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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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Nikola Vulchev
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
Mr Martin, I'm an artist and I totally know what you mean about deadlines. I feel the exact same way when I have deadline and I want to tell you, don't let it stress you and be stronger than you, your fans loves you and we will wait as much as it needs. Deadlines should not mess with real art, because every peace is unique. I love your writhing and I'm sure that Winds of winter will be great.
Morna U
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I'm not taking it for granted that you give your fans so many updates about your work. Take all the time to finish and take care of yourself!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you
I'm just so glad that you are toiling so hard for us readers to be part of this incredible story that is ASOIAF. I am (as probably most of the other fans, I hope) behind you 100% in your creative writing process, and understand completely that it takes time to write a story this big and so complicated. I also think that the time you poured into this story is what makes it so great! It is after reading your ASOIAF that I learned to read books alot more, from Foucault, Dumas, Camus, Kafka, Beauvoir to Lagerquist, Knausgård, Druon and on and on. I wanted to say thank you for your hard work and for opening a whole new world to me!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:01 pm (UTC)
The audiobook?
One more thing - do you know if Roy Dotrice will be available to do the audiobook version of Winds, once it's ready?


Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the update, George. Free of the deadline constraint, let's hope the creative juices flow. I know when the book is done, I'll be in the line to buy it.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:02 pm (UTC)
I like not this news! Bring me some other news!
I like not this news! Bring me some other news!
Blanca Adriana Le Duc
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:02 pm (UTC)
I hate deadlines myself, and understand the pressure from media and internet must be impossible.
However the best way to deal with it is to dump the deadlines and be creative on your own timeline, so will wait for the book that you are creating.
As for the show, it has become so different from the books that Winds of Winter comig out won't really change anything on TV, so no worries there
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:02 pm (UTC)
Hey George,

Hope you are well and have had a great Holiday.

While that is unfortunate about not making your deadlines, I think we all don't want the work to suffer in an attempt to bring it out before a specific date. We all as readers appreciate the informative update, as well.

I have complete faith in you that you can get the book out and published this year sometime. [my personal wager will be around the time that the HBO series finishes for the year: around when Episode 10 airs.].

I am looking forward to reading it, when it does come out. I have been reading other things to pass the time, and if I am able, depending on when WINDS comes out, I may even re-read Ice and Fire leading up to the book being published. Also, I've read Dunk and Egg before, for example, but I have yet to read my edition of A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS which came out recently.

Keep up the great work!

Shaun Havanec
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:03 pm (UTC)
Concerning Your Post
Hello Mr. Martin,
I read many of your "Cliff's Notes updates" this morning, and feel compelled to respond to this one. I'm currently a grad student, and have also had my share of experiences with deadlines as well as my own personal bouts of procrastination and distraction (not accusing you at all here, that's strictly a self-criticism). One of my worst experiences was about two years ago on a major communications assignment which I was using as a precursor to my thesis; my professor was kind enough to continually give me extensions throughout the following year and a half, which I repeatedly blew past. I felt miserable during this time, thinking I was letting him down and having several friends telling me I needed to just finish it. This guilt actually held me back from completing the paper until a year later, and also made me feel incapable of finishing other less important tasks in-between. I wasn't able to hand it in until I was satisfied with it's direction and the content I produced was up to my own personal standards. With time and the patience/understanding of my professor, I managed to ace it.

My point here is that you have your own story to tell, and you're doing it at your own pace. I can not only empathize with your position on this, but I respect it. I'll never forget the magic of experiencing A Storm of Swords and the Red Wedding scene just a year before it was shown on Season 3; I'm an avid reader, yet no book has ever caused me to start shouting, flip pages back, reread, and then be left reeling. I, and I'm sure countless others, have great respect for you, and appreciate the story you're trying to tell. Take as much time as you need to perfect Winds; I know I'll be here whenever it's complete. Try to have a good New Year.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:03 pm (UTC)
I think most people, when they sit down and truly think on it, would rather have a quality piece of writing, that took longer than expected, then a mediocre mish-mash that wasn't up to par, simply to meet a deadline.

Deadline, scheadline. You've earned the right to work at your own pace and in a setting that makes you the most comfortable. My gut actually started twisting up in nervousness when you described the horrible cycle that is the deadline stress circle. "Want to write, deadline approaching, can't write, MUST WRITE SOMETHING, ANYTHING!". BLAH! What a terrible way for a great piece of writing to be born. Some days the characters give you pages upon pages of amazing words. Some days (weeks?) you sit around poking them going, "Guys? Are you still there?" and people need to understand that. I'm sure the majority will.

Thank you for all you do and not caving to the pressure of editors.

PS - One of the "spoilers not spoilers" revealed in the show that will happen in the books is Sandor will be back, yes? ;)
Sean Mercer
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:08 pm (UTC)
Internet writing recovery tool
I should start by saying that we'll all be happy whenever you finish the book and that deadlines are stupid. Take all the time you need and try not to be upset about it: quality takes time and most people can accept that.

But I'm posting because I wanted to share something with you that might help you. I don't recall what browser you use but many of them work with an extension called lazarus (search lazarus extension) that will keep track of what you've written even if the website fails. It's part of the browser itself so it is saving the content live as you type it. I've been fortunate enough not to have need of it yet but I know many people who've been saved much heartache. I hope it helps you.
Abhishek Karkare
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:08 pm (UTC)
Just the news is enough!
I'm not disappointed at all, in fact I'm mostly relieved as I've heard garbage rumours about your writing schedule (sorry for even reading such things). That is actually great to know how hard you are working. You don't need to explain even a bit. I totally get how the deadlines don't agree with you or you with the deadlines, whichever way it goes. I know the outcome is going to be as great as the rest that has come out (greater even for sure). Just enjoy writing as we are going to enjoy reading (savouring) it. And also I've learned to see the show and the books in completely different lights at least a season ago. So that is not really a concern for me that the show is taking the lead now. Just saying. :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:09 pm (UTC)
I can wait, the books come before the series for me, and I won't be watching until after the books no matter what the time scale. But take your time and don't rush them out just for the sake of publishing, you're treating it with the right approach in my opinion, I just want a well written and stunning book just like the rest in the series, and I'm happy to wait for that.
Keep up the good work, love all your work.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:09 pm (UTC)
Don't worry about us, do what you need to do. I'm sure most people would be more upset if you rushed it and turned out something you weren't happy with.
Oneman Nameno
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:10 pm (UTC)
It made me sad to read this. Not because WINDS is being delayed, but because you seem so broken up about it. I hope you're aware of how level-headed and understanding most reactions have been online. We love you, man.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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