows having read the books. I'm sure I'll love reading the next books having seen the shows!
Jimmy Potter
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:03 am (UTC)
Due dates...
I've always hated deadlines myself, even in school, so I understand your trouble with them pretty well. That being said I do not want you to rush it. Whatever it is it allows you to produce something extraordinary. After all the books have been released no one will ever have to wait on one again, they will burn through the whole series in a week or two of reading never understanding the struggle that us old school fans endured. If anything the wait is part of the joy, a painful yet important part. Oh god is it painful... Atleast I have the NFL to keep me occupied for a little while! Go Patriots! WIn another Superbowl (haha)!!!
Jeremy Eastgate
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:04 am (UTC)
Summer is coming
I have waited this long, I can wait longer. Seasons may change but we will wait. Your honesty is refreshing good Ser. After all if you release with the quantity but not the quality the critics and fans will moan, do it well and enjoy it as your creation, nobody can take that away.

Take care,

Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:04 am (UTC)
Just write at your time so that you can be happy. Then we will be happy, too. We will wait!
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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