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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 07:51 am (UTC)
Life happens. I super respect your honesty about your difficulties. We can all wait, and hopefully now that all deadlines have passed you can relax a bit, take your time, and do what you do best as it comes. A delayed book is far better than a rushed/half-assed one. Take care of yourself and I hope you have a fantastic year! :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:51 am (UTC)
This shows me even more how much you care about your fans. I'm nearly positive you could finish in the next couple years (the whole series) but won't. Would that quickly finished book live up? Maybe but I honestly don't mind waiting. To me that just means you're writing the absolute best book that you're able to. I'll take that over something that was rushed due to pressure.

This isn't wonderful news but it's a confirmation that the integrity of the series won't be compromised due to demands. Something like that is worth waiting on.

Good luck finishing up. Don't beat yourself up too bad. Winter is coming, and the longer the summer, the more epic that winter will be.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:51 am (UTC)
Happy new year!

Take your time. We know it'll be great :)
Aksel Hjalmarsson Trgar
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:51 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you for the update. It means a lot to me.

Here's to a great year, 2016.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:51 am (UTC)
Ok, its very hopefully.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:51 am (UTC)
Love you George. Thanks for giving this update.....
Mouath Alghamdi
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:52 am (UTC)
It's worth it
I know you can't say that Mr. Martin, but there's always the chance for readers to stop watching the series until the books are done.

As hard as it sounds, since avoiding spoilers would be difficult, but your masterpiece is totally worth it.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:52 am (UTC)
Take your time!
I know I don't speak on behalf of all fans, but your transparency and willingness to share your raw emotion with this post was so gratifying -- no matter how negative or underwhelming the news may have been.

Just wanted to let you know that. Best of luck with your writing the rest of the way! We'll be here. Cheers.
Nathan Dye
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:53 am (UTC)
No worries
Hey George, just wanted to say that you are a wonderful writer and I will be happy to read TWOW whenever it comes out, be that next spring, next year, or in the years to come. While I can't speak for the whole fanbase, I can say that as one single lowely fan of yours, I don't harbor any bad feelings at all. So however long it takes, I know it will be worth the wait, and you can rest assured that you will always have one loyal fan (and I know there are many more) who is eager to read whatever you put out next. Thanks for all the time and effort you've devoted to giving us a whole knew world to escape to when we are feeling down as well. We're with you!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:53 am (UTC)
Thank you George
I had a strange feeling such a post was coming, and was part of the lost LJ post - something about how you lamented losing it so much made me feel you had important news you were very nervous about sharing George.

I was the idiot that linked in that "no pages" article, and not to be a PITA as I've always understood what you've said about your writing as my own issues are much the same in that regard. I brought it up because it angered me as I knew it to not be true, and blatant lies in the media about people I like and respect angers me.

Nobody but you can understand the pressure you're under George, and I thank you for your honesty and integrity here - most authors wouldn't bother interacting with their readers in a forum such as this, much less give them such a detailed update on the progress of things with future books. I know most everyone here feels the same way, and I thank you for the access you give us fans here, and your personal responses you often take the time to make. I'll take that over you feeling pressured to rush out a book 8 days a week.

So, take your time George, the book story compared to the TV program is such a different animal, and as you pointed out, books are virtually always different, more detailed, and superior in description than the visual medium can be due to time. I'm actually much, much happier after reading this update than I would have been without being gifted this information by you. The public/fans can enjoy season 6, and look forward to WoW next year in my opinion. Not that you need anyone's permission or unsolicited advice, but give yourself the time you need to write it as you want it to read. It only gets published once after all.

Thanks again George, this post has been a great New Year's gift. It's a new year, and I hope this LJ post will act as a blow off valve for you, and help relieve some of this pressure you've described. Enjoy your success, live life, you've more than earned that IMO. I'll bet that sooner than you imagine there will be a post here with that book cover and giant words "Done" typed underneath, which will set off celebrations all across the net. I look forward to that day, and will patiently await it.

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:07 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:53 am (UTC)
Thanks for post, George
Honestly, just thanks for writing all of this. It can't have been easy to post it. Speaking for many, we're rooting for you, man. I came to A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE through GAME OF THRONES, and I know we're going to see some fabulous stuff in both the show and in THE WINDS OF WINTER. There's a number of us that will be at Balticon 50 here in a few months. We're looking forward to you being there as well (if you can make it; if not, we understand in totality)

Best wishes for the New Year, and if you make it to Baltimore in May, the first blue crab and Natty Boh is on me.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:53 am (UTC)
Thank you very much mr. Martin, very appreciate all the information you were able to give us. Of course we are disappointed, how can we not be, but we will still be waiting as long as it takes. Thank you for your work, and happy new year!
Zafri Mollon
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:54 am (UTC)
No worries
No worries, George. You have an incredible cast of characters and the sheer number of plots and subplots and sub-subplots would be enough to make the brains of most mortals cry. The books are amazing. It is my favourite series by far, and I judge all antagonists against those from your books (in terms of depth and realism). The show has been a great diversion, but the books are where my heart is. I had the pleasure of meeting you when you last came to Toronto, and I only had a comment and not a question. I said: "Take as much time as you need." You're your own worst critic, and I know that you won't be happy until it is well and truly done, and that means we'll get to read the best book possible. We'll wait, and those who aren't prepared to wait can go elsewhere. Don't listen to the trolls.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:54 am (UTC)
Thank you George
Really, thank you thank you. It's wonderful to read this, though it did not seem wonderful to write it. But we loyal bannermen needed it. It's cold outside, anxiety is a bitch, and since you have this absolutely sincere account, we will go on with our lives and leave you to do what you do best -- to write. Maybe that way you will feel more peace, relax more, have less distractions and find pleasure in writing TWOW. Thank you for everything.
Anthony DeMarco
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:55 am (UTC)
don't be depressed, i don't think any real fan is that disappointed. we want the book but we want it to be the best it can be. if anything the fact that your editors thought halloween was even a possibility makes me think you aren't far away. keep writing. if anyone doesn't like it, fuck 'em.
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George R.R. Martin
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