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When George R R Martin first began writing A Game Of Thrones, he envisioned a taut fantasy trilogy that would take around five years to complete. More than two decades on, there's still no end to the saga in sight. This week, Martin's editor essentially confirmed that the story is completely off the rails. It seems that The Winds Of Winter is nowhere near close to being finished, while an eighth book might also be on the cards. Tch.
By all accounts, George R R Martin is a notoriously slow writer; both in terms of physical output and actually getting to the point in a story (just what was he thinking with all those pointless travelogue chapters in A Dance Of Dragons?) This has created an unusual situation where the TV show is beginning to overtake the books that it's based on; much to the chagrin of loyal readers.
If you've been anxiously awaiting the release of the next book in the series, you should probably stop holding your breath. During a recent correspondence with fans, Martin's longtime editor Anne Lesley Groell hinted that The Winds Of Winter is a long way from completion:
I currently have 168 pages that he submitted back in Feb 2013 in order to receive a contracted payment, but I know more exists, because he keeps talking about a chapter he hasn't yet sent me.
Despite Groell's optimism that she hopes to have the sixth book "reasonably soon", the evidence paints a pretty bleak picture. Even if Martin has written double the submitted amount, that's still barely 20 per cent of the book's total. (i.e. — A Dance With Dragons came to 1513 manuscript pages.)
To make matters worse, Martin refuses to write outside of his home office, despite being frequently on the road for various celebrity commitments. Apparently, Groell has tried to convince him to use a laptop "multiple times", but without success: "He is one stubborn man, and very set in his ways."
There's also his track record to consider. Since 2005, Martin has published just two novels, which were actually supposed to be a single volume before being chopped in two due to length reasons (this is why only half the characters appear in A Feast For Crows and the other half in A Dance With Dragons.) Amusingly, Groell met, courted and married her husband in the intervening gap.
In other words, it's looking increasingly likely that we wont see the next book in the series for at least a few more years, by which point the HBO show will have revealed all of its plot points. It's a situation that his editor is acutely aware of:
When I first read the partial [manuscript] back in 2013, I immediately wrote George an impassioned plea to please not let the show get out ahead of him. I can’t predict what will happen from here, but I definitely want his version to be my first version. And I think a lot of you want that, too. His vision started this; I very much ant his vision to end it, too.
Fat chance of that. Groell also hinted that the current plan for two more books might not be enough to wrap up the whole story:
Seven books is what we currently have under contract [but] I begin to wonder. I remember when he called me, years and years back, to confess that his little trilogy was no longer a trilogy, he predicted four books. I said Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Then he said five books. I said Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Then he went to six. I said… Well, you get the idea. Finally, we were on the same page. Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Good! Only, as I recently learned while editing The World Of Ice And Fire, there are really technically eight kingdoms, all having to do with who has annexed what when Aegon the Conqueror landed in Westeros. So, maybe eight books for Seven Kingdoms would be okay.
So in summary, The Winds Of Winter could be years away, and the series might blow out to eight books in total. We're wondering whether it might be time to find a new fantasy author who can actually stick to a deadline. Apparently, Joe Abercrombie is quite good. More importantly, in the past eight years he has managed to publish eight books.
[Via Suvudu Universe]