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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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Devdeep Roy Choudhury
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks Mr. Martin
Thanks for the update and your books. What we really want is a work of quality. As you once mentioned, the book will be remembered for how it was and not when it came out.

Happy New Year! :)
Chano Navarro
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:15 pm (UTC)
You got my support. Forgive my English, I'm a southerner, not Dorne, but Argentina. Look where ASOIAF got. I look at the bright side. Other writers wrote for the money, maybe you do too, can't say for certain, but still you are devoted to writing and doing it well, and not just concerned about meeting deadlines and getting paid for it. Others spoiled their work in an attempt to "get done with it". I know you won't. The more you spend writing, the better the books will be, and I'll know the best reading times for me are yet to come.
Irma Gorton
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you for the update and all the joy and quiet contemplation your books gave me. Hope you enjoy writing them as much as I love reading them. I will wait patiently.

Happy new year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:16 pm (UTC)
Don't trouble yourself too much
Hi George,

not sure if you're reading through your comments, but anyway. I've been hoping for a publishing date for weeks and months now, always getting new gossip I knew I should not listen to, but who cares, right? I've been waiting for the book ever since I finished the fifth one, and before, and although it surely is a bummer to hear it won't be out before the show, I want to stress (and this must sound stupid from a 20something random person) that you should never, never, stress on us readers. Yes, many have been angry. Have they been rightfully angry? I really don't think so! You've delivered us five amazing books, so well-structured and -planned, and the show is great, but it was obvious from season 2 at the latest that there will be a huge divergence as the show continues, and it proved to be true just as you pointed out yourself. I'm one of thos people 'original' readers may look down on, I've started off with the show and then read the books (exept for the 5th season which was out after I finished). And I really have to say I enjoyed both, in their own way, as separate stories on the same basis, in different media. Comparing film/television and media has always been a pain to me, as you really just can't create the same experience. GoT has proven to me that great things can come out of a book without BEING the book. I loved how incredibly similar the first book and the first season were, but I also loved most of the changes lateron, simply because they gave me back some uncertainty. There is no right or wrong in this, and as long as you and Dan & Dan are on the same page about differences I will accept them (although I might not like them but that's a very unprofessional way of approaching shows and I study Media Studies). All I want to say is that it's not you to blame, so many people forget how difficult writing can be and how you're still allowed to have a personal life and make decision you might regret later, you're not a machine working for us, you're a writer and if you're a slow writer so be it. We cherish your books for the writing, for the complex plot, for the characters, for the imagination, but that comes with a price - which, in the end, is nothing but time. All the best for the next few months of writing, I can't wait for the result. And for the show, in its own right!
Back to my deadlines now. I hate them too.

All the best,

Edited at 2016-01-02 03:39 pm (UTC)
Jim Lynch
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:16 pm (UTC)
Please take your time, George
Thanks very much for the update, George. Please take as much time as you need and do it right. There are plenty of other great books for people to read while you finish The Winds of Winter.

I've been listening to the Dresden Files on Audible, and it's a great series too. As is the Iron Druid series. And Howie Carr has some good books about Whitey Bulger and the Boston mob/gangster scene that I've enjoyed listening to too.

My point is that there are tons of wonderful books out there for people to enjoy. So you should not feel any pressure whatsoever to "write faster" or publish anything that you aren't comfortable with.

As far as the show goes, people can easily skip season 6 and wait for the book, or just watch it and read the book when it comes out. No big deal either way.

So have fun writing, George. And please take your time! :)

Edit: If anybody wants something to help fill the void while you finish The Winds of Winter, I recommend that they listen to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon:


It's an an epic tale of political intrigue and powerful emperors, with lots of battles and it will certainly keep Game of Thrones readers entertained for a while.

Edited at 2016-01-02 02:29 pm (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Bonne année !
From my point of view the most important phrase reading your post was : "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."

I don't expect the book to be be published as soon as possible I just hope to enjoy it as much as i did the previous five. Make it as good as you can and hopefully it would be another masterpiece. That's what it is about, not about deadlines. People (many of them) are going to read your books for years (a lot of them) and everyone will forget when the books went out.

Thanks for ansewring the big question about spoilers. The show took very different roads from the book on the last season and i am guessing it will keep this way but anyhow I can't watch next season. I love your books way way more than the show. It will be weird after so many years of being ahead of everyone watching Game of Thrones, but i'll shut my hears and will try to change subjects when talks arises. It is fine.

Anyway thank you for sharing those insights. I wish you didn't have this type of pressure by readers, fans, publishers or producers. It is obvious that it is a big weight on your shoulders but don't let it affect who you are.

Great year to you, from France where, as in many places across the world, you are a great source of inspiration.
Marco Sartore
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Don't worry about deadlines, just think about the story, and please know that we will be waiting for as long as it takes... because it's worth it. Damn, if it's worth it!
Brad Polk
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
I (reader, nonwatcher) will try my best to avoid spoilers, which is a hard thing to do on the internet, but it won't be the end of the world if I read something I don't want to read. I would rather the book (and the series as a whole) be something great than have it be finished on time (or worse, rushed out).
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Don't worry, Master. We understand.
thank you for all!
I love you
Lauren Howell
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Thank You.
Thanks! Thanks for writing Game of Thrones!! Thanks for the update!

Don't be depressed! We are all waiting on tenterhooks for the 'Winds of Winter', but I would say that while there are people out there that wouldn't hesitate to speak their ugly minds, most of us have respect for what you do. Writing is hard. I have two self published books and am working on a third. So . . . I may not be up to your level (probably ever, lol) but I do constantly have people asking me when the next one will come out and, frankly, it just makes me write slower! So I, for one, get it!

Ignore the naysayers! You have plenty of us loyal fans willing to wait patiently and give you all the grace and time you need. Plenty of fans who don't mind seeing the show before the book knowing that, yes, a few things might be "spoiled" (but when it comes to Game of Thrones will it REALLY be spoiled? It's just so great I can't really see how that could be! Whether you learn it in the show or in the book it's going to be great either way! lol) it won't take away from reading the book when it comes out.

That's like saying, "I watched the Harry Potter movies so I'm not going to read the books because I already know what happens" when in reality anyone who's read AND watched knows there's SOOOO much in the books that the movies don't cover. Same here.

So cheer up captain, we're all on board! ;) :)

Edited at 2016-01-02 02:18 pm (UTC)
Michael James Dempsey
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:18 pm (UTC)
Release Chapter by Chapter
Hi G,

Release it by Chapter by chapter(in or before the TV episodes).

Current Location: Cork, Ireland

Mood: Hopeful
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:18 pm (UTC)
I've read a lot of your stories over the last 30 years, and I've enjoyed all of them. I don't mind waiting a bit longer for this, especially if it means you don't break yourself forcing it into being. I'm looking forward to it, but I don't need to read it until you're satisfied that it's done and you're happy with it. In the meantime, other books and authors are available. Thank you for the update, and thank you for the stories.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC)
Love you
No worries. We, the fans, will still be here when you're done. Whenever that might be. Stop stressing, take it one day at a time, and if anyone complains, f#@% them!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:20 pm (UTC)
There is actually a lot of precedent for a TV series airing while the source material is still not done. It just isn't, to my knowledge, often seen in the United States.

For years, Japan has been turning manga (comics) into anime TV series. They do this while the manga is still being written and drawn. The result is that it's exceedingly common for the anime to overtake the manga, which in the case of a highly serialized series with an elaborate story results in the kinds of problem SoIaF is facing now.

They deal with it. I don't know if you're familiar with a web site called TV Tropes, but over there they've dubbed the usual solution a Gecko Ending: the series takes whatever ending might have been planned by the original author, sheds it and grows its own. To some extent or another, I suppose that's what GAME OF THRONES will do, and really would have had to do regardless given how massively the show and the books have deviated from one another by this point.

Regardless, I can only speak for myself in saying that I'm actually not deeply bothered by the situation. I came late to SoIaF fandom, and was warned that once I reached the end of the most recent novel I would be in for a long, agonizing wait. Yet knowing that from the start gave me a zen approach to the matter: you will write at the pace you will write, and nothing I can say or do can change that. I will be eager to read WINDS OF WINTER when it arrives, whether that's in a month or a year or a decade, but until then I have other things to read and other things to do and see little point in getting upset about something when there isn't anything I can do about it.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:35 pm (UTC)
I was going to say exactly this! In some cases, the animation is even revisited to portray an accurate depiction of how the mangaka(author) finished things.

Full Metal Alchemist is one of the most prominent examples where 5 years after the original production run ended, they animated Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, which stays true to the authors words.

I think the most difficult thing for me as a reader is just judging whether I will cave and watch this season of the show or not. But that's a decision I need to make, and I'll eagerly await WINDS OF WINTER.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the update. The silver lining is that I'd been worried about how I could fit in 200 hours of audiobook to listen to the first five books again between now and April. :) It'll be done when it's done.
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George R.R. Martin
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