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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 08:07 am (UTC)
The night is dark and full of deadlines.

I'll admit, I was quite sad to hear that we wont be getting WINDS before S6. But considering that you are the creator of my favorite books and have provided me with hours of entertainment, I'll forgive you (this time!). The shear insanity and hunger from your fan base is a testament to you and your work.

In the mean time, I guess I'll just have to re read previous installments of ASOIAF...again.

Cheers, George! Here's to 2016, may it be free of deadlines, trolls and of course, the Patriots.

Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
Hey George, I am a fan of your series for a long time. The power of your books inspired young readers as I. Don't rush THE WINDS OF WINTER. You're an author, an artist and no one has the right to tell you when to finish or how. You're the creator, it's yours, and we as fans understand and always will support you until the day Nightlands casts it's shadow over the world. It took Mother Nature billions of years to make humans. Impatient people can wait. After all I believe it's gonna be epic, especially for my favorite characters: The Ironborn of Pyke, as my username indicates. Anyway thank you for writing such an amazing story and making us love it.

P.S. I am a Theon fan
Quinn Cretton
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
Sad, but not unexpected
I think I speak for the vast majority of the readers when I say that while this is obviously not the news we all wanted to hear, it's certainly understandable. There is only so much time in the day for someone like me, I can't imagine the constraints put on someone with the vast, wide-ranging projects you face.

I'll continue to sit back and patiently wait for the next book, which I'm sure will be incredible. Will just have to avoid HBO in the meantime.
Simon Casey
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
Don't know about anyone else but...
Fuck the deadlines. I'd rather have it as a fully formed beast than something that was rushed and perhaps festers a touch.

I'll watch the show and damn well enjoy it then wait as long as I must to get the full/real story.

Cheers George!
Nader Safadi
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:07 am (UTC)
It's sad
It's sad to hear this news on the new year, But eventually we all have to be at peace with this, I'm sure everyone wants the book to be as good as George can make it (Which for some of us is the best we have ever read).
The pressure is off, Take your time sir, We can wait.

Edited at 2016-01-02 08:09 am (UTC)
Sahara Bergstrom
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:08 am (UTC)
Youre worth waiting for, don't get yourself down. Start 2016 with a smile and fuck all of the complainers.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:09 am (UTC)
Just keep on keeping on, George!
I've started reading your books long before the show got picked up by HBO. I've followed the show since it aired. I think it was inevitable this situation would happen. Nevertheless, I love both the books and the tv show, despite the differences in the two. I'm rooting for you to finish the series. So keep it up! Happy New Year, George!
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:10 am (UTC)
Glad and sad
Hey George,

I'm really happy that we got an update, even though it's not the update we were looking for, at least it's an update. But please could you make it a monthly thing, don't give a deadline never do, just tell us how much is done. I think then no one could complain about the lack of them.

Good luck on writing this "annoying" beast and whenever it comes out we will buy it and read it.
Christi Morin
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:10 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Keep on keeping on Martin! All I ask is for a good book which you have graciously given us several. I look forward to the next :) yes I'm impatient but I'd rather have an awesome book to read than Have a book poorly written. :) Thank you!
Mana Machine
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:11 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update! Good work often takes time. I look forward to reading it when you feel it's good and finished.
Amber Rork
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:11 am (UTC)
Take your time Mr. Martin!
I'd rather you take your time and give us another great book than be disappointed because you rushed! Please don't rush to satisfy the masses, write to finish this amazing and sometimes shocking story you are sharing with us.
Amy Collins-Russell
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:11 am (UTC)
No idea if you remember me, but we met at the Nacogdoches Film Festival. You signed our World books (I went through the line twice). I told you about my mom, her fight with breast cancer, and how ASoIaF helped her--helped US--through it all. I'll never forget my time with you. My mom will never forget the precious time from your evening to talk to her. In her words, "I'm not anyone special, but he made time to talk to ME. He didn't have to do that, but he did!"

That being said, I am also one of the countless fans who have been reading your blog today (and other days) hoping for The Announcement about The Winds of Winter. While I am a little disappointed (can't help that), I am also grateful for your honesty and bravery to make this final post. You are human, Mr. Martin. I think the fans forget that. You have a marvelous mind and you've created something fantastic for all of us to enjoy...but at the end of it all, you are a human being who deals with the same things we all do--trying to achieve a goal, afraid of failing, and getting depressed when you feel you didn't come through for everyone. I have problems with deadlines, too. I've been struggling with my own writings (nothing published, just expanding my grad school thesis...a dream, I guess), so this post makes me breathe easier...I'm not alone.

Please don't beat yourself up over this. Okay, two deadlines have come and gone. Son of Kong is not done. People will complain--let them. You still have a priceless gift to give. You can do that. We will wait. We love you and we will wait. In the meantime, let us all keep to this simple contract: we will "keep reading" (words you said to my mom back in February) and you will keep writing. Isn't that the basic author/reader (fan) relationship? Nothing about deadlines in that :)

Again, thank you for your honesty and bravery to tell us. I think it speaks volumes of your character. Much love, many blessings.
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:12 am (UTC)
The best things are worth waiting for
I can only speak for myself, but there is no apology needed. I'm a huge fan of the series, but it isn't like you're the only author out there. If people can't take the time to discover some of the great books that came out in 2015, that is truly their loss. I'm sure WOW will be great when you finish it in your own time. Until then, I'm sure people can find their way to the local library.
David Cooper
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:12 am (UTC)
Thanks George! Were all excited and when it does come out it will be awesome. Anticipation is half the fun.
Mike Winans
Jan. 2nd, 2016 08:12 am (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you for the comprehensive update.

Thank you for writing this incredibly detailed world.

Thank you for dealing with your rabid fanbase. We are crazy because we love your work.

Thanks for not giving up on us.

I want the next book as much as anyone else, but it is what it is. Just do your thing.


Edited at 2016-01-02 08:13 am (UTC)
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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