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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 06:12 pm (UTC)
Don't worry
It probably took Lomas Longstrider a long time to write his Wonders series, so it's ok. Have fun!
Prra Patriiciah
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:13 pm (UTC)
Don't be depressed, I still love you more than I love the humanity
Ok, I was hopeful to have the book this year, but this little voice inside my head always new that TWOW is such a big work and that you have been under so many different kinds of pressure that it well, was just VERY hard.

I personally love the way the TV show is different from the books because I fell I have 2 amazing histories to follow. (I did get upset with how much they fucked up Dorne and the way Sir Barristan died BUT still) I am a defensor of tv show and book being 2 different kids, like twins that look alike but if you stop and pay attention, they have deep differences.

I can't tell you how much I love ASOIAF and how this books saved me and helped me to keep going when a depression got the very best of me. Even if I never get to read a new book (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) I will still be very very glad for what I read so far.

THANK YOU MARTIN, you rock! Now go write that book :3

Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Please accept no more deadlines! For all our sakes, but especially yours. You need none and it makes everyone suffer. Do what you love in the way you know how and let it flow.

This update, for better or worse, was all I've been waiting for since I heard you were going to talk to your editors and publishers in August lol. So thank you for this and don't stress about the unreasonable people (NOTHING will be enough for them so why bother?), focus on your fans who want to see you HAPPY with your completed series. We sure will be :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:15 pm (UTC)
Really interested in how the books and show will diverge
One of the best classes I took in college was a semester long study of how movie adaptations differ from the books. For example, the movie adaption of The Unbearable Lightness of Being only adapts the book's plot. And even then it adds considerably to the plot. The movie also leaves out the long philosophical portions of the book. Yet the movie, despite containing only about 5% of the book, is a faithful adaption of the spirit of the book.

Really looking forward to the choices the showrunners for Game of Thrones make, and then comparing it to the choices Martin will make with the forthcoming books.
Eloy RL
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:16 pm (UTC)
The art of planting
The seed that gave birth to this fantasy world was your imagination. Maybe someone put a bit of water in it and make it grow, but without the seed all you have is wet soil.
No ones owes you a thing Mr. R.R.Martin, actually there are lots of people that are in debt with you (me included). If you decide right now to stop writing I would not be mad at all.
I can't demand of a seed that was not mine in the first place.

Remember what Michelangelo said to the Pope Julius II when he asked about the Sistine Chapel "when will you make an end?"

"When I'm finished!"
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:17 pm (UTC)

You are amazing. And screw anyone who thinks or makes you feel otherwise. Take you time, it's your story. Thank you for all of the words you have given the world ~cindi

Ana Claudia
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Mr Martin, you say your post is bad news. Well, know that the knowledge that you are writing and that the book is happening sometime in the future is the best news I've received in a while. I feel so appreciated as a fan with your honesty in this post and sincerity about all the frustrations you've been through. You say you don't work well with deadlines. I understand that completely and I must tell you that, as a fan, I don't expect you to follow any deadline nor give us one. What I have been craving all along was this. Something concrete about the book, and not some abstract prevision of its completion. So again, thank you. It saddens me that it was obvioulsy painful for you to give us that, but know that, at least from my point of view, you've given us hope rather than dissapointment. Basically, all the fans I know and myself thought the whole process was way backwards than it actually is and we are all very pleased with your consideration in doing this.
So I end this comment as I have started it: Thank you.
Ana Rivera
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! 😉

I have never loved a story as much as I love ASOIAF. You have given a mother of two rambunctious boys a place to escape to at the end of the day, and for that I thank you. I'm sure WINDS OF WINTER will be great! Take your time, we'll be here when you're done.

What won't a mother do for her children? Please don't be so hard on Cersei. I luv her. And tyrion, and Jaime...
Tywin was a BOSS!
Not Sure
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:19 pm (UTC)
Hmmm maybe you are being too hard on yourself?
I dunno. Or take a secluded vacation somewhere with no internet until the inspiration comes. Something along those lines. In any case, it seems like you need a break from the pressure and need a reboot. Sorry about all the pressure, but at lease it's confirmation that the work you've done so far is amazing.

Best of luck to you, Mr Martin.

Matthew Howell
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:20 pm (UTC)
Don't be depressed!
We love the books and they are about as good a gift as anyone could ever give. Us fans are more demanding than we should be most of the time. Just keep up the work, one page at a time, and everything will be fine. It's going to be fantastic and every bit worth the wait!! [insert words of encouragement here]

No matter what we are all behind you. Hope you know that.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:20 pm (UTC)
Book cover
If I may ask, is the picture you used for TWOW the tentative book cover or will another book cover be chosen as the book nears completion? How far into the process of creating the book is the book cover usually chosen? I for one think the Horn of Winter would be very fitting :)
Kat Taylor
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:26 pm (UTC)
Worth a Wait
Hey George, I trust you. You may take some time but the wait is always rewarded! You've got a life, family, and responsibilities.
I know when it comes it'll be great.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you
It was very nice to receive an update on the winds of winter, so I thank you, but it was distressing to read how much you seem to be stressed and saddened about it.

Years from now the show will all be released, and the books will all be released, and it won't matter how quickly you got the books out. It'll be done when it's done, and we would all rather you take your time to make your books how you want them to be rather than rush for a deadline. As the creator of such a fantastic world, and many other great worlds (I got Fevre Dream for Christmas, and loved it!), your wellbeing means a lot to us fans.

Take care, and have a happy new year!
Claire Emma Cooper
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:27 pm (UTC)
You will get there when you get there. I dont do deadlines either so i feel your pain. We can cope i am sure. Ill read the entire series when youre done with it. For now i will just enjoy the tv series. I hope the books are as fantastic as the series. I cant see why it wouldnt be.
Much love and calming vibes your way.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:27 pm (UTC)
Dont be sad
Dear George, I have not fully read all the books in the Game of Thrones series, but, I have gone through every internet novel spoiler/wiki thing that I could get my hands on. I have also buried my self in the community of fans that followed the story since it's inception and here are my thoughts on it(you may disregard it if you want). The first book in the game of thrones series was released in the year 1996 and each sequel/continuation of the tale has had amazing twists and turns , in depth story line and amazing plot that has inspired and grown the fan base. You could mechanically release the book to "fit" the societal norm, but in the end a book should be released when the author feels ready to release it. I do not believe you owe any apologies to anyone and I am sad about your current mental state. I hope that you leave the game of thrones series and instead focus on what makes you happy, because in the end your mental health is far more important than deadlines or external pressures. Don't push yourself too hard.The book will be done when it's done. Sending you Wishes of Happiness
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George R.R. Martin
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