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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 05:10 pm (UTC)
I love you, man.
George -- no need to be depressed, or upset, or worried. People don't have a say in your art, and your art is stunning. Take your time, do it right -- or not at all. It's your choice, your story, your life. All the best, good ser.
Joel Kizziah
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:11 pm (UTC)
I just hope you are still having fun when writing asoiaf. It is pretty great, and we will still be here whenever you finish. Well, with such a large group some of us will probably die first, but hey, that's life.
Adikshith Ojha
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:11 pm (UTC)
sad that the book won't be here before April 2016, but hey, it's gonna come out when it's gonna come out. Just give us an awesome book. That's all we ask.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:12 pm (UTC)
Of course it's not what we wanted to hear but honestly, we're just grateful for the update. Thank you and don't beat yourself up about it :)
Duncan Ross
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:12 pm (UTC)
You can do it!
Keep writing the best you can ! We love your content and will wait as long as it takes :)
Bernhard Vienna
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:12 pm (UTC)
Don't worrry about it!
You don't owe us anything. You have alreday given us so many great story.

If I were you, I would go completely crazy in the last books, anyway. End it all in one big orgy as Kevin Smith suggested for the Lord of The Rings movies.


Zsolt Flórián
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:13 pm (UTC)
Don't worry, be happy
Dear George,

Thank you for this update. I, among many others, am sad we won't get Winds before S6 of the show, but I don't think I even care THAT much. I've made my peace with the show telling the end of the story before you and I just want Winds to be the best one in the series yet, so don't worry: take your time and do make it the best one!

Yes, fans are disappointed, but this post reminded me of how disappointed you must be with yourself (I hope you don't take this the wrong way). I just want to encourage you and tell you it's okay, that you shouldn't let this failure dominate your everyday life. So all my best wishes to you for the year 2016.

Now I also have a question. I assume from the information given in the post that you have made good progress with the book even though you haven't finished it, good enough progress so you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I'll just ask: do you still think you can finish the story in 7 books or are you considering an 8th one?

Whatever the answer, I won't mind. If it's 7 books, that means Winds and Dream will be amazing books filled with action, plot twists and awesomeness. If it's 8 books, we get another huge tome in this world and with these characters we came to love, probably alos filled with amazing action, plot twists and awesomeness :)

I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't answer the question at all, either. I hope you do, but I'd understand if you chose not to. Either way, I thank you for ASOIAF and hope to see many more stories from you. And I repeat: don't worry. Just be happy with what you do and how you do it.

As Frank Sinatra said:
"I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way"

A faithful Hungarian fan.
Sean McLeer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:13 pm (UTC)
Looking forward to reading the story only you can tell. The show is great, I don't care if it spoils or even diverges more than it has from your novels. I love both books and show and I am excited to one day hold winds and dream in my hands.

Love, Sean
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
Such is the nature of our postlapsarian world
Of course the experience of a book's contents for the first time is special, and this situation means that we won't have that, but the related (quite diminished) experience of seeing how two things compare. And of course it's disappointing to find out that we still have to wait.

But I think most of us were resigned to that already-- even if 6 came out in time for 6, we all knew 7, the epic conclusion, would not come out before 7. In the light of that long ago accepted reality, this is a rather slight disappointment.

And I think most of us take great joy in the other things you do-- in the edited collections, in the blogposts, hell, in the football commentary.

And I think most of us, though we haven't met you, recognize that you are indeed a human being and, further, a good and decent man who deserves an enjoyable life, filled with travel, and family, and fun, and not only don't begrudge you these things, but actually take a small bit of joy out of knowledge that a dude who has given us cool stuff gets to enjoy cool stuff.

And I personally found your Hugo-material incredibly helpful this past year, not just in figuring out what the hell was going on, but in getting a better grasp of my beloved genre's broad status and history.

And I personally find your work with the Cocteau specifically and your area in general really and truly admirable and even inspiring. It's rare for anyone to even have a SENSE of place in 2015, let alone devote a substantial portion of their life to improving their place, their community. Just like it's absurd for people to complain about Patrick Rothfuss devoting his time to charity, it's absurd for people to complain about you making the world a better place for your neighbors.

TL,DR: Mr. Martin, there's going to be a lot of angry shouting at you for this and the other blogposts today, but know that the shouting is not the majority of people, and while we *all* are probably disappointed, for most of us we're slightly so, and broadly fans of ALL that you do.
Steven James
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the wonderful world you've created for us. It is done when it's done. Everything else is just noise. Happy new year, George!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
You do whatever you have to do for as long as you need, we will all be here when you finish!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
It will be finished when it's finished.

Thank you for putting your heart and soul into all of your writing. I prefer a masterpiece to a quickly cranked out mess.
J Evans
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:15 pm (UTC)

We love you. Take your time. We'll all be here when you're done. No worries. Travel, enjoy your life; live, love, laugh. You've earned it. Seriously. You deserve all the amazing opportunities that have come your way over the past few years, and you should enjoy the hell out of each and every one of them. Tune out the naysayers and know that, despite what you may hear from the vocal minority, there are so very many of us out here who simply wish you the best, and all the happiness in the world.
Robert Fiorentino
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:15 pm (UTC)
please release one more chapter before the show
Before the season 3 premiere you released the Mercy chapter, presumably because you didn't want the show's Needle scene to spoil the Needle scene in Mercy. Do the same for Jon 1 or wherever that closure happens! You can release the the chapter the same day as the relevant episode. Let us find out about Jon from you, not HBO!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:16 pm (UTC)
We love you. It doesn't matter.

Also, Harry Potter had already signed up for 7 movies before the 5th book came out, and you know what? It worked, but...they rushed her and the last books weren't as well put together as the others.

Don't you dare let anyone pressure you. We'll wait for the book and we'll wait years for the series just like we did for Sherlock.

Not saying there won't be grumbling, but never mind that.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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