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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 12:50 pm (UTC)
Take your time
Like it says ......
Will Westerling
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:51 pm (UTC)
Don't let the stress of success and peoples expectations dampen your joy of writing the book and life in general.

Personally , I stopped watching the show because the plot was so convoluted. I am looking forward to the next book whenever that may be and hope you stay true to it by taking the time you need to do another fantastic job.

Remember, you are an artist not a corporate functionary for a reason. So enjoy it.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:51 pm (UTC)
If that will somehow cheer you up - I can tell that Dostoyevski always have had problems with deadlines and due to this - with his publishers. Nevertheless he is still considered one of the best Russian writers.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:52 pm (UTC)
On the off chance you see this, George:

I've been (as I'm sure we all have), in a similar situation. Last year, I wrote my masters dissertation; I would go into the library every day for two weeks, stare at my word processor, and clatter out 1000 words. At the end of every day, I'd delete what I'd written, convincing myself that the words I'd put down were no good, and, as time went on, that my word count and goals were unachievable. It was only a week before I had to hand in a 10,000 word rough draft of the first two chapters to my supervisor that I admitted to my girlfriend that I didn't have a single character, let alone word.

The next day I went in, wrote 1000 words, and saved them. It was painful but it got better and by the end of the summer I handed in my final copy of (a paltry) 20,000 words.

This is all to say, don't beat yourself up. No matter how hard the slog is, you will get there!

Just remember: "a wizard is never late...Nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to."

Edited at 2016-01-02 02:28 pm (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:55 pm (UTC)
Bit disappointing that we will inevitably be book-spoiled now due to the internet. But at the end of the day, you keep doin what you gotta do to make the books the way you wanna make them. Once they're published you can't do it over, and this is your masterpiece. Us loyal fans will stick with you, hell we would follow you to Ashai and back if you asked us.
Lisa Ide
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:55 pm (UTC)
"Whose back is the monkey on?"
Expectations are tough, but allowing yourself to be OK when you think you've failed to meet them is even tougher.

The reason your fans, your publisher, and HBO are pushing you to set deadlines is because we are in love with the world, characters, and mythos you have created. We want more and, like anyone with a great want, we like getting what we want more than we like wanting. For businesses like publishing houses and production companies, the need to make as much money as possible by taking advantage of people's wants adds an additional layer to the beast.

To make us feel better, we push you to let us know when we can have what we want and do what we can to make the wanting end as quickly as possible. And, because you are the man you are - the kind of thoughtful and sensitive man who creates like no other - you try to make us feel better, too, by responding to pressures you to change the way you work.

We are grateful to you for giving deadlines a chance, but not as grateful as we will be when you eventually give us what we *really* want - your vision, your imagination, your creation, when you think it's ready. No one wants your publisher's vision, HBO'S vision, or your fans's vision the same way we want yours. Yours, created by you, the way you need to do it, whatever way that is.

So, you missed the deadline you set. But look how much you've created trying to meet it! Look at all of the other things you have done as well while working that deadline. Think about how much more you have going on now than you ever did before, and then give yourself a break.

Your fans, your publisher, and HBO will still be here when you are ready. We can occupy ourselves while we wait. Realize that the pressure of a deadline originated from without and was placed on you, even if you were willing to receive it. Then, let it go, along with any guilt.

Forgive, forget, and return to your self. Because you, your vision, and your creativity, are amazing - just the way they are. That's why we wait.
Carolann North
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:57 pm (UTC)
Don't worry so much!
Listen, all I want to say is that I know how hard writing can be, and how utterly devastating it can be to miss a deadline (I'm mid way through writing/procrastinating a doctorate). All that anger and frustration gets turned inwards, and you feel like you've not only failed yourself, but everyone else (which admittedly is much harder for you, as I don't exactly have a huge fan following of my 'gender identity in Palahniuk' writings). All I'm saying is, give yourself a break. Don't get so stressed about this. As you've said 'it will be done when it is done'. Your fans (including me!) will happily wait until you are ready to release it - after all, if it was done any sooner, then it wouldn't be a true RR Martin classic! You're an amazing writer, and sometimes you'll hit a wall, or life will get in the way, or you just want a break from staring at those pages, and that's okay by us. In the meantime, we have plenty of previously published RR Martin books to keep us occupied (side note: recently read Tuf Voyaging, loved it but I'm incredibly intrigued about the ending from a gender critique standpoint!). We will wait patiently, so don't be stressing. And while the next HBO series is bound to be amazing (just look at that cast!), it will be no substitute for when the real characters of your world appear and tell me (and the rest of your fanbase) what's actually happening in Westeros these days.

Good luck, and good writing!

Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:58 pm (UTC)
Thank You
Thank you for writing five incredibly entertaining entries in the series so far. The books are incredible, and it's especially fun to enjoy the series with friends via HBO.

I've spent more time reading and thinking about the series than I've spent actually reading the books, which shows how fascinating your books are and the upside of time between publications. People claim to want instant gratification, but fiction is more interesting when people get to discuss and dissect and disagree about the details. Season one of True Detective is a good example of this; if all of the episodes had been released simultaneously, hardly anyone would've cared much about the show. Over the week or so between episodes, people couldn't help but discuss the interesting things they'd seen and how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

I am in no rush to read any of your future works, but I will happily put them on the top of my pile once they arrive. Thank you again for writing a series that I and others love so much that we can't help but explore and discuss all of the wonderful details.

Happy new year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:59 pm (UTC)
If anyone has earned the right to work they way they think is best, it's you. The proof is in the writing, but at the risk of being vulgar, you have also made your publishers, not to mention HBO, plenty of money. And you have given me a wonderful reading experience, which continues, since I enjoy re-reading very much.

I'm reminded of Phillip K. Dick. I love his work, I'd like to read all of it but probably never will, he published so much! And I'm not the first person to point out that he rushed it. The style is often clunky, the dialogue can be a bit wooden. The plots tend to repeat themselves, which is something I enjoy personally, it's like music in a way. But it's true - he'll tell the same story over and over again. But that's PKD. He had to work that way, I imagine; he had to throw his thoughts down and move on. He had his demons to cope with. If he were different, he wouldn't be PKD. As an artist, you gotta play your hand. As a spectator, you don't get great art a la carte - you approach a great artist on their terms, or you miss out.

You are a different kind of writer, and you have set a very high standard for yourself. You are creating multifaceted work that bears scrutiny from multiple perspectives, and can be enjoyed as much, or more, on repeated reading. Take all the goddamn time you need to do that, please.

And it seems to me you are very prolific, for what that's worth.

As for the show, now that we don't know what's canon and what isn't, it's not correct to call them spoilers. They are more like prophecies - a blade with no handle, right? I have older brothers, which means I knew the general plot of Lord of the Rings years before I read it. That didn't matter, it was still gripping reading until the last page.

You didn't make this world of social media and short attentions spans. It's not your responsibility to cater to it! Keep holding the line, George!
Sara Elnen Bellomi
Jan. 2nd, 2016 12:59 pm (UTC)
I'm one of those who loves the source material. I will patiently wait for that. It's actually sbowing in my town now and for the first time this winter. I'll watch the snow calmly waiting for the Winds...
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:00 pm (UTC)
Scott Pilgrim (the movie) was being completed at the same time that the last book was being written. Had a slightly different ending to each other. Not quite the same level as what's going on here but not a totally unique situation and not necessarily a bad thing. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy has many different incarnations with slightly different stories - the books were neither the first or the last - and people love them all. It'll be OK :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:01 pm (UTC)

Thank you for the honesty.The only thing that is important Is quality. 10 years from now, People will not gonna say that you had deadlines to stay loyal to. They gonna pay attention only to the quality of your books.

I'm gonna wait for the Winds first. The only thing that I'm upset for it now Is the spoilers that will surf on the Internet after EVERY Episode 😑😑 guess I have to unfollow all of the fan pages.


Courtney Duffy
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update! :) Waiting a little longer will just make getting the novel in my hands that much sweeter!
Daryl Bullock
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:04 pm (UTC)
I actually like this, it allows you to get what you want done when you can, and you can see what happens in the show and how it plays on the characters, it will be interesting to rewatch the show and re-read the books when this all ends, I do not envy anyone working on the series or George working on the books. Maybe one day they'll even remake the show and have it follow the books exactly once they're done. I look forward to all possibilities
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:04 pm (UTC)
Did David and Dan see winds of winter chapters with you wrote? I remember that they saw Mercy chapter. Sorry for my English.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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