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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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Chatenay Tom
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:49 pm (UTC)
Don't Panic!
Don't panic, worry, and be happy !
I'm convinced that culture, beauty, love and those kinds of life-saving accessories can't be pushed before their time.
As a cook i know that i need recipes and nearly fascist organisation to put those said accessories in a plate but i mostly know that what really matters and grows those things is the fact that I try to have the most happy, full life possible. And that i try to do my best in every aspect of my life.
And that needs time, that needs holidays, that needs kissing your wife and getting drunk or you'r just the slave of your goals and we all know that slaves are shitty workers.
So it seems to me you're doing it right!
Don't worry,keep nourishing your life and keep growing culture around you ( I'm truly amazed of what you do when you don't write, anthologies, cinema,artistic playground...your a real Medicis! Thanks for that)
Un grand salut de Bretagne à un grand homme d'Amérique!
James Raiter
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:50 pm (UTC)
George - Don't apologize. The fact that it's not done yet only indicates that it is not the best it can possibly be, and nothing more. You can't rush art. And to millions of us ASOIAF is precisely that, art. I have the utmost faith that you would never put out anything subpar just to meet a deadline, and that only makes me respect you more as an artist. We can wait as long as needed for winter to come and as grandma used to say "Winter friends are friends forever."

Stay positive, sir.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:52 pm (UTC)
I would rather you be late and good than on time and cruddy!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:52 pm (UTC)
I'd like more Haviland Tuf...
While most readers might disagree, I'm happy to wait for the best conclusion this great series deserves.

But in the mean time, there are other great characters that I'd like to read about again, and which might be less pressure and more fun to write about. I'd love a few more Haviland Tuf stories.
Jonny Loker
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:52 pm (UTC)
The story is yours, and we don't deserve anything. Thanks for being honest, because that means a lot to many of us. We didn't have our hopes up, because we weren't given a deadline, and that's clearly the best way for you to write. So best of luck. Maybe I'll skip out on the next season if it'll keep your narrative intact.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:54 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't ask Michelangelo to rush the sistine chapel (though I'm sure someone did). Be done when you're done, looking forward to reading it.
Monty Tayloe
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:54 pm (UTC)
I still love ya George!
Do what you gotta do GRRM! I like my ASOIF long, complicated and full of greatness, and that's what you've always delivered before now. When the books come I'll be ready! Everybody else can go eat night soil!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:56 pm (UTC)
Another example of a show overlapping the writing material?
Thank you, GRRM. I can't imagine what it must have taken to write this post up, lose it, and write it again. My hope is that the rest of the Internet gives you, and this post, the incredible respect and gratitude you deserve for opening up so fully about all this. I look forward to reading the book when it's done, and no earlier!

I am aware of only one other example of a TV show passing the original writer: the Japanese anime FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST, which was able to follow the plot of the original comics for about half its run and then diverged completely in the latter half, concluding the existing story threads on its own terms. (Several years later, once the comic was finished, a second anime adaptation was commissioned which started back at the beginning and followed the original author's plot all the way through). Perhaps not exactly the same situation, but it may be heartening to know it's sort of happened before. Maybe give Hiromu Arakawa a call?
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:58 pm (UTC)
Writing a book like Winds of Winter surely takes a long time and we understand that, but what I personally don't understand is the way you deal with your deadlines. I'm not trying to tell you how you should be doing your jobs cause that's none of my business, but the fact that you like to do other projects while writing your masterpiece also can't be avoided. Why don't you finish your main story and then do other projects. This is no surprise to me. You can't be expected to do several things at once and still deliver what was mainly promised. Many years from now no one, but a few group of people will even mention the name of our other projects, but I assure you George, everyone will be talking about winds of winter and dream of spring, so please just focus on those first. I only mean this in the most respectful way. At the end you know what's best. Good luck!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:58 pm (UTC)
Dear Mr. Martin:

The work of an artist can never be rushed or forced (well, it can, but it usually does no one any good), personally, I am not disappointed in you, I think that if this is part of the process in order for us to have the next chapter of the amazing series you've delivered to this world, then it is what it is. I will continue watching the show, I will continue to read whenever Winds is ready and I am sure many of us support you and share the same view. Thank you very much for taking the time to post and make a comment regarding the situation, that alone let us all know that you do care. Right now I am a lot more worried wondering what format I should get once the new book is out, since I want them to match the box set I have but they usually come out first as hardcover, decisions, decisions.

May you have a very fruitful 2016, cheer up, we love you and cherish you and your work. Season 6 will be in time for my birthday (April 15th, yay) and maybe the next book will be in time for Halloween, Christmas or my next birthday... honestly, I don't care if I've to wait, gives me time to re-read the series because the Universe knows I only remember 3/4 or the names you wrote down, hahaha.

Blessings! ♥
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:59 pm (UTC)
more tinfoil it is!
I'll just have to spend more time on reddit/r/asoiaf and watching Preston Jacobs videos ... some of the theories out there are so much fun
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:59 pm (UTC)
No worry
Dude, we love you. Do your thing.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 05:59 pm (UTC)

Hi george dont sweat it man. Will get to read it this year sometime you think thats ok with me (never before have i laughed so much with tears rolling down my face when reading your song of ice and fire books) Lord to fat is the man. Anyway dont know about anyone else but i stopped watching HBOs GOT after 2 Eps last year its gone s*#t. So i avoid spoilers and await the son of kong HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU SIR

Jason Gorski
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
I'd rather wait and read a quality book than have you try rushing it out and end up with a poorly written one. Take your time and make it great!
Kevin W
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
Do your thing
I'd hate to see it take you a long time to wrap up the story, but none of us can really rush perfection so it is what it is.

I'll be reading the books regardless of when you release them.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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