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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 10:27 am (UTC)
The best things in life are worth waiting for
I still think the book will be worth the wait. Even if it takes another year to write it. Yes, a bit unfortunate that the show will catch up, but it does not really matter that much. I read the first five books before I watched the show, and as much as I love the show, I loved the books so much more. The books made me fall in love with reading again. So surprised when I later found out that you had also written The Beauty and The Beast, my favourite TV-show when I was young. Please just try to enjoy the writing, don't worry about everything else. Easier said than done, I'm sure, but still... The love of writing is more important than deadlines.
Ambapaluku Jagadambapaluku
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:28 am (UTC)
While I am very disappointed, the update is much appreciated.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:30 am (UTC)
I am not disappointed in you. Were it not for you, none of this would exist, and one of the few things that keeps my imagination flying about would not exist. What you are writing is a gift, a true work of art. The time you need to complete it, is the time you need to complete it, full stop.
Of course we all want to get your book as soon as possible, but that is just a reflection of how much we love your story and your hard work., and being the creatures that we are, this 'wanting' becomes something that looks and feels uglier, especially to you.
I am sorry you feel disappointed. If it were up to me, you should feel happy that you have enriched so many lives.
Thank you for your work. I wish you peace of mind so you can write happily, and live happily. You sure as hell deserve it.

Much love from Portugal.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:32 am (UTC)
Dear George,

I've been visiting your blog every day for many years now, and lately I've been commenting more due to my increased confidence in my English. I will admit that I was eagerly waiting for a WOW update but that's just because there were hints that we were going to get it. That's not why I visit Not a Blog.

I do it because I honestly enjoy reading all of your posts (even your football ones, which made me interested on the sport despite the fact that no one bothers playing it in Greece, and no football teams exist here), and most importantly, because I feel that Not a Blog provides a connection between me and my favourite writer.

You were not obliged to share your thoughts with any of us, or provide us with any information regarding your books for that matter, and so I feel grateful for your post. All I can say to you is that regardless my eagerness to continue the wonderful story that you've provided us with, I believe that you should take as much time as you need to finish the book, and that I feel confidence that the majority of your readers share the same opinion with me.

No need to feel depressed. Thank you for everything! Happy New Year!
Valentin Dumitriuc
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:34 am (UTC)
On behalf of a couple of friends and myself

First and foremost, a big THANK YOU. For all you've done, and for what we are sure you will. And apart from this, also thanks for this update, which is huge.

What we think is that for people, your fans, it is good to have a status update from time to time (not deadlines - self imposed or not), a short status from which we can derive our own expectations. And expectations fulfillment is not even as important as feeling in contact with you (which was what I felt after reading this).

Even being a perfectionist, I find it hard to believe how many times I rephrased even this short comment, which was supposed to take 5 minutes and have a few lines, and here I am after 30+ minutes, with more paragraphs and constantly revising. So I kind of understand the situation in big terms (I don't pretend I would or could ever be in your shoes entirely) .

But then again, there are many who don't understand, even on a shallow level. They want the book, and they want it now, or they need to come up with a sensational new story by tomorrow. I think you knew what you signed up for, and frankly, you are to be admired for the guts. I trust you have and will muster the strength to go over all these.

We sometimes dream about the books and the story and we constantly scour the net for theories or come up with new ones ourselves. But we are not disappointed for not having the book in the next three months. We do not care about not having the edge on what is happening in the show any longer. We are curious, and are ready to wait how much it takes for the best you can deliver. If you can't work with a deadline, it is fine without one (well, we are not editors). But please consider what I mentioned earlier about some status updates and they way this will relieve the pressure from fans and the never ending question about when it is ready.

So, thank you again, and please note that we know you are also a human being, with bad days and good days, which has a life to live besides writing, and you are and not our personal non-stop typing machine. Some tend to forget this from time to time. But they will be reminded.

Have a great day!

Edited at 2016-01-02 02:49 pm (UTC)
Scott Rossi
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:34 am (UTC)
keep up the good work!
i'm excited for it whenever it comes out. in the meantime, there's plenty of other great books out there.

my only concern is the tinfoil on the subreddits and forums is becoming stretched so thin it looks like saran wrap. ye gods.

happy new year!
Clary Carstairs Ivashkov
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:35 am (UTC)
Take your time.
Take your time and don't be stressed.
Thanks for the update. And thanks for your work!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:35 am (UTC)
Hello from snowy Russia!
George, we shall wait as long as it's needed. Quality of the books is much more important than release date and everything else. Because the books will be in our minds and souls long after TV adaptation is forgotten.
Merry christmas!
Dvir Volk
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:35 am (UTC)
Thank you for this update, George
As a fan of the novels who discovered them through show I just want to say - take your time, I know TWOW will be great and I'll happily wait.

I don't care about spoilers from the show, ASOIAF is great even if I know the plot twists beforehand. I read the books after the Red Wedding episode, and it was intense even knowing it would happen. The story is so much more than this or that plot twist.

So anyway, I really appreciate your openness on this. Thank you for everything and keep it up!
Dairne Woods
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:38 am (UTC)
Never feel rushed George! This is YOUR art, YOUR craft! Yes, we the fans are hungry for it, but simply because you are so good at what you do! I can only hope that all of your fans give you the peace, space and freedom to write YOUR masterpiece at the pace you choose! Thanks for the update! Take it easy :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:38 am (UTC)
Thank you for saying all of this :)
Thank you Mister Martin for saying all of this.

Personally, I needed it to feel relieved.

I am so impatient to know when your next book will be released. I think about it every day and not knowing anything means (for me) that you might announce it at any moment !

Now I know it won't be the case. But I'll wait :)

I'm sure it will be great, and it doesn't matter how much more time you will need it to finish it.

Stay strong Mister Martin and have a good year ! :)
Cecile Thomas
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:39 am (UTC)
Winds of winter
Dear Mr. Martin,

Please take the time you need to write a beautiful book. Deadlines are too much stress for artists and authors, you're right! So write as you have to write.
Breathe, live, laugh and talk, enjoy life and enjoy writing !
I wish you a happy new year, a peaceful mind and a merry life !
George Ellis
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:39 am (UTC)
The Winds of Winter
The news is obviously a disappointment to all book fans, George. However, as you said; it'll be done when and its done. You've made it clear that despite all your other commitments, you've tried your damnedest to get the book finished and all your true fans will appreciate the effort you've made with this book the last few years. So much time has been spent crafting and perfecting this novel, quality over quantity here. I'm sure I speak for most fans here when I say Id rather wait for a longer period of time for an amazing story than wait a shorter period of time for a half arsed story. Finally, you seem to be more disappointed by this news than any reader could be. Please don't be, George. You're doing you're best and as you said, it'll be done when it's done. Winter is Coming, George Ellis
David Schneider
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:39 am (UTC)
It'll all work out...
First, thank you for the update! Like in so many situations, I think knowing is so much better than not. Now we can all just chill out and stop endlessly questioning how the book vs. show production will play out. I am sure a lot are a bit disappointed and nobody more so than you George but lets all just take a deep breath...there, I am sure we all feel better now. Look, we all understand that this is an epic thing and it will take time. This is a body of work that will be read and enjoyed for probably for hundreds of years so a few months here or there won't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. It needs to be finished properly and to your satisfication George. So, don't be depressed. As a great writer once said, "It will be done when it's done." So, consider the pressure much relieved now and enjoy the creating of the story because that is what it is all about. I know I speak for many when I say that I am eternally thankful to you for creating this wonderful world, set of characters and storyline. You have brought us all countless hours of pleasure and for that we are extremely grateful. Be well and all the best...

Edited at 2016-01-02 10:43 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:39 am (UTC)
Raises sword in salute
Bravely done, sir.
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George R.R. Martin
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