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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.

IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ALL FIVE SEASONS AND READ ALL FIVE BOOKS, STOP HERE!

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)).

Comments

( 1015 comments )
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Julio Figueroa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:08 pm (UTC)
the book's yours
Hey, cheer up!

You've already given us a great series. If you think it's not done, then it's not done. You wrote the five previous books without us whining, you sure can take your sweet time doing the next ones.
Keep up the excellent writing!
SippyCuppy
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:09 pm (UTC)
It's all good!
Sure it's disappointing, but keep doing what you're doing man.
Don't get stressed and depressed over it. Our need (desire) for the next chapter is not more important than your health!
So, please, don't stress yourself any further, truly!
I'll enjoy the book when it comes out, as always.
:)
Happy New Year!
buboniclou
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:13 pm (UTC)
Creativity comes at its own pace. Let the trolls be impatient, we'll still be here and happy to have the art when it's been made.
runefjaer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:14 pm (UTC)
Take your time!
I still have four wonderful books left in my 3rd reread, and am a little relieved I don't need to rush it, but instead can take my own good time and savour the experience. Thank you for the books so far! I'll just be happy to read Winds whenever it comes.
redmonster
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:14 pm (UTC)
I'll be overjoyed when TWoW is on my Kindle, but until then, Mr. Martin, you do what works for you. Nobody else can tell you how long this should be taking, because nobody else is writing that book.
_Greatjon_Umber
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:16 pm (UTC)
Winds of Winter Update
George,

Thank you for EVERYTHING that you have done and continue to do for your Fans. The ASOIAF Universe that YOU created is a Masterpiece- the work of a creative genius. It is neither fair nor right to force you to create according to a schedule and complete your work by a deadline. No one wants that. We want GRRM to follow his process at his pace as his muse permits. We want your vision of Winds of Winter, not a work compromised by artificial deadlines set by Editors. The ASOIAF Fandom owes you so much for the hours, days, weeks, and years of enjoyment that you have given us, and for all of that, we are extremely grateful. PLEASE feel the warmth of your Fan's appreciation and FORGET any notion that you disappointed anyone.

As for Game of Thrones Season 6, there is no reason to worry about potential spoilers. I watched GOT S1 - S5 BEFORE I binge read the ASOIAF Series. Seeing GOT S1 - S6 did not ruin the experience of immersing myself in the novels, and Season 6 will not interfere with my enjoyment of Winds of Winter. Game Of Thrones is a very well written and produced TV series with excellent actors, but it is just an appetizer for the main course that are the books. You do what you have to do George: we'll be patient, and in the mean time, enjoy GOT S6.

BESIDES, I kind of like knowing that I still have 2 more volumes of ASOIAF novels to read!

🎉 HAPPY NEW YEAR GEORGE! 🎩

🍾 HAPPY NEW YEAR ASOIAF FANDOM! 🎉
CarlingJ
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:16 pm (UTC)
Do not feel rushed and thanks
Please don't feel rushed. I'd prefer to wait a bit longer for Winds to be the book you truly want it to be rather than rushing to some deadline put on you by others.

Of course we're impatient, people generally are with all factors of life. But it just makes it that much sweeter when the finished book arrives! Can't wait.

Thanks, take it steady and enjoy the writing!
Joe
George Alvarez
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:17 pm (UTC)
Twow
You have given us so many hrs of immense enjoyment. Smiles,tears,shear dread,And yes hope. That I'm sure winds will give us those emotions and more when it comes out

You go with your bad self mr. Martin.
We are behind you in force!
Dan Koifman
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:17 pm (UTC)
I can't tell you how sad it makes me feel to see your crying alien. We love you George. Me more than most.

I can't fathom the time, skill and effort it takes to make the finished product seem so smooth and effortless. The few sample chapters we have gotten are written extraordinarily well.

The months it takes to finish it are irrelevant because people will be reading these books for decades and even centuries to come. The only thing that matters is when you think it is good and ready.

It's worth the wait.

Edited at 2016-01-02 04:39 pm (UTC)
Anne Kendall
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:18 pm (UTC)
Sir, this is your hard work, and I really believe most of your readers are just happy you've shared it with us. You haven't let anyone down by not feeding your greedy fans immediately, simply because we gobbled it all up and are demanding MORE. You are not a vending machine, you are an author. Write to please yourself, and thank you for sharing your amazing stories with the rest of us. Happy New Year to you!
Felipe Hernández
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:18 pm (UTC)
Imagine the possibilities...
I for one find this exciting. I hate it that George is feeling stressed and depressed. I can also try to imagine what it should feel to lose control of the universe and the characters you have created, as it now seems certain that the story will be concluded first on screen than on print. However, one part of me knew this was going to happen and actually felt excited about the possibility: I think people have always overrated the canon of stories, always complaining about every change made on adaptations. I think I enjoyed the fifth season of the show the most precisely because of all the surprises and departures from the book. I am not bothered at all that the stories have diverged so much. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could feel the thrill of the unfolding of the story twice, surprises and all, once on the show and later on the finished series? I even think that having significantly different endings would be the ultimate "G. R. R. Martin plot twist." How often do creators have the opportunity to legitimately explore different ways to deliver the conclusion to a masterpiece? Also, without the pressure of having to catch up, George will certainly be able to peacefully deliver a higher-quality piece that takes as long as it needs to. So I am taking this as good news, and I hope people might warm up to the idea that this unprecedented turn of events might become what we didn't know would blow our minds!
Beren Erchamion
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:19 pm (UTC)
Good enough
I can't imagine how all the public pressure must feel but I also don't understand the concept of the show spoiling the books or the other way around. If you care more about the unfolding of the plot, why does it matter where you get your information from? You will find out first either from the show or from the books. But if you do find out from one first, how does it spoil the other? If I find out Jon's fate from the show first, doesn't mean I won't enjoy reading it later, taking in GRRM's talented words. If I read it first, doesn't mean I won't watch the show with the same pleasure, enjoying Kit Harrington's acting skills.

Divergence aside, I really see not problem with either coming first.
Shree Kulkarni
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC)
No problem!
No problem george! We know... You are trying your best!! We are with you... We are ready to wait for the book as long as it gonna blow our minds off!! And i am pretty sure that... It would!! So, best luck!
Eric C. Brown
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this udpate
Thank you for taking the time to offer this update. I just wanted to second what many have already said about this of course being OK, and agree emphatically that this kind of pressure for a writer is unprecedented. (Maybe Shakespeare, after Queen Elizabeth requested he resurrect Falstaff and write a new play, and quickly, about Falstaff in love?) Rowling, possibly, with her later Potter books felt a similar burden of expectation. Then it was less the timing of the films than a radically-intensified self-consciousness about the phenomenon she had created, a self-consciousness that most artists would find impossible to manage, in real-time as the writing is being processed. Your way of managing now—erasing the deadlines, returning (as best you can) to the relatively fetterless time of your 20s—is a brave and right choice.

I was reminded of that line from Jacob’s Ladder, attributed to Meister Eckhart: “The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away, but they're not punishing you, they're freeing your soul. If you're frightened of dying and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth." The act of writing also, it seems to me, is very like that.

And even though everyone knows this already, maybe it doesn’t hurt to revisit how primal the fear is over the blank page. That’s the winter that’s always coming for the writer—unbounded whiteness that stretches to infinity. When Melville wrote about the whiteness of the whale, he wondered “why, in reading the old fairy tales of Central Europe, does ‘the tall pale man’ of the Hartz forests, whose changeless pallor unrustlingly glides through the green of the groves—why is this phantom more terrible than all the whooping imps of the Blocksburg?” Ishmael had a lot of good thoughts about the terror of blank spaces—what would it be like to inhabit the mind of the Midwesterner who “views an unbounded prairie sheeted with driven snow, no shadow of tree or twig to break the fixed trance of whiteness”?

It would be something like being a writer. So just to say—nice move, starting with the twig-words. Set them free first.

http://americanliterature.com/author/herman-melville/book/moby-dick-or-the-whale/chapter-42-the-whiteness-of-the-whale
lampster65
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC)
Writing is like sculpture
I believe it was Michelangelo who said that the subject of his work was always already in the stone. His job was to remove the stone until the subject was revealed. I have always had the same approach to writing. It's the thing that tells you whether you are writing a novel or a short story. And by that I mean, the story exists in whole, and writing is the act of describing it. And it is not finished until everything is revealed. It even applies to email. The email isn't done until you've made all of your points. And if you start off on the wrong track, it won't "feel right" and you have to revise or sometimes delete and start over. Which, I am sure you'll agree, like Mozart said in Amadeus, once it is written, it can not be unwritten. It is very hard to rewrite a scene without seeing the original scene in your head. It's like rewriting your memory of an actual event.
All that is to say, we get it. Keep writing. Write until the story is revealed. We will be here.
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