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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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Taylor Berger
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:27 pm (UTC)
Take the time that you need
You've done a fantastic job with the other books in the series so I wouldn't have it any other way. If you decide tomorrow to scrap the thing a rewrite it from scratch I'd still be happy you're writing. Take the time that you need, polish it like you did the others and we'll devour it when you're ready to serve it to us :D
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:29 pm (UTC)
I believe you shouldn't feel dissapointed with yourself. Real lovers of the book will wait whatever is necessary to read a masterpiece like yours.

Gabe Luxton
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:31 pm (UTC)
Fuck the haters Mr. Martin.
We await your next installment patiently. The books are ALWAYS better than the show.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:31 pm (UTC)
It will be done when it's done. So it goes. :)
Oskar Tegby
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:33 pm (UTC)
It's alright!

Take your time, George.
Chris Morgan
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:33 pm (UTC)
Whenever it's done I'll read it.
And I'll probably enjoy it too. Keep writing because you love it, and it'll show in the books we read about the characters we love.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:33 pm (UTC)
Take care of yourself
Though I am an ardent fan of ASoIaF, I will never wish for you to push yourself to exertion. The things keep piling up, life keeps happening. Please take good care of yourself. Even though deadlines and ravenous fans are chomping at the bit, they always fail to realize that you are human. After my brother passed away, I took solace in the giant world you created, and it helped me get through the hardest times. Though it's obvious to some (you most of all), there are many who do not realize how HUGE the world you created is. Coming up with story details and dialogue is hard enough - you have continuity to figure in as well! I applaud your choice to not rush things along and just give us the instant gratification that many of the GoT fans get to receive - they are now officially separate entities. And I for one want you to do exactly what you are doing - your very best.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:34 pm (UTC)
Hang in there, it's not something to force.
While I like the occasional writing challenge myself, pressure to finish a story usually kills it.

Wouldn't it be something if pirates held their own awards ceremonies? The award statuette could be an old VHS tape cast in gold.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:36 pm (UTC)
I would rather the books remain as dense in history, family, and characters (as well as the fun little "trivia" bits) while still maintaining the quality in writing.

I don't want to sound condescending at all, but I know that now that the books are a phenomenon and a lot of fans that traditionally may not be "thick fantasy novel" readers are reading them. I think this is great, but they can't expect the same quick turn around that writers of their usual fiction may be able to churn out. Rothfuss is another example. Pat has a story that twists in and out of itself with interesting mysteries, connections, and that same "trivia" and he's one of the most beautiful prose writers of his generation. While it's been a long wait for his third book, I would rather not lose that simply to find out who lives, who dies, "who ends up together", etc.

Once the books are done they are not going to get a "special edition", I don't see anyone going back to re-write their books (rare case: Stephen King) to add in details they may have been forced to edit out or simply didn't have the time/deadline to do. Once they are done we will know who lives, dies, is married, is miserable. We'll know the end, but then when we re-read we get to enjoy the journey. The journey we will enjoy for YEARS shouldn't be compromised so that people our THIS year can chase that one moment of "reward" at the end.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:38 pm (UTC)
good choice
To write this post, I think. Leave the "deadlines" aside. It will only serve to put pressure on you and add to the "writers cramp". Now that you have put the time goals aside I think you will be more relaxed and free to let the inspiration flow and soon the book will be finished. I don't think that beeing an author and writer could ever work as a 9-5 job where you just produce and produce, it is a work of artistery, and that cannot be produced upon command. So relax and let the passion of your work return. We will read it when it is done!
Jeremy Wootten
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
It's OK, I will wait.
Ah Hell,

I procrastinate so much I've never written a book, probably never will. I've never met you but I found "Game of Thrones" back in the late 90's in a Barnes and Noble in Michigan next to John Marco's "Jackal Of Nar." Which was a good damn read in its own right. I found your book because it was shelved next to his. I'd never heard of you just as I'd never heard of Marco till I found him browsing. Back then as I recall I thought the silver of the cover on "Game of Thrones." was a bit flashy kind of like one might see on a special edition comic book of the time. That said the words on the back cover and in the liner along with the art drew me in.

I voraciously tore through "Game of Thrones" and "Clash of Kings" and then painfully waited for each new book in the saga. I tried very hard to get my group of reader and gaming friends to pick it up but they all seemed to be too caught up in the "Wheel of Time" saga and such back then to give reading "Game of Thrones" a try. I told them how I had not see it's like along the lines of knights and royal lineages and jousting since like back when I read "Le morte d'arthur." It was difficult because amoungst my friends they sought out high fantasy works and wanted things with more magic and monsters then your early books provided. (Side note that they all love your works now some thanking me for getting to them prior to the shows and others who never did read the novels but love the shows. In either case I am not surprised.) For my part I loved how you peppered the books with rumors and hints of magic and more to come. I would have been satisfied perhaps even without the more fantastical aspects of the saga that have become more front and center.

I enjoyed the craft and ground work so much in your novels that I even created an amateur non collectible card game based on your world complete with a strong jousting mechanic based upon rock paper scissors that I am still rather proud of and at the time I'd hoped to submit the game to you one day since back then you where not very well known so I'd thought I'd have more time to perfect it. Needless to say Eric Lang from FFG back then beat me to it and went on to become one of my favorite game designers as well. In retrospect his CCG version was better over all then mine anyhow and I got to meet him in person at a Con once and even managed to beat him with a Lannister discard deck. I then tried for years to get my friends to play his CCG and FFG board games based on your works and had some success in that area eventually bringing you some new fans who would then go on to read your works.

These days it amazes me just how big "A Song of Ice and Fire" has become. It honestly damn near rivals Star Wars in fan base size now a days. Just amazing!. It is a point of vanity and pride for me that I found and disseminated your novels amoungst my friends early on still to this day. I've gone on to read every piece of your work since and my personal favorites are "Fevre Dream." Because of your unique take on the Vampire Mythos and because of the relationship between Joshua York and Abner Marsh, who reminds me of my father a bit. That and "The Armageddon Rag" But then that's is mostly because I am an amateur singer and a huge fan of classic rock and well in my view you really knocked the deal with the devil in music crossroads tale outta the park there with the "Nazgul" George.

So for what its worth I'd like to express to you that it's totally fine to cut yourself some more slack and take your time George. You are already one of the most imaginative writers of fiction I've ever read regardless of setting. A Magnum Opus needs to be done right and in its own time not on the times of others regardless of how the world and our need for distraction from it seems to have sped up in this day and age.

I know it will be worth it once you are finished and happy with it and I have for one have the patience to wait.


A big fan of yours for life currently residing in Chicago.

Jeremy S. Wootten.

Edited at 2016-01-02 06:51 pm (UTC)
Stone Malone
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:42 pm (UTC)
I would rather you took your time to create the best possible writing that you're capable of instead of meeting a deadline to please corporate and all the entitled fans who demand another book now.

The pressure of HBO, publishers, and millions of fans must be intense to say the least. Don't let it crush you.
Patrick Foreman
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:43 pm (UTC)
Don't apologize
I will never forget the fated encounter at a bookstore about 16 years ago. I was in high school, browsing covers and back covers for a book that would appeal to me. On a display case I noticed a thick paperback book, completely white, with a dark figure in the front. Something inspired me to pick up the book.

On the back I was promised a tale of treachery and romance and betrayal. It sounded amazing. I don't remember what else was summarized there, but it caused me to buy the book. I had no idea it would deliver, and some.

So in love was I that I would bring it to school to read excerpts to my friends (being in high school, most of these may have involved Jaime and Cersei). I was so excited, and somehow proud, for this gem I had stumbled upon that I just had to share the world you created in A GAME OF THRONES with everyone I loved.

As I waited incrementally longer durations between books, I had to find ways of filling those voids. I read other authors, and I scoured your webpage, and I paid close attention to what you were reading and watching. A decade ago I seem to remember you blogging about your dreams of a miniseries. People made lists consisting of Patrick Stewart and Brad Pitt and other movie stars that could be Stannis or Jaime, and the like. I had just as little knowledge that the hidden gem at Barnes and Noble would be written by my now favorite author, and become my favorite book series, than I did that my unearthed gem had any chance of being brought to life on TV, and captivating the world.

The books are my first love. Just because I can't have them all right now does not decrease my love of them. I'm disappointed, sure, and I will skip the show until Winds of Winter is out, because I'm like that about spoilers-- but that's my choice. And I sure as hell won't blame you for being a genius and taking your time to polish your work of art. I will do what I did when I waited for A Storm of Swords or A Feast for Crows, and that is to reread your series. I'll allow myself to be surprised by other creators, like Walter Jon Williams, or Daniel Abraham, or Alexandre Dumas (after reading The Count, you guys are tied), and I'll bide my time, like Daenarys, and like her I will continue on my path, despite the naysayers, because I have faith in myself (and you).

Thank you!
Russ Nickel
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:45 pm (UTC)
George! I just want to throw my voice into this whirlpool of positivity. You are writing perhaps the greatest book series of all time. That's incredible. You're an amazing author (my favorite author), whose stories and novels have touched millions of people, affecting them in subtle but deep ways, helping guide us through life's infinite variations. We're all just lucky that you exist and that you do what you do. Think how many people you've gotten into fantasy! How many people who decided they love reading because of your books. How many people want to be writers because they've read your stories. You're causing a profound impact on the world, and it's wonderful. So take your time, enjoy the writing, revel in the work. We're all cheering you on.
Jeremy Laws
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:46 pm (UTC)
Changes Nothing
Good afternoon, Mr. Martin. I follow the blog eagerly for updates on all of your work. I never comment on your posts because I don't find it particularly necessary, but felt compelled to do so on this particular post because of the extreme negativity that is likely to emerge in the coming days. The overwhelming majority of people possessing even a shred of sanity understand that creating a work of fiction is not an exact science, particularly when the pressure has mounted to this unprecedented level. I find it incredible that some folks have the audacity to be critical of your writing and even engage in character assassination when the only reason they care about the release of the book to begin with is because of an obvious obsession with your work and the exceptional world you have built. The insatiable need for instant gratification continues to worsen and spiral further out of control in our society and this leads to a disconcerting and, quite frankly, a disturbing degree of entitlement in some of these "fans." I think I speak for most when I say that we are excited to read the book and continue our journey with all of the beloved characters and locations when, and only when, the book is deemed ready and complete by you and you alone. I appreciate your hard work, your tenacity in the face of all this pressure and your desire to enjoy all of life's offerings beyond one singular aspect of your life. The world is a big beautiful place full of wonderful experiences to be had, and I tend to think it has a dramatic impact on our intellect and perspective, which often enhances creative output. Life is ultimately just the summation of our experiences and memories, so I encourage all of you armchair critics to find new ways to derive pleasure and happiness from your own lives and to quit depending on another human being (one who owes you nothing) to provide fulfillment for you. Happy New Year, George and thank you for everything you've given us (going beyond ASOIAF here). I look forward to enjoying your work for years to come, release dates be damned.
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George R.R. Martin
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