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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 06:47 pm (UTC)
George, it's cool.
We all are slobbering for this book, but I don't know too many super-amazingly written, compelling fantasy series that are so chock full of Gene Wolfe-esque hidden goodies and buried treasure clues out there. Not to mention a cast of thousands, realistic relationships, high drama that would make Dumas turn his head, and tons of plot lines weaving in and out. Sure, there are good books out there, but yours is very special.

You need a little extra time to finish? I think a ton of people can easily live with that. I sure can! You're mostly only hearing from the loud angry folks (like in political arenas, or on comment sections of websites). I hope the many positive messages get to you more than the negative, and remember those silent fans that are quite happily and patiently waiting, too! They exist in droves, trust me.

So don't be too hard on yourself. We are all our own worst critic sometimes. Just take a deep breath (or several) , do your thing, and we will all be waiting. You the man, George. You the man.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:50 pm (UTC)
Spoiler Reciprocity

I am sad to hear it, but I understand.

I think that part of the issue that's not been discussed here in the comments (edit: or at least hadn't been when I started typing---there are 11 pages of comments now!) is that book-readers did an extremely good job of not spoiling huge twists (Ned's Beheading, Red Wedding, Purple Wedding, end of ADwD, etc.) for show-watchers, but people fear the opposite will not hold. When the Red Wedding happened there was a media storm---every news show and late night show and peripherally-related blog had a piece or shared a candid-camera like video. Most people guess that Winds spoilers will be unavoidable, and that the self-control the book-readers showed will not be reciprocated.

As you rightly point out, the stories have diverged quite a bit. But the show still nevertheless aims to mirror ASoIaF. If we see critical history through Bran's third eye on the show, or if we meet Howland Reed, or if who-knows-what-you-have-in-store-for-us happens on the show, it will be inescapable.

I think these concerns are largely academic. I myself don't know any book reader who didn't already think that Kit Harington would be in the next season, even before rumors of him on set spread. I don't know any book-reader who has vowed to not watch the show until they read Winds. And I don't know of any book-reader who has decided to not bother with Winds because they can just watch the show. Every book reader knows that the world in the show is not nearly as rich or nearly as interesting the book. What show watcher wonders about Summerhall? Or remembers who Illyrio is? Or understands what is happening (or maybe not, on the show) in Dorne?

Will major plot points overlap? I think yes (though obviously you know better :P ). Will that spoil the book? Maybe a little. Do I care? A little. Do I hope you have an easier time finishing Winds from here on out? Yes, because I'm dying to read it!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:52 pm (UTC)
Winter Friends
Take as long as you need. These books will be what remains long after the show ends and people are on to the next popular series.
This is your creation and your life. Don't allow the depression to set in.
Best wishes from a book fan and show watcher.
Rena Roysdon Arden
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:52 pm (UTC)
I cannot die until I have read this so..anyway..I know it will be great but I am dying a little every day waiting
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:52 pm (UTC)
Unless someone has sat down and written a story, any story, they can't understand how a writer agonizes over their words. The GoT books are incredibly complex containing a mind-bogglingly extensive cast of characters and they don't write themselves. So, with that in mind, I hope that anyone delivering guilt trips would just back off. Good luck, George. And be kind to yourself, you're only human.
Jake Lenihan
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:53 pm (UTC)
I'm actually quite relieved after reading the whole post! When I first read the words,"You wanted an update. Here's the update. You won't like it", I was thinking something terrible was happening, such as "I've decided to retire from writing".

When Winds is ready, I will buy it and enjoy it. Until then, I will continue enjoying the show.
Emmanuel P. Petricioli
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:53 pm (UTC)
From Mexico to New Mexico
I need to say that this news aren't so bad. A large number of us would never have read A song of ice and fire if we hadn't saw the show first. The show its ok, its good, but the novel... The novel will transcend and remain as the successor of The lord of the rings.
There's only one thing you need to keep in mind George: Dont let the money or the lights change your focus, sit down on your spot and keep writing as you always did, not for yourself, not for the world, but for the future, for the thousands and millions of eyes that will read your novel and will not remember the show, the awards or the time between publications. They will only remember the magic voyage that A song of ice and fire is.
Greetings George, we love you world wide!
Yuri Amorim
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:55 pm (UTC)
Take your time
Take whatever the time you need, George. I can DEFINITELY relate to this "deadline pressure" issue that you've described. I'm afraid deadlines doesn't work for me either. The thing is... as a creator you're the only one that can say when the job is done. The show is the show, the books are another matter. And we're pretty sure that you're doing your best. Believe us: we know what your best is - and, sure, we're eager to have more of it. But take your time. It'll be done whenever your heart says so. Have a great new year - with even more accomplishments!!!
Laura DeVaudreuil
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:55 pm (UTC)
You've written one of the most complex fantasy worlds in modern fiction and you think you need to apologize for it taking time! Madness!

Don't listen to the trolls, you owe us nothing. Thank you for continuing to write.
Melissa Smith-Beckner
Jan. 2nd, 2016 06:57 pm (UTC)
Ain't Soup Yet
People are only disappointed because the books are so awesome! We love and support you George!
Lori Degarmo
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:01 pm (UTC)
George, I have neither read the books or seen the show Game of Thrones. I have been intending to binge-watch the tv show, and at some point, also read the books. I have procrastinated. I am the Queen of Procrastination, and it depresses me. I understand depression, have suffered with it most of my life, and it is often my procrastination that stirs up the depression. I get disappointed in myself for getting distracted and off point. So, George, I totally understand where you're coming from. At least you are a very successful guy. You have accomplished important things. I, on the other hand, have not. So do what you can do when you can do it. That's all any of us can really do anyway.
Ashleigh Halderman
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:02 pm (UTC)
Dear Mr. Martin,
Please do not apologize. I cannot even imagine the tremendous pressure you must feel. I for one am incredibly excited for both the show and the book no matter what order they come in and I wish all fans could feel the same way and support you in the way you deserve. What other author has been in this situation?? This road has not been paved. Mostly, I want you to feel supported, to know that for many who absolutely love you and your work-no pressure. Live your life! Enjoy the fruits of your labor and the amazing things you have done for science fiction, the city of Santa Fe, traveling, publishing, editing, etc.
Most importantly, I want to say THANK YOU!!!! Your work has captivated my imagination in a way that no other work has and has been an absolute release/escape during an incredibly difficult time in my life (a surgical residency). I started watching the show before I read the books then pulled ahead of the show by reading all the books so I have enjoyed the experience in a weird mix of both. It has remained an epic experience-literally and cinematically. I like that some parts I saw first on TV-during the red wedding, I was actually on my knees screaming in my living room. My 2 dogs and husband came running in like "What the hell is wrong with you??" To which I responded "Don't look at me-get out you're ruining this!!" Overdramatic, I know, but it was insanely done and I was so wrapped up in it. I cannot say it enough-Thank You for this world you built and the stories that you weave so masterfully.

Andy Reeg
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the update. Now I know to look forward to GoT season 6 in April.

Life is too short to stress over deadlines (or work in general). Take a deep breath and realize the world now knows and accepts. We will patiently wait.

Sit back, relax, and be yourself. Let it happen naturally and it will most likely be easier to finish.

Happy New Year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:07 pm (UTC)
Don't get discouraged, the quality and attention you pay to it SHOWS. Rome wasn't built in a day, nor even year to year.
Honestly, I enjoy the "it will be ready WHEN IT IS READY" perspective, as in all you can tell it means just as much to you to make it great as it will to the world that will read it.

It's your magnum opus (the series), and whenever it releases it will be remembered for it's quality, not it's date of delivery.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for explaining it to us. I get that you're doing your best, and it'll be done when it's done. And hey, I was a Police fan in the years between the band breaking up and the band utterly unexpectedly doing a reunion tour, when I finally got to see them. I think I can cope with a bit more waiting for The Winds of Winter.
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George R.R. Martin
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