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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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Capability Vasković
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:27 pm (UTC)
But Game of Thrones is no longer a GOOD show, that's really the unsaid horror in this. It has abandoned all character development and plot discipline. As Season 5 showed, conclusively. Going forward, for a book reader, it will literally be just an inescapable spoiler machine :(

And the show creators are beyond disrespectful to book readers (how many unnecessary casual spoilers are they gonna fling at us in interviews and episode commentaries now??).

We need an all-encompassing internet filter to weed out any news about the show until the book comes.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:27 pm (UTC)
I can't find the best words to say what I want (my english is not the best thing), but I must say that I don't think that it's possible, for anybody, to write with this stress. We love your work, so complex, intriguing and surprising, and that's only possible if you write it the way you feel more confortable. I want to still enjoying A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE as much as I have done with the rest of the books, and I hope you to do the same. This your creation, and you should be the one who most enjoy it (that's the only way to make a so good books). So I have to say no, this is not a bad new, it's the best one we could possibly read.
Thank you a million for this amazing books, and happy 2016.
Antnio Lopo de Carvalho
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:30 pm (UTC)
Hey George,

Thank you for put so much effort in this book and as for us we can just keep waiting for the book, doesn´t matter when, its done when its done. So no need to be worry sick about it, we just hope you have so much fun writting it as we will have reading it.

Thank you for bringing us the best book series ever made!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:31 pm (UTC)
Just do it your way.

I understand 'good days' peppered with too many bad ones. You have no choice in which day will be what type.

Rushed creativity will always show.

Don't feel guilty or depressed or bad.
It's words on paper. We will live. And, when it is finished, we will savor every one of those words and it will be sweeter for the wait.
Thank you for your sharing your amazing creation with the world.
Sincerely, Sally Anderson, USA
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:32 pm (UTC)
It's evident that you are sorry and we understand that. I'll be looking for a cave myself come April. I am not into fan-fiction so no more show for me.

You hate deadlines. I can sympathize. I screwed up a lot of those myself. Like a LOT. Granted, millions of people were not affected by it but I was. And that is what matters most, isn't it? We feel for you.

I don't think many people were truly shocked by these news. Only summer children. I hope it's needless to say but just in case.. that was not meant as an offense. I can, do and will wait. You want it to be perfect. So do we. We've seen what happens when the story is rushed. No thanks.

And STILL... I found this update not entirely satisfactory.. I could not pin-point the problem at first but it is now clear to me. Any real progress report must be backed up by hard data.

So, could we please have a number of manuscript pages so far, pretty please? Unlike with previous books, there's been no updates about it for years.
Andrew Watt
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:32 pm (UTC)
Real fans accept that it'll be ready when it's ready
As much as everyone wanted the book to be out in advance of the 6th season its not going to be the end of the world if it isnt. Personally id rather you take the time required to do the book in a relaxed fashion which allows you to write a novel that YOU are happy with. Writing is an art. Its creative expression. It should be allowed to develop with a certain degree of freedom. Deadlines and creative restrictions only tend to hamper such creativity.

If people dont want to spoil the novels they dont need to watch the shows as aired. The media already do as much as they can to reveal plotlines before the season even drops. We can all assume with a certain degree of confidence that Jon Snow will have some kind of involvement in some fashion.

If you do read these George, all i ask is that you dont worry. I have faith that youll deliver another stellar book whenever the creative process allows. And whatever happens do not allow the impatience of others impact on your own well being.

I wanted to finish with a nice relevant GoT pun or phrase but eh, writers block.

Keep up the great work George. Thanks
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:32 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say I appreciate the transparency, it takes a big man to admit his own defeats. But as an aspiring author, I also completely understand your struggle and do not blame you for it in the least. Im rewriting the first draft of my first novel, and wow is it a lot more slow going than I thought. And its only 90k words! I cant imagine what you must be going through, but I can assure you, I will wait as long as it takes. Youre my favorite author, George,

Grayson Hawk
John Morrison
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update Mr. Martin,
Just on the subject of spoilers, and the info in the show that is new, or diverges from the books: I have to believe (hope!) that D&D will (have) held to the major plot points and character arcs that you have outlined for them. Even if the details, participants, geographic locations etc. are radically different. Sansa's arc comes immediately to mind. She's undergoing a drastic internal transformation in the show, and in the books. The plot mechanics being used are different - but I think (hope) that the end result will reveal Sansa to have essentially the same impact on the broader story. For this reason, I'm going to go ahead and watch the rest of the episodes, and enjoy the rest of the novels when they are available. It's been fun to monitor the choices the show runners have made to abridge the story enough to make it producible. It's also huge fun to let your world just flow over me while reading and not worry much about story efficiency. Your work is peerless on many levels - prose, character development, sheer imagination, historical synthesis, depth and connections (in other words - the joy of reading remains after my 3rd complete read of the series.) Thanks so much for the world you've given us to imagine in.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:33 pm (UTC)
Hi George,

I won't pretend I'm not gutted, 'a punch in the gut'. Though it is somewhat of a consolation that you feel the same way. Strangely, I don't mind waiting but we all know April is going to change things.

You blame yourself but I don't think David and Dan have made it any easier. If you watch their interviews from season 1 and compare to the present, there is a noticeable change in their ego. They have so much material they could have used and gave you another year or two. It's not their success, it's yours. "Daggers in the dark" and all that.

This is a long shot but is there any chance we could get TWOW part 1 before season 6? It would be massive for the fans. It's not that bad an idea?

Many thanks.


Gustaf Hallberg
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:33 pm (UTC)
It's ok.
Really, it's ok. I hope I manage to avoid spoilers (I don't really do TV-series anymore), but it's fine. The book will arrive and we will get to read it, so try not to worry! :)

Thanks for the great reads!
Erica LaLeggivendola
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:33 pm (UTC)
I must say I am extremely disappointed. I've always respected you for taking your time no matter what. I've always thought it showed how much you love your story and your characters. But this time I can't totally take your side. I've been following ASOIAF way before it was GOT, and now it seems I won't be able to fully enjoy the reading of one of my all time favorite series, because SPOILERS EVERYWHERE. And that sucks.
(Not you. The situation. You're still awesome, dammit.)
I'm sorry about the pressure and all. And by no means I'm trying to hurt you or offend you. But I've been a huge fan since 10 years. ASOIAF is so much better than GOT, and that's how I wanted to experience Westeros.
So, well. I'll do my best to avoid the spoilers. Thanks for the update. Must have been awful to write. Hope you'll cheer up.
(hope I didn't make too many mistakes, I'm obviously not an english speaker)
Lexi Haskett-Wood
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:34 pm (UTC)
So happy to hear that you have decided to go at your own pace. In my experience, stress does not produce great art.
As for the show, I stopped watching it before last season. The books are way better. So I'm not too concerned about that weird stuff happens over at HBO anymore.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:34 pm (UTC)
Writing is always a mystery
This is your process! The noise is hard to avoid, but I hope that without a deadline you'll be able to feel the way you used to. We can't predict life and the book will be ready when it is ready. I wish you a great year—and not only writing wise, just a great year. We only know your books, but I have a great sympathy for you. And I know I'm not the only one!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:34 pm (UTC)
I, and many others, have happily accepted for a long time that the next book / the whole series will be done when it's done. As much as it may seem that all your fans are baying for blood and frustrated with you, it's certainly not the case. It's that damn Ser Vocal of the house Minority skewing perception as per usual.

It's easy for me to say "take all the time you need" because I don't know what you're contractually obligated to do, or what your relationship is like with your publishers etc. But honestly if it means getting the most polished product, I'd happily wait for as long as it takes. You owe us nothing.

Perhaps the show overtaking the books will help to relieve some stress and minimise the pressure you are no doubt feeling. Who's to say. Either way I will continue to eagerly, and patiently, anticipate the next installment as always.

Alex Carvalho
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:34 pm (UTC)
Lack of commitment
Are twenty years not enough to write seven books?
I've already forgot what I read.
If he wants, he could write a book in two years as he was doing in the beginning.
Lack of commitment.
I don't buy it anymore.
I gave up!
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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