George RR Martin Explains Why Writing The Winds Of Winter Is So Hard

Daenerys, sitting on the throne. (Image: HBO)

The saga of the Iron Throne is slowly winding its way to closure, though the next book in A Song of Ice and Fire, The Winds of Winter, is still just a gleam in the eyes of long-suffering fans.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, George RR Martin discussed frankly the challenge in putting together his latest novel, and why supplementary works like Fire and Blood have come out before it.

“I’ve been struggling with it for a few years,” he said, a fact that every fan knows acutely. “The Winds of Winter is not so much a novel as a dozen novels, each with a different protagonist, each having a different cast of supporting players and antagonists and allies and lovers around them, and all of these weaving together in an extremely complex fashion. So it’s very, very challenging. Fire and Blood by contrast was very simple. Not that it’s easy, it still took me years to put together, but it is easier.”

That might be frustrating for a lot of fans, but it makes sense: Plotting like Martin’s is as much choreography as creativity, and at some point it becomes a massive, massive undertaking. Putting that together, especially without the help of a writer’s room, must be incredibly difficult. Creative work is, well, work, and it’s nice to see Martin talking frankly about it, even as he’s probably never been under more pressure.

There’s more fun in that interview, too, including shedding some light on the process behind Fire and Blood and the revelation that Martin is working with HBO on a couple other projects that he can’t share anything about just yet.

It’s not clear when The Winds of Winter will come out, but Game of Thrones will return to TV next year.


Comments

    I know its frowned upon in the literary world, but I really do think Martin could use a team to help him build his novels at this point. Leave Martin to write it, but a team to get all the ducks in a row would be useful IMO.

      His team should lock him in his house and stop anyone from HBO from communicating with him. Honestly, he has the attention span of a hopped-up cat.

    Bullshit. His novels are no more complex than normal for the style. Other authors still can write the same complexity at a much faster pace.

    The real reason is he lost interest in it years ago. Guy has never finished anything he started and A Song of Ice and Fire is no different. If it wasn't for fan expectations he'd have officially dropped it years ago.

      Martin's novels are complex in that there's a massive cast of characters, the majority of which nobody really gives a shit about, with pages upon pages dedicated to absolutely nothing of importance or even value. The last few books are an absolute slog - there are entire chapters were very little interesting happens, or a character's chapter comes up and then they disappear for ages before you return to them.

      It isn't complex, it's just an over-encumbered plot at this point.

    Also the fact he's left it clear in his will he wants his notes burned and no one else to finish the series has killed any interest I had in the book series.

      Plus the show is going to give us the broad endgame about a decade earlier than A Dream of Spring.

        The show is going to finish before he releases the book he started writing before it began. :\

      What an arsehole. At least Robert Jordan took the right approach. Sanderson did a very decent job of finishing Wheel of Time.

    How about, George, you stop *only* writing when at home on a pc not connected to the net? There *are* other ways to do this? Write on a damn tablet with no internet connection for example. Write on a laptop with zero net connection. At this point, it's a huge joke. The show is finishing in eight months roughly. Your books still have years to go and there's a great chance you possibly won't even live to see the series out! While I enjoyed the books, you've become an egotist of the highest order, honestly. You need to get your shit together mate.

    Future books are redundant at this point.

      Not really... There's a huge amount of things the show has cut/chabged from the books that still need to be tied up in some form.

      For one thing, in the show (obviously spoilers for the latest season): Jon is the true heir, his real name Aegon just like Rheagar's dead baby
      Except in the books that may not be possible...
      Baby Aegon didn't die, making him the true heir and meaning there are 3 living Targaryens.

      There's a bunch of other major differences too such as Lady Stoneheart, Arya and Jon's abilities and the entire Martell family/storyline.

        Yeah but that plotpoint is essentially just the same thing then? It's incidental whether the kid lived or died? "We hid you and said you died at birth for your safety" or "You lived at birth but we hid you, changed your name and you grew up as Jon Snow for your safety".

        Either way, plays out the same.

        I agree there are significant differences, but we are getting the main endgame via a TV show next year so it takes the air out of it, for me at least.

          I stopped watching the show when the events caught up to the latest book. I thought, I'd rather see what the author has in mind rather than a TV adaptation with many limitations. However, it has been maddening to keep from watching further episodes, particularly as Martin seems to care more about the TV series than his next book.

    I stopped caring about George's writing many years ago.Waiting is painful so it's best to forget him until release.Ask any Patrick Rothfuss fan.The author got stage fright at the finale of the best trilogy in decades.Almost 8 years waiting...

      This legitimately kills me.

      Kingkiller chronicles was incredible and literally every setup has yet to pay off in the last book...and it will probably never come out.

        Is there any new development I am not informed of that makes it an increasing likelihood? I read a recent blogpost in which he reveals he's been dealing with some depressive thoughts, not sure if there's something more?

      With HBO finishing off the story, the books are now not so important.

      I remember refusing to start the Wheel of Time, despite glowing praise from my friends, specifically because it wasn't finished yet. That stance stood me well. Unfortunately, there was no escaping ASOIAF, but the hook (the HBO series) has turned out to be its eventual salvation.

        Honestly the Wheel of Time got bogged down the same way. Cast got too big, too many side characters, too much waffle and not enough happening. He was starting to feel like he was maybe getting a handle on it and pulling it back together toward something when he died, but his death while a shame was probably the best thing that happened to the series, because Sanderson is a better and vastly more disciplined author and was able to end it far better than Jordan ever could have, I think.

          From what I understand, Jordan had mapped out in detail the plot points to be addressed after his death (as he knew he was dying). Sanderson did a great job in following the road map, but I think Jordan, as you say, was getting a handle on the far-flung tendrils that he had spun out in previous volumes.

          I may be in the minority, but I loved all the 'waffle'. I'm a big Tolkien fan as well, with the world-building and history, etc. Jordan was not quite on that level, but I loved reading about the Age of Legends, the history of the Aiel, the machinations of the Chosen, Tower politics. I just couldn't get enough.

            I agree, and yes it was a very different situation. Apparently the actual ending was nearly 100% Jordan, it was all the stuff to get there that needed fleshing out as it was only a skeleton.

            Agree also on the waffle, to a point. Path of Daggers was where it tipped over for me. Next to nothing happens the entire book and you could literally skip it and not really notice.

            Sanderson filled in some really tantalizing extra details about the history of the world and stuff in the three books he did. Kind of wish they'd ask him to go back to it and write some more, but I think he'd rather work on his own stuff instead.

    God forbid the guy take his time and write a good story.

    I can almost guarantee if he rushed to push out a story just to shut up the rabid fanboys they would end up hating the book and question why it's so bad.

    Good things take time.

      I agree, but he just can't help but get distracted - the HBO stuff being the biggest example. True, he doesn't 'owe' anyone anything, but it would be nice if he just concentrated on getting the books finished.

    And yet he's perfectly fine focusing on other tv shows from novels and short stories he's written.

      He owes you nothing - he is entitled to work on whatever projects he chooses - if you have a problem with this, vote with your wallet. Stop consuming media that he creates.

        I think authors may not "owe" anything but they do have to respect the reader that gave them their fame. George doesn't really show that respect. He flits around and gets distracted. He can only work on one pc in his house but is barely there and will not make an alternative arrangement. The readers invested hours and hours in his novels but he won't return the respect they gave his words.

    Damn, people here are real self-entitled assholes.

      I started reading this story over twenty years ago. When it was going to be a six book series with a new book every 18-24 months.

      It took five years to get the fourth book and when it arrived it was only half a book. The "next year" of the second book turned out to be six more years. It's been eight years since then. He's also sewed it up in his will so that if he dies, no one can continue it and finish it. He's 70.

      It's not "entitled" to complain that it seems like we're going to be left hanging forever.

        I bought the first 2 books for my dad, and at that point, it was a planned Trilogy. they says book 1 of 3 and 2 of 3. it got way out of hand.

        Ha ha, yeah, same. I started the series in 1996 or 1997 I think. Now that I think about it, I don't think the series will ever be finished if the next book is not the final one.

          There's meant to be two left IIRC. The one he's been writing for nearly a decade and then the one that he'll die before he finishes.

          Personally I abandoned it years ago. It's never going to be finished, he's seen to that. :(

    He just needs some help, there's this guy who is really good at this sort of thing...Rian Johnson :P

    Creative work isn't like a construction project. There's all sorts of reasons why someone can't finish a book, movie, album, painting, etc. on time. While some authors can write many, many books in the time it takes Rothfuss or Martin to write one, everyone's different, and there have been plenty of other artists who've struggled a lifetime to complete their work. They also have a level of polish that I feel distinguishes them. Hence why I continue to read them, and am willing to wait.

    And I don't feel they're contractually obligated to write me a book just because I'm a big fan of the series they started. Much as it'd be nice, I realise I paid for the books I paid for as separate novels, and I was happy to do so for all the times I've reread them.

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