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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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Nicole A.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:55 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Thank you for everything! And Happy New Year!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:56 am (UTC)
Other Works
" I can't think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written."

Well, Harry Potter started coming out as movies while J.K. Rowling was still writing the books.
Michelle Erin Parker
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:56 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you for all you've written and for trying to fulfill our anticipation. Anxiety isn't worth your sanity. I Will be waiting. I lived through Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time, I can wait for you!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:56 am (UTC)
Disappointing, but the detailed update is appreciated. The lack of updates was more frustrating than the actual wait in my opinion. Thank you.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:56 am (UTC)
It's too bad the book won't be coming sooner, but things happen. I'll just have to wait longer, and there are plenty of other good books to read out there. I will definitely be avoiding the show since I prefer the books and would like that experience completely unspoiled (Even if the spoilers are potentially wrong.) Good luck with the rest of the writing process!
Casey Hadford
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:57 am (UTC)
Still got your back
I completely understand George and I will continue to support you no matter how long it takes for Winds of Winter. You have already given so much to millions of people, so please do not be hard on yourself. The angry voices aren't worth it. Write because it is what you love to do, not because you are trying to meet a deadline or appease the masses. Only you can understand how complex and how difficult it is to weave such an intricate story together. You have done a marvelous job thus far. Good luck to you and thank you very much for sharing everything you did today!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:58 am (UTC)
We can handle waiting, your books are worth it.

I can really relate (minus the massive success part). Thank you for this sincere explanation and keep your chin up.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:58 am (UTC)
George thank you for leveling with us and sharing with us this update. While a part of me is kind of sad that the show will end up spoiling the books, it will in no way affect how eagerly I still look forward to reading your lovely work :)whenever that may be.
Have a good 2016 and I hope your Jets continue to do well!
Kitsune Raven-Rose Liebke
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:58 am (UTC)
Don't Worry!
As a loyal fan I wish to say don't worry about deadlines. The book will be published when it does and I'm certain it will be amazing.

Just ignore the needy fans and the haters and do what you do best writing and creating stories yourself and everyone can enjoy.

It does make me concerned that you are depressed and mentally strained I suggest a short break of a weekend or some such thing. To go visit a place that truly grants you serenity and peace of mind. And then only then should you return to your craft.

I enjoy both media, both are beautiful, but I enjoy your personal written words much better. And that's coming from someone with reading Dyslexia, I sat down and read the whole series of novels in a month. They where that good, they really re-inspired my passion for reading.

I was just gifted that book with the hedge knight and the bald kid, I must say that has been a pleasure also. I especially like the illustrations they really convey a nice sense of immersion.

Thank you for your efforts, stories and personal thoughts. Sometimes people forget there is a person behind the stories. <3 Do what's best for yourself!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 07:59 am (UTC)
Kartik Shrivastav
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:00 am (UTC)
An Odd Moment
I understand. I'm annoyed, but I understand it's not easy writing a book with as much detail and precision as ASOIAF. Take your time, and make it up to us with a truly great book.

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:01 am (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:00 am (UTC)
Don't be depressed. Please do what you do best. We, fans, will wait. 😊
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:00 am (UTC)
As much as it pained me to read this, I still can't be mad. I'm disappointed for sure but I've always believed that it's more important for the books to be good rather than having them come out sooner. I'd love to see the true ending that you write before seeing the show ending, but I see now that that's not going to happen. And in the end all I can do is thank you for creating this world that so many love so much.

And you're only human. Don't beat yourself up about it because that will only delay the book longer. The only way to make up for this is to work hard, but you don't necessarily owe anyone anything.
Alejandra Castro Luna
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:01 am (UTC)
Thank you
I am so upset but not in the way you would think. I love ASOIAF and I was introduced to your books by watching season 1 of Game of Thrones. Ned's faith was "spoiled" for me when I saw season one but I was still intrigued and I began to read the books. I read all of them and I became fascinated with the world you created; it was amazing to be transported to it. I still watched Game of Thrones but I began to separate both the books and the show. I stopped compering them because I knew it was not worth it. The show was the show and the books were the books and although I prefer the books both mediums tell the story in different ways. I am mortified that you even have to deal with people pressuring into writing faster. It frustrates me how people keep doing that and always finding a way to complain. The world you have written is so uniquely wonderful that even if it takes ten years to be completed I am willing to wait. Because I'd rather read something that came from your inspiration and heart, than something that becomes robotic and no longer genuine. I am sorry that you feel like you owe us an apology. I feel that it's the other way around and we should be apologizing to you, if the bickering from everybody else, is making you feel like it's no longer fun to write A Song of Ice and Fire. Thank you for writing and letting me explore such an extensive and enormous world. There is not a more satisfying feeling than shutting the real world away and reading a story that completely lets you forget about outside troubles. Thank you for sharing your art and your talents with the rest of the world.
Miguel Prez Delmonte
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:01 am (UTC)
Life is miserable and full of pain
Thank you very much for the update. I really appreciate you letting us know the actual situation of the book. We might be very demanding readers, but we do want the best possible book and we know you'll deliver that in due time.

Don't be depressed though, you are the greatest writer of our time after all. No reason to be sad.

Now I'm going to go cry myself to sleep.....
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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