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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 01:54 pm (UTC)
You're doing the best you can
We'll wait.
Don't hurry yourself. Good things come to those who wait
So I'll wait and whatever happens happens :)

Have a wonderful day and an even better 2016
Luca Lecter Cocozza
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:55 pm (UTC)
Don't be depressed!
We'll wait for you, we'll wait for the sixth book to be released.
We'll wait, respectfully.
Because if we're here it's for you and for all the work you've done.

You're right, Martin: I love a Game of Thrones and I love, even more, this masterpiece of our contemporary literature you're working on. And for this reason, for I love your style and your plots, I thank you for this post: stressing you isn't, for sure, the right way for helping you. We needed this post. Everyone needed this post, for stopping bothering you with the usual question you've here answered.

But we also need knowing.
"Sleeping is good, reading is better", and your books have been, for a long while, my night fellows.
Maybe, then, you shouldn't give us deadlines: we don't need them.
All I need, all readers like me need, all your fans need is just a little update, from time to time.
Just for avoiding delusions of sorts.
Just for feeding our hope, our desire.
Just for being ready.

By the way, thank you.
For this post, for A song of ice and fire, for keep writing.
For being the greatest author alive.
Thank you.

Edited at 2016-01-02 01:56 pm (UTC)
Jan Gronemann
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:55 pm (UTC)
Just happy you're still working on it
As long as you have faith in your abilities, I will, too. If it takes longer, then it takes longer. Happy Year!
Uma D
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much
Thank you so much for the update.We will wait.take your time. bit disappointment,but fine.We can understand. Once again Thank you so much for all your amazing books, especially yesterday posts :-). Be healthy and be happy.
Kasey Denton
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:56 pm (UTC)
I'd much rather wait two more years for a quality book than have you squeeze out something you're not proud of. The show can suck it for a while. They make up half the plot anyway.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:58 pm (UTC)
I didn't expect The Winds of Winter before the season anyway, just sometime late this year.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:59 pm (UTC)
Before the show existed I was one of the twerps griping about how long you took between books. Then I realized that a) it's not like I have a shortage of things to read, all piled up and waiting, and b) I'll still enjoy the dang book when it comes out.

Take your time, do it right, we'll still be here.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:59 pm (UTC)
Well, I've decided to skip the TV show anyway until I've read the book(s). No idea if that's really going to work but the fact that I was less than happy with certain decisions they made last season... Being spoiled really isn't so much a problem, but being spoiled badly is something that makes you cringe. For instance, Stannis sacrificing Shireen isn't the problem, but Stannis sacrificing Shireen 'to change the weather' in a situation in which the same character in your book did not even consider sacrificing Asha Greyjoy is a huge slap in the face of credibility. Melisandre abandoning Stannis in expectation of his certain doom isn't a problem - but it becomes a problem if she does so with pretty much no reason after the sacrifice had the desired effect. In light of your writing skills I expect something better if I assume for the argument that Stannis sacrificing Shireen is your plan as well as the show runners.

But I digress. In light of WINDS wouldn't it be possible to publish the first half or two thirds of the book in a FEAST-like fashion? I mean, the end of DANCE indicated that the first half of WINDS most likely would deal with the two battles that have to be resolved, as well as the situation at the Wall and in KL and Prince Aegon's campaign in the Stormlands. Getting on with those stories up to a certain point with the casual insertion of a few Arya, Sansa, Davos, Jaime, Samwell, and Brienne chapters certainly would make a compelling book in itself, even if it would have to mean that you have to cut out or postpone certain POV characters and their stories until the next book.

This certainly would be less than ideal, but I don't think many people would hold it against you if we got, say, a book with 1,000 or 800 manuscript pages instead of the 1,500 manuscript pages of STORMS and DANCE. One could even publish such a book under a different title if those 'Winds of Winter' are still nowhere to be seen (just as you guys did with FEAST - which I still think contains some of the best prose you have ever written).
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Thank you for updating us. We appreciate all of your work, even when we can't see it yet. Art takes time!
Juan BC
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC)
We can wait
Thank you for the books, love them!
Matt Moore
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC)
Thank You
Thanks so much for the update...keep up the great work.... The only books that I have actually stopped ... Put down ... And said " are you f'ing kidding me"...I have re-read chapters hoping they would change....you are evil.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC)
To thine own heart be true
Thank you for the updates. I wish you and yours a Happy New Year. I'm way more sorrier for the stress of this whole business on you than any thing else. Keep being true to yourself and the rest will follow in its proper time. I'm reading a lot of supportive comments here so focus on the obvious love and loyalty of fans and those in your life. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts about possible spoilers on the show. I'll be watching it and I'm always rereading the novels. I discover something new in them every day. I thank you for that too.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:02 pm (UTC)
Show with incomplete book series
Hi George. Agree with all comments here. Quality of book WAY more important then imaginary deadlines. Stop beating yourself up over it. Your awesome in every way.

As for unique situation of unfinished book series with show going forward knowing that, I see 'The Expanse' possibly running into same situation as well. Love that show as well and book series and I don't mind one way or another if that happens. They have the advantage of 2 authors though so that may not happen to them.

No matter what however you gave the show runners the broad strokes and I am sure the show will diverge which in my opinion I hope it does so the show and books don't spoil each other and go their separate ways.

Take your time, we love you, and may your 2016 be filled with all good things, even if the book doesn't finish this year.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:02 pm (UTC)
Obviously it's disappointing, but thank you very, very much for the work you put into this update. God, it must have sucked for you to pour your soul out like this, only for it to get deleted and for you to have to do it again. I'm going to stay cautiously optimistic for a 2016 release. It really sucks that someone else gets to finish your own story before you do, but the show diverged so massively from the books in season 5 anyway that the 'spoilers' really will be limited. Even for big events, like a certain major character's death in the finale, was completely different and by necessity heavily simplified in the show, and much richer, more satisfying, and more dramatic in the books. Even if we get to the big events, we don't know which ones are show only events, like Hardhome, which ones are book only events, like the Battle of Mereen, and which ones are heavily simplified versions of a book plot, like the aforementioned death. It's disappointing, but regardless of the show, I still can't wait for the books. Good luck for 2016, and try not to feel too down.
Rebecca Robinson
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:04 pm (UTC)
Honestly, with the amount of pressure on, I'm not surprised that the book isn't finished, I'm sure everyone involved is doing their best to get the book released at the earliest possible time and that's all you can ask for
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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