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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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Martin Alexander
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:05 pm (UTC)
Dear Mr. Martin.

Thank you so much for your post! It really means a lot to me that you are speaking you're heart (which seems to be in a dark place right now) so openly, and I reckon those of hundreds of other writers, too. I'm saying this as a fan of your writing and a rookie author myself who is fighting and writing against an already extended deadline of his second fantasy novel (in German).

Reading that deadlines were the reason you „started writing fiction instead of getting a job on a newspaper“ made me smile. I was in that exact same spot, knowing I like to take my time to create stories, but at the same time having to explain to my folks why I'm not getting a regular job.

Now obviously, I can barely imagine the weight you must feel with that terrific TV show looming over you plus also having to meet so many people's expectations. Most of all your own.

In the midst of all of this, please don't lose your fun in writing. For my own part, I can wait for as long as it takes.

So let me end this with a piece of advice coming from the best of friends (Samwise Gamgee, The Two Towers):

“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

All the best and a Happy New Year!

Edited at 2016-01-02 04:47 pm (UTC)
Terri Alexander
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:05 pm (UTC)
Only one request
Take the time you need to write! It's your book. But please don't release on same day as Doors of Stone. My head might explode.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:05 pm (UTC)
I am not disappointed
Hi George. I just wanted to come to you as a fellow artist, as well as a fan. The hardest thing in the world for me is to finish a painting. There is always something that could be pushed or pulled more. One more fine detail that could make something pop, just a liiiiittle bit more. My best work is made just for me though. When I stop getting wrapped too much in my head and just surrender myself to the work. But saying that is far easier than actually doing it. Letting myself go and surrendering to my creativity is one of the most wonderful, but also scary things in the world. The pressure to make something great, something that matters can be immobilizing, that's why it can't be for anyone else. It has to be from with in. So keep doing. Don't worry about the show, don't worry about fans who seem disgruntled. Don't worry about publishers, just write. Write and the story will follow. Best, -L
Houssine Mrabet
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:05 pm (UTC)
You're a great guy.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update, Mr Martin.

Have you ever considered releasing the chapters individually? I know i would pay $$ for each chapter, and then buy the book whenever it was released. I imagine the sustained internet buzz would be pretty positive for sales...

Looking forward to the show and the book, when each are ready.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update! I love every page that you write.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:08 pm (UTC)
As a huge fan, of course I am very excited to read TWOW, but as a writer I cannot imagine the enormous undertaking this is. I do not envy you at all. You have created a beautiful and captivating world and you are dedicated to continuing to do it the right way instead of caving to the pressure and either throwing up your hands or rushing and producing something you aren't happy with. Stay the course. We are on your side.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:08 pm (UTC)
Even though I was absolutely looking forward to WoW, the last thing us actual fans want you to do is rush a masterpiece like ASOIAF. I'm a Gamewarden so I often sit in a dark field and read novels to pass time, especially when it's slow, and I enjoyed yours the most. Read them twice. So enjoy your life and adventures and do what's best for you. You only get one, and hopefully with this little extra time you can somehow write in the Ice Dragon.
Yair Navarrete
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:10 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I would rather you take your time and enjoy the process. I'm sure most of the fans would agree
Hanna G R Oth
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you
It will takes the time it needs and i am complety fine with it. Thank you for the update. But the biggest thank you for the most suprising impressing and inspiring Story ever have been told.
Windy greets from Germany
Brittany Smith
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:11 pm (UTC)
I think an update was all anyone ever really wanted. I'm sorry this has been so hard on you. Just keep doing what you've always done. When we read Winds of Winter, we'll know it's the best quality you could send forth.
Thank you for all that you have done for your readers. I'm eternally thankful you have shared A Song of Ice and Fire with us!
Grace Navarro
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:14 pm (UTC)

Thank you for the update Mr. Martin. Take all the time you need. Inspiration and great ideas do not typically come when there is a deadline to catch. I think the best stories and imagination come at an author's pace and style. Books are often very different from television. There more details, plots, characters, PROPHECIES, magic and storyline, and everything has to come together and create an ending. I love ASOIAF and will continue to wait for its release.

Edited at 2016-01-02 04:57 pm (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:15 pm (UTC)
A very wise man once said
"Ten years from now, no one is going to care how quickly the books came out. The only thing that will matter, the only thing anyone will remember, is how good they were. That's my main concern, and always will be."

It's surely a bummer to have the show going beyond the books. But hey, don't beat yourself so much over it, George. We love your books. We love your work. It is amazing, it is inspiring and it is unique.

Keep doing great work. That is all that matters. Don't push yourself too much due to deadlines. Nor avoid the pleasures of life due to it. Keep traveling, keep working on your side projects. God, just writers know how terrible a creative block can be if you keep pushing yourself too hard.

Keep yourself active and happy. Take care of yourself and your health. And then the books will be done when they are done. And you will know you did your best. And we will appreciate it the most just because of that.

Surely there are thousands of stupid fans pushing you to deliver anything as fast as you can. But think about those other thousands that are patiently waiting for not anything, but only the best thing you can do. And also for the thousands that will read your books after the whole series has been released.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:15 pm (UTC)
Further updates
Hi George,

Thanks for the update, even though it was not what anyone had hoped for.

Any chance you could provide at least one more status update of your progress before season 6 airs? That way, depending on what you write, I can decide whether I should wait with watching S6 and move in under a rock to avoid any spoilers, or simply give up and start watching right away in April.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:16 pm (UTC)
About your update
Don't worry George, it's OK, we support you! If we have to wait more months we do it.

I personally really like your books of A Song of Ice and Fire and I recently have also read the "prequel" (Tales of Dunk and Egg) and I also enjoyed them!.
I appreciate a lot your work so if you just need more time to write and in result the book is interesting it's alright! :D

Thank you for creating this saga,
Sergi Sala.

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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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