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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.

IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ALL FIVE SEASONS AND READ ALL FIVE BOOKS, STOP HERE!

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)).

Comments

( 1015 comments )
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Ranko Zeremski
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:38 pm (UTC)
Much Appreciated
While most of us have guessed as much (that the book won't be out before S6), I think I speak for all of us when I say that this update is much appreciated.
I, for one, know that writing cannot be forced, and when the words don't 'come', they just don't. Forced writing would be the greatest disservice you could ever do to your 'magnum opus'.
Thank you again for telling us all of this; keep on doing it the way you think best.
As for waiting, 'Good things come to those who wait' comes to mind.

Happy holidays! :)
Bobby Skelton
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:40 pm (UTC)
One last question!
George,

Appreciate your candidness on this post and for the update. I think most of us stress over deadlines in school or in work, especially when being pressured, which of course just makes the task that much more difficult. But whereas many of us deal with the day-to-day type pressures of deadlines, none of us are having to deal with it from millions of fans and publishers and HBO etc so obviously yours is on another level.

I just wanted to say, for me anyways, don't worry about it. Personally, I don't mind some of the story being revealed on the show first. I'm still going to read the remainder of the books when they come out, and will likely reread/rewatch the series 10 years down the road. And 10 years down the road, these will be finished products on both fronts, regardless of which comes first. I love the show and love the books and will continue to do so whichever order I am able to enjoy the remainder of the story!

I do have one last question though. Are the show makers for HBO working with your "in progress" manuscript or anything for season 6 and beyond? Or is there a basic outline they are following to the end of the story which y'all have previously discussed and the last couple of seasons may be largely different paths to similar conclusions? Your characters and their dialogue (and internal monologues) are what make the series so great. So I hope for example the new quips you've wrote for Tyrion in Winds make it into season 6, and it won't "spoil" anything for me if I happen to see it on the screen first.

Thank you grrm and Happy New Years!
Mike Evans
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:40 pm (UTC)
Take your time friend
We love your books because of the time and effort you put into them. I don't think any of us would take the option of rushing you to meet a deadline if there was even a chance of it effecting your masterpiece of a story. In 100 years from now they will be teaching George R.R. Martin in schools right along side of Shakespear. So keep up the good work, don't get discouraged and whatever you do, for the love of the seven, don't kill Arya!
Jens Prausnitz
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:41 pm (UTC)
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
Douglas Adams
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1398-i-love-deadlines-i-love-the-whooshing-noise-they-make

Enjoy writing, Mr. Martin. Nobody will tell your story like you do and we who know that can wait forever, nothing will ever spoil that. Thank you. Relax. The right words will come.
pongy_papaya
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:42 pm (UTC)
A few years ago, I would have been upset, not enough to rant, but just, upset, you understand. But here I sit with an unending thesis, and Mr.Martin, I just want to say that while the pressure on me is nowhere close to the pressure on you, I get it and it is ok. You should take all the time you need.

Though, because for infinite reasons I do prefer your books over the over-abbreviated show, I will possibly continue to ignore the show in the hopes of not spoiling the story.
angeleno
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:42 pm (UTC)
Awww, George, I hate the idea of you feeling so bad about all this. I can’t even imagine how awful it must be to have so many various camps breathing down your neck about finishing TWOW. I want your experience creating this book to be just as joyous as mine when I get to read it. So I’m glad you’re throwing out the arbitrary deadlines, taking a deep breath, and relaxing. Like so many fans here have already expressed, “It will be done when it's done. And it will be as good as I can possibly make it” works for me. I will be just as thrilled when I get my hands on it, no matter when that is.

To be honest, the only thing that ever worried me about the series moving ahead of where you are with the story is that what they show would somehow influence how you choose to write it. You have said repeatedly that that will not happen, so as long as that’s the case, I’m all good here. I’m definitely one of those “the books are always better” people.

Here’s wishing you and yours a glorious 2016 — I hope all manner of good things come your way.

Slàinte mhath from the City of the Fallen Angels!
Heidi Hannibal
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update. I know it must have been hard to write, but us fans really appreciate it. I know you'll finish it as soon as possible. I just wish there was a way for me to wave a magic wand and have all the pressure on you vanish.
ext_1730118
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:44 pm (UTC)
Take as long as you need
Hi,

I'm really sorry to hear that this is stressing you out and bringing you down. I'm happy to wait until you're happy with the books and I'd be happier still if the whole process was fun and satisfying for you.

The books are great. I forget how good they are until I re-read them and then I'm reminded of how you raised the bar and then kept it up there. I want to read the books you want to write and not the ones you feel you have to write. So relax, take your time, live your life and let the work come.

And until book 6, I'll enjoy the show and read a load of other books - it's not as if there's a shortage!

And I know you have a big pile to read too, but I recommend Kate Atkinson's 'Life after Life' and 'A God in Ruins'. The first is arguably a genre book and the second isn't but it's the best thing I read in 2015. They might take you away with some wonderful characters for a little while.

Best wishes,

David Millington
Walt Keirsey
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:45 pm (UTC)
Not to worry
We all can wait: please take your time, ignore the outside pressures to produce, keep your own pace.
By the way, if you need a place to hide out from the madding crowd, I have a spare room.
Paul Malin
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:46 pm (UTC)
There is no one to blame
Dear M.Martin, please avoid feeling guilty or blame yourself or whatever, it is of no use to you nor us. I am always happy to read your work and I am sure I am not the only one. "When you need time, take time" : that is what I think is right and it applies to you.

Keep faith and don't worry, we will be there to enjoy your work. Cheers!
coragem_jcb
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks – and be kind to yourself
George, you make characters and worlds come alive like one writer in a million. So what if that means you take longer to write? Hell, it's almost certainly BECAUSE you take the time you need.

I'll add that I've been there myself. I know what it's like to have the odd "clear head day", when the judgement is there and some words you just know are good come out. Then there's all the other days. The "what happened?" days. The "what's wrong with me?" days. The "did I sleep wrong or eat wrong or exercise too much / too little?" days.

Thanks for your candid post. And be kind to yourself. If you're like me, you need to relax in order to write. And on the hard days, just hang on in there, in the trenches, watering the work with your blood.

The fact that you're fighting, that you're challenging yourself, that at times it's slow or excruciating – these are sure signs that the standard is staying high …
missmatchedeyes
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you, George.
Thank you, George, for giving us an update. I've been on the this journey through Westeros since 1997 and I'll continue to stick around until the end!


twk_man
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:48 pm (UTC)
The schedule woes will be forgotten, but a good book will be remembered.

Thank you for your work, and I hope you have an excellent year!
Ewa Karolina
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:50 pm (UTC)
You could end the books differently :)
How about two different endings, one in the movie and another one in the books? I can wait for the books as long as it takes, but I do no like the idea of finding out who wins from the Internet... Game of Thrones is different enough than the books already, so why not make it different completely? Just a thought...
And I can sleep peacefully :)
grrm
Jan. 3rd, 2016 05:16 am (UTC)
Re: You could end the books differently :)
In a story like this, the concept of an "ending" is complex. Every character has their own ending, in a sense, just as every life has its own ending in the real world. Will the book and the show have the same "ending?" In some aspects, yes. In other, no, not at all.
PastTenseOfDig_
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:50 pm (UTC)
You gave us the world of "A Song of Ice and Fire" by writing at your own pace and you have a right to work in the same manner to ensure that your next work is as you like it. Thanks for your thoughtful update, but more importantly thanks for many years of great reading. Please enjoy football and theater and life without worrying about deadlines. We have plenty to keep ourselves busy.
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( 1015 comments )

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