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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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Joshua L McGregor
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:44 am (UTC)
All good George
Please don't be depressed. You have crafted the most intricate and beautiful story I have ever read.

It gives me great pleasure to be alive while your story is still unfolding.

When I have grown old, I will hand down my books to my grandchildren and tell them I was alive whilst this artist was still crafting his masterpiece.

Good luck sir.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:45 am (UTC)
your last "meanwhile, I'll keep writing" just makes me think of Tom Hanks letting Meg Ryan down in the first 1/2 of You've Got Mail, its the same cadence as his "I'm so sorry I stood you up when we were supposed to meet" email. Please keep writing to us, Mr. Martin. Please don't stop. We'll forgive every missed deadline you've ever had, if you'll forgive us our impatience. It's only because we love you so, and want to be in your world so badly.
Faisal Halawa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:45 am (UTC)
As a fan, I'm glad that you're relieving yourself the idea of 'deadlines'. I honestly can't imagine the amount of pressure on your shoulders. Personally, I really don't care what comes out first (I'll likely avoid the show until whenever you finish).

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I really appreciate the work you do, and the amount of effort you put into your work (Especially since Winds is not your only project!). I imagine its tough writing a story in which you've had major plot points in your head for such a long time, however you still need to put that all into paper, but keep on trucking and the reward will be big.

Now good night, I'm off to bed :)

Tim Eager
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:45 am (UTC)
Thanks for the thorough update, and thank you for trying to push through the deadline-induced angst. As much as we all would have loved getting the book before season 6, I'm relieved to know that you aren't compromising the quality of the book just to meet what is ultimately an arbitrary deadline. That said, it's sad to see that something you love to do has been causing such turmoil.

Hopefully having the pressure off will re-energize your creative process, and I hope your satisfaction with the process itself improves. That said, do the things you enjoy - there's no sense making yourself miserable or missing out on great opportunities. That sort of self-denial will probably only make the work harder.

We'll be ready whenever the book is.

Thank you for delivering 5 great novels in this series, not to mention all of the associated works like Dunk & Egg stories.

Edited at 2016-01-02 04:07 pm (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:45 am (UTC)
writing is so hard. while a bummer for us, i'm sure the show will be fine to hold us over. reasonable human beings would prefer that you experience life so it fulfills you. I, personally, would prefer that you take the extra time and get it right, rather than forcing words on a page. thank you for all that you've given us already.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:45 am (UTC)
Hang in there
Write the book you - and we - will love.

I'm so grateful for the world you've shown us. No matter how the story turns - if all of Westeros is covered up by ice and the last scene is the white walkers impaling themselves on the Iron Throne - I never spent a moment with you & your story that wasn't meaningful.

I'm also grateful that you found a visual presentation for that story on HBO - and again, I never spent a moment watching that wasn't meaningful (even when it was horrible. Maybe "especially when it was horrible.")

Eventually, TWOW will be in my hands, and I'm certain that whenever that day comes, I'll stop what I'm doing for a day (or two) and lose myself in the tale.

Eventually, GoT Season 6 will get here, and I'll find out along with the rest of the world what happened to Jon Snow. I'll be shocked and amazed and overjoyed and crestfallen and terrified and bewildered then, too.

And every time I come to Westeros, please know that no matter what else I feel, I always feel grateful to you for creating this place and laboring to share it with the world.

I hope one day I can meet you and tell you that myself. Until then, this must do.

Best of everything for you in the year ahead.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:46 am (UTC)
Best of Luck
While ideally an author is free to write whatever he wants and whenever he wants (or not to at all) as a professional commitment it is generally expected that the author delivers quality work and within promised time. But if there is ever a trade-off involved between time and quality I would undoubtedly say the author must pick quality over everything else.

Very likely selling WoW prior to GoT season 6 would have made more money for the publisher and GRRM too. But I am relieved to know that GRRM has chosen not to compromise on quality by rushing on the story.

Honestly as a reader I would say take whatever time you want, it is unusual but then heck the entire SoIaF is unusually good too.

Take care of your health and I pray that you get good health and energy for whatever years you will be spending on finishing the 2 books we are waiting for.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:46 am (UTC)
Don't worry
You have nothing to apoligize for or worry about. If deadlines stress you, don't set them. You are the writer and creator of this universe called A Song of Ice and Fire, so whatever anyone says does not matter. You just keep writing and rewriting for as long as you need until you have a book that you are extremely satisfied with. You have nothing to feel bad about, ignore all the people that say otherwise like if they were perfect, and when you vanquish the Son of Kong millions of eager fans will be there to read and admire the next chapter in this wonderful saga.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:46 am (UTC)
Thank You!
Thank you for taking the time to even say anything when you don't even have to. I'm not bummed out at all. Rather real a great book then a book that was rushed! And personally I'm excited to get two stories from HBO and the books. Hope you find better writing days in 2016. Take care. Forever your patient fan! Sonia😄
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:46 am (UTC)
Thanks George!
No worries mate...keep doing your thing. As much as I love the book series and want to have it in my hands, I'd rather it be a work of love and passion for you, rather than a chore you had to get "out the door" due to a deadline. Write the story that YOU want to write, and when it's done, it's done. Ignore the haters...they'll still buy your book in the end :)

Your series is my favorite story, by far, I've ever read. Millions of others feel the same. Chin up George...get rid of that "depressed" mood icon! If someone is sitting around angry, twiddling their thumbs waiting for your stories to come out...they're wrong. There are SO many other good stories out there, in show, movie, and book form. There is great stuff out there to enjoy while waiting for the "real deal" from you.

So please, don't be upset about what the "others" say...you've got us lifelong fans, always. Enjoy your life man, travel, do good things for others, and write your stories with passion. That's what I want from you as a fan, for you to be happy, and provide me a great, thick book every now and then to enjoy...on your terms of course!

Made a LJ account just to post this. Keep up the good work man...and get some sleep!
Franz Carla Tracena
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:46 am (UTC)
As long as it gets finished :)
Thank you so much for the update, Sir. I can enjoy the books and the shows as separate but related entities. Course we'd like the books to come first but well, no use crying over spilled milk. Just continue writing, Sir, and not be troubled too much by deadlines and harassing fans and critics. Better a quality work than a hastely finished one. We love your work and I for one is just grateful for this wonderful masterpiece from you. Happy New Year!
Todd Fox
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:47 am (UTC)
No worries / take all the time you need
George, I wanna thank you for all the hard work you put into every endeavor you pursue. I understand your pain in regards to the writing as an aspiring writer myself. Please, take all the time you need. The show is the show and the books are the books and I for one will enjoy both as they come along. Don't let the negativity and the false articles the internet likes to place on and against to heart.

You're a literary giant and an inspiration to hundreds if not thousands around the world, myself included. Thank you for your hard work and the update. Bad news is better than no news and I'll take a book written by you at your own pace with peace of mind than one written under duress.

Thank you George and please take your time!
Tim Doyle
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:47 am (UTC)
I have no idea what to put here
A lot of us who read the books have been following you for a long time, and reading the books for a long time. I first began my journey with you and the song in 2005 when Feast was published. I've been here since.

You are the writer, you are the creator and the purveyor of your dream, not your publishers, not HBO not your editors and sure as shit not your fans. Will people be upset and say shit because the book wasn't completed before the show? Yes they will. Will this be any different than the 100s, more like 1000s of comments, people have been making for years about the pace of your writing? No it won't.

You have the assholes who will make their comments, but the foundations, those of us who know how you write, and know that the books will be done right regardless of the speed it takes, those of us who will be here waiting for you to get your dream to the point that it satisfies you will say what we have always said.

Take your time, do it right, and don't sweat the assholes, the fans will be here when you're read to release the book, and we'll love it just like all the others. You've given us all one hell of a ride and the majority of us are here for the long haul no matter how long it takes you to finish them.

Cheer up, it's not the end of the world. You got millions of fans behind you who support you and your books and who will wait patiently for them until you deem they are ready.

Good luck Mr. Martin, do the best you can, that's all we've ever asked and that's all we'll ever ask of you.

Michael Godwin
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:47 am (UTC)
Take all the time you need
As someone who also writes, I know how finicky the muse to churn quality material can be. How it often doesn't come nearly as reliably when you are distracted, pressured, or otherwise compromised. I have read all five books, watched all five seasons, and couldn't be happier with the content already out. If your creative process works better without deadlines, without pressure, please... don't feel bad. Take all the time you need. Without you, we wouldn't have the amazing series and books in the first place. I cannot speak for all fans, but please know you have my support and patience, however long it takes. However long you feel you need to write quality material, I understand and respect. And suspect that whether it take months to finish or years, no matter the time once Winds of Winter finally hits the shelves, I will probably turn into a giddy fanboy and plow through its pages with abandon. It can be challenging to find the sweet spot between the fleeting, fickle creative process and the deadlines and cutoffs of the corporate world. But no matter what the wait looks like, it will all be worth it in the end. For all of us.
Emre Barut
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:48 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot for the update George. Godspeed
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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