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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 01:16 pm (UTC)
Keep hope
Thanks for being honest, but you owe us nothing. Writing is a very hard process, and your "a song of ice and fire" is, to me, a masterpiece. So give us a great story and a wonderful book. Nothing else matters.

And don't be too hard on yourself, I'm sure you're doing your best.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:17 pm (UTC)
Don't be depressed. Take all the time you need. In the grand scheme of things what are a few months/years... Enjoy 2016!
Paul Maskelyne
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:18 pm (UTC)
As the late, great Douglas Adams once said, "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

Don't sweat the delay too hard, most of your readers understand that good things come to those who wait.
S. Nicholas Stacy
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:19 pm (UTC)
Screw the deadlines!
Your books have been a true friend to me in my coming-of-age years. Its a brilliant fiction and however it ends will be perfect because its yours all along. Let the publishers fret and the show go on and write when you want to! I trust you to make it good whether its being written a page per month, or rewritten entirely every other week. TBH, i cant wait to see some surprises in how Winds diverges from the show.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:22 pm (UTC)
We had already wait this long, so we can still wait a little longer. Try to forget the pressure and the depression, do your thing in the way you want to do it, no matter how many rewriting it takes. I'm pretty sure we all will forget the wait as soon as we read the prologue.

Of course I wish I could have the book right now in my hands, but ain't no good if you rush thing just to meet a deadline or feel depressed because of us.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update, you do not owe us anything, we owe you a lot
Christoffer Jakobsson Gottberg
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:24 pm (UTC)
Be serious, not series.
Write the best book you can. That's all that matters. The TV series is a different piece of art - derived from the same inspiration, but conceived by others and for a different medium - so I don't see why you should hurry production of the former (to the detriment of the final product) to somehow race the latter (which won't affect it anyway).
Haters will hate. Fuck 'em. :)
Ryan Shepherd
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:24 pm (UTC)
To crib from Niel Gaiman, you are not our bitch.

Thanks for the update George, it is much appreciated. Look forward to reading the book when its done.

Happy new year!
suri ende
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this! To be honest, I don't feel disappointed at all.
Take your time George, I love your books because they're well written and sometimes when it's not enough to do our best, the importance lies in that we tried and that we care about doing our best. Even for you!

Many hugs and positive thoughts from a frosty sweden.

Ana Carmina Vargas
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:28 pm (UTC)
Please not depressed
Sorry to see your mood for TWOW as depressed. These novels have been thoroughly enjoyed by me and TWOW so anticipated it's sad to see it as a source of stress and depression for you. Let it all go, let go of the deadlines, Season 6 will air before book 6, it's done, and nothing can change that. As a huge Gone with the Wind fan myself i saw the movie at least 10x before reading the book and enjoying all the extra detail in their own right despite knowing all the major plot points.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:29 pm (UTC)
That's how the best books are made. No deadlines. Just take your time, we'll be happy to read it whenever it comes out. And I'm glad to know the HBO show won't spoil it so much. Congratulations for the good job you've been doing!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:30 pm (UTC)
No words can tell
First of I want to say that I hope you get a chance to read through all of the comments on here, just as I have. From what I've read they’re all very supportive and I believe that is how your fan base genuinely feel. We've got your back from the first chapters that we read and we will continue in the same manner. As trustworthy as a Manderly.

And don't worry about the other projects that you undertake. Yes, they do take up a lot of time (as you say) but if you enjoy them you should continue doing so. It is truly a delight for your fans, since that means more of the essence of George the Great out there.

About ‘em deadlines, I do understand. Me, I’m writing on my major thesis (obviously not now). On the contrary of popular worry it would seem, I have (for many years now) feared for the day when there is no more book in the main series to wait for. It could possibly have something to do with me not being good at goodbyes. But I do solemnly dread the day that has to come, when me and others turn the last page, of the last chapter, in the last book… The end.

When I feel this way I take trust in different things. The fact that you write in a enigmatic manner which leaves just the perfect amount (in Swedish: “lagom”) of mysteries behind. The fact that there are so many more fans other than myself to discuss the books, characters and mysteries with. And the undoubted fact that your works are contemporary classics which will live on as long as there is magic in the world.

So don’t worry about the deadlines, the eager fans or the likes of hungry editors/show creators etc. Me, amongst many others, trust in the work that you do, which you should do in your time. There is no such thing as rushing greatness.

Take care now George,
Love from Sweden
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:30 pm (UTC)
It's a new year! Don't start it depressed!
Still love you! Wishing you lots of inspiration, energy, and stamina to finish your work :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the update.
I'm sure it will, in the end, be well worth waiting for.
Love the books, love the show. Thank you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for your update!
Dear George,
I am glad to read about your feelings for such a responsibility and pleasure activity like writing. This update let many people become aware of how it could be stressing to try to stick to deadlines avoiding disappointment by readers and other people willing to read what you write (yourself included!). Moreover, people could understand what a pleasure writing should be.
I just have a question dealing with the structure of the books: why not include some short summaries at the beginning of every point of view? I mean, I am finding it difficult to remember every detail of the books (especially those of the last one, "A Dance with Dragons") and I cannot rely on the TV-series owing to its infidelity to the books. I think it would be much more pleasant for me and for other people to remember everything :D
Thank you for your kind attention and have a nice writing!
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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