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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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Michael Souto
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:42 pm (UTC)
I can't say I'm not bummed out by the news, but your novels have never let me down yet. I will continue to watch (and enjoy) the show, but I won't forget that for the real deal, including updates on my buddies Jon Connington and Arianne Martell, I just need to wait for the master. Happy writing, George! We all believe in you.
Ari Landworth
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:42 pm (UTC)
I don't understand why people are always so fake in these comment threads. Maybe the outraged comments get removed... I'm upset, I'm frustrated, and there's nothing I can do about it. Some idiot on Facebook or reddit or 4chan is going to spoil the plot from the show and it's going to mess up the books for me. The show turned into a huge disappointment, and I stopped watching it even before they began to gain pace on the books. Now something I have no desire to watch is going to completely ruin something I love. It's what we expected from you. I believe this is what should bother you the most, but I don't feel like that sentiment came across. You didn't let everyone down because you failed to meet our expectations, you let everyone down because you behaved exactly as we expected. I'm sure the book will be great in three years, then what? The next book will be more of the same. The show will be finished long before the books, and there will be a sour taste in readers mouths as we read books that are tainted by inevitable spoilers. I refuse to watch the show anymore, but there is no avoiding the internet. This sucks.
Jose Melena
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:42 pm (UTC)
Happy New Year! Just keep on keepin' on!
Kevin TwinDaddy Bradley
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:43 pm (UTC)
One of the Waiters
I really appreciate the reminder at the end of just how far from the books the show has already diverged. I've enjoyed both, and I'm grateful for you sharing with us. It's never fun to deliver bad news, but we're willing to wait for the book we know you can deliver.

I'll leave you with a quote by one of my heroes, Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of the original Super Mario Bros) — 'A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.'
Bernhard Vienna
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:44 pm (UTC)
Winds of Winter as told by Hodor
Or you could publish Winds of Winter as told by Hodor. Just an idea.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:44 pm (UTC)
George -

As soon as deadlines are set, they stress me out. I am *always* more productive at my own pace; projects are better with with only passion as motivation. I'm glad that's what's driving you in 2016.

Good luck, friend.
Britta Stensrud
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:45 pm (UTC)
Mr. Martin
Thank you for sharing this with your readers and fans. I too abhor deadlines and I can't judge you at all for that! I keep forgetting you are human like the rest of us and not this literary wizard who writes the best fiction I've read in a long time! Take as much time as you need, we will all be here waiting! I, for one, think you should throw a couple 'Hodor' chapters in, he is so deep and insightful with everything he says.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:45 pm (UTC)
hey man.

don't sweat it. genius and depression are always intertwined - they are the same thing.

take care of yourself first and the words will flow. or they won't. there are plenty of unfinished masterpieces in the world and we love them (and their authors) just the same.


Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:45 pm (UTC)
We love you :)
M dB
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:45 pm (UTC)
Good luck!
Dear Mr. Martin, I wish you all the best of luck with writing. All I wanted to say was: please take your time (yes, you have done so, but please keep doing so - do not let everyone make you stressed) and try to make the book as good/perfect as you can so you are totally content with the end result. Then, we (all real fans of your superb series) will be and the long wait will quickly be forgotten. Good luck and have fun with writing in 2016.
Alberto Gomez
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:46 pm (UTC)
We'll be waiting
We don't care to wait months, even years, we just want you to feel proud of what you've written so we can say the novel's been worth the wait. Thank you!
Radhika Cameron
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
George thanks for the genuine and heartfelt update. I think so many of us can resonate with the problem of deadlines, tests and other forms of stress when engaging in creative process. I completely empathize! But can't even fathom the enormous pressure you must be feeling!! I mean geez only the biggest show in history and the most epic tale ever!
Relaxation is where all the magic happens, when there is no pressure or deadlines, just complete nothing and openness. This is by far the most challenging thing to keep in mind as an artist or writer or creator of any kind.
I have so much respect for how you are keeping it real and showing your humanity and staying true to yourself. Thank you. And it sounds like your support system is right there with you.
So do everything you need to achieve that relaxed and happy state! The magic is flowing!
Your fans, Hbo, publishers are all on your side!

Sending hugely positive energy your way!!

Beaux Petit
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:47 pm (UTC)
It did it to me as well
So here are my Cliffnotes (probably a good thing, I talk to much).

I'm a huge fan who started with the show then switched to the books. I quickly learned how much I prefer the depth of the book and certain things were a disappointing read knowing what was about to happen, such as the Red Wedding. By the time the purple wedding aired on HBO, I'd reread the books several times and joined Westeros.org. I missed the original airing due to my work schedule but facebook was littered with spoilers. Of course I knew what to expect from an episode titled "The Lion and the Rose," but I didn't go spoiling that for the show viewers. I find hope fleeting that I might be able to avoid encountering spoilers as well as I avoided issuing them. That is my only real disappointment in the delay, as I have been waiting such a short time as others.

The real reason for this comment is because I noticed you said you tried and are trying.
When I was getting clean off drugs I "tried" a thousand times. When I got into a sober living residence, I had a month clean and no job. During a group I told everyone I was trying to find one but I was informed that if I kept trying I'd never succeed. As Yoda once said, "Do or do not. There is no try." Wise though he is, Yoda is wrong. Trying is very real. Trying is the least form of sincerity. When I try, I'm not putting everything I have into it. Often I am doing it for someone else so that I can at least say I put forth an effort. When we try, we might succeed, but if we fail that's fine too.
I heard that and it stuck with me. I went and got a job, not the best job, more one you laugh at, but it was a step. Next thing I knew I was 6 months sober with a better job and my own meditation group to lead every Sunday morning. This was mid 2013, and I am still improving my life daily ever since I quit trying.
I'm saying all this because if you are trying to complete this book series, it is no wonder that it is so consistently held up. I'm sure that the pressure you feel from us fans is nothing if not overwhelming.

Here's the thing, though. While we are the audience that will be buying and reading your book, you aren't writing it for us. Whether or not you consider A Song of Ice and Fire your masterpiece I can say one thing with certainty: A Song of Ice and Fire will be your legacy. Each of these books you release must be for yourself. Quit trying to make us happy and do what you need to do. I don't know about you but I'm my own biggest obstacle in anything I do. I've once had a fear of failure so strong that I wouldn't allow myself to succeed either. It's not really failure if I didn't do the best I could because I could have done better.
Do what you need, it makes no matter to me. Take a break from winds, wait a year, take five.... If you do that though, hook us up with some more Dunk and Egg tales in the meantime. I'm almost more curious about Egg and Bloodraven than Lord Snow right now. Besides, I'll get my ASOIAF dosage through tv spoilers anyway.
Do what you gotta do, but do it well. You know what trying is getting you better than anyone else but I can tell you a rushed Novel will be more disappointing than a few more years of waiting.
Thank you for writing the best books I've read since becoming adult enough to understand them.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:47 pm (UTC)
sigh. i'm taking it as a lesson in patience, in these times of instant gratification. take care, be well, take your time - the books are what will remain a hundred years from now :-)
Matt Lester
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:48 pm (UTC)
Happy New Year to you
Mr. Martin, your books have brought me so much fun and thought, and have been a gateway drug to sci-fi and fantasy for me. I bought the anthologies to get Dunk & Egg, and they introduced me to so many terrific authors. I have loved the Wild Cards books, and still have many more to go.

You owe me and your readers nothing, their claims notwithstanding. I will buy your books when they are done, but if you decide to take up diesel repair and change your name to Lomax, I'll just reread what I have and produce puppet shows to fill in the blanks, and wait for the next couple (few?) Aprils.

On the other hand, I feel like I owe you a lot. Thanks for the enjoyment that's much more valuable than the money it cost, and here's hoping you will find some joy and satisfaction in the remainder of your writing. Or the mechanic thing.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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