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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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Erin Polster
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:17 pm (UTC)
It's okay George
Thanks so much for updating us George. Your creation is an absolute gift to us and to be honest, a part of me doesn't want the telling to end, because the world will lose a little colour when we have read the final words you choose to write. You need to feel you've written the best version of this story you possibly could have and I for one am completely happy to wait as long as it takes. And meanwhile we have Dan and Dave to deliver regular fixes. Take it easy.
Mike Cahill
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update George! I've been reading your Song since 1999, and personally there's only one thing that matters to me with how you finish story: That you do it right. If that means it will take more time, then so be it. There's the old adage that you can do something fast cheaply or you can do something of quality that takes time. This is clearly the latter, and you don't owe anyone an apology.

Thank you for not selling out, phoning it in and cheapening my experience as a reader. If anything, this post proves to me that your standards are as high as ever, and that means some great writing is on its way. Yes!

I also hope you're not too depressed, you have so much to be proud of!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:22 pm (UTC)
no worries
Take your time mate. Most of us just want the best book possible.
Monika Druzak Giza
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:24 pm (UTC)
You keep doing what you are doing. Youre doing awesomd
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:26 pm (UTC)
Im disappointed, but I appreciate that you care enough about the world you created to let it bother you so much. I will read it when it is published, whenever that is.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:27 pm (UTC)
Ser Pounce
George, have you noticed that the hardest a task gets, the more we seek relief in other minor things? It may well be that half of your vigor thinking about some subjects this year were due to the deadline pressure. Now that the pressure is gone, you may not even need so much entertainment or distractions to keep your sanity. Maybe writing Ice & Fire will become pleasant again.

Meanwhile, we readers are keeping busy. You know how we love to overanalyze your foreshadowing and get all of your bread crumbs, so the good guy at Al Shift X made a humorous video about that. Have fun watching "Why Ser Pounce is Azor Ahai."


I hope you can feel light in the chest again, George. All the best to you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:28 pm (UTC)

It's a real shame that you are feeling depressed after the joy and excitement that you have brought to so many millions of people. Especially as your low emotions are brought about because we want more highs and we want them now! I am really excited about The Winds Of Winter and I will remain so. I am dead excited about game of thrones too and I will watch the show when it airs. If there are spoilers, what of it? Knowing what happens has not taken away from the numerous times I have re-read ASOIAF and re-watched the show. Thank you George for creating all of this excitement, for these great books, these amazing characters, this thought provoking and wonderful and terrifying world. Thank you for the phenomenon that is the TV show. Most of all thank you for working your socks off to bring us more, whether we deserve it or not.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:29 pm (UTC)
Looking forward to the real canon where characters I love are not dead yet and don't act OOC. Oh yeah, and where Sansa isn't anywhere near Ramsay and Loras is a pretty awesome character and not treated like a joke.

Team Stannis here. What do adaptations have against sarcastic lawful neutrals? (See also: too many Les Mis movies that made Javert the villain)
Stannis' treatment on the show was awful. He deserved so much better. Not to mention Shireen. They got a wonderful actress and then wasted the character for cheap shock.

Abhijeet Ashtikar
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:29 pm (UTC)
Winds of Winter Release
Dear GRRM,
Even though it's late (would you still call it late had there been no show to compete dates with?), i would prefer to read a GREAT book which gives you satisfaction as an authour & creator; rather than a ordinary "i-was-not-fully satisfied-but-still-handed-it-to-publisehers-to-meet-some-nonsense pressure" one version of it.

Please take your own time! We Love You!!

Gave a good health & a great new year!!

Ian Armstrong
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:30 pm (UTC)
A little disappointed, yeah? But hey I watched seasons 1-4 before reading the books and had a unique perspective of watching and reading 5 simultaneously. I even watched the odd episode the day after reading the relevant chapters. It will all work out. Something's can't be rushed don't spoil things by trying to work to deadlines if its not your usual method. We can wait, we've got a show to tease possible outcomes. They can't really be spoilers given the divergence. :)
Jason Zorich
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:35 pm (UTC)
Patiently optimistic
I have no place to cry and wail. I will not pout or curse you sir. You have given us an amazing world of dragons and power struggles. I am grateful for the story you have given us as readers and viewers. I am eager to read further of the fate of Westeros. I will be patient. I will stay excited. And when the days arrives, I will devour your book like a poor boy from slavers bay allowed to feast at the kings table. Thank you sir
Katrina Kuner
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:36 pm (UTC)
I can only imagine the pressure you are under to finish this beast of a book, George and I know that must take away from the enjoyment of writing the damn thing. Please remember that you're only in this predicament because you are AWESOME! Time is relative, the next generation of readers won't have the problem of waiting. Your words, your worlds and your characters will be waiting for them.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:37 pm (UTC)
Keep up the great job!
Thanks for the update! I'll be waiting, as should the rest. It will be done when you say it's done. I don't mind if the series and the books diverge, they already have done so at some points and I didn't mind it one bit. It makes it also doubly enjoyable as the surprise effect is still there then.

Also, a happy new year! May it be a less stressful year for you, George!
Martina Čagalj
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:37 pm (UTC)
Dear George thanks for the update on the Winds. It is important that you enjoy writing not to stress about publishers and readers. I can wait for years i don't mind (as long as you revive Jon of course) :)
Greetings from Croatia and stay strong we love you ❤
Tanmay Kulkarni
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:38 pm (UTC)
I am with you always.
I still love you George. But here's the thing.

I won't say that I'm not disappointed. Because I am. Extremely. I have been checking your (Not a) blog everyday since last 3 years in hopes that one day I'll wake up and find that you've submitted the manuscript to your editors. And a fun teaser for WOW, like the one you did with DANCE, where you said the book is split into several parts because it's a huge tome, etc.

After reading this, I sat in my chair for a long time. Despaired.
But now I'm somewhat recovered. And I wish to tell you that I appreciate your honesty, as much as your books. You didn't owe an explanation to your readers. Yet, you gave one. And I really thank you for that. Although it's not an update I was overjoyed to see, it's still better than worthless articles scattered on the internet.

Sometimes I forget you are human (as far as I know). Take your sweet time to complete it. For I know it will be a masterpiece. I'll wait some more.

P.S. : Whenever it is finished, please have Roy Dotrice narrate the book for me. I enjoy listening to Roy play all the characters as much as I love reading the books myself.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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