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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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Brad Buckles
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC)
I could feel a bit of anger swelling inside me when I read the following:

"I do other things besides A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.

Nothing new about that."

That was worse than complete silence on the matter.

But I'm not here to criticize the manner in which information is disseminated.

Bad news is better than no news at all. And it's really not THAT bad.

Thank you for giving us this (extensive) update!
Lawrence Lawson
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Please take your time. As a LONG TIME fan (of ASOIAF and your other novels), I want the best book, not the quickest book. The book will come when it comes, and I am perfectly okay with that!

That said, for years, I have agreed I'll watch the show until the point they pass the books and then, patiently, wait for the next book. That time has arrived. I know season 6 will be great, and I look forward to watching it when it's on Blu-Ray, after I read Winds of Winter.
Chris O'Neill
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update
Thanks for the update George. I'll happily wait for a story thats as "good as you can make it" and I'm sure others feel the same. As a great man once said "... Hodor"
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:21 pm (UTC)
I can wait
It's all right, Sir. I can wait and I know it will be an awesome book.
Thanks for the update anyway.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:21 pm (UTC)
You take as much time as you need, it's the final product as matters not how quickly it is released. Best of luck with your writing in 2016.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:22 pm (UTC)
I'd rather see quality than deadline pressured pudding..lol...looking forward to the new book...

People always say don't sweat the small stuff...well..it goes for the big stuff as well..

hugs :)
Arun Krishnan
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks George
Personally I'd rather read a great book later then a rushed one now. Look forward to seeing how it all plays out in the last two parts to the song.

Go Jets.
Jasmine Townsel
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:23 pm (UTC)
Love you George!
Just want to say how much I appreciate you. You have given me many friends and much more to talk about. Thank you!
Sherardia Arvensis
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:24 pm (UTC)
S'OK dear George, I'm going to cry a little (because of frustration), then I will deal with it. Go your own pace, and the book will come when it comes. Don't feel depressed, don't put yourself too much pressure, anyway we are going to love it.
Keith Russell Dulak
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:24 pm (UTC)
This is meant without malice in the least, this post is the most honest/human ive read from you Mr. Martin. In minion years im still a newborn, at >10yrs. I cant imagine how people feel that have been with you since the beginning of aSoIaF in between novels. But after this WoW post, i got the feeling that this is much more personal to you then it ever will be to us. Even at newborn status i felt the stress/disappointment come off these words. No one want a sad grrm. No well is too deep.
Erica Wehr
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Tomorrow or a year from now just happy for the update. This is your story not ours or anyone elses. Continue to enjoy your work and make it what you want it to be! We'll be right here patiently waiting. Dont be upset with all the noise people make. They do that no matter what you do in life. On the plus side, I have never seen one episode and refuse to do so till all the books are out. So its no nevermind to me! Avoiding internet spoilers will be the hard part. Thank you for letting us be apart of the amazing world youve created!! Love from Vegas
Shawna Stone
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the update.
I appreciate the update and would rather have the unhurried version when you are done with it. Really enjoy your writing as well as the HBO series. I have read all 5 twice now. My husband and I rewatch the prior seasons just before the newest comes out, so yes, major fans here and we will wait patiently for your next book. Happy New Year and may 2016 be your best year yet!!
Nawal Mustafa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:26 pm (UTC)
From one manuscript writer to another...
Dear George,

For the past few years, I've experienced a love-hate relationship with your books. You managed to tug my heartstrings, and kill my favorite characters in the most brutal manner possible you soul-wrecking twat. But that's quite alright. I forgive you, such misery greatly advanced the story. That said, this emo post of yours about missing deadlines for your forthcoming novel, disappointing publishers and readers, the self beat up...George! We've all been there, especially PhD students and academics (who love your work by the way and geek out at conferences over it).

PhD students watch deadlines whizz by like nobody's business (look another one flew by!).So, as another manuscript writer to another, let me say this. Forget the others. Forget about "disappointment." You will cripple yourself. Just find a space that sparks that wonderful creativity of yours, go on and be your fabulous (albeit highly morbid) self, and fall in love with writing again. I've hit several ruts in my thesis, a whopping 100,000 word manuscript, and found that the best way of bouncing back was to remind myself what I loved about the subject in the first place. I took several nature walks, visited coffeeshops, downed some Merlot, and frankly, just shut everyone out to gain clarity for a second.

The rest of us can wait--you're brilliant and so is this story. Don't worry about disappointment--this is a relationship that remains between you and the text. Everything and everyone else is secondary. Oh and here's a virtual hug.


Nawal, a PhD student who is also in the writing bunker.

P.S. If you kill Tyrion, I will deck you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:27 pm (UTC)
It's all good
We still love you, and you owe us nothing. Be kind to yourself and try to enjoy the incredible work you've been doing.
Matt Freeman
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:30 pm (UTC)
Stop apologising
Nobody is entitled to an apology from you... well, editors and publishers perhaps ;)

If the book isn't coming out, it's not coming out. I'd much rather wait and read an incredible book you put your heart and soul into than read some book you knocked up to meet a deadline. Keep up the great work, George.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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