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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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Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:39 pm (UTC)
Keep it up!
Looking forward to it George - I'm a fan of both the books and television series and will continue to do so. I believe in your work- keep it up!
Iain Bruce
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:40 pm (UTC)
we still love you George!
And we'll love Winds of Winter when it comes out, and thanks for writing, even when its hard!
Jessica Bennett
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Thanks for the update! Don't let the haters get you down. You've written a tremendous story and I can't wait to see how it ends. Most of us understand that writing (especially something so complex) isn't something that can be forced!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:41 pm (UTC)
I fell in love with an author a few years ago that didn't do well with deadlines, either. It was new territory for me. But..I came to realize that a good story, especially if it's already one of my favorite stories...is worth every day of the waiting. I would rather wait for my story teller to craft something magnificent in their own time, because I feel more guaranteed that way that they are telling the best story possible. Waiting sucks, but once the book is in your hands, all the time waiting melts away and is immediately forgotten.

I'm one of those people that read your books after watching 4 seasons of the show, so I can't commiserate with your long time readers who have been with you for so many years, and have waited years on cliffhangers. I was very intimidated by epic fantasy stories like your own, but I craved the story from all points, so I spent 9 months reading the books (took me a while longer because I broke my ankle towards the end of that). I was actually happy to have watched the series first, because it helped me keep track of the massive amounts of characters and the story line, for the most part.

But, now I'm a part of the waiting line for the books, and I'm fine with it. I'm excited for the next book. Please, take your time. It'll be worth it. The show and the books are different creatures - both magnificent. You made excellent points that should calm many fears.

Sorry for the long post, but I've been a silent reader for a while and felt compelled to post. :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:41 pm (UTC)
Keep the course
Easier said than done, but please don't worry. Your real fans knows how long this process takes and honestly, you're doing great. Just stay the course and filter out the jerks.

For anyone looking for a series to tide them over, I just started the Saxon Chronicles series on George's recommendation and it's excellent!

Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:41 pm (UTC)
You are so generous to give fans an update. I watched the first season before I read the first book, and was still enthralled by it. I also liked a lot of the books more the second time around, when I had more of a grasp on the main plot, so people will still be glued to the books. You could write last week's shopping list and people would still enjoy reading it.

Have a happy, healthy and successful 2016; we don't mind waiting for the white raven.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
I know from my own experience how difficult, stressful and sometimes depressing writing under a deadline can be. And how depressing it is, if one fails to meet it. (And you're not exactly writing a very cheerful saga, which probably doesn't help.)
I can just say: I can wait. Write at your own pace and let the characters draw you in and forward. Ultimately, that will work better than being prodded forward by readers and editors. Good luck and all the best!!!
David Beers
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:42 pm (UTC)
Drop the Red Comet...
...on everyone's heads, just as you said you might do if you got into a bind. You've already established it, after all... just drop that bad mofo. KA-BOOM!!

Hah hah.
Jessica Patterson
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:42 pm (UTC)
Can't wait
I wouldn't want it any other way, being rushed won't get your best work! Take your time, I can't wait for the finished product!
Ted Betts
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:42 pm (UTC)
Take all the time you need
Drink a wine before its time and your risk vinegar.

Take all the time you need to get the book right. What a shame it would be, and what regret you would have, if you rushed your writing to meet someone else's deadline (including ours!). Five monumental, carefully crafted books, enthralling readers... wasted because you rushed?

Years from now, some young (or old) reader will pick up Book One, not knowing about the TV series sitting somewhere in his or her parent's hard drive, and start reading an intricate and intertwined and patient tale told over 7 books.

Write for that reader.

Write for yourself.

Can any truly great writing come from any other source?
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:42 pm (UTC)
On Deadlines
I am reminded of the conversation between the Pope and Michelangelo about the Sistine Chapel from the movie The Agony and the Ecstasy:
Pope: When Will You Be Done!?
Michelangelo: When It Is Finished!
Maureen Baker
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:43 pm (UTC)
For the love of God take your time and write the books at the pace that you desire! You should not feel any pressure at all to meet a damn deadline --you're a great artist-- you have enriched our lives so deeply with your imagination, talent, and creative vision. The show is great but if people are "purists" they can wait to view it until the book is finished or they can do the opposite. I will watch the show and read the book when it is finished!
Love you forever George R.R. Martin!!!
Rhuan Rizzi
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:44 pm (UTC)
Well, thank you so much for the honesty and consideration but, truly, you have no need to worry (on my part at least).
Your books are amazing! You're a great writer, and if the price for such a good reading is some years of waiting, so be it. There are always others good books to read in the meantime.
And about the show catching up, I don't really care about it. I discovered the show first, true, when it aired it's first episode. But now, I don't like many of the changes they've made, and will keep following just the books from now on.
So, just keep up with it! Your fans love your work, and you as well, mind you, and it won't be some little delay that will change that.
Wish you only the best!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:44 pm (UTC)
No worries
We are just lucky you've created a series that countless people enjoy and love. Take all the time you need.
Thomas Buettner
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:45 pm (UTC)
No worries.
Slightly disappointed we won't be seeing it sooner, but it's more important it's finished to the standards of your other work than it's finished quickly.

We can wait.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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