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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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Pat Ezell
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:30 pm (UTC)
don't let the trolls get you down
I can't tell you how much pleasure your books have given me. I think only geniuses can engage in this kind of universe building, and I think you have surpassed Tolkien. There are far more great readers than great writers, and I am in awe of your fully rounded, complex characters with their complex moral dilemmas. Enjoy the life that has been given to you. Don't waste it as a slave to others' selfish demands. I can't wait to read Winds of Winter when you finish it, partially because I know it will be as perfect as you can make it. Some of your scenes are so well written than I re-read them from time to time. I particularly love the writing concerning the small council meeting after the Red Wedding, and the conversation between Tyrion and Tywin. Another favorite is the conversation between the same two right before Tyrion shoots Tywin in the privy.
Alan Thomas
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:33 pm (UTC)
Just want to say
i admit i was frustrated by the radio silence.

That said i prefer an update that says things will be delayed, than no idea what's happening.

just get it right. be happy with the book you bring out. happy new year btw
Julin Espitia
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:37 pm (UTC)
Not to worry...
Don't worry. You are doing your best and we are sure you will deliver one amazing book and it shall arrive when it's ready. I know you won't disappoint me or any of your readers so keep up the good work. You are the only one who can decide when your piece of art is ready. I will be there to get it when it's done.

Thanks for the notice!
Steven Townsend
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:38 pm (UTC)
I've been a longtime lurker following your blog and have left nary a post. The world and my world is a more interesting place because of you; and I'm 100% behind you no matter how the chips may fall. Happy New Year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:38 pm (UTC)
Reading this depresses me greatly. To see the pain that deadlines are causing for you is torturous. Let the two worlds exist independently and let your fans love and experience them twice. Spoilers be damned.

By consequence of fate and powerful driving influences, you are delivering something that is truly unique. A multiverse epic experienced congruently by a legion of loyal observers. It may never happen again, and I intend to enjoy it. Only hope you do to. No one deserves it more.
Can Akın
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you for update
As you said, ten years from now on, No one is going to care how quickly books came out. The only thing that will matter how good they are. Don't be depressed. True fans can wait. After all, I am looking forward to read Stannis's story.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:38 pm (UTC)
My TBR pile is monumental so if you are late that means another book gets read.
Thank you for the update and I feel for you for having problems with deadlines. It makes me sad to read the stress between these lines. I would rather wait and have the book be the book you want it to be. I am such an optimist that my house, my Kindle and my Audible account are overflowing with books I want to read. I need to read to nominate for the Hugos and once the short list is out, do more reading. For my part, I will not be bored!
Reece Flexner
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:39 pm (UTC)
You are awesome
This is your work and you will never forgive yourself if you compromise it for the sake of other people. Make it the best you can and exactly what you want it to be.
Justn Roth
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this.
Some times, we expect our heroes to be more than mere mortals. I have to admit, I was one of the likely millions waiting for a publishing date. And I'll still keep waiting, only now, with the very important reminder that you are still just a man, and a man with a lot of pressure being placed upon you.
I don't think I could handle it, but I'm confident that you can not only handle it,but continue to produce amazing work, when ever it gets done.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and keep plugging away. Can't wait for it, when ever it comes.
Emily Shapland
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:41 pm (UTC)
No deadline needed
As much as we would all have loved the book first, I can honestly say I don't care when it comes out. Before the show would have been ideal, burnt would rather have the book in three years and it be the kind of caliber as the other books than a crappy, rushed version now just so I can see what happens. I read some books after certain seasons and some books before and it just feels like as long as you appreciate the story it's not the end of the world which comes first. I could very easily get upset and whine and pout and bitch, but I don't want to. I want to know that GRRM is writing the way he's always written so we can enjoy a book worth reading regardless of what "gets spoiled" in season six.
Keven Cates
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:41 pm (UTC)
"Damn the [deadlines], full speed ahead."
I hope you are not brought down by loud complainers about the deadlines. A large majority of your readers wait patiently, knowing you want to deliver the best book possible. For that we are grateful.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:41 pm (UTC)
my heart literally hurts.
Paul Miller
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:42 pm (UTC)
Don't Worry, Be Happy :)
George I first met you as a fan at Joseph-Beth in Lexington back when you were touring for A Storm of Swords. Us old-timers know you don't do deadlines. In fact, for a long time now, if I hear you mention a deadline then I know you won't hit it. ;) In this case, I didn't even know you were working towards a deadline, and had no expectation of Winds being out before Season 6.

Don't sweat being yourself. Enjoy writing. Doesn't seem to me that you enjoy writing when a deadline is involved. From my observations it seems like it becomes a chore that has to be done. Relax, take your time, and don't take the riffraff to heart. Not disappointed at all.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:43 pm (UTC)
I am with you, George.
I'm from Italy and you are one of my favourite writer. Last summer I red all "A song of ice and fire" books and I love them! I think writing a book is very difficult, so I can wait. Sorry for my bad english. I am with you, George. :)
Michael Williams
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:44 pm (UTC)
It's ok George!
Love your books. You have brought lots off joy to many folks with these books. Keep your chin up. ASOIAF can wait a few months. It's not the bible, after all (or is it?).
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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