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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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Michael Geoghegan
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:29 pm (UTC)
Frankly, I'm relieved.
Thank you for putting quality first! I had been worried ever since you stated that you wanted to rush production to come out before the show but I knew you could not let the book suffer. When I re-read this wonderful series 20 years from now I will need wikipedia to remember which came out firs anyway :) You are doing the right thing and we all appreciate it, even if we don't realize it yet.
Dan Mcreedeez
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update, but chin up. Oh well, book's not done yet, you'll finish and you'll be glad that you didn't force a deadline. Until then your fans will come up with insane theories about the characters, the Physics of your world, or how Benjen keeps teleporting to Mereen. Regardless, we do it because we love your fiction and we love you. So shake off that disappointment and look at the bright side, it's 2016, and we haven't blown each other up yet, not too bad. Thanks again for an update and for being honest. We'll be here when you are done to welcome Winds with eager eyes and minds. Stay positive and have a wonderful 2016.
Daniel De Simone
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC)
On the upside...
...as one of your After GoT fans (A.G.), poseur though I may be, the best viewing experience I had of the show was the first season, when my viewing wasn't disturbed by comparisons to your (masterful) work. My habit now is to watch each episode twice, once with ASOIAF clouding my opinion and once unfettered.

So, the way I see it, you've done us viewer/readers (and D&D!) a favor by allowing us to watch the show without all the unfair comparisons to your writing.

This is my positive spin, at least. At any rate, thank you for this series and for your relationship with your fans. 99% of us are rooting for you and disgusted by some of the tone from the 1%. Lastly, if I may be so bold, TAKE YOUR TIME. We all want the *best* book, not the fastest.

Edited at 2016-01-02 04:31 pm (UTC)
Sarah Barnard
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:33 pm (UTC)
Just lots of support...
Hi George. It breaks my heart a little for you. These are your books, and whilst as fans we can't wait to read the next one you are still a person with very real ups and downs. Just like anyone else you've got good days and bad and it's my personal opinion that when you carry the burden of an exordinary mind there usually are more bad days. It's in the nature of your particular type of genius to also not respond well under deadlines. You could have 20 years and the fact that there is a moment in time that there will be an expectation of a finished product is suffocating. Anyway, these characters are very real, maybe they don't feel like cooperating. Maybe they are mad, maybe one feels like working with you in a scene and another doesn't if they are sharing a chapter. The point is, it's okay. And even though I can't speak for all fans everywhere I'm going to. Take your time. As much as you need to enjoy the process of writing again. When there's a book we will support you by reading it because we love the mad crazy world you created for us! I love the show equally as much as I live the books, but for very different reasons. Reasonable people will understand ;) thank you for the update! Go easier on yourself please. Oh, and thank you also for the story, sometimes I also feel sad and down and you've given me a place to escape. You got this George! XOXO
Rogelio Garcia
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:34 pm (UTC)
No need to be depressed!
Thank you for the update. No need to be depressed. We appreciate your work.
Paul Johnson
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:34 pm (UTC)
Take your time.
I'm on my fourth read-through of A Song of Ice and Fire and it's more enjoyable each time I return to it. It's literary masterpiece. It's something I'm in awe of. I would wait decades if necessary for Winds of Winter. It is magic like this that adds flavor to life. The knowledge of the world you've designed and the characters you've created keeps me excited. There is sorrow in your tone here, but you don't need to be apologizing. As a reader I have learned to trust you, and I will patiently await whatever length of time required, and gladly, because your artistic method has been a gift to the world that was never owed.

I just wish the show didn't exist.

I think what needs to be kept in mind is that the books will long outlive this HBO series. A Song of Ice and Fire will be revered for many generations, read by new eyes long after we're all dead. The show will be smoke in the night wind after the fire fades. The text is what is important. So take your time.

Edited at 2016-01-02 04:37 pm (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:34 pm (UTC)
Take you time
Dear George,

Take the time that you need: quality is more important than other considerations. Don´t feel bad about dissapoint people because, as T. Swift says: "haters gonna hate" :P
Have a Happy New Year and enjoy your writing: if you do that, your readers will be euphoric when they have the book in their hands.

Regards from Spain.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:36 pm (UTC)
The only real debt you have is to the story.
I've not found deadlines to help the creative process. Keeping the story alive in your head is already a magnificent feat. Your readers will respect you the more for staying faithful to this tale and resisting the pressure to deliver something less than satisfying. We trust you. Do it your way and good luck.

Sorry you have to deal with the pressure though. You would figure that fame and success would buy you something better than a bullseye, but part of me discerns that you might like being the maverick. That part suggests that you may want to do some essays on the musical heritage of Westeros and how it compares with Essos in harmonic structure. *That* would definitely set off the revolt. ;-)

Good luck and good health! Happy New Year to you and yours!
Martn Hyggelig
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:37 pm (UTC)
A hug to Mr. Martin:
I have little hope that you will read this, soon to be buried under the probably thousands of comments that I expect to come soon enough, but I read this post and felt I should say something, even if they end up being lost and buried words.

Honestly, even though I consider myself an avid reader, I do not care for A song of ice and fire. Both my brothers and my best friend are fans. My bestie even has a notebook where she keeps track of all her theories and ideas of what might or should be. I couldn't make it past the second half of the second book, even though I tried. I don't know why, I tried to read it, but it just didn't swept me (nor did Lord of the rings, maybe it's a genre thing).

So the news I have from you and your journey as you write this new book come from oblique sources. "He's not done yet", "He is not writing as much", "he can't tackle the story as it deserves to be tackled"... And now a friend linked me to this site, and I read it.

And it saddens me to read the apologetic tone. I understand you feel indebted to your fans and followers, but it would seem that running behind these expectations that everyone has is taking too much of a toll on you.

It's true, your book is the most pirated book on the web, the most downloaded, the most read, and the series is the most pirated, the most viewed. You are a genius, by all accounts, and you should feel proud of the fact.

But are you still enjoying the process?

Even in this very same post you are obviously able to discern between the expectations of the world, and the need of the story. You are taking your time. You sound like a perfectionist, and according to my brothers and friend, it shows. There are three worded sentences that end up having massive implications on a re-read. I am talking to a gigant.

But you do well keeping in mind that a book, I believe, is written by the very same reason it's read. Enjoy the journey.

I hug you, Mr Martin. I hope you're well, and I hope you're enjoying being either the god or the discoverer of this book.

Another Martin.
Barret Frymire
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:37 pm (UTC)
You're awesome, George. I will wait 'til whenever, to read the book at its best. I don't want to read the book that I want, I want to read the book that you want to write. That's what the previous books have been, and that's the writing that I love.

I'm nobody special to give you (of all people) encouragement, but you're more than just the author of these amazing books. You're a pretty fascinating person as well. I know some people forget that there is a human on the other side of these pages... I hope you know they don't speak for all of us.
Rhea Sunshine Booth
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:38 pm (UTC)
It's okay with me!
George, i am not disappointed. You take as long as you need to in order to create the high quality, in depth book we know and love. I'm not worried about the show surpassing your books. Books are always going to be better than their on screen interpretation. Lord of the rings, star wars, harry potter, and the hobbit are a few that have been great, yet also disappointing. This is due to the fact that they're oranges, not apples. As a fan of yours and a fan of the show, i just want to say, i'm not worried. You are the artist.
Jonah Duclos
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:38 pm (UTC)
You don't owe us anything, ser.

I've always hated deadlines as well. When it's all overwhelming and too much, don't be ashamed to take the time that you need to recollect your thoughts. We're all human.

Thank you for the update!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:39 pm (UTC)
Row, row...
Doesn't matter George. Just make it count ;).
And by the way... I like the update! News (even not so good news), is better than no news!
Çağrı Akkuş
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:39 pm (UTC)
Well...it's okay, I guess. I still love the books, universe, characters and its writer. I'm sure it will be worth the wait. I'm just torn between waiting for the book and watching the show but that's personal.

Well could you at least give some info about Great Moraq(and Ulthos, if I'm not being too inappropriate)? Because there was no info about there in the world book and it's still bugging me and I think I'm kinda obsessed with it but it's okay if you don't answer back. But that would be neat if you do.

I ask this under this post because I remember you saying ask ASOIAF-related questions under ASOIAF-related posts, so here it is.

Edited at 2016-01-02 04:42 pm (UTC)
markus mer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:39 pm (UTC)
be happy
I'm not going to see the show before I read the book. I just enjoy the books so much more. I know that there is no way I'm going to be able to avoid spoilers but I'm okay with that. Some plot points will be revealed but the journey and the arch the characters go through will be enough for it to be worth it. Totally with agree that George should just write in his own time without a deadline. I'll be happy when it's out and it lives up to his own standard.
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George R.R. Martin
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