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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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Katie Buckley
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:12 pm (UTC)
First off all thankyou for the update. Even if it wasnt the news I was hoping for, it has been really refreshing to know where you are at in terms of the writing of Winds. Of course it was disappointing but any true fan understands and wants you to write with a healthy mindset, not a rushed and pressured one. I can't imagine what it must be like trying to write with all that pressure on top of insensitive comments being made. Its a wonder you are motivated at all.

As someone who regularly suffers bouts of depression, I can't thankyou enough for creating an amazing world that I can run to whenever I need. Even when I'm done with a re-read, I can spend my time on forums discussing the novels, theories, etc. Because of that I'm willing to wait as long as it takes for The Winds of Winter to be published. You don't owe the fans anything, I would be quicker to say we owe you so many thanks.

I don't care if you just spend all of 2016 getting yourself back into a place where you are happy to write because you want to not because you are expected to, or demanded to. There's nothing I hate more than people sacrificing their own wellbeing just for the apparent 'needs' of others.

Thanks again and I hope you have a brilliant year ahead of you x

Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:13 pm (UTC)
Nobody likes deadlines. I hate deadlines, and I think everybody knows that pain and frustration when something is simply not happening by a certain date.
I will tell you this: I can't wait to read your new book.
I can't but I will, I will wait for as long as it's needed. The day it finally comes out I will be bouncing up and down with excitement, eager to submerge myself in the pages of ASOIAF again. Just knowing that you keep writing makes me very happy, and I hope now that deadlines aren't constricting you, your writing will make you happy as well.
As for the show spoiling the books, by now they have diverged so much from the source material that it won't matter to me. I care about all the characters in the books, I love the ASOAIF world that you've created and the TV adaptation will not spoil my joy in reading The Winds Of Winter, even if I have first seen some semblance of it on the show. HBO is great, but nothing beats the scenes your words can conjure up in a reader's imagination.
So please, keep writing. We will definitely keep reading.
John Kolla
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:14 pm (UTC)
Thank You!
Thank you! I really appreciate the update . No need to stress, we'll all be reading the book whenever it's ready.

Happy New Year!
Jeff Carter
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:17 pm (UTC)
Come visit Naples Florida and get away for a bit.....
George, To heck with anyone that has a problem with when the next books are released. Come on down to sunny Naples Florida and get away a bit. Recharge the old batteries. I am a wetlands conservation biologist at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and many of our staff, including myself of course, are huge fans of yours. We'd love to show you around the Reserve if you're ever down this way. So, come see us......get away......eat some GREAT food at some REALLY great restaurants.......write some if the mood strikes.....most of all relax. You can contact me through our website if you're ever down this way to visit. www.rookerybay.org

Jeffrey A. Carter
Ben R
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:18 pm (UTC)
Take your time!
Mr. Martin,

Take all the time you need. As much as we are dying to read the next novel, it's more important that you create something you are happy with. Deadlines and stress won't make your creation better. Relax; we will all be fine until it's finished.
Dionna O'Steen
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:18 pm (UTC)
Last Year (Winds of Winter)
Good for you, Mr. Martin. Don't be depressed! Travel to your heart's content, enjoy YOUR life to the fullest and finish the books when you finish them. Happy New Year.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)
Would you finish Winds of Winter? https://youtu.be/YH1S0YfF6c4
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:21 pm (UTC)
Well, ok, I'll just wait, and I'll appreciate it like a good and rare food when I'll read it! Just let us know a little before it is done, I'll plan some days off to enjoy it as much as I can ;) We just love you, the book and the show, no matter when but just finish it somehow, and happy,healthy and prolific new year to you! Sorry for my english, I'm french ;)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:23 pm (UTC)
We'll all be here waiting. Aint no body going anywhere
Rodrigo Barreto
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
We understand you Sir
We understand, I mean, everyone was expecting the book before next season, its going to be really sad to see important facts from the history to be revealing on the series, actually I won't watch this season to be honest...
But, I think everyone can understand the pressure you are feeling lately, so if you read this, just know, I (and I think most of us) just expect you to have all the time you need to write these books, so it can have all the quality it deserves, and you can finish this epic history the way its supposed to be, take your time, dont be rush right now please, just take your time and we will just wait...
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:26 pm (UTC)
No worries, ser, just send up a raven when it's all done.

In the meantime, have fun with it! Everything else will fall into place as long as you're happy with it.

Now I'm off to put some paint on these 12 wargaming miniatures that I've been painting for about a year... ;)
Ethan J. Hedeen
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:29 pm (UTC)
This post just broke my heart. Not because the book won't come out before season 6 but because it made me feel so sad for you. I wish people didn't put so much pressure on you. The work you have done up to this point is brilliant and people should know it takes time. I would rather have you take ten years to release a masterpiece than three months for something less so. I would also have you enjoy the writing than stress about it. You are my favorite author to date and I will content myself with another couple read throughs of the current volumes while I wait patiently for the next. You have fans that appreciate your pace. Keep being awesome :)
Lee Stewart-Taylor
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:31 pm (UTC)
Winds of Winter
You and I are about the same age ole hoss and I understand that life starts to get a little slower... and life can get complicated and interfere with things we want to do.
I'm just happy you are still alive to continue your journey. I will continue to hang in there until I can read book six or however many books it take to complete your tale. A good story cannot be rushed.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:35 pm (UTC)
Don't despair!
Your fans marvel over your writing--and quality takes time. Thank you for sharing your world with us. Your books are a joy to read.

It sounds as though you set high standards for yourself, and that you beat yourself up when you don't meet them. It also sounds as though that form of motivation (being your own drill sergeant) isn't working.

Chin up, keep writing, and remember that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:36 pm (UTC)
As I told a friend last night, writing is a process and it's different for everyone. We could lock you in a room and never let you go anywhere and that doesn't mean that it'll get done within a certain timeline. Writing runs the course for each writer as it it sees fit.

Of course there is sadness because we love your work and we're eager to read it. However, personally I'd rather you take the time and do it right rather than rush to get it out before the next season of the TV show.

The show is awesome, but as you pointed out, it's also a separate entity. It can't fit in all the nuances. As detailed of a writer you are, it's impossible for it to do so.

Yeah, the show may end up revealing some things before the books. But a great deal of us will still be here just as eagerly anticipating the next book whenever it happens.

Take your time and do what you've got to do.

Best wishes.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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