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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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Wade Farmer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:30 pm (UTC)
It's done when it's done is fine with me. Take your time. We can all wait, no matter how loudly some of the other scream.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:31 pm (UTC)
It's YOUR book sweetie. Not mine, HBO's or anyone else's. You write what you want and when you want. No- one has a right to moan/kvetch/complain or get angry about it. It's like waiting for your birthday - you can't harry it to come along simply because you're impatient. I'm just thankful you've allowed us into the world you've created.

And, FWIW, I think you have been incredibly courteous to drop by and apologise for something that is a WIP until it's done.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:31 pm (UTC)
Hello Mr. Martin,

Hopefully most fans who appreciate your work, and appreciate the time it takes to write these type of epic stories, will be greatly appreciative of the details you've given us.

While it's super hard waiting for the TWOW to come out, I also want the best possible book you can give us. That's what made us all fall in love with the ASOIAF story from the beginning.

Keep up the hard work. Work at your own pace. As long as you are working on the book, then progress is being made, and the loyal fans will be there for TWOW when it's released.

Thanks much and have a great 2016.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you GRRM, your update is appreciated.
When its done its done! Take as much time as you want. Will A Dream of Spring the book following The Winds of Winter? I am not worried about the difference between the books and the HBO series. I like both. Look at the differences between the Bourne books by Robert Ludlum and the movies! Even though a movie the Bourne Identity was filmed years ago! One thing about the time though is that my age is way on the right side of the normal curve and I would like to finish the books before my age gets to the bottom of that curve!
Ismael Garca de Martn
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:33 pm (UTC)
Well, despite you being the creator of all this and all of us being very grateful for your work and all of that I can only say that I feel betrayed, betrayed by you. I feel betrayed because I understand you had a compromise with us, your loyal readers. You saying you never expected this to happen is a lie, as you, and us, knew from the beginning that it was going to happen sooner or later, maybe not with this book but with the next one. You say "spoilers yes and no", but as you´ve told the series creators how the books are going to end we´ll have that spoiler in two or three seasons. And we won´t be able to escape from it, it will be a worldwide phenomenon. You betrayed us since you sold your idea and didn´t force HBO to wait for you, bonding them by a contract or by not telling them the end.

Having said that and now that the harm has already been done, take your time and do your best so at least we´ll have a "spoilered" book, but a goddamm perfect one.

BTW, I´ve been to many bookshops recently I´ve seen dozens of (recent) books with your name on them, so maybe your time didn´t fly away but you preferred investing it in some more lucrative objectives. It´s fair, I´m not saying it isn´t, but it´s also true.

Edited at 2016-01-02 03:35 pm (UTC)
kelly niles
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:34 pm (UTC)
The Winds of Winter
Keep your head up, sir. The story tells itself. It is your muse and it sets the pace. We believe in you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:35 pm (UTC)
Hi Mr. Martin! My name is Andressa. I'm from Brazil and it is the very first time I write to you. I felt like I had to as a great fan of yours, I admire your work so much. So I decided to write to tell you that I (and I believe I speak on behalf a lot of your fans) am not sad. Maybe a little bit. But I know that you're doing your best, and your best is enough. And it makes me happy. It has so far. I really do love your books, they're so well written. So I know that when TWOW comes out, it will be good and make me happy. So take your time, do your best, don't let the criticism get in your way. You're great. Thank you. Love.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:35 pm (UTC)
I feel awful that all this pressure is on you for this book, you shouldn't have to put yourself out for these deadlines. As much as I'm desperate for the book it's so much more important that you don't rush yourself to finish!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:36 pm (UTC)
Season 6 without TWOW
Is season 6 (and the upcoming season 7) still a full-fledged adaption when there's no completed and published original material? Did they have something else to work with while writing and filming, like an early draft of the book?

Strange situation, but I'll try and make the best of it. Maybe the next season will just spoil parts of the book and I'm still interested anyway how your version of the story will unfold in contrast to the show in a much more detailed manner. So don't be too sad about it, at least there aren't any deadlines left anymore.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update and as you mentioned before, you had to wait on LOTR being available (at least I think I read that years ago on your website). I had estimated 2017/18 anyway with 2023/4 for Spring. So even if you did get book 6 out for season six, then What about Spring and season 7. So it was going to happen regardless and as an above poster said, Winds should not be rushed. As you say it will be done when it is done.

I have not watched any of the TV show yet, and I did this for two reasons. The first, I suspected divergence and that the TV show would overtake the books. And the second being something you mentioned years ago about nothing written by anyone else of your characters is canon.

After all, it is bad enough me trying to remember whether it was the movie or book of Dune that had milking a cat for an antidote, far less reading an installment fresh for the first time.
kelly niles
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:38 pm (UTC)
The Winds of Winter
Keep your head up, sir. The story tells itself. It is your muse and it sets the pace. We believe in you.
Christopher Mulliss
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:38 pm (UTC)
There is a (sort of) example of this happening before from the world of manga / anime: Fullmetal Alchemist. You had a wildly popular manga to begin with. Then the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime begin a few years later and here is the interesting part: the writer intentionally created an independent production staff for the anime. The two stories, spun from same opening events, diverged strongly in the two formats (anime and manga) by intentional creative design. But everyone knew this divergence was planned so there was not quite the angst that we see today with ASOIF / GOT.

Then towards the end of the manga run, there was a second anime series (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) which was a 1-for-1 adaptation of the manga. I think some of the key voice actors came back for this second series. I know, I know, this would never work with a non-animated production where actors age and move on to other projects.

I guess the point here is that the fans got to enjoy the story 3 times! I, for one, plan to enjoy GOT and then to enjoy ASOIF. Cheers and Happy New Years to all.

Chad Saunders
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:38 pm (UTC)
Don't stress
I would much rather read a well written book, the way you want the story told, than to read some disappointing garbage you felt forced to crank out. Once you publish the book, it's out of your hands. I want to read the book when you have it right.
Jamus Hanscom
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:41 pm (UTC)
Make it the best book, not the fastest. We can wait. Love you George!
Carlos Correa
Jan. 2nd, 2016 03:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your dedication to this series.

This is a weird age for writers and television. I know I really wanted to read book 6 before watching season 6. I was introduced to the show and didn't realize I watched all of it until it was finished. And that's how I read the books afterwards. But with the books I had more glee-for Victarion, Manderly, and Davos- and despair and sadness- for Jon, Arianne, and Quentyn-. I wished with all my heart that I could read the next book before watching the next season because your work is absolutely amazing. It's okay and completely fine. I'll enjoy both the same.

Take your time. Enjoy the process. We'll stand at the ready like the Unsullied for your work.

But on the issue of deadlines, I recommend you try the game Big and Little Walder Frey played in Winterfell. You'll be able to take as much time as you wish as long as you can throw in a Mayhaps without being caught.

Best of luck.
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George R.R. Martin
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