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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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Michael O'Sullivan
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:03 am (UTC)
George any news is good news to me. I love the books and can't wait until the next one but I'll wait for as long as it takes for you to produce the quality that I have grown to appreciate in your writing. Take as long as you need! Have a happy New Year :)
Michael Le Page
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:04 am (UTC)
I doubt I could empathise with this post more... I started my phd in 2008, and first read your (5) books just before I watched the first season. Now a couple of years overdue, my phd thesis has inspired the same weight of expectation from those close to me as I imagine you feel regarding Winds of Winter from the people whose opinions you value. Admittedly I got distracted along the way (creating my variant of Cvyasse may have been part of that), but I appreciate that you're not giving up, and I just wanted to say I ain't either. We'll get there.

An additional thought: some of the best stuff I've written has been when I forgot to save and lost a chunk of text along the way. I think there's something about the creative gardener mentality that makes it more fruitful when pruned/truncated. I like to remind myself that this kind of thing never bothered me before (because it is part of the process) but now that there are people waiting I feel irrationally guilty for stuff which isn't my fault.

In a way, it's a gift that the tv show has overtaken at this point (and that they are planning to finish it in two seasons), because it means I know the show will HAVE to be vastly different from the books - even the plot points which the tv show might reveal and be considered "spoilers", won't be known as such until I do read the book. It doesn't bother me. I'm just looking forward to the ride. Go George!
Stanich Storm
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:04 am (UTC)
the show can wait
It upsets me to see him have to explain himself like this. Even if he made promises, when it's not ready it's not ready. HBO should have anticipated this from the pattern of the released book's dates. I'm a fan of both and I would love to see and read content when everything is done and the author is confident and satisfied with the material. The tv series writers should be challenged to expand the material they currently have (instead of shuffling around material from the books to create episodes) or the the show must just skip a couple of years or the very same thing will happen next year. Quality should be at priority before maintaining ratings

Edited at 2016-01-02 11:07 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:04 am (UTC)
Greetings from Norway
Thanks for the update, George! I was actually relieved when I read your post, because I feared the book was years away and that you had given up.

Try to enjoy writing asoiaf, and take your time. It is the masterpiece you will be remembered for. Not many people have the option to do such a thing! :)

- Sigbjørn, a fan from Norway.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:05 am (UTC)
Thank you for giving us the update. I hope the stress, and the depression that was so deep you couldn't express it, have no more part in this. As excited and impatient as we fans can be, I don't think anybody would want you to stop enjoying ASOIAF.

Edited at 2016-01-02 11:06 am (UTC)
Rachel Earp
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:05 am (UTC)
Don't be disheartened, Uncle George!

I'm relatively late to the GoT game. Even though I was recommended ASOIAF years ago, it was only when the series rolled around that I took to reading them, and I have never looked back. I have the Hedge knight books, I have the world of ice and fire book, the "feast of ice and fire" cookery, I'll probably end up with the coloring book as soon as I can figure out whether water colour crayons work on the pages or not. I drink from a house Targaryen mug. I go out with a lannister lion around my neck. I even play in the role playing system, and on second life.

I've watched your posts for an update on Winds, but in the meantime, I have so, so much of your world to keep me immersed. So many theories to discuss with fans, and always absolutely more to learn. I know you're not on facebook, but each time i've seen someone remarking about how you're not writing by going out or posting about something unrelated to WoW, i've always ALWAYS stood on your side. You're an artist. Not only are you an artist, but you're weaving a greatly complicated tapestry of your own making and politic. It infuriates me that people can have such little respect for you and your creative processes, or so demanding that they expect you to sit chained to your desk. Pointless as it is, I've become something of a regular pop up on peoples' comments. And i'll continue to do so, especially regarding your traveling.

You dont owe us an explanation. Writing is HARD. If it wasnt, then everyone else would do it too. Sometimes the words flow, and other times, they dont. That's just how it goes, and trying to force them just doesnt work.

I love your Westeros, sir, but I would rather you be happy with it, and happy in yourself rather than have you choke out another book for the sake of getting it done and stressing yourself over deadlines. You have a remarkable talent. When april comes around, i'll be watching for the new series with great anticipation... But for WoW? Take as long as you need.

We love you.
Abhinaya Mary Koshy
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:07 am (UTC)
Concerning the release of WOW
Hi George,

Thanks for the update. I was just thinking, is it possible release WOW in two parts? Perhaps the first part could come out before the Season 6 ?
Just an idea.

Anyways, please take your time in making ASOIAF the best book series ever. :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:08 am (UTC)
Don't worry!
Don't worry! Don't feel depressed! We'll wait!
Elena Rossi
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:10 am (UTC)
...Of course I was disappointed to read this, but I do appreciate the fact you care more about writing a good book than respecting schedules and calendars.
Never mind, we'll wait! Don't be depressed
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:12 am (UTC)
Thanks a bunch for this update. You answered all my question, as if you read my mind. Although TWOW is not finished, it sure takes a load off of my mind to know that you are working on it.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:15 am (UTC)
It will be done when it's done. I'm thrilled to read The Winds of Winter, but I'd much rather read it knowing that the book is 100% what you want it to be instead of knowing that it's been rushed to meet a deadline.

I get from your post that you feel really guilty for disappointing people by not making the deadline. Just know that the people who really appreciate your story are patient. There are plenty of books to read while we're waiting for Winds... and I feel bad for the fact that other people made you feel guilty for writing at your own speed.

Deadlines can suck all enjoyment out of something you usually love to do. I really, really hope it hasn't gotten to that point for you when it comes to writing.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:15 am (UTC)
Prolific Issues
With the world watching and waiting as you type every word (or so it must seem), it is no wonder you seem to have... ahem... performance anxiety. I am not a writer of any merit, and certainly not of any incredible calibre, but many people more skilled than myself have oft recommended a book for those struggling to put the pen to the paper. Steven Pressfield wrote a book called "The War of Art", specifically on the subject of overcoming creative block. You may find it useful. I'm not sure.

At the end of the day, while it is certainly true you owe the fans "nothing but what they've already paid for", maybe you owe it to yourself to finish these and be done with the pressure. Good luck, my friend.
Paulo Passos
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:15 am (UTC)
Patience is a virtue
We will wait. The important think is to keep up with usual quality standards we have gotten used to. Wish you an excellent 2016 from Portugal.
Tycho Grouwstra
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:15 am (UTC)
other instances
"I can't think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written."

This happened for Fullmetal Alchemist, Japanese manga adapted as anime series. Later they adapted the finished source material as well. Both turned out epic in their own right; so different there was little they could spoil of one another.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:16 am (UTC)
Winds of Winter
These books are great works of literature which have touched the lives of many. Just reading the list of characters who may or may not die in the books, and the characters not represented in the TV shows, was like a drum roll of significance, reminding me of how much the books matter to me. Please take the time to write them to your satisfaction, and good luck!
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George R.R. Martin
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