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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.

IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ALL FIVE SEASONS AND READ ALL FIVE BOOKS, STOP HERE!

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)).

Comments

( 1015 comments )
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orangeguitar5
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update! I can't imagine what you must be feeling, but just know that you've got millions of fans out there who aren't concerned with deadlines. I agree with most of the folks here. It'll be done when it is done, and it'll be great when it is.
ibshafer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:35 pm (UTC)
"I can't think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written."

This may not be on the same level, but the celebrated Japanese manga Fullmetal Alchemist was produced as an anime while the manga series was still being written. In that case, the manga-ka (the author/artist) and the producer (Bones) agreed that the anime would diverge from the author's plan at a certain point, so that she could continue with her own vision of the characters and story at her own pace. And when, a few years later, the manga was finally completed, a full anime was once again produced, this time faithful to the published work. (And it was superior, I might add, which is not comment on the work of Benioff and Weiss.)

I'm not unhappy with HBO's choices for the series, but will also not be unhappy to read different outcomes for the characters and storylines in future volumes of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.
Andy Marinkovich
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:35 pm (UTC)
Don't Fret It!
I know you don't like to disappoint people but, honestly, don't fret this. Sure, maybe you can make a bigger commitment to the book in 2016 -- less events, obligations, travel, etc. -- so you can make better progress on the book. But don't let the situation erode your spirit and enthusiasm for your work. As a wannabe writer who is terrible with deadlines and self-discipline, I completely understand and can't imagine the pressure you must feel. You need to find a way to not let that pressure get to you in a way that's inhibits your progress. For example, if, when you look at that manuscript and all you feel is dread, then the book may never be done (or it won't be good when you do decide to turn it in). Sorry. I'm sure the last thing you need is advice. But the fans will survive and (most) everybody will rejoice when the book is finally ready for us. So finish it in the time you need. That will ensure it remains your work and not something that was shaped by all the outside influences and pressure you're feeling. Your true fans still love you and those who don't read the books have the TV show, which will plow forward regardless. It's all OK! :-)
Vanessa Bogaert
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:35 pm (UTC)
No worries, I enjoy both the show and books immensely. I actually started with the show before I read the books, so it doesn't really matter to me which comes first. Would you, however, consider sometime before the show releasing another chapter? Or does that cause a disruption to the flow of writing?
OmegaSilent
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for your hard work and for being so honest and open about this matter! I will much rather wait as long as it takes for TWOW to be the best book that it can be, than to get a version that is rushed and that you yourself are not happy with.

Happy New Year Mr. Martin. I hope this year will bring more highs and less lows for you than the last!
ee_in
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:36 pm (UTC)
Even a Master Gardner Can't Make His Charges Grow More Quickly!
All that truly matters is that it will have been so well worth the wait. You're a generous man for explaining yourself to your fans, though, when you don't have to.

And evenso, we should have expected the show 'potential spoiler' dynamic--the same problem would have arisen in a year or two even if the manuscript had presented itself for The Winds of Winter/Kong Jr. before the end of the year, unless the Dream of Spring garden grew extra quickly because of global warming!

Thank you and Happy New Year, Ser!
Elianderson Santos
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
We all believe in you!
Just... Keep working in your pace, Mr. Martin. We all believe in you! I'm sure the book will be very, very good!
m_rr
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
Best Wishes to You
So sorry to hear this has got you so depressed! Your novels are such masterpieces that I don't mind the wait for Winds, no matter how long. You've had such a productive year with your other projects and releases. So thank you for all of that, and for this generous post as well. Reading the list of characters you've remarked on filled me with nostalgia; it's been too long since I read the first 5 books. I'm glad I have some time to revisit them :) I hope that you can find peace and joy in writing in the new year! You deserve it.
Elianderson Santos
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
We all believe in you!
Just... Keep working in your pace, Mr. Martin. We all believe in you! I'm sure the book will be very, very good!
William Lundstedt
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:38 pm (UTC)
Just remember that you have no obligation (at least not to your fans) to finish the series at all.We will be happy with whatever we get, whenever we get it. Good luck with your writing, and please don't give in to the pressure! Your publishers can suck it, because you have what they want and also what every other publisher wants. You don't need deadlines.
Sam Costello
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:39 pm (UTC)
Mr. Martin,

I'm a die-hard fan of you and your work. The worlds you've built and characters you've brought to life have captivated myself and countless others across the world. I believe that you've accomplished all you have because you've always followed your own method of writing. You write when you feel like it, and that's totally fine delays and deadlines be damned. You chalk out such good material because your comfortable with the way you're doing it. So please, TAKE ALL THE TIME YOU NEED. Every one of us would rather read a complete final draft rather than a rushed one.

As for the tv show, meh, I don't mind. There have actually been plenty of adapted works that have breezed by ahead of their source material. Please don't be discouraged and write however you see fit. And when the winds of winter are ready to blow, we'll be waiting.
koyotesdaughter
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:39 pm (UTC)

Three. Scarlett O'Hara had three children.


The words will come at their own pace. We know this.

Traci Bear Thiele
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:39 pm (UTC)
AHHHHHHhhhhh..... Whew! You can let that pressure go now. You know, I have never seen so much of this world hold its collective breath... for so long. Partly due to the build up. The cliffhanger that both the books and the show have fans hanging on. To have even the POTUS wrapped up and commenting on that... is wonderfully unique and entertaining, but also... THE PRESSURE you all have created, must be IMMENSE. Palpable. So thanks for letting down your shields, and sharing your predicament. None of your true fans are surprised, and more than mildly disappointed. You have taught us to have no expectations. It does make me deeply sad to see that you are depressed. I hope and pray... sending you the power of my love and magick. I pray that you feel happy, relaxed, creative, and that the thoughts appear and words just flow out in the most comfortable manner. Blessed be
KeleGrrl
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:39 pm (UTC)
Write how you need to write. It's impossible, otherwise. First and foremost, we write because the stories need to come out of our guts into the light, and because the characters beg for voices. It's always good when those stories and characters speak to others, and it sucks to feel we've disappointed them, but they aren't the first responsibility. You sound so torn with guilt, and my heart hurts for you. Please cut yourself some slack. The more you try to make your process fit into the expectations of others, the harder it gets to function at all.
Manuel Valero
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Thanks for taking your time to write as well as you can. I have so much catching up to do. I understand you are not delaying it intentionally. And by the way you are not the only one whose writing can be perceived as slow, Patrick Rothfuss too has us waiting.

Have a nice year. Everything will work out in the end.
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