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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 11:47 am (UTC)
It's not the worst thing, to have a legion of fans clamoring for your next book, I'm sure. Better than the alternative eh.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:10 pm (UTC)
Yes. I always try to keep that in mind.

I may have problems, but they are problems that 99% of my colleagues in SFWA would kill to have.
Maxime Goettelmann
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:48 am (UTC)
Amateur writer here, I also hate deadlines. No schedule should rush you. I was one of the people wanting news from you, not because I can't wait for the next book, you do what you can, but because on this time of Internet, you're the only source that I value. I don't care that I have to wait 5 years more, but just keep us updated. Not because you own us something, but because it's the only way to reduce rumors and false informations to spread. My bet is that you'd be far less stressed if people knew from you (and not by reading hundreds of false news) how the book is going. Even if it's bad news, it's still true news and it's the best for you.

All I can say is that the books are incredible, I love them a lot. Keep doing the book justice take the time you need to release a book that please YOU.

I read them in english (which is not my native language) and you teached me words I did not knew (even if my english is correct I think), many trees were discovered during my readings and for that I'm thankfull.
Ganit Orian
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:48 am (UTC)
Do you need help? I am a pretty good writer...
Do you need help? I am a pretty good writer...
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:48 am (UTC)
Writing is not stamping out widgets. If it takes longer, it takes longer. I'm happy to wait till it's right. The show is great, but it wouldn't be there at all if it weren't for your magnificent novels. I plan to enjoy both in their own good time.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:49 am (UTC)
That was brave to write. I think I speak for most when I admit to checking your LiveJournal as well as a multitude of sites dedicated to your story, and performing google searches for TWOW with varying degrees of frequency of no less than thrice a week and up to twice daily for 4 years. I do this each time with hope that I will see the cover of TWOW and you will have written "Finished."
You don't owe the people that read your story anything more than what you have already given. You don't owe us an ending. You don't owe us closure or answers. It is a story.
It is an amazing story. It is the best world building I have ever read. I don't care what anyone says about any other series- fantasy/science fiction or any genre- your story and the world and characters you created is the greatest I've read or heard. Your story has gotten me through the most difficult parts of my life. Your story and my appreciation of it has forged a friendship for me that will never end. Your story has kept my family together every Sunday for ten weeks in the spring. I can ignore the world when it gets me down and lose myself in your story. For a long time your story and its continuation was all that made sense to me and I'm sure many others.
Millions around the world have fallen in love with your tale because of HBO's Game of Thrones.
We book readers all loved the program at first because we knew the inside scoop. The show was great, sure, but we knew a better version of the story being told on screen. We knew a more complicated, intellectual telling of HBO's program. From the guy that first told the story, the guy that came up with the story.
I have been anxious and worried over TWOW and it is really quite ridiculous. I wanted you to finish your story before HBO finished your story. And when I knew that wouldn't happen I wanted you to be able to tell us about Jon Snow before HBO told us about Jon Snow. I was worried and then angry and then jealous that the guy I work with that "F'n loves Game of Thrones!" but doesn't know why Theon is who he is or why Sansa agreeing to put herself at Ramsay Bolton's mercy is such a contradiction of the growth she has made- that guy, who doesn't really know which character is which and thinks Daenarys' name is Khaleesi, that guy is going to experience the end of your story the same way I will. Me, who has lived for this story for so many years now. It isn't fair! I love it more and I appreciate it more!
But I have to admit- your update and what you wrote... Knowing where you are with the story and your frustration, well I don't pity you because that'd be silly. But I definitely don't envy you. I admire that you wouldn't rush it out just to finish first. Looking back I wouldn't have enjoyed Game of Thrones as much had I realized how complex telling the final acts of your story would become. And I don't enjoy Game of Thrones at all now. I am not looking forward to it. I didn't look forward to series 5 either. I think with no word on TWOW and the program finishing up the material they wanted from what you had published, it was obvious then that they had beaten you to the finish line. It should never have been a race.
This television series has brought so much attention to such an amazing story and series of books. But it has also destroyed any possibility for excitement and wonder. When series 2 began I would still daydream about how your story would end. But as series 4 teasers began to air, the only thoughts I had on your story was "Hurry up and finish!" And that certainly isn't fair to the story teller and it is just plain stupid. But it is kind of a nice little microcosm of Modern American Pop Culture. Binge!
Well, your books were binged and then a tv series told a less advanced version of your books and that was binged and now what? I'm sure there are smarter readers than me that are at peace. They made the decision to stay away from HBO and look forward to your story when you have delivered it. I wish that was me. I wish GoT had never aired. So I say this- write an amazing book. Finish the greatest story I have ever read the same way you've written it thus far. If it takes you three more years, I will be excited for three more years. Just make it great. And thank you for all you have given me.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:49 am (UTC)
I don't usually make the effort to comment on here, but I feel I should this time because I know there will be angry elements of the internet crawling out as usual and I want to add another voice of support. Maybe we can drown the mean people out.

I am totally ok with waiting more for Winds. I don't watch the show. Last year I stayed off the internet to avoid spoilers. I threw soft things at my non-book-reading, show-watching (heathen) partner when he started mentioning things that might be spoilers. It's mildly inconvenient, sure, but the joy of experiencing the story unsullied is totally worth it to me. It's my choice, my problem.

Maybe I have more perspective because I write too. It's comparing apples and oranges because mine's a piddly trilogy with 1% the complexity of ASOIAF, and I have no publishers (or fans) to satisfy. Even with such a simple project, I have a friend who's been waiting for me to finish the final book since before DWD came out. I have a first draft, but those rewrites ...

I don't know how you write so fast. Possibly I'm the only person ever to say this, but seriously I don't know how you do it. I wish more people would realise how challenging it is to produce fiction with so many characters and plotlines.

I'm really sad that this is the low point of your year. I hope freeing yourself from the deadline improves things this year. Best wishes for 2016. :)
Rebecca Oberzan
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:51 am (UTC)
Happy New Year!
George, I would rather have a book from your heart than a hastily thrown together one. Happy New Years!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:54 am (UTC)

Mr. Martin, Thank you for the update and it will be done when it's done is good enough for me. I watched the first season without ever having read the books and immediately started the books right after.  Eventually caught up to the show with the books (just finished ADWD by the way!) and it was pretty interesting seeing some of it unfold on TV and then finally reading what really happened in the books. Same thing happened to me with Tolkien and LOTR! :P
In the end I'm a fan of both the books and the show but just know I'm really a fan of your story regardless if it's told through the show first and book later. Keep on with the good work and whenever it's done I'll definitely be reading regardless which gets released first. :)

Christopher Shuttleworth
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:54 am (UTC)
The best things in life are worth waiting for. Thank you for this open and honest explanation of why the book is taking as long as it is. Understanding where you're coming from makes it easier to curb my impatience! I look forward to enjoying the story, once it's ready to be enjoyed.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:56 am (UTC)
A lot of people watched a season or more before reading the books (myself included), but still managed to enjoy the books. It wasn't a problem then, it won't be a problem now, and noone feels better thinking about what could have been. That goes for you too George! I hope you as fun writing the books as I have reading them! /Johannes
Jakub Dł
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:56 am (UTC)
Just chill :]
MikeFace21 _
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:57 am (UTC)
I'd be lying if I said I didn't just feel like I got kicked in the gut. I will wait as long as I have to, though. I just really I hope the internet doesn't spoil anything for me while I wait for the book.
Marc Potempa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:57 am (UTC)
You do you.
You tried, that's all we, as fans, can reasonably ask you to do. In an odd way, I'm relieved that you missed the deadlines. If their absence makes it easier for you to write, then missing the deadlines is a good thing. I'd rather have a novel you're satisfied with (or as satisfied as you can be, since I know that no piece of writing is ever "finished" but could be revised again and again and again), than one you rushed out the door so you could make some big reveal before the show. You're absolutely right when you said years from now no one is going to care that the TV show outran the books, they'll care about how good the story is. So, pressure's off. Take your time and finish things your way. You do you. Best of luck and Happy New Year!
kaushik de
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:58 am (UTC)
Depressing but will be there for you
I am feeling a bit down but will be waiting when you get done
James Moore
Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:59 am (UTC)
Don't worry-we are with you
Thank you George for the update and don't worry. Your fans are with you and realize that great works take time. As a devoted fan, I want to thank you for the many enjoyable hours I have spent reading your books. There are so many great characters in your books that I have come to cherish like old friends. I have experienced all of lifes emotions with them and look forward to doing so in the future. Take your time as we all want nothing but the continued best you have always brought us. I look forward eagerly for the next Game of Thrones season and for each and everyone of your books as they come out. Once sgain, thanks for the enrichment your books and the show have brought into my life.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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