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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 10:12 am (UTC)
Thank you kindly, George.
Dear George,

Thank you most kindly for taking the time to say this to us. It couldn't have been easy, but I really appreciate your forthrightness and honesty.

I've said it before: I can wait. We can wait. Everyone can wait. The most important thing is that you are able to have and do whatever you need to have and do to write your story. It takes the time it takes.

I trust in you and all you are doing with David and Dan to guide them in doing the show. Together you've done a fantastic job, and I have absolute faith you all will continue to bring the awesome. And what a massive undertaking for you: You are seeing your books come to life on television even while you keep writing them. Wow. The energy this takes would have to be huge. I think you must be Superman. Seriously. Whatever the differences or reveals or changes or what have you may be, it all adds up to a good story in the show AND in the books! Both will always have their rich and varied delights for us to treasure. All I care about is that you are the Captain of our ship and you are taking us safely to where you want us to go, no matter which mediums you use to get us there. :)

It hurts my heart to hear about you feeling so stressed. I wish I could lift that stress right up off of you and protect and shield you so you can just do what you do. It worries me that this depresses you. What can I do to help make it better for you? All I have are my own words on your page. I want so much to say whatever will give you some comfort and help uplift your spirit. I believe in you. I don't want you to feel rushed, harried, or forced in any way at all. I want you to feel happy, relaxed, and at perfect ease.

You know well that part of being a writer is just plain living. All these wonderful experiences you've been having are just what you need to fill you up and inspire you, aren't they? If they rejuvenate you and make you excited to create your stories and fill you with passion and zest and joy, then you gotta have them, even if they take some of the very precious time you have when facing grim deadlines. I say let the deadlines die and stay dead. When you are done and ready to share your latest book, we will be here to cheer you and rejoice with you, thankful that you took all the time you needed to make it as good as you possibly can. And nobody does it better than you.

Sending you love and light and all the support I can muster,


Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:12 am (UTC)
Take your time. Its sad to hear that you are depressed. I am sure you are doing all you can. I am a writer too, although I write a totaly diferent kind of books, and I understand your difficulties. I will wait. Thank you for this article. Warm wishes!

Edited at 2016-01-02 10:24 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:13 am (UTC)
I'm one of those who desperately want to continue reading/watching as soon as the last chapter/episode is over because it's such a fantastic story, but on the other hand I'd hate for anyone involved (especially you!) to lower the standards just because there is a "delivery date" you otherwise can't make.

There are many craftspeople in my family and if I've learned anything from them it's that good work takes time, and you can't always predict how much.
Your work has been excellent so far, so don't give into the pressure. Take the time you need to build your story until you're satisfied and willing to give it to us.

That being said I very much appreciate this update. Every once in a while I think of you, the new book and the show, wondering what will happen, so it's great to hear about the progress, even if it's not the news you would have liked to share with us.

All the best for 2016, George!
Matteo Rizzuto
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:16 am (UTC)
Everytime you do this, George, i.e. come upfront and explain us fans why the book is not done yet, I can't help but think of the original "The Hobbit" fans back in the 30s. They had to wait 20 years for a sequel to be published. No word from the author (save from the few lucky ones whose letters he answered) nor from the editor. And definitely not much other fantasy literature around to quench their thirst. But then, when the sequel dis come out, what an amazing journey that turned out to be.

Patience, young padawans.

Thank you for the update and have a great 2016!!
Erin Remen
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:17 am (UTC)
I can wait! You will get it done and it will be awesome and worth the wait! Love the books! Keep doing what you are doing and be true to yourself, always!
Parker Massey
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:17 am (UTC)
Cheer up!
Thanks for the update George and thank you for writing these incredible stories! Don't let the stress get you down man, us fans know that it's a process and Rome wasn't built in a day.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:17 am (UTC)
I'm just one fan amongst thousands—millions now, I suppose—but what I want is this: publish the book when it's ready, when you're happy that it has been revised and polished and meets standards that you will still be proud of in the future.

I'm glad to see that you have thrown off the notion that you need to lay down the track faster than the juggernaut can bear down on you. The less external pressure the better, I reckon.

I'm sorry that you found it so painful to write this post (twice!) but I am actually somewhat relieved to be reading it.
Caleb O'Donnell
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update!
Man..I couldn't be more excited for the next book...but take your time. I wouldn't want a book earlier at the cost of GRRM's happiness. Don't let this get you down at all...While you're feeling the pressure it's because people love your work. It's easy to listen to the couple loud people who complain...but most of us want you to to enjoy this and to put out your best work. Work at your own pace...be happy. Take some time to enjoy this...your hard work got you here. People love your work...of course they want it out as soon as possible but even with the naysayers who complain about how long it's taking...it's just a compliment to how great your work has been so far. If it wasn't great nobody would care. Never stop enjoying what you do. Thanks for the honest post. Don't forget to enjoy the ride. I know i'll love the next book no matter when it comes out. Thanks for every thing George!

Edited at 2016-01-02 10:21 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:21 am (UTC)
I feel relieved with the update.
It is nice to know where everything is at. I love the show and more importantly love the books. I am fine that it takes a while to write. Really I am. We don't want the industry rush job that ruins wonderful stories like this. While I can't wait to read the next book, I will wait and be happy knowing it will be better because of the wait. Thank you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:22 am (UTC)
George, as someone who is trying to get into writing myself, and has been writing music for 5 or so years, I totally understand that the creative process has it's ebbs and flows that aren't dictated by the creator. None of your fans I'm sure think it's as easy as simply "turning it on", and if they do, they're daft. I'm glad to have an update and have been happy with "it's done when it's done" for a long time, and that won't change now. I may even avoid the show for a little while if I have to, as I've always enjoyed your books more than the show (though I do like it).

TL;DR - Take the time you need. No one expects or wants you to force the writing of this book. A little longer won't kill anybody, a lot longer won't. Stay positive.

Edited at 2016-01-02 10:32 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:24 am (UTC)
books & films
The first Harry Potter film came out before J K Rowling had finished her book series.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update. I know I'll enjoy reading it whenever it arrives. Sending you positive writing vibes for the new year.

In the meantime, I'll just borrow a little of my brother's patience while I wait. He's been a fan of yours since the 1980s and still hopes for more of Tuff someday.
Scoopy Pigeon
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:25 am (UTC)
Right choice, thank you .
I was happy to read this.

I have been a relative newcomer to A Song of Ice and Fire, I was entranced in the first two seasons of Game of Thrones on HBO, which I watched back to back, and I was giddy with the excitement of continuing the journey in your fantastic books. I watched the first to installments, and read the the whole saga before watching the rest of HBOs brilliantly produced adaptation. I loved both. Yes, the books are unrivaled, but how could they be, and I'd love to read the next installment before watching it....but let's be honest, I'll watch season six, and I'll love it; I'll read The Winds of Winter, and I'll love the depth of detail and emotion and relish the different path the book will take, breathing new depth and life into a TV season that I will desperately want to re-live on paper. I will enjoy it all the more knowing that George has put the same level of care and dedication to quality reading and story telling that I loved so much in the other books.

I think what I am trying to say here is 'Thank you for your work, I'm glad you aren't rushing this and I'm glad you're giving yourself some breathing space in order to put your all, your passion and creativity, into what will be a wonderful book.'

Take your time, produce something that you know is how it needs to be, and do your best to ignore the negativity and bask in the positive that you have provided to so many with your fantastic work.

.....but you don't need me to say all this, I know you that you know what's up :)

Thanks again.
Fabian Hugert
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:25 am (UTC)
Write in your pace, Geroge! To hell with the deadlines. Even though I explode of anticipation for the next volume, I would rather read it when it is EXACTLY as you want it, than any other way. Be it years from now, I know it will be nothing less than pure magic. You do it as you want it done!
Alberto Roman
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:25 am (UTC)
Thank you.
Thank you for not sacrificing the quality of the story for an earlier release. It is tough not being able to deliver your next installment of ASOIAF sooner than later for fans who eagerly await, but for fans (myself) sake and your own, the wiser choice had to be made. A story as complex and rich as your own requires time and patience, and time and patience is what you need. I'm aware that no one needs to tell you this as you understand this more than anyone else, but please, take your time and stick with the "It will be done when it's done." We'll be here.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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