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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 02:44 pm (UTC)
If you need inspiration for Winds of Winter, come back to Chicago for a few days. It is just starting to get unbearable with snow snow and wind. I'll even get you an eel pie or lemon cakes. Your pick.

Great writing is always better than great television.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:45 pm (UTC)
We will survive!
Of course we all highly anticipate the next book, but we will survive. For me, I think I will go back to #1 and start reading again. There is so much to take in, so much to try and remember that reading the series was a joy, and I will undoubtedly enjoy it again.
Sharing your frustrations with your fans means so much, truly. You could have easily said nothing, but let us know what you're dealing with.
Thank you for sharing and thank you for giving us such a wonderful series!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you George! While it is of course disappointing to hear that the book isn't done, I can't miss the opportunity to thank you for such a great series, including these last two books which I'm sure will be as good as the rest.

It was very nice to get an update. Personally, I'd prefer getting updates on your progress, but I understand your motives for not giving them anymore and totally respect your decision. Don't listen to the people always complaining, your real fans will wait however long it takes!

There's one question I wanted to ask. The cover art you posted here for WINDS has been circulating on the Internet for a long time, and I remember seeing a statement some time ago (I don't remember if it was from you or someone associated) saying that this was not the official cover art. Can you confirm if it is or isn't the official one?

Thanks, and happy new year!
Rob Rousseau
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:46 pm (UTC)
Anyone who has ever written (or tried to write) anything empathises with you. It's your story. Finish it whenever the hell you want to.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:50 pm (UTC)
The only disappointment that truly matters would be you releasing it and not being happy with it due to being rushed. When it's done, I'll be here. Until then, keep doing what you do. What's the point of success if you can't enjoy the rewards?
Shannon Holland Young
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:51 pm (UTC)
We are sorry to hear it but your readers know that you have a lot more loose ends to tie up than the series. We love your story and will wait for you to be able to give it the ending you want to. Nobody wants you to be that author who sucks us into a story then disappoints with a rushed and unsatisfying end. I will DVR the series and wait until I read your version first (if I can hold off). ☺
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:52 pm (UTC)
don´t rush anything
Dear George,

please take your time.
I started to read tSoIaF novels after seeing the first season of GoT and after receiving tireless recommendations from a friend with whom I share a similar taste in fiction literature. I was finished with aDwD long before the second season and had to agree with my friend that this is one of the best fantasy series I´ve read. I recognize that all the plot strands must be difficult to handle and so far, im my point of view, they are woven in a beautiful tesselation. Although the show still has a high production value it´s too bad that they diverged and simplied so much (perhaps over the course of the success and in fear of overstraining the broad audience or just practical production matters). Take your time, enjoy life and write when you´re in the mood and drawn to it, not when you feel presure or obligations gnaw on you. The books and its characters are what counts for me. First of all any continuation of the story must satisfy yourself. I personally don´t want to read a book that´s just "ok" with you, the author and so I can fully agree on "it´s finished when it´s finished" since you´re really creating one of the finest pieces of art in fantasy-literature I´ve read and it shouldn´t be just a consumers product.

with high regards and all the best
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:53 pm (UTC)
Mr. Martin,

Your post reminded me of a Douglas Adams quote, one I frequently think of in my own life: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” The work is the work, it will be finished when it is finished. All the best to you in the New Year!
Oliver Mains
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:55 pm (UTC)
Screw it GRRM, let HBO finish the series sans source material and wrote more Dunk and Egg.
James Goad
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:56 pm (UTC)
There is a huge part of me that wants to scream "why are you typing this when you could be working on the book" but I'll just say get it done when you can. I would rather wait for greatness then have mediocrity right now. God speed and good health for 2016 George.
Steve Woods
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:57 pm (UTC)
Mr Martin, it is through your writing style alone that these books are as good as they are and that the TV show exists at all.

It pains me to read about how down you've been getting as deadlines come and go. All I want to say is this: screw deadlines and screw the impatient.

I will happily wait as long as it takes for winds of winter to come out if that means you can be happier and less stressed out, and I'd like to think I speak for the vast majority of the fandom in that sentiment.

I've never posted in not a blog before, but your words today have made me feel the need to say that as far as I - in my own small way - am concerned, you are allowed to take as long as you want.

Thank you for my favourite book series.
Thank you for my favourite TV show.
Be happy.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:58 pm (UTC)
You're free now George. Just write what you want, when you feel like it. There is no pressure unless you put it on yourself (easier said than done).

Edited at 2016-01-02 02:59 pm (UTC)
James Calinaya
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:58 pm (UTC)
It's okay, Mr. Martin!
*internet hug*

Happy new year! In my eyes, you're the greatest writer of books in this generation! Stupid, cynical people in some ASOIAF threads on Reddit say you don't care about fans. This post is proof you care too much, to the detriment of your mental well-being. Damn. Take a breather and then write what you want to write, Mr Martin! We love you!

Wait a second, what did you say about Victarion?!?

"His brothers Euron Crow's Eye and Victarion have not yet been introduced (will they appear? I ain't saying)"

Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much
Just wanted to thank you for the incredible work George. Like everyone else we are happy that you are working so hard and are trying to ignore the people who are trying to rush you, personally I would prefer that the book is as good as can be even if it means that the show has to keep an altered line of events.

Enjoy what is left of the holiday season (If any left for you, I do not know) and hopefully this book can blow all the rest out of the water.
Veli-Pekka Pajunen
Jan. 2nd, 2016 02:59 pm (UTC)
Do not dwell, enjoy. It is known.
We fans only whine because we care so much. But it does no good to roll on the pain of creation. We all know THE Winter is coming at some point. And it doesn't really matter when it's after the series.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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