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‘The Winds of Winter’ months away from being finished… if the writing goes well.

Yesterday fans were disappointed when George R.R. Martin’s promised New Year’s post was lost. Martin used his Live Journal site to explain that the post – which many thought would contain an update on The Winds Of Winter release date – disappeared when the author experienced some kind of software error. Many fans took to Reddit and Facebook Groups (such as Fantasy-Faction’s) to vent their displeasure at Martin’s comment that he didn’t have the “energy (or time) to recreate it”.

Well, thankfully, George R.R. Martin rethought that comment and ended up writing nine in-depth posts that summarised his 2015 on a subject by subject basis. One covered the awards he’d won, another covered his travels, his producing, his short story publications and the final one covered The Winds of Winter.

Winds-of-Winter (Medium)Now, take a breath, because it’s probably not the news you’ve been waiting for… Here’s a summary:

“THE WINDS OF WINTER is not finished” Martin wrote. Even more disappointing for fans will be the confirmation that the book will not be released by April’s premiere of Game of Thrones season 6.

Martin writes that in order to beat the show, he’d been set an October deadline by his US publishers. This would have allowed them to get the manuscript on shelves by early April and save fans from the inevitable spoilers the television series would bring. The blog doesn’t mention whether the seventh and final book’s submission date was discussed, but we’ll presume that HBO’s recent admission they will be going “beyond” 7 seasons would have made the spoiler race possible to win.

Martin certainly felt the October date was doable and agreed to it. The author, however, missed that deadline. He explains though that his publishers were quite understanding about the whole thing (maybe even expecting it) and set an end of 2015 deadline instead, confident they could still beat Season 6 of the show if Martin sent it in by then.

rrmartinThe author struggled again though. He explains: “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.”

Martin confirms that as of 2016 he is relieving himself of deadlines (the reason he rejected a job as a journalist), returning to the way he wrote his first couple or novels: “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” and added that: “the deadlines just stress me out.” One thing that will please readers is the note that both Bantam and Voyager (his US and UK publishers) can have the book on shelves within three months of Martin submitting the manuscript to them.

Once the bad news had been dropped, Martin went on to discuss whether the television show will spoil the books. “Yes and no” wrote the author. “There will be certain plot twists and reveals in season six of Game of Thrones that have not yet happened in the books.” However, Martin says there is a butterfly effect in play,  “some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all… because the show and the books have diverged.” He backs this statement up by listing 13 characters that are alive in the books and yet dead in the show, and lists over 20 characters who he has written about and who may play a role in the future direction of the book that haven’t a planned place in the show too.

Martin’s message is simple: “Enjoy the show. Enjoy the books” … “it does not need to be one or the other.”

clock by 27gramsIs that fair though? Well, in my humble opinion, George R.R. Martin isn’t doing anything wrong… really. Artists, throughout time, have proven themselves prone to perfectionism – it’s often what separates a good artist from a bad one. The very best of them can suffer the worst of it too… Patrick Rothfuss is another example of a hugely talented, popular author who really struggles with deadlines. In addition to their own hard-to-realise expectations of their own work, they also a huge amount of pressure on them from their adoring fans who are saying to them on a daily, hourly basis: “this book is going to be incredible!”. I can’t even begin to imagine that kind of pressure being on your shoulders as you write. You must second guess everything you put down on the page and, again, would explain why Martin (and Rothfuss) are so prone to revisions and rewriting.

Martin-CinemaOf course, you can utter the word “Sanderson” or the word “Hobb” and you’ve proof that not every author writing lengthy, bestselling fantasy is taking five years + to put out a novel, but the reality is that different authors are living different lives and have brains that work in different ways. George R.R. Martin makes it very clear that “I do other things besides A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE“. When you hear George talk about his editing work, his producing in Hollywood, his Wildcards series (“[it is] is in my blood, and I plan to continue with those books as long as someone will keep buying them”), travelling (“I never went anywhere at all [as a child] except in my imagination, so now, when I have the means, travel is hard to resist. It’s a big wonderful world.”) or his Jean Cocteau Cinema you really feel the passion he has for it.

I imagine that for George, A Song of Ice & Fire has become a bit like Football for a child who has a dad who REALLY likes football and the pressure being put on him to excel at it and train it every day has killed his love of it somewhat. That kid wants to try Basketball and Surfing too, but his father keeps saying “No. Go practice throwing that damned ball”. Of course, George doesn’t need to appease anyone, really. He is surely one of the wealthiest authors in the world by this point (in Fantasy, at very least) and if he wrote “I’m done writing A Song of Ice & Fire” tomorrow, it’s not really going to hurt him… Hollywood would knock on his door tomorrow and offer him a million dollars for a far easier project.

Martin-SadSadly, the only answer to this problem is for him to begin seeing A Song of Ice & Fire as fun again, to rekindle the fire… but, just like the parent who is always waiting at home for his son to return from practice to hound him about how it went, when the next session is and whether he is improving fast enough, George will never be able to escape his fans should he continue with the series (as I’m sure he will). My hope is that once The Winds of Winter is done the ‘end in sight’ feeling will take over, tunnel vision will be engaged and we’ll see that final book within a few years. I think, though, that A Song of Ice & Fire is destined to be at least another 3 books though (The Winds of Winter and two more)… whether that is a two part finale or two separate books remains to be seen (George admittedly this was a big possibility at EastCon in April 2012).

At the end of the day, George is an artist. He is a rich artist who has lots of hobbies and passions. No one, however frustrated we get, wants a rushed, ‘lite’ version of any A Song of Ice & Fire title. In 2030, I want to look back on A Song of Ice & Fire and say “that is probably the best fantasy series of all time” versus “*sigh* Martin totally dropped the ball at the mid-way point and never recovered, did he?” And, if I do have to think that, I’d like to remove myself from all accountability for it being the case!

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12 Comments

  1. Avatar Not-So-Bloody-Nine says:

    This was pretty surprising news. If there’s one constant in Fantasy that we’ve all come to rely on over the years, it’s GRRM’s timely release of books. Like clockwork.

    On a serious note, though, taking his time writing so he could ensure the best book possible sounds great; unfortunately, it’s far from a guarantee. GRRM didn’t exactly “rush” to finish AFFC or ADWD, yet those were arguably the weakest books in the series.

    This vain hope of the books finishing before the TV show needs to end. Everyone should just accept that you’re gonna find out how the plot progresses, and how the story ends, from the TV show long before the books are done.

  2. Avatar Jo says:

    Reading that post, I really do feel for him. He’s obviously put himself under tremendous pressure and he’s struggling. Writing is not always easy, and it’s not always fun. At the end of the day, the authors mental health should be a greater prioroty than getting your grabby hands on the next book nownownow. We’re offering time and space to Scott Lynch, and I think we should do the same for GRRM.

    I think the last thing anyone wants is a rushed, unsatisfying book and a miserable, dissatisfied author. We’ll have it when it’s finished, and it will be awesome 🙂

    • Avatar B says:

      Exactly. And think of how many people were dissatisfied with stuff being left out of Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels.

  3. Avatar E.J. says:

    GRRM is a gardener, much in the way Tolkien was. The best thing is to give him the time he needs. Yeah, it’s not what the readers want to hear, but do you really want him to rush it out and then give you a book that is not good. Good writing takes time. Some writers can fly through books and publish multiple tomes a year. Others need time. Readers need to be patient. I know it’s hard.

    To quote Neil Gaiman, “George Martin is not your b—-!”

  4. Avatar NitaSkita says:

    I’ve given up on him. I’ve lost interest. I’ll most likely follow the series on TV, but I won’t bother to buy books that should have led the series, not followed it. The mistake was starting the series BEFORE the story was complete. Martin has gotten so caught up in his own celebrity that writing is now a chore for him. I get it, he’s old and time is short. But let’s face it: he’s no Tolkein and many of us don’t think he’s that great a writer. It’s just that he has a good thread going and we’d like to know how it ends. And never may know unless Benioff and Weiss finish it. It’s okay really. I’m over it.

  5. Avatar Justin says:

    I don’t feel for him at all. When you’re sitting there buying up bowling alleys, messing around in a movie theater, and all the other stuff, you really have no excuse. Do you know why Sanderson, Hobb, and Weeks put there books out? Because they never took their money and decided to play with it. They don’t make nearly as much money as he does, but still. Sanderson, who writes four series at a time, knows how to balance his projects. Maybe Martin should meet up with him so they can figure it out.
    Also, Lynch has a medical excuse. He suffers from a diagnosed case of depression, something that Martin appears to be trying to play off. And Rothfis? I’ve never read any of his books, but really, what’s his excuse. Sure, he has worldbuilders, but does he suffer from depression? Does he have any other projects he’s trying to balance? I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. The only reason the publishers are willing to put up with this crap is because they know they’ll make a ton of money off of these people.

    • Avatar Neil says:

      What’s Rothfuss’s excuse for what? Not writing books as quickly as other people? Does he need one? The man does not make commitments he cant keep. He just takes a very long time to finish his books and as they are probably the best fantasy books I have read I have no problem with that.

      As for Martin, well, as Neil Gaiman said. He’s not your bitch. He is an old man. He should not have to spend all his time writin if he does not want to.

      • Avatar Jo says:

        You don’t know that Rothfuss, or GRRM, or anyone for that matter, isn’t struggling with a mental or physical health condition that they’ve decided they’d rather keep private. Which is their right, after all. Martin has worked hard for that money, if he wants to spend it on cinemas and bowling alleys and travel, that’s his right.
        While I think the fans should always be treated with respect, that doesn’t mean Martin owes them every minute of the rest of his life.

  6. Avatar Sanna says:

    I think leaving off future deadlines is the best decision Martin could have made. This way, when the book comes out we will be happily surprised instead of, as it now feels, constantly disappointed. It would also be good to keep in mind that he is of an age where he could have retired from any other profession and not done any work at all. Isn’t it unfair of us to expect quick work from him under these circumstances?

    I have to admit, though, that I definitely would never call this “the best fantasy series of all time”. The first three books were good, but the latest two were overly long and too often dull and uninteresting. I’m sure I could easily name 15 series that are better written and more engaging. I still hope the next one will be better than the last two, though!

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