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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 01:35 pm (UTC)
I really feel for you, I'm terrible at deadlines too, and panic is not conducive to creativity. I'm pretty sure most of your fans would rather the book be done well than rushed! Take your time, get back into the flow of writing, try not to let the pressure and interruptions get to you. Your audience is captive, we aren't going anywhere, we're obviously in it for the long haul, and we'll still be here when you're finished!
Shari Rood
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:40 pm (UTC)
I am a fan.
Thanks for all the wonderful books you have written. You shouldn't have to make any excuses. You'll get it done when it gets done. If fans are greedy, that's their problem. I was in Santa Fe over the summer and saw your beautiful theater. It's really lovely. I like that you sell signed copies of your books there. Anyway, I'm a writer too. Just not a successful one but I still love everything about writing. I have respect for you, you have done what most of us dream of. Your talent and your books speak for themselves.
Frank Varbel
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:41 pm (UTC)
You can't rush awesome George! Do whatever needs to be done to tap in to those creative juices, deadlines be damned.

I for one, will wait for the books and watch the shows when they are done. I've been reading your series since it first came out in the 90's, and while the show is good, it is a pale comparison to the novels.
Hayley Amner
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:41 pm (UTC)
Sad but loyal to the last!
I won't lie...i'm gutted! But hoping that you don't feel bad, you are a literary genius and masterpieces are rarely completed to schedule! Your individuality, which includes a hate of dead-lines, all contributes to your unique writing-style. I would hate more than anything for it to be rushed, but I know you wouldn't...us fans are irritating as hell at times but some forget that the investment you have made in producing such fiction has been a labor of love and an almighty achievement...I doubt anyone on Earth loves it more than you do! I hope you don't feel down for long, and I hope you are able to enjoy the creative process and turn in work that you are completely happy with. Thank you so much for bringing such an epic, engrossing tale into existence, for those of us that need escapism to stay sane in this world and in difficult times, you are a life-saver! I will not watch the series as I want to learn what happens from your written word as I am sure you always intended, you have invested much of your life writing this material and I have (gladly) invested a lot of time reading it, so I feel to give all respect where it is due, I will wait to be told the story in your words, for continuity and a sense of loyalty :) It will be more than worth the wait and can always re-read for the 4th time!

Edited at 2016-01-02 01:45 pm (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:42 pm (UTC)
The show catching up to the source happens all the time with Japanese manga; I know of several anime series--most notably FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST--that diverged wildly from the manga that were still in publication. With FMA, they actually made a second version of the anime years later, that hewed more closely to the manga.

I can't possibly imagine the stress you must be under. Give yourself the permission to write the best story you can, no matter how long it takes. Anyone who wants less from you is foolish. You can do it! *cheers you on*
Githmi Wijenarayana
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:45 pm (UTC)
Ok, that hurt. But...
Its ok, sir. We all still love you very, very, very much. We can wait and we will wait.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:46 pm (UTC)
"And seven times... never kill man."
Mary Ellen Wofford
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:46 pm (UTC)
It's the not knowing where things stand that is hardest to take. So thank you for the update. And I hope the stress lessens a little now that you have brought us all up to date.
Maria Helena Lima
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:48 pm (UTC)
That's OK, George
Thank you for the post. I know a little bit how you feel about it, I have problems related to writing academic works and their deadlines, too. Of course we readers can understand the whole situation and, even though we would prefer that it could be done, you are just human and we have to deal with our frustrations towards the way things are. I am sure that when it is ready, I will be pleased to read it, despite the TV show's spoliers.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks, George!
I completely understand, deadlines really are the death of all things creative. I think I'd be much more happy with knowing you wrote a book at your own pace, not an artificially set pace. I can't even bring myself to be depressed about the show coming out before the book anymore. It is what it is, and that's fine.

I loved the books up to this point, I loved the show up to this point. I don't think the order I read or watch in is going to do anything to change that. Knowing the plot points in advance never did anything to lessen my enjoyment of the show, so I don't see why it won't be true the other way around either.

It sucks to see that it's taking such a toll on you, so I hope finally giving yourself the room to breathe and do things at your own pace will give you some comfort. I'm sure all the external pressure must be a terrible thing to deal with, and unfortunately I don't think that pressure is going to get any smaller. Knowing that you have to experience this, I wouldn't even blame you if you just decided to quit writing the books. I, and nobody else, has the right to expect you to torture yourself this way just so we can get another one of your books.

So from this day on, I hope that every single word you write, delete or revise will be written, deleted or revised because you sincerely wanted it for yourself. And I hope that the day you no longer have any of those words which you want for yourself, you will stop making them.

So, as a closing statement, the only thing I can ask of you in good conscience is to stay healthy and keep yourself happy, George. Take care!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:50 pm (UTC)
Nothing but support
I'm happy to wait if it means the end product will be the best it can be. James Joyce took 17 years to write Finnegan's Wake (not saying I'd like to wait 17 years for tWoW) but that's just how long it took for him to do his thing and now the world has something extraordinary.

On a slightly different note, is it possible that David & Dan are beginning to deviate more and more from the books to avoid spoiling unpublished events? If the show in season 6 remained as faithful as it was in season 1, the forthcoming books would be spoiled to a much greater degree than they probably will be with the story changes being made by David & Dan.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:52 pm (UTC)
I, for one, am more disappointed by the apologetic tone of the post than by the delay. If you feel that much pressure, it may show in the book, with easier and faster solutions to the "quests" than we'd see otherwise. Hope the blown deadlines mean you're not taking that route. Be as it may, happy new year, man! :-)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update!
Of course I'd love to be able to read WOW tomorrow, but not if that means you weren't able to make it to your satisfaction. True art takes time and intention to create, so we will wait for you. Please don't feel guilty about working on other things, it's your life and your prerogative. I'd rather read a book that reflects your joy and wonder (albeit often reflected in beheadings and poisonings) than anxiety and drudgery. Keep on keeping on, Mr. Martin. We appreciate you!
Gustav Heinz
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you
I like detailed updates about the current state - it makes me know what to expect.
The release date isn't that important after all - we'll just have to dodge any major spoiler while waiting, but that should be doable.
So thanks for the information, thanks for an awesome book series and thanks for your commitment to quality over quantity!

Greetings from Germany, keep up the good wörk.
Russell Henderson
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:53 pm (UTC)
Keep at it
Thanks for the honest and transparent post. You're in a very unenviable position where the unnamed mobs of the internet are demanding more of you than you can deliver, and I hate reading that it's having an emotional impact on you.

As a fan, I say thanks. Thanks for the hard work you're putting in, thanks for creating the series in the first place. Don't let us get you down.
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George R.R. Martin
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