George R.R. Martin on “exciting” Season 8, “very different” Game of Thrones prequel, being isolated to write The Winds of Winter

David Benioff, George R. R. Martin and D.B Weiss at Season 8 NYC Premiere.  Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO.

David Benioff, George R.R. Martin and D.B Weiss at NYC premiere (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: attending the final season premiere for the adaptation of a work he’s not even finished with must have been wildly strange for George R.R. Martin. Nevertheless, he appeared to be in good spirits at last week’s New York City red carpet premiere, having accepted the showrunners are doing their abridged version of the ending he provided them years ago while he works on the, let’s say, “longer format.”

In an interview at said red carpet, the author opens up about his mixed emotions on the show coming to an end; Jane Goldman’s prequel pilot in pre-production; how, despite his ‘gardener’ approach as a writer, the ending for all main characters was decided years ago; and about The Winds of Winter, the sixth novel in the planned seven-part A song of Ice and Fire saga he’s still writing, apparently under stricter circumstances than before.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Martin admits he doesn’t feel like season eight “should be the final season,” as, for him it seems they “just started last week.”

“Has it been longer than that?,” he asks jokingly. “The time has passed by in a blur. But it’s exciting. I know it’s an end, but it’s not much of an end for me. I’m still deep in writing the books. We saw five other sequel shows in development. I think I’m going to be hanging around Westeros while everyone else has left.”

Regarding the Jane Goldman-showrun Game of Thrones prequel pilot set during the mythic Long Night, Martin appears excited that it’s “getting very close” to production: “They have a great director and an amazing cast. I’ve been following along closely. I have my fingers crossed. It’s different. It’s definitely very different. It’s set thousands of years in the past. You’re looking at a whole different era of Westeros. No dragons, no Iron Throne, no King’s Landing. It will be interesting to see what the fans make of that.”

“You might find a sentence or two [about the Long Night] in The World of Ice and Fire. You certainly won’t find 12 pages. A lot of this is based on that line or two, and Jane then took it and came up with something,” Martin explains.

Martin has had the ending of the main characters planned for 25 years

Martin has had the ending of the main story and characters planned for 25 years

The ending of A Song of Ice and Fire, and therefore Game of Thrones, is another story entirely. He admits the so-called “gardener approach” to writing made it so “sometimes, [a minor new] character comes alive in a way” he “hadn’t planned,” but the overall story and main character beats are fixed, and have been for a quarter of a century: “With the major characters, I have had the beats of this planned out since 1994 or 1995,” he reveals. “I know the major strokes. Not with some of the people who have barged in afterward.”

Considering showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss met with Martin in his home to be told the ending almost twenty years after that date, it’s fair to say the show is indeed adapting Martin’s idea for the ending, though it’s obviously not capable of being a direct adaptation of unpublished books. An unprecedented situation, to say the least (and one neither the author nor the showrunners ever wanted to find themselves in.)

Finally, as for those unpublished books, in particular The Winds of Winter, Martin assures us he’s taken extreme measures to make sure he’s hard at work at it: “I’ve been in isolation. My loyal staff — I have a couple of them with me — have chained me to the typewriter. They’re making me eat healthy food,” he bemoans, and laughs. “It’s horrible!”

52 responses

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    1. Always nice to get an update from George, even though he can’t divulge much!

      He looks well in that photo; the healthy food must be doing him good. That suit isn’t what he was wearing on the red carpet at the S8 premiere, though – he had on a gorgeous red-and-black silk shirt with billowy sleeves and a dragon-head pattern. Very Targesque.

      Now off I go to sit in a corner and cringe everytime someone pops in to indulge in a bit of wanton verbal abuse of the author who gave us this amazing world. Like clockwork, it will happen. The haters lie in wait for such opportunities.

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    2. When GRRM was saying they have him chained to his typewriter, it made think of when Cersei had Elaria and Tyene in the dark cells in the show. Maybe, we just need to have Cersei/Lena Heady to oversee the writing of TWOW. She will make sure that book gets done, as she is very result oriented, to say the least! I also think it is kind of messed up that he keeps saying that the show could go on for more seasons. I mean I would say it is the majority of his fault on why that is the case. The showrunners do not have the source material to continue it further. I know they know the ending and quite a few of story plots but, they do not have the full story and at this point, I kinda doubt GRRM does too. Still, a great article and can’t wait to see the first episode of season 8 this weekend and hopefully we will eventually get the TWOW.

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    3. Here’s hoping the book will available at the top of next year. I don’t think that’s too left field.

      I understand the frustration some fans have with the hiatuses, but ultimately they need to understand that writing is different for everyone. And each writer has their own cadence and pace that works for them. If those same fans ended up with an installment that was rushed and had many loose ends, they’d rage even more. So it’s best to let George take his time and release when he’s absolutely ready. I will pray to the Old Gods and New that the book is worth all the years of waiting, though.

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    4. I’m a show fan first through and through and I feel David and Dan have done a marvelous job. I also realize Mr. Martin created this wonderful world that has been a big part of my life for the past 6 years and I thank him for that. I can’t wait to see the beginning of the end this Sunday and I wish George well in getting TWOW out.

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    5. Edward: I understand the frustration some fans have with the hiatuses, but ultimately they need to understand that writing is different for everyone. And each writer has their own cadence and pace that works for them.

      True true, writing is different for everyone. For example, 99.9999% of living authors can write more than a page a week, and then there’s good ol’ George! One might almost think that nothing works for the man……

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    6. mau,

      This isn’t much to go on. It’s pretty neutral, all things considered.

      As with anything from George, you always need to be aware it’s coming from the guy who predicted he was months away from Winds dropping…in 2015.

      Say what you will about his skills as an author. One thing that I’d hope even his staunchest defenders would admit to by this point is that the man is truly wretched when it comes to predicting his own work.

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    7. HousePotterz: One thing that I’d hope even his staunchest defenders would admit to by this point is that the man is truly wretched when it comes to predicting his own work.

      Or…or just maybe….he isn’t telling the truth.

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    8. The thing with Winds is… it’s bound to be a disappointment. Jon’s still dead, Sansa’s learning to flirt down in the Eyrie, Brienne and Pod are at Lady Stoneheart’s mercy, Tyrion’s still with a bunch of people who didn’t even make the show, there’s too many Greyjoys and Martells running around, Dany’s having major diarrhea somewhere in the great grass sea… he’s got way more than a Meereenese Knot to contend with at this point.

      That’s why the show is it for me now. I will read the books when and if they ever come out, but thank the gods D&D were allowed to bring this thing home.

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    9. Laura, Also, we’ve already read a third of it in released chapters. However, we’ll find out/know Jon warged Ghost & is not a fire wight. We’ll get LS, Frey wedding, wolf pack, gravedigger, & maybe a Stark reunion & some oathsex. I always hated how Nikolaj repeated “the things I do for love” in every fucking interview until I realized last night that he is gonna do Brienne for love.

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    10. Bianca Funk,

      I used to use the same line, but I said I was chained to my computer.
      I created software I wrote years ago. I remember about 10 years ago when I was deep into writing the latest updates and people were waiting and waiting and waiting for me to finish. I was an extremely slow programmer, mostly because I couldn’t stand doing it. I used to say the same thing as GRRM… I also talked about eating nothing but Chinese food for months… I did eventually finish that update, but I no longer write software updates, since it was such an awful experience having to lock myself away. People actually still use my software, but now it just is what it is, and I’m doing something else (like obsessing on GOT). I’m wondering how much GRRM enjoys the process. He must have enjoyed writing about the history of the Targgs since he kicked that out…

      In the computer business we used to call it “Vapor Ware” when companies came out with PR and promised the new upcoming computers or software (coming soon)…

      Anyway, I am not a book reader yet other than listening to the audio of book 1. I do actually look forward to immersing myself in the books when the show is over. It is comforting to know that the show is following GRRM’s basic outline about the ending. So far GRRM’s major shocking moments he shared with D&D were really shockers. The Door episode was one of the best. With as much as the cast keeps saying they were shocked with the ending, I just can’t imagine what will happen, and that honestly is an inspiring thing.

      I think with the buzz of GOT ending, GRRM is serious now about finishing the next book. I’m predicting by Christmas 2019! I am an optimist (people say). Then it’s to work on the final one..OMG.. that could take awhile…even coming from an optimist like me… It was interesting to hear GRRM talking with Stephen King. King has a routine to write a certain number of pages every day….. GRRM not so much…but he has created something amazing.. no one can argue with that.

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    11. Lol,

      They raised valid concerns over the book’s possible story threads. As much as ADWD appeased some of the fans who missed half the viewpoint characters, it was clear cracks had started to form in the overarching narrative (as it’s too darn big).

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    12. I’m gonna need him to finish TWOW to get me out of my inevitable sadness once the show is finished. I am interested to see how he handles everything in the North and what he does with Jaime/Brienne/Stoneheart.

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    13. Firannion: Now off I go to sit in a corner and cringe everytime someone pops in to indulge in a bit of wanton verbal abuse of the author who gave us this amazing world. Like clockwork, it will happen. The haters lie in wait for such opportunities.

      Agreed. As always your comments are spot on.

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    14. It’s always amazing to see how people keep defending GRRM.

      I don’t hate the guy and iam grateful that he had given us this great universe and characters..
      But I just don’t like his work ethics..

      The thing about TWOW is that the so called meereeense knot was over and more than half of the chapters from ADOD are moved to Winds. And yet it’s been 8 years now ..

      I don’t see any progress now than it has been in 2015..

      And I do agree that one can’t simply force an art out of anybody..we can’t make him tied to a chair and not have a outside life and focus only on TWOW..it simply won’t work..
      But that is what GRRM himself is saying what he is doing now for Years that he tries to be in his cabin and working on TWOW..how does that work ..

      In the end iam not angry or hate GRRM..Iam just sad that this epic saga is destined to be remembered for not getting the conclusion..
      It’s sad that this will set an example for many to not start a series that have a conclusion ateast for me it’s how I feel..
      Please save it’s not about ending it’s all about the journey…IMO part of the journey is to get to the destination and without the destination we are lost

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    15. Dragonbringer: The thing about TWOW is that the so called meereeense knot was over and more than half of the chapters from ADOD are moved to Winds. And yet it’s been 8 years now ..

      It was like 5 chapters that were moved to Winds, not half. Jesus, you like to exaggerate much ?

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    16. I’m patiently waiting for the books because I expect they will be finished. Once he gets TWOW finished, I imagine that ADOS will come much easier. Plus, I expect the Arya stuff to be a lot better in the books than what we got in the show since she’s a major character there as opposed to the show. Braavos was soooo much better in the books, plus, of course her entire presence (felt in the North, at the Wall, in the Riverlands) completely disappeared from Westeros on the show once she physically left. So, it will be interesting to see what George does with her character. I also do want to see how he handles Sansa in the Vale, not to mention Tyrion and Dany’s actual meeting… and all of the other stuff.

      :shrugs: I’ve waited this long.

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    17. It’s different. It’s definitely very different. It’s set thousands of years in the past. You’re looking at a whole different era of Westeros. No dragons, no Iron Throne, no King’s Landing. It will be interesting to see what the fans make of that.”

      I for one welcome this. I’m thrilled they choose this subject and era. I’m really looking forward to this one.

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    18. Nick20,

      He has already released more than 5 chapters that was supposed to be in Feast and Dragons..
      I take back more than half chapters but it doesn’t take away the fact there was supposed to be more than dozen chapters that were moved and still couldn’t find a way to tie up the knot

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    19. I’m so sad because of the inevitable ending of the show, that I’m going to reread the books afterwards. I have always wanted to and I’m aware that I need this as I’ve been forgetting things, but I haven’t been able to find the time yet. But, after the last episode, it will be a must.
      Stay healthy, George, I need ASOIAF to be finished.

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    20. Meh. I’ve been a book reader since beginning and was sure that was the only way to experience this story. D&D came out with this masterpiece and I’m content letting this series end with the shows ending.

      GRRM never thought it would come to this. And no matter how many “Nick20” peeps are out there to blindly defend him and put others down with snarky comments, the fact remains that GRRM didn’t finish what he promised he would do. The reasons?? Oh, a myriad of them I’m sure. He isn’t our bitch and can do what he wants.

      I love the characters he created. I love most of what D&D have created. And am so excited about upcoming season.

      So GRRM…good luck to books. You have made a shit ton of money so enjoy the ride and thanks for the stories. The grinders of the world will take it from here.

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    21. Ok. I understand…
      Also think about this: some are waiting to find out how this story ends for 23 years!
      They will get the stick to the basics ending now.

      Westeros will stay with us though (a very young version of it anyways)…

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    22. I was a mite disappointed to read recently that George wasn’t going to do a cameo this last season. Srsly dude, is Santa Fe really that busy? 🐶

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    23. JenniferH: I’m patiently waiting for the books because I expect they will be finished. Once he gets TWOW finished, I imagine that ADOS will come much easier.

      I admit do share this hope, but, to be realistic, we must also consider we once thought that with ADWD finished TWOW would come much easier. That didn’t work out so well.

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    24. I don’t care whether he finishes TWOW at this point. I don’t hate Martin, I just don’t care about it, it’s been too long. I’ll watch the show end and be done.

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    25. To all of you guys complaining about Martin’s forecasting skills: try to work in software development for a few months & I will be looking forward to your quickly changing gray hair. Forecasting errors and cases where you have to multiply the estimate x10 are normal and happening on daily basis. The more you push, the slower will things be. Just give Martin some rest you people!

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    26. I am looking forward to reading Winds when it eventually comes out, but I’m also a bit wary. I was a show fan first and didn’t read the books till after season 5. The season finale for season 5 ended in so many cliffhangers that I thought by reading the books it would give me some resolution on some of those cliffhangers (it obviously didn’t!!). I had been waiting to read the books till after the show, but that year, I just went for it and read the first three in a matter of weeks. I was a convert; they were so damned good! I rest every spare moment between teaching full time and looking after my young kids – so basically I read all night! Then I got on to the last two books and all of a sudden my interest waned and my pace slowed. I will admit that I don’t like them anywhere near as much as the first three. There is a huge swathe of characters that I don’t care for and some journeys that characters I do love go on that I find tedious as hell. I think it may be coming from a show-fan first standpoint, but largely the stuff omitted from the show are the parts of the story that I disliked and found tedious. It also felt like as the books went on, they became so full of filler that I started to lose interest. At one point a banquet was described for what felt like several pages – not the interaction between the characters, but the food. I was so bored! To me, it felt like his writing style changed.

      So I’m wary for what is yet to come with all these subplots and characters I don’t really like (Arianne, Victorian, Young Griff etc.). When we know the release date of Winds, whenever that may be, I will time a reread of the books so I can approach it fully immersed in the book world rather than the show one, so maybe that will help.

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    27. Firannion:
      That suit isn’t what he was wearing on the red carpet at the S8 premiere, though – he had on a gorgeous red-and-black silk shirt with billowy sleeves and a dragon-head pattern. Very Targesque.

      The Targaryen getup was actually from the dinner the night before; the grey suit & cap were from the carpet.

      I’m totally with Che; love the show first, and the stuff omitted from the show is the stuff I didn’t enjoy hearing in the audiobooks as much anyways. So if the last two books ever do eventually arrive, cool…but again, I’m happy to accept GoT as the ending…even though the show and books are two differing, yet closely connected, things…

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    28. HayashiM,

      Last time I checked, George doesn’t work in software development. I fail to see how your comparison is in any way relevant.

      I’d give Martin all the rest he requires if he would stop making absolutely atrocious predictions about his own finish line. To his credit, he seems to have finally gotten that point, but why it took him THREE YEARS of consistently promising TWOW and failing to deliver it before he learned that is something I’ll never understand.

      In short, so there’s no ambiguity about my position, I don’t care about GRRM’s pace. It’s disappointing, but I can live with it. What is unacceptable is his penchant for misleading his audience, and that matters not a whit to me whether it is wishful thinking or outright deception.

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    29. Shelle:
      So if the last two books ever do eventually arrive, cool…but again, I’m happy to accept GoT as the ending…even though the show and books are two differing, yet closely connected, things…

      Ditto!

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    30. HayashiM,

      I do work in software. I’ve been wrong in my estimates before. I’ve never been off by multiple years.

      Simple fact is, if he could manage to write a page a day and worked 200 days a year, or less than 17 days a month, he would have 1400 new pages done even if he took a year off after writing Dance. Dance is his longest book so far, and it was 1056 pages. And as mentioned before, some chapters were already done since they were originally going to be in Dance.

      It’s his life, and he can do what he wants. He can quit. But for all his complaining about how much he’s chained down, he’s clearly not actually getting the work done. He’s not my slave, but that doesn’t mean I have to be impressed by his work ethic. And that would still be true if he announced today that it’s finally done and going to editing. This has been an insane wait between books after an insane wait between the last 2.

      I hope he’s at least grateful enough to his fans who have made him rich to allow someone else to finish the books once he’s gone. And that’s not a comment on his age/health. He could live another 30 years, I wouldn’t trust him to get it done.

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    31. Che: Then I got on to the last two books and all of a sudden my interest waned and my pace slowed. I will admit that I don’t like them anywhere near as much as the first three. There is a huge swathe of characters that I don’t care for and some journeys that characters I do love go on that I find tedious as hell. I think it may be coming from a show-fan first standpoint, but largely the stuff omitted from the show are the parts of the story that I disliked and found tedious.

      That’s a pretty common perception no matter when the books are read. There are of course those that enjoy the Greyjoy, Martell, Griff(s) stuff, but I found it a chore to read. I still finished the last two just as fast but I think that’s because at the time I didn’t know that my favorite, main characters were so limited or excluded entirely. I was reading to get to their parts. Since them my thought has continued to be that George has an easier time building this world than he does breaking it down. He may be able to kill major characters without much trouble, but for every one that he does it seems like he adds five more characters. The time it’s taking him to write toward his ending does feel like it supports that idea in my mind.

      I do admit that I was much more anxious for the next book(s) before the show passed him up. I’m the type that is far less likely to read a book or book series if I’ve seen the movie or tv adaptation. Even knowing that there are differences, more story and the common saying, “the books are better,” I just have a hard time finding excitement to read after a visual. I will most definitely read the rest of ASoIaF when it comes out though, but I’m sure it will be at a much slower pace.

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    32. I honestly wonder if GRRM went writing book 6 from the scrap again after he didn’t reach his first deadline. “Months of work” turned into 3 years? Something weird is going on there.

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    33. HousePotterz
      Sandbun
      ,

      I write for my living, have done so for many years (though I’ve never undertaken anything on the scale of a novel). And I can never predict in advance with any accuracy how long it’s going to take me to write a particular piece. I guess some people can; I had a boss once who used to ask me how many hours I needed to complete Grant Proposal X and I would just sit blinking at her, thinking, How would I know that before I actually did it? How would anybody?

      The work takes on a life of its own. Even for a short article, it can take me hours of thinking about how to begin before I hit on a good lede. Going down the research rabbit hole can be an endless exploration, as one useful factoid leads to another and another. And even once I’m in the Zone and the writing is coming so easily that I forget to eat, a piece can turn corners I never anticipated. I actually find writing short harder than writing long, if I’m even remotely interested in my subject.

      And that’s writing fact-based journalism on a weekly schedule with finite assigned topics. I can’t imagine how much my life would be taken over if I ever applied myself to producing long-format fiction, with all its possibilities limited only by the bounds of human imagination. The very flexibility of it all feels paralyzing to me. There would be so many days when I’d succumb to any excuse to do anything else besides sit at the keyboard and open a vein onto the terrifyingly blank page. I’ve wanted to write a novel since I first learned to read – to give others the kind of joy and escape that I got from books- and very likely never will. And that’s kind of a shame, because if there’s one skill of which I am confident, it’s my ability to manipulate words on paper effectively. I’m just overwhelmed by the magnitude and the infinite flexibility of the task. So I take on work that doesn’t require biting off more than the small chunks that I can chew within my weekly newspaper deadline. And even those always, always take longer than anticipated – even after decades of professional experience.

      Writers like to think of ourselves as ‘creators,’ but privately we all know – and many of us will admit publicly – that we are really ‘conduits,’ tappers and channelers of a force that exists outside our own heads. That’s why the Greeks came up with the idea of the Muse. Granted, not every writer works the same way, and my sense of time may be more stunted than the average person’s. (Time seems like such an artificial human construct to me anyway.) But many of us go into analysis paralysis mode quite often.

      Writing does not come easily even if you’re good at it. It’s incredibly draining (though also nourishing, when it’s going well). It doesn’t come out in one-page chunks. If you think that vowing to write two pages per day is the simple prescription for what GRRM is trying to do with his energies, then you’ve never been a working writer. There is no quick fix. It would be far better if people would stop pressuring him to come up with a prediction that will in all probability be merely a wild guess offered up to appease demanding readers.

      We’ll get it when we get it. And many of us will rejoice.

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    34. Firannion,

      We’ll get it when we get it.

      Making a big assumption there.

      If you think that vowing to write two pages per day is the simple prescription

      2 pages a day? Hahahahaha. I did the math at one point. If he wrote a full tweet a day, 4 days a week, he’d have written the longest book of the series.

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    35. Firannion,

      I think you’re conflating my post with that of sandbun. I never claimed to have any problem with GRRM’s writing pace or procedures. He can write about whatever he wants to write about as fast or as slowly as it suits him.

      My position is that GRRM owes his fans nothing EXCEPT honesty. Nothing more, and nothing less.

      I find many of the public statements he’s made since ADWD released to be deeply troubling in that regard. The most egregious of those comments were the three consecutive years he strongly suggested that Winds would be completed, only to have to retract those comments at a later date.

      There’s simply no charitable conclusion to be drawn. Either GRRM was the victim of an almost unbelievable amount of wishful thinking, or he was actively stringing people along. Neither should be acceptable. Especially considering he has a long track record of making grandiose pronouncements on his writing pace (looking at you, Afterword of Feast), you’d think he’d learn to shut his mouth on the subject.

      Or, as you put it, “we’ll get it when we get it.”

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    36. HousePotterz: There’s simply no charitable conclusion to be drawn. Either GRRM was the victim of an almost unbelievable amount of wishful thinking, or he was actively stringing people along.

      That’s a false dichotomy. I’m challenging your characterization of his inability to predict a completion date accurately as dishonesty. He may simply have no idea. I certainly wouldn’t, if I were in his position. But he is constantly pressured to come up with an answer.

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    37. Che,

      I did read ASOIAF novels before I watched the TV show (books 1 and 2 a couple months before S1 aired, book 3 during S1 air, book 4 between S1 and S2 and book 5 after S2) and in those early GoT years, I liked to re-read them before new season aired. But it kind of worked only with first three novels. I recently tried to re-read them again after not doing it so for 5 years and the result was that I found books 1-3 entertaining, but I literally gave up trying to re-read book 4 and subsequently 5. Since S5 aired, I completely lost any interest to ever read them anymore.

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    38. Firannion,

      If he has no idea, than the only honest answer to a question about when it’s coming out is, “I don’t know.

      Period.

      If he gives in to that pressure, and he speculates, and that speculation turns out to be wildly inaccurate, how is that not on him? Especially with his history of “an excess of optimism,” you’d think he would learn to keep it simple. Don’t speculate.

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    39. When GOT ends most of the worldwide fans will move on.

      And if TWOW doesn’t come out in one to two years after the show ends, most of the book readership will have moved on.

      Only the fanatics of Westeros.org will be around to care if there ever is a ADOS after that.

      Shame, shame, shame. (Rings bell.)

      To which GRRM might reply—I’m rich bitch! And burn stacks of money with wildfire.

      But, seriously, is there even any evidence he’s working on ASOI&F anymore? Sometimes I wonder if he lies about being “chained to his typewriter” to keep the Westeros.org mob from chasing him across Sante Fe with pitchforks.

      Can’t imagine that GRRM can outrun them.

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    40. Firannion,

      I can relate to everything you have written about the writing process as I also write for a living. It used to be a blessing but nowadays it feels more like a curse, because the projects approved at my institute are less and less interesting and challenging.
      I hate writing about things I don’t like and/ or I’m not interested in, but I frequently do as I need my job, it’s the best I have ever had. Even at its worst, writing for a living has an intoxicating power for people who need books to feel at peace.
      I know how bad it is to write about things you don’t like and how scary it feels when you don’t like your own work. I’m afraid George might not be pleased with what he’s writing any longer. As many other fans above, I couldn’t enjoy AFFC and ADWD as I had enjoyed the previous volumes – it was pain when I had to stop reading.
      I feel very sorry for George if he can’t finish his work because he is dissatisfied with it. But, on the other hand, I’m afraid that he would have finished ASOIAF if he had needed the money for food, rent and clothes.

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    41. mau:
      It’s doesn’t feel like he is anywhere near the end TWOW.

      Crazy to think now that he was hopeful at one point to get it out before S6.

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