George R.R. Martin gives huge update on The Winds of Winter

WESTWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: George R. R. Martin attends the LA Special Screening of Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Tolkien" at Regency Village Theatre on May 08, 2019 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: George R. R. Martin attends the LA Special Screening of Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Tolkien" at Regency Village Theatre on May 08, 2019 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images) /

A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin has just given arguably the biggest update on his long-awaited book The Winds of Winter that we’ve gotten in years. The wait for Winds may not be over quite yet, but it just got a whole lot more interesting.

Taking to his trusty Not A Blog, Martin began by outlining a very important thing about his writing process: he is a “gardener,” not an “architect.” If this is the first time you’re hearing those phrases, basically what it amounts to is that Martin believes there are two types of writers: those who plan everything out and know every minute detail of their stories before they put pen to paper (architects), and those who follow the ebb and flow of the story, letting it pull them in unexpected directions (gardeners). Martin has always said he considers himself more of a gardener; he knows the large benchmarks for his series, but he won’t discover the details until writing them.

It turns out, those smaller details are starting to add up to major changes in A Song of Ice and Fire, and they’re taking Martin “further and further away from the [events of] the television series.”

A Song of Ice and Fire calendar 2021
Image: Penguin Random House / Sam Hogg /

A Song of Ice and Fire will be significantly different than Game of Thrones

Martin is planning two more books in his A Song of Ice and Fire series: The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring. (The show adapted the five books he already has out, which took us roughly to the end of season 5.) To hear him tell it, those two books will diverge from Game of Thrones in some pretty significant ways.

"I have been at work in my winter garden. Things are growing… and changing, as does happen with us gardeners. Things twist, things change, new ideas come to me (thank you, muse), old ideas prove unworkable, I write, I rewrite, I restructure, I rip everything apart and rewrite again, I go through doors that lead nowhere, and doors that open on marvels.Sounds mad, I know. But it’s how I write. Always has been. Always will be. For good or ill.What I have noticed more and more of late, however, is my gardening is taking me further and further away from the television series. Yes, some of the things you saw on HBO in GAME OF THRONES you will also see in THE WINDS OF WINTER (though maybe not in quite the same ways)… but much of the rest will be quite different."

Martin credits a lot of the changes to the fact that there are so many other characters that don’t exist in the show, and that many of the characters that do exist in the show are quite different in the books.

"And really, when you think about it, this was inevitable. The novels are much bigger and much much more complex than the series. Certain things that happened on HBO will not happen in the books. And vice versa. I have viewpoint characters in the books never seen on the show: Victarion Greyjoy, Arianne Martell, Areo Hotah, Jon Connington, Aeron Damphair. They will all have chapters, and the things they do and say will impact the story and the major characters who were on the show. I have legions of secondary characters, not POVs but nonetheless important to the plot, who also figure in the story: Lady Stoneheart, Young Griff,  the Tattered Prince, Penny, Brown Ben Plumm, the Shavepate, Marwyn the Mage, Darkstar, Jeyne Westerling. Some characters you saw in the show are quite different than the versions in the novels. Yarra Greyjoy is not Asha Greyjoy, and HBO’s Euron Greyjoy is way, way, way, way different from mine. Quaithe still has a part to play. So does Rickon Stark. And poor Jeyne Poole.   And… well, the list is long. (And all this is part of why WINDS is taking so long. This is hard, guys)."

There will be no new point-of-view chapters in The Winds of Winter

“Oh, and there will be new characters as well,” Martin added. “No new viewpoints, I promise you that, but with all these journeys and battles and scheming to come, inevitably our major players will be encountering new people in lands far and near.”

I can’t lie, I did arch a brow at the promise of no new viewpoint characters. I believe it…right up until Martin discovers the need for one while he’s gardening. Also, can I just point out that Areo Hotah is in the television show, but was unceremoniously killed off after a mere handful of scenes? Apparently the show did him dirty so badly that even Martin himself forgot about poor Areo.

Game of Thrones
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

“A lot” will be different about the ending to A Song of Ice and Fire

Martin also cautions that just because a character survived to the end of Game of Thrones doesn’t mean they are safe in his books, nor will all the characters who died on the show die in the books. “Of course, I could change my mind again next week, with the next chapter I write. That’s gardening.”

And then there’s the ending of Game of Thrones, which kicked up so much dust when it aired in 2019. “You will need to wait until I get there,” Martin writes. “Some things will be the same. A lot will not. No doubt, once I am done, there will be huge debate about which version of the story is better. Some people will like my book, others will prefer the television show. And that’s fine, you pay your money and your make your choice. (I do fear that a certain proportion of fans are so angry about how long WINDS has taken me that they are prepared to hate the book, unread. That saddens me, but there’s nothing I can do about it but write the best book that I can, and hope that when it comes out most fans will read it with clean hands and an open mind).”

"That’s all I can tell you right now. I need to get back to the garden. Tyrion is waiting for me."

George R.R. Martin’s latest update teases big changes from Game of Thrones

I can’t lie: I’m pretty excited about this update. No, Martin didn’t give us a release date, but this is the most he’s talked about Winds in quite a while. Hearing about how his writing is leading him further from the television adaptation is intriguing. There are a whole lot of characters that are in the books who aren’t in the show; Lady Stoneheart and “Young Griff” in particular are two who have the potential to have far-reaching ramifications on the story. How will they, and all those other characters, change the narrative from Game of Thrones?

We’ll only know for sure once The Winds of Winter comes out. Until then, our watch continues.

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