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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 08:02 am (UTC)
Cheers for the update
Thanks for the update GRRM!

I have issues with my mental health, including depression and anxiety, so I relate very strongly to what you say about realising you won't be likely to meet a deadline and then facing a brick wall of writer's block. That's what I faced with nearly every essay I submitted for my recently completed Master of Laws! I would hit a point where I would just be overwhelmed by the possibility of "failure" (defined by my overachieving brain as not getting it in on time or getting the best mark) and be literally unable to write any more, no matter how hard I tried.

I've had to reluctantly accept the limits of my mental health disabilities, and recognise that I need to step back and take some time to look after myself in those situations.

You need that too. I know we're all badgering you, wanting to know when TWOW will be out, but that's because we're entranced by this universe you've created. However, you'll be done when you're done and I'd rather you take your time than rush and put out something subpar in order to "beat" the show. I've long since accepted that the show and the books will be different beasts, because that's what always happens - think of Tom Bombadil. A cute interlude in the book, but cut out of the films without any issues because it would have been impossible to put in context.

Go and enjoy new year's, watch some footy, spend some time with your family. The keyboard and Winds will wait for you xx
Nimran Ali
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:02 am (UTC)
It will be done when it's done. Thank you for the explanation and all, but anytime a book takes longer, the default assumption should be that it needs more time.

I got a chance to attend a Q&A at Texas A&M when you came down a few years ago. We're all big fans of yours, and it makes me happy you had time to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (my favorite novel, no offense). Have a great new year and good luck with your writing. Your fans believe in you, and take the time you need.

Good luck.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:02 am (UTC)
There are those fans that if you were to announce you had finished The Winds of Winter would already be thinking "That's all well and good but where's A Dream of Spring?" Most of us know better and just wish you luck.

As for the show, if A Feast for Crows had not been published before season 5 then we'd all now be sat here thinking Jaime's trip to Dorne was a spoiler. The books are the books and the show is the show, I'll enjoy them both as ever :)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:02 am (UTC)
Months aren't so bad, and thank you truly for an honest and incredibly informative update. Maybe now a little pressure will be released, and things will be able to go more smoothly and pleasantly for you without such a pressing deadline breathing ever-present down your neck (or I'm just an insanely naive optimist, which could also be true, haha.)

Perhaps I'll have something to do for my 28th birthday in October - steep a cup of tea, grab a slab of cake, and curl up with Winds. ☺
Tony Pibolis
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:03 am (UTC)
It's Your Baby, Not Ours
While I cannot begin to understand the pressure of having to deal with a rabid fan base, I can tell you that, as a reader from the beginning, this is your creation to make it as you see fit. We will have to wait until you feel what you wrote is worthy of publication. I, for one, would rather read a book that makes me proud to be a fan, than to read something that the author rushed through to meet a deadline, that is sub-par. You can't rush perfection. People will just have to come to grips with that. Best of luck on your up-coming writing, and I have faith you will deliver something great!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:03 am (UTC)
Best worst news I've ever gotten
I am bitterly disappointed but relieved at the same time! Honestly, I am so tired of the "Frey's" that call themselves journalist putting hype stories and garbage click bait stories all over the Internet and wondering if any of it is true or some of it. i think your an amazing author Mr Martin. Prolly the best of our generation. Since I picked up A Game of Thrones in between patrols in iraq I have been hooked to these books like no other novel before. I am perfectly happy to wait for the winds of winter to come out and a dream of spring afterwords I just wanted to know something so I could stop worrying about it and filling the "Frey's" coffers online. Great authors, great athletes, and great kings all have one thing in common. They have their own processes. How they go about their work makes them great. If another 6 months or a year is what it takes to make your next book great by all means do your thing sire. You owe me nothing. I just would ask that from time to time you could give an update so these "Frey's" will stop making money off of your work and our love of it. So yes I'm disappointed but relieved in the same breath. I hope 2016 is a blessed year for you Mr Martin and I hope it brings us Winds of Winter. If it doesn't God willing I will be here waiting in 2017. I'm medically retired from injuries sustained in combat with 10 fingers and 10 toes after 10 years in the army and 2 tours in Iraq as an infantryman so I'm blessed and also looking into writing to help fill my time. It's a long shot but if I was ever to be in your shoes I would want someone like me to say this to you. "Thanks for your time and news on the books, your an amazing author and I look forward to your next book whenever you get it done. God bless!"
Zach Chadwick
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:03 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you George for everything you're doing. I know it will be awesome and the wait will be worth it.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:04 am (UTC)
Take your time, Mr Martin. I know the most loyal of your readers would prefer you feel at ease with the writing rather than feeling rushed and stressed. Like you say, it will be finished when it is finished. I suppose, though, that it is a 'good' problem to have when something you write is so loved/admired by your readers, that they cannot wait to dive in to the next one. Keep up the great work and try to get some rest! (Sounds like you're pretty busy ;)
Jesper Berg
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:04 am (UTC)
Take your time
For real, take your time. I don't mind the extra wait as long as WINDS is something you are proud of. No matter what, I find you to be the greatest writer of all time, but not only thanks to A Song of Ice and Fire, but Sandkings and Tuff and all your other work as well.

You're my hero and inspiration and at the end of the day we all know the knight comes to the rescue at the darkest moment to bring the light.

Also, do what makes you Happy. Travell, read and give time to other projects. When WINDS are done, we will still be here.

Love from Sweden!
Paola Leija
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:04 am (UTC)
As much as I would like to have the book and not get spoiled by the series,I understand the delay, I write scientific papers and it is overwhelming to write 20-30 pages, I can't imagine the pressure to write ±1000 pages specially with a deadline. ASOIAF is an extremely complex story, I think that is a reason why millions of people love it, it is obvious to take a lot of time yo write it. Your honesty about your progress is really apreciated and I have for sure that real fans will wait as long as it takes.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:06 am (UTC)
Hi George. I just wanted to voice my support; I'm sure you're catching a lot of unnecessary flak from people who conjured up their own ideas of what this blog post would be. But I just want to say that as a fan of the books for the past decade, please take your time. In a hundred years no one will remember having to wait an extra year or two. All that will stand is your wonderful contribution to the world of fantasy literature.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:06 am (UTC)
To a New Year
It's nice to have time between book releases--more time to forget all the little surprises in the first books. That way, rereading them before the new one is more fun!

Also, as for tv series catching up to writing source--it may be uncommon in English language media, but it's quite common in the world of Anime and Manga. Sometimes the series stops and take a hiatus, and sometimes it keeps going, sometimes with Manga spoilers and sometimes with a newly made-up storyline. Regardless of whether reading or watching comes first, I always look forward to the other the more for it.

I wish you a relaxing New Year filled with good writing, reading, and watching.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
it's all right
While i may be a little sad, it's alright because after all this will help the books, even if it takes more time we know its necessary, as you said once no one is going to care how long it took to be released but how good they are.
As someone who loves the books with passion i support you with this decision and im sure there are many more out there.
Don't feel so bad, im sure this is far better than live with a book that was "alright" or even bad when it could have been amazing.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
List of Characters dead in the show, alive in the books missing one person?
George I have to say I'm sorry for the disappointment you're feeling. It's very clear you tried your best and I thank you for that. I love the show, but I'll patiently wait to watch season 6 until after I get to read TWOW, whenever that may be. One quick question though, your list of characters dead in the show but alive in the books seems to be missing Jojen... which if purposely left out would seem to validate a certain pastey theory out there... Care to say if our little grandfather is still with us in the books?
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
Don't be depressed, George! I, for one, am very grateful that you aren't rushing this thing. I don't know if you've ever read The Dark Tower by Stephen King, but the quality of the later books, in my opinion, was not quite up to scratch with the earlier ones (which remain among my all time favorites). Mostly I think this was because he rushed the last three, publishing them all within two years of each other. I think it'd be a real shame if you hurried the last two out like him and they didn't meet the standards of the first five as a result.

Also, I watched the show before I read the books, and I am an avid reader in general, but I can truthfully tell you that your books provided one of the more immersive reading experiences I've had in a long time. It's not just the difference in which characters live and die that set the show and the books apart, at all. They have a very different tone to them, and they're both worth experiencing.

It's good to know that Theon has (I assume) one more chapter at least. He's definitely become a favorite of mine. I hope he doesn't go back to being a first-class douchebag once Ramsay's faded from his rear-view mirror. I don't think I know of many jerks who can't jerk themselves off.

The Giants suck, and they can suck it (signed, An NFC East Rival), but you've still got the Jets to cheer you up, who look to be in the playoffs (at the expense of the Steelers! Ha, fuck 'em!) for the first time in five (?) years. I love Fitzmagic 5ever, for the help he's given my fantasy team in winning the championship. Speaking of fantasy, I can tell you, as a fellow (amateur) writer, that it doesn't take anything out of your writing schedule. You only need to set your starting lineups once a week! That takes minutes. Of course, you'll want to check your scores to see how you're doing, but you dedicate Sundays to football already, so that shouldn't be an issue! If you do decide to get into it next season, I'd recommend NFL.com over ESPN or Yahoo.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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