Author George R.R. Martin is “resisting” his publisher’s suggestion to split The Winds of Winter into two books. But he’s been here before…
A long time ago, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin made the decision to split his giant manuscript for his next book, then titled A Dance of Dragons, in two. And so it was that we got two books where before there was one: A Feast for Crows in 2005 and A Dance with Dragons in 2011.
This was seen as an odd decision by some at the time, and might presage something in our future: Martin has admitted that some of his publishes have suggested breaking up the next book in his series — The Winds of Winter — like they did with Feast and Dance, although so far he is “resisting” the notion.
Might it happen anyway? Perhaps we’ll have a clearer idea if we look back at why Martin split up A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons in the first place.
A Feast of Dragons
A Storm of Swords, the third book in Martin’s series, came out in 2000. Soon after, the fantasy author began working on A Dance with Dragons. It was Martin’s intention at that time for Dance to be set five years after Storm, primarily so some of his younger characters could get a bit older before being thrown back into the story. While this idea worked really well for some storylines, it didn’t for others.
After about a year of writing, Martin realized the idea of the five-year gap wasn’t working — he found himself having to flash back to a lot of what happened in the intervening years — so he scrapped what he had and started anew. Instead, the book would start immediately after the conclusion of A Storm of Swords. At the World Science Fiction Convention in 2001, Martin announced a new title for his next book — A Feast for Crows — and that A Dance with Dragons would now be the fifth book in A Song of Ice and Fire.
When the novel was nearing completion, Martin and his publishers realized it was significantly longer than A Storm of Swords. There were too many characters and too much story to fit into one binding. But he’d written a lot of material he really liked, and some of his ideas from earlier were hard to do without. For example, he introduced several minor POV characters and wrote a 250-page prologue, which he then scrapped and scattered throughout the later manuscript.
After considering publishing the book as “Part 1” and “Part 2,” friend and fellow author Daniel Abraham (one half of the writing team behind The Expanse series) suggested splitting the story by POV and location instead. Martin agreed, and a series that he intended to be six books became seven. A Feast for Crows would tell us the stories of characters from the south of the Seven Kingdoms and from the Iron Islands, while A Dance with Dragons would follow the characters in the North, in the Free Cities, and in Meereen.
Will The Winds of Winter be split up?
A decade later, readers have access to both books. When the stories are folded together, it’s not hard to think of them as the one giant book they were meant to be. Both books cover the same timespan and several storylines parallel, echo, or comment on one another in revealing ways. For example, we see a conversation between Samwell Tarly and Jon Snow from two different perspectives. Many readers have even offered their own combined reading orders of both books for eager fans, such as A Feast for Dragons.
Martin doesn’t want to split The Winds of Winter in two, but it seems as if he has found himself in this similar position again. Sitting on “hundreds and hundreds of pages” and a complex story that is “not so much a novel as a dozen novels, each with a different protagonist,” it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if seven books became eight.