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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 07:40 am (UTC)
Keep up with the good work
I would rather wait and have a masterpiece in front of me, as the previous books were, than something full of plot holes. ;)
I know how frustrating deadlines can be... I have the same problem. If someone puts a deadline in front of me, I work miserably. Without deadlines I don't have any problems.
Keep up with the good work, true fans from ASOIAF will wait for the books!
Yes, the movie Gone with the Wind is a masterpiece (I saw it today on tv!) but the books, oh the books.. they tell an even more rich story! Regardless of how splendid the green velvet dress Scarlett made out of curtains was in the movie, the one we imagine by reading the book will always surpass it! And the same is true with ASOIAF/GOT ;)
Michael Virgo
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:40 am (UTC)
I started reading Game of Thrones back in May, and essentially have an HBO Now account so I can get up-to-date on the show. I have ~80 pages of ADWD left (which I hope to finish tomorrow!), so while I was certainly hoping I'd get to roll right into WINDS sometime early this year, I luckily have not had the wait some fans have. Regardless, I hope now knowing you won't beat Season 6 will eventually set you a little more at ease - the show seems quite like the Cliff Notes version (although a good one) of your masterful epic novels, and I will be sure to read them regardless of when they arrive. Happy New Year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:41 am (UTC)
Holy Toledo!
These are some serious great no so good news. But after all this wait and struggle, i believe we can wait. You are great George. Keep writing, whenever it's done, it's done. Greetings from a mexican reader who will patiently wait. You spoiled stannis death in the show.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:41 am (UTC)
We have your back, George.
Many thanks for the long-awaited update! More than the delay of TWOW, though, I am disappointed that this has taken such a toll on you. Yes, having the book out in March would be amazing. But not at the expense of your well-being. We will wait, as we have waited in years past, and know that the gift at the end of the long wait will more than exceed our expectations because you will have taken the time to write the story you wished to write (and not some obviously hurried text, plagued with errors and inconsistencies). You are more important than the book. Write when you are inspired. Travel. Enjoy life. We will wait. :)
Terri Zirlott
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:44 pm (UTC)
Re: We have your back, George.
Very well said! My thoughts exactly!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:41 am (UTC)
That's okay George!
Just keep at it.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:42 am (UTC)
We trust in you, G.
Take your time! The real fans will wait. We're look foward, but we will wait as long as it takes. Be strong Martin!

Happy New Year! Winter is coming!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:42 am (UTC)
If these are the cliff notes, I can not imagine what your Long Post had included. Thank you for all of your posts and updates... of course the TWOW update being the reason I'm awake at 2:36am.

I dont know if you've ever popped on reddit, but you should check out the insanity that was tonights anxiety ridden rollercoaster of hype on r/asoiaf.

There is a stickied thread of reactions to this news. Theres one that said "I hope theres a way to convey how appreciated updates are. Deadlines not necessary". With the exception of a few negative nancys, your TWOW update was deeply appreciated.

Your fans are behind you in a huge way, it sucks about TWOW not being out before season 6, but honestly, that wasnt shocking to hear.

Your honesty and straightforward nature of this post was appreciated by the vast majorty of people, many of whom, like myself stayed up all night for this.

Thank you.

Cheers and happy new year!

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:02 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Dedication
Appreciate that.
Brian Naughton
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:42 am (UTC)
Mr. Martin,

I will read Winds of Winter when it comes out, can't do it any other way I suppose. Though the asoiaf subreddit nearly tore itself asunder while waiting for this post from you, it was a fun ride tonight.

That being said, when the book comes out, we are going to enjoy the love and dedication you poured into the creation of it as we have the last five of this series. Please don't let the jackanapes who criticize you for living your life change what you do. Travel, do the cons, watch the NFL games(personally rooting for the Bills this week in case my Steelers can find a way to beat the Browns ::sobs::), most of all enjoy yourself. You owe the fanbase nothing.

Anyway, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the amazing work you have put in and the work you will continue to do.

Happy New Year!!
Rina Mody
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:43 am (UTC)
Whenever winds of winter is published, I don't doubt that it will be incredible. Thank you for an amazing series. I can't be mad, you tried.
Philip Gouldon
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:43 am (UTC)
I am sure that was not fun to write, but I think you made a wise choice in not trying to rush it out by the deadlines. The quality of the books will be what becomes important over time, not when they were released.
Zack Needham
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:43 am (UTC)
Cheer up George! While your news may not be what some want to hear, just having that single update was exciting for me! I'm sure most fans will agree with me when I say you can't rush quality, and would rather it be done when YOU think it's done. I'll be here waiting patiently and look forward to reading it whenever it's finished. Happy New Years!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:43 am (UTC)
Thank you and all the best
We love you, George. Take all the time you need to write this sure-to-be outstanding book. The update is greatly appreciated and we'll look forward to hearing from you again!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:43 am (UTC)

I'd rather wait and be in love with the story than get some rushed, convoluted miss mash of a story. HBO can stuff it, I've been a fan a decade before HBO!

Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:43 am (UTC)
Can you update us, monthly?
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Monthly
Ah... no, really.
RE: Re: Monthly - Blanca Adriana Le Duc - Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:44 am (UTC)
I am happy with this post :)
I am sure that you will get a lot of flack for this post, but personally, this is exactly what I wanted. Just a simple update. I want the book as much as anyone, but I understand that it takes time. Even at my most optimistic, I knew it wouldn't beat the season 6 of Game of Thrones. All I can say is don't worry about the deadlines. When all 7 books are finished, nobody will care how long it took to release them.

However, I hope that these updates continue until the book is actually released. Just a simple "writing Winds of Winter went well today" occasionally, would suffice. I think that what most people have been disappointed with is just the complete silence on the matter (although I completely understand why after A Dance With Dragons).
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
Re: I am happy with this post :)
The problem is that the internet will get that wrong faster than you can say 'Daenerys Stormborn'.

Step 1 (website 1 quoting blog): GRR Martin said Winds of Winter went well today. Maybe we can hope for a 2016 release.
Step 2 (website 2 quoting / interpreting website 1): GRR Martin is doing well writing Winds of Winter. There will be a 2016 release.
Step 3 (someone heard the rumour of what website 2 said): Winds of Winter to be released 2016.
Step 4 (someone doing only half of the research): Winds of Winter is almost finished and will be out in spring 2016. Martin said the writing went well.
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George R.R. Martin
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