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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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Esteban Riviera (Harpalis)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:41 am (UTC)
Please don't be bitter. You have accomplished so much and will continue so.

Take all the time it needs.

With nerd love from Germany.
Sel Gaal
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:47 am (UTC)
Hey George, Happy New Year!!

Thanks for the update.
What you are creating here is truly epic, so stay calm and enjoy the writing process. Ignore the publishers and just deliver the best version you possibly can. you are not writing for a handful of publishers, but you are doing it for the 100's of thousands of fans across this globe. We will wait… as long as it takes

God Bless
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:48 am (UTC)
Thanks for your books (not just "A Song of Ice and Fire"). My words can not express all that you have given me with them. The wait is worth it. Thanks, thanks and THANKS! And sorry for my English...
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:50 am (UTC)
Try to relax
We all just love the stories man. Try not to be so hard on yourself.
Otto Ovelha
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:51 am (UTC)
Thank you...
...for these honest words! I think every human beeing with a brain and a pair of eyes can see what hell of a job it is to write such books. So write the books in your pace, in your style and in your quality. All we can do and should do is to be patient, give you the time you deserve and the respect you deserve for what you have created.
And even if there will be good and bad times in 2016 too, i wish you a year with the better times subduing the worse times, health and fun too!

Kind Regards,
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:53 am (UTC)
Top Man!
Thanks for the honesty. We appreciate it and we understand. Hopefully that's been a relief to get off your chest.

To carry that weight of expectation on your shoulders is enormous pressure. But don't change. Enjoy your life at your own pace.

Stay strong George, old son.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:56 am (UTC)
I trust in you. The series are great, but when I open the books I feel like reading Tacitus after Suetonius.

You will get trough your writing blocks - you always do.

Certainly, if you do it before I die of old age it will be greatly appreciated :)
Greg Steer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:57 am (UTC)
A refreshing update GRRM, thanks for taking the time to fill us in. It isn't our right to know all the gritty details although the modern world seems to think itself privileged enough to demand them. The writing will take you where it needs to for the story and we'll thoroughly enjoy it when it's available.

Let the cynics rage in their own darkness - there's work to be done.
José Miguel Sousa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:57 am (UTC)
Perfection can't be rushed
In the end, it was inevitable; even if TWOW came out before S06, ADOS would never be here before S07. I will most likely stop watching GoT until the books are out because that's how I like it: read first, watch later.
And as such you sould do things how you like it as well, write at your own pace. As I said in the subject, perfection can't be rushed.
And I'll be here waiting, for my watch has begun many, many nights ago, and it shall not end until your books' publishing.
Ute Przypadlo
Jan. 2nd, 2016 10:58 am (UTC)
Dear George R.R.Martin!
I would hug you for your explanation - it s thoughtful and touching- thank you very much for encluding us, your readers(and fans for sure❤️) It was always worth waiting for your books! Take care of yourself and just be like you are! Best wishes from Berlin, Germany!
Debra Stanley
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:00 am (UTC)
It's okay!
Dear George,

It goes without saying that I love your writing. Please, please, please don't be so hard on yourself. I know all the editors, publishers, show people, and of course we fans bring immense pressure by our existence alone. Try to take it as a huge compliment on the quality and excitement of your writing. The cruelty and ignorance of some regarding the pace of your work is astounding. But hey, we're only human too, and acting mean and stupid is often what we do best--you write very well on this!

I think the most crucial thing is the pressure YOU have put yourself under. You don't owe anyone anything. This is your creation. Let it happen at its own pace--it's going to anyway, so no reason to struggle against that. That only makes the creation harder. The show is the show and the books are the books, and the show will go along its merry way and continue to delight and horrify fans with its similar yet different adaptation of your creation. You can finish your creation in 5, 10, 20 years, never. Just think: Mozart didn't finish the Requiem, and that neither obliterated the rest of his brilliant work nor diminished the masterpiece that it is. No matter what you do, some people will love it and some people will hate it, and that is no reflection on your inherent worth.

Easier said than believed, I know, but so important. I'm a full-time professional operatic soprano, and I struggle with this daily. I'm living my dream, yet I actually long to realize another one I've had since forever: writing novels. But I think that might be even more difficult. How many dreams do we each get to achieve, after all? You're living so many--be happy. And yes, I fully support you having a full plate of non-ASOIAF projects, interests, and travel. It's your life, so live it, by god!

That's all I have to say. I hope you get to read this, or at least sense the warm support of myself and so many others through the hive mind. Have a most happy New Year!

Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:00 am (UTC)
No Worries!
I just finished A Dance with Dragons! I LOVED all the books. Personally I don't mind seeing the show before reading the books. Both are excellent although I like the books better. This way I can never be a little disappointed with the show so it all works out. It is far better for you to take your time and do it the way you want it.
Hazel Aspden
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:00 am (UTC)
It took me 3 years to write one novel, a third of the size of one of the ASOIAF series, and by no means is it the works of genius that these books are. Keep writing, stay faithful to your vision and we will wait to read what you, the creator of this world, have dreamt up for us. No one else could, or has, presented the truth of this fantasy to us so beautifully. I am actually enjoying the anticipation as I know I will consume the final product in days. Thank you for your imagination.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:01 am (UTC)
Don't you worry!
I don't think that you have to apologise for not having finished it yet. Everyone who considers himself / herself a true fan, would want the book to be the best you can accomplish and not to be finished quickly for the wrong reasons. I for example try not to read even the chapters you have so genuinely delivered to different occasions. Because I don't want to spoil the joy and excitement of reading it all for the very first time when the time finally comes.
The people who complain that it has been so long already haven't understand that writing a book is not like baking a cake where you just have to follow the recipe and voilà an hour later you get some yummy. And some people are not even capable of achieving a task that simple.
So, if you need more time: take it!
If the TV show has caught up to your work: dont worry, most people do understand that those are two different pieces of art.
And if people keep telling you that you need to finish it soon: tell them in Germany there is an old proverb...
"Gut Ding will Weile haben." It means that if something is supposed to be good, then it will take some time to be accomplished.

Greetings from Germany!
Adam Minahan
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update George. Did D&D have physical access to the manuscript or are they working solely from what you verbally told them? I'm curious because I hope to hear some of your own dialogue on the screen come April.
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George R.R. Martin
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