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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 04:45 pm (UTC)
I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. We all are craving and chomping at the bit for the next novel, but that's because we all love the world and characters you have created. I've never been a big reader, was never able to focus long enough. That all changed when I first read Game of Thrones. Please take your time! Don't rush! There's something witty about a turtle racing a bunny here somewhere...Anyway, I think we would all be happier with a finished story(stories) rather than something rushed out before season six. Pardon my language but fuck deadlines! We can wait! Like you said, "it will be done when it's done." Hope you had a wonderful holiday season and all the best in the new year.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC)
Writing is torturously slow for me - it always has been. I can't imagine the pressure you're under - it must make it so much worse. I love your books and I love the show and I feel grateful and privileged to get more of either whenever they become available. Happy New Year, and thank you for what you've already given us.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the update! We are all looking forward to the next book because we love the series so much, but it's more important that you enjoy the experience and produce work that you are happy with. While we may not be as vocal as the more demanding fans, I think most of us are patient enough to let you work at your own pace. Take care of yourself and have a happy new year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:49 pm (UTC)
Do you
I hope your mental health is more important than this book to you. Please don't let this depress you. George, you are a genius writer and I feel lucky to have read every book I have by you. If you never finish a book, you have still affected tons of lives in a positive way. Please take your time and do the story right. Don't worry about perfect, just get it right. I know I will love it. You are going to hear tons of whining about it not being out yet, but that is a vocal minority on the internet that wants to complain about pretty much everything. Just let them cry it out. You have tons of rational, loyal readers who want to see it done right over just quickly. I'm patient, I know others are too.

I refuse to watch the show until you are done writing the whole series. I can't wait to watch it, but I'm not going to trust HBO to tell your story the right way. Hopefully I don't have too much get past the spoiler shields until then.
Heather Adams
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:49 pm (UTC)
To write this was kind of you.
Thank you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:49 pm (UTC)
Not a problem
Sir, this is not a problem at all. It really doesn't matter when it comes out, when it comes out it'll be good. I'm frankly glad as I worried that the pressure of the tv show would affect the quality of the novel. The TV show will be watched and loved. Remembered, criticized...and then it will start to be forgotten. Our generation will bring it up for decades...but subsequent generations won't be as interested. Tastes change, production quality matters to many...and the show will likely seem dated at some point.

The books will last though. Long after the tv show isn't even in print any more and a copy that can play on equipment anybody has will be hard to find. But people will still be reading the books.

So good. You know for sure now that you won't beat next season. So now it doesn't matter when it comes out at all. Next year, the year after that...etc...from here on out it's all the same. No deadline pressure at all.

And after that Dream of Spring? Cool. The longer it takes to come out, the longer I will have to anticipate more to come from one of the best universes in the entire sf/fantasy canon.

Thank you for your words, all your words. They are gifts, and we are grateful. Happy 2016!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:51 pm (UTC)
No worries, take your time
Quality over quantity, I always say. No need to rush yourself. Write at your own pace, and deliver us when you're fully satisfied with your work - your qualities are already proven. All good things are worth waiting for!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:52 pm (UTC)
It's absolutely fine
There's nothing wrong about that. Writing is not a mechanical job in which you can simply do it whenever you have free time, it requires much more than that along the creative process. There's no such a thing as "Don't write something and write Winds of Winter instead. If you're not feeling like writing Winds of Winter at the moment, pushing it will probably not be a good thing. We underestimate our freedom to choose what to do on these days.
Instead of complaining about having the books behind the tv show, people could enjoy this event as a unprecedented event. It shouldn't be considered common sense that the book must always come first. It's not like it is written somewhere it should be like that. The fear of not following the tradition is completely irrational.
But if that's bothering you how about considering splitting the book in two parts? Probably it has been discarded before, but taking a look again at the reasons for not doing it might ring a bell for a new solution.
Best wishes
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:53 pm (UTC)
Happy New Year
Thank you for the update, we love you George! Take some time to de-stress, we'll still support you! Best of luck with finishing the book :-)
Michael Woodley
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:53 pm (UTC)
Do not despair...
It is evident that you write better without the stress of deadlines and we all want you to write your best. Screw the deadlines, this is not about deadlines. Will anyone care 30 years from now that you missed deadlines? No, they won't. Will anyone care 30 years from now that season 6 of GoT came out before the books? No, they won't. What they will care about is the only thing you should care about, the quality of your magnum opus.

Thank you for the sincere update and sharing your feelings. You don't owe anyone that and you are kind enough to do it and we sincerely appreciate it. When you do write, please focus on one thing only, the quality of your work and all the stress will subside. You will get back to that special place where magic happens. Everyone will wait as long as we need to enjoy what you've created.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:53 pm (UTC)
Well, Damn
"Here's the update. You won't like it."

Nah, thanks for the update. At least we are not sitting around waiting for something as season 6 arrives and our hearts break. Seriously, thanks for the update, it's much better than nothing.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:54 pm (UTC)
Screw the haters george! You just do your thing. Take your time. We will wait!!
All the best!
Mike Giblin
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:54 pm (UTC)
No hard feelings.
Hi George,

As someone who has always performed worse the more pressure he's under to perform well, I can only say PLEASE don't let it eat you up inside. Some people are going to be pissed, but they're only annoyed because your creation means so much to them in the first place. I'd rather you took a ten year break and wrote it if and when you felt ready, at your own pace, than you let it affect your mental or physical health. You've gifted us something wonderful in your creation and while I hope one day to read its conclusion, I don't want to at the cost of your own happiness, that would be a terrible way for us all to say thank you.

Try not to let it get to you, what you describe sounds a lot like what affects me and it only makes it worse if you beat yourself up about it. You have already achieved something greater than most of us will in our lives, anything from here on is just gravy.

Kind regards from across the pond,
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:55 pm (UTC)
Love your work
I appreciate the update. Your work is like no other I have ever read. The world seems contempt with having good guys always defeating the bad guys and personally I think that cliche is the most boring one of all. I've heard/read/seen 10,000 stories where the good guys win so when the arguably the most honourable character in series was killed in the first book you surely captured my attention.

Characters like Jamie Lannister and Sandor Clegane are humans. They're flawed and they've made mistakes just like everybody else. Any other auther would have just made them "the bad guys" but they way you've written them I can't help but love them both.

I look forward to reading your next entry into the series whenever your ready to release it. Until then I shall wait patiently.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
I really appreciate that you updated us. The not knowing was far worse than this. Even though you said we wouldn't like the news, just hearing you talk openly about The Winds of Winter and your progress on it made me really really happy.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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