No. It’s not done yet. So if that’s all you’re here for, you can leave now. Disappointed and ready to smash an empty beer bottle and start a bar fight.

We’ve beaten that issue to death. Bringing it up again isn’t going to solve anything or make Martin write faster (or get skinnier, or die later, or whatever gripe about him is the latest trend). However, Martin did have another little update for us and a nice peek behind the curtain at how he works as a writer. From his blog:

Snowing like hell in Santa Fe today. I feel like Jon Snow on the Wall. White everywhere I look, and still coming down.

Of course, I’m writing about Meereen, where the weather is hot and muggy, oppressive. If the snow keeps falling, I better take it as an omen, switch to a Jon chapter tomorrow.

The good news: finished a chapter today.

The bad news: it’s one I’ve finished at least four times before.

This time, though, I think I finally got it right. We’ll see. Still whacking at the Meereenese knot.

I took an especially vigorous hack two days ago, by switching to a new POV. It seems to have helped. Helps to have a pair of eyes on the inside rather than the outside here. And back story works better in recollections than in dialogue.

Let’s hope that when next week comes, I still like what I did this week.

Writing, writing…

Say what you will of Martin and the length between his books, what really fascinates me is the process behind crafting one of the most complex and morally grey Fantasy series out there today. As a writer myself, who writes is a more or less linear fashion, it boggles me that Martin is able to keep things so straight in his head. That he’s able to jump around the story (like, say, moving on to Jon Snow and the Wall, or shifting the POV to tell the story in another way), is impressive enough, but even moreso when one considers how seamless it all feels in the final product (well, at least in the first four books, I suppose I can’t speak for A Dance with Dragons).

A Dance with Dragons may not be coming out for a while, much to the chagrin of you, me Bantam Spectra and Martin himself… but damn if it don’t have faith that all this hard work will pay off. I can’t be the only one who’s bloody curious what the Meereenese Knot really is and why its giving Martin so much trouble.

  • N. R. Alexander January 29, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Well there’s one upside: the longer he takes, the more time I have to finally read A Song of Ice and Fire. I really enjoyed Dreamsongs and I always meant to graduate from reading that onto the great saga. If nothing else, the forthcoming HBO show will surely drive me to the bookshelves.

  • Peter V. Brett January 29, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Martin post? Bold of you, Aidan. I hope you moderate your comments, or this might get ugly.

    There’s two upsides, Niall. The delay also means that us second-stringers won’t have to go up against Dance this year and have our asses handed to us.

  • aidan January 29, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Yeah, this may be the first time I’ll count myself lucky that I don’t have the same level of traffic as Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. 250+ comments of crazy is too much for me.

    Your second not is, essentially, the basis for why I’m not all wound up about DANCE being delayed so often. There’s so much else out there to read that I don’t have time to worry about Martin’s release schedule. Still, I’d drop anything I was reading (short of a new Zafon novel, perhaps) to read DANCE.

  • Anrake January 29, 2010 at 9:00 am

    with as much care as he’s putting into this book, it’s sure to be good. Take all the time you need George.

  • Gabriele January 29, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Aidan, I write like Martin (including the speed), no real outline, scenes out of order, lots of editing, and two projects side by side. I do all the planning and keeping things straight in my head. Don’t ask me how. It’s a scary place in there, I bet. :)

  • The Flying Halftrak January 29, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Re: the Mereneese knot. A lot of people (including myself) think it refers to a certain character’s storyline, especially because this character’s storyline is becoming increasingly embroiled and related to other storylines besides just its own. Don’t want to say who as I don’t know what your spoiler policy is in posts, but I think it’s pretty easy to figure out.

    I don’t think Martin’s ever confirmed it, but that seems to be the biggest consensus I’ve seen.

  • aidan January 29, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Yeah, I’m well aware of the basics of the Meereenese Knot (and, presumably Dany’s involvement). I’m more curious about the particularities of the Knot and why it’s causing Martin so much trouble. It’s interesting to hear Martin speak of switching perspectives to tell one portion of the Knot from another angle, shedding light from the inside rather than the outside. We also know that part of the problem is the timelines converging properly. Presuming Dany’s the first POV, who’s the second?

    I’d love to hear some of the major theories going on around there. Just mark your comments with spoilers, I guess.

  • Paul January 29, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I’m blessedly patient and can wait, but I still sit on the side of camp that thinks GRRM’s mini-updates do more bad than good. Too many fans (or anti-fans) sit around waiting for his next update to be about the book’s release date/completion, and each time it doesn’t happen their Hate meter fills up until they go ka-boom. Like over at Pat’s place.

  • aidan January 29, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Yeah. While I enjoy his updates, I expect they do more to incite the rioters than inspire the patient. Unfortunately people get just as angry when he posts something about Football, so it’s really a lose/lose situation for Martin. The best thing may be to just ignore the negativity and blog as he wants to, as hard as that is.

  • The Flying Halftrak January 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

    As far as the other POV, Aidan…


    I think it’s pretty certain that the two POVs we KNOW about as far as the knot goes are Dany and Tyrion…and while I have no way to back this up, I have a feeling that Tyrion is causing him more problems than Dany, since Dany is static while Tyrion is moving across the continent to link up with her (per the Tyrion sample chapter GRRM put up.)

    However, I seem to remember hearing someone who had attended a reading of his say that there was a new POV he had started that has to do with those storylines too. I believe it’s Quentyn Martell, who is also on his way to Dany. Doran Martell hinted as much in AFFC. I imagine he’s the new POV.

    The final POV we know is in the area is Victarion Greyjoy, but he was in AFFC so he wouldn’t be a new one. With 4 different POVs so closely related, I imagine the trouble with the knot is, as you say, a matter of making sure everything matches up. Perhaps another problem is reconciling all of these different plots with each other in so short of time, AND keep the story moving forward beyond just having it be a travelogue.

    Apologies if you know all of this already; you just mentioned you wanted to hear theories, and well, obviously I love speculating about it. :) As usual, love the blog, keep up the great work.

  • aidan January 29, 2010 at 11:25 am

    No, this is great. It’s been so damn long since I read the series that I’ve forgotten a lot of the nitty-gritty details. A re-read is definitely in order before A Dance with Dragons comes out.

  • Adam Whitehead January 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    In Belfast GRRM did confirm that timelines and getting characters to converge in a manner that made sense with their timelines as set down in AFFC is part of the issue.

    My take on this is that near the end of AFFC, timeline-wise, we see Archmaester Marwyn departing Oldtown for Meereen. Slightly earlier we see Victarion also departing the Shield Islands for Meereen. My guess is that GRRM’s goal for the end of ADWD is to have characters converge in Meereen in a manner that puts Daenerys back on course for Westeros at the end of the book. With only two volumes after ADWD, my guess is that THE WINDS OF WINTER will deal with Daenerys’ invasion of Westeros and A DREAM OF SPRING with the final confrontation with the Others and restoring peace to the Seven Kingdoms.

    This does mean that Marwyn and Victarion not only have to travel from Westeros to Slaver’s Bay, a journey of a couple of months at the least I’d imagine, but also engage in story/plot-related functions there before the big climax of the story (the Meereenese Knot itself, which I think could be a game-changing moment on a par with the Red Wedding or Battle of the Blackwater). This tracks with GRRM’s assessment that ADWD will span several months longer than AFFC.

    The big problem is that ADWD will thus end several months after the ending of AFFC back in Westeros. We then have the journey of Daenerys and company back from Slaver’s Bay to Westeros before her invasion can take place. The problem is that all this time Brienne is hanging on a noose and Cersei is keeping a cell in King’s Landing warm. GRRM is going to have some seriously complex plotting to do to make the out-of-synch storylines reconvene in THE WINDS OF WINTER in a manner than makes sense. No wonder it’s taking so long, as it’s giving me headaches just thinking about it. Having to make a readable book out of it must be hideously complicated.

    However, given the general lack of concern of fans towards the insane continuity and timeline errors in the MALAZAN novels, for example, I’m wondering if saying, “Screw it, Euron brought back an outboard motor for Valyria and shoved it on Victarion’s boat or something,” might not be the best attitude. Fans are masters of finding explanations for this stuff. If the Knot is causing GRRM that many problems, perhaps just cutting it and getting on with the storyline and papering over the continuity issues might be a better idea. But we’ll see.

  • Gabriele January 29, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    But Martin writes a different sort of series. A glaring continuity error in ASOIAF would bother me, while in Malazan I blame it on the Warrens that screw with time and distance. :)

    I haven’t read the later WoT books, but I’ve found more than one comment online that the later ones suffer from characters doing pretty unimportant stuff so they can be in a certain place at the right time. I’m sure Martin wants to avoid any artificial looking elements to get everyone where they belong. I agree, it must be a pretty headache.

    (Doesn’t make me outline, though. ;) I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me, so I’ll face the possibility of my very own Meereenese Knot at some point. Not being published and under fan pressure helps with that, too.)

    Re. rewriting chapters (I’ve seen some comments on other blogs that worry about over-perfectionism) – look at Tolkien who not only rewrote chapters but went back to the beginning and started all over several times. And LOTR is there to stay, so it was worth every wrong word on the way to the right ones. In the very end, I hope we’ll be able to say that about ASOIAF, too.

  • The Flying Halftrak January 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Adam – great summary, as usual. I had forgotten about Marywn.

    George RR Martin is the Blizzard Entertainment of fantasy literature – he faces constant complaints from fans who would probably prefer he cut corners in order to get out a finished project, when ultimately its his FOCUS on those very corners that makes the work the great achievement that it is.

    Gabriele – well said :)

  • Adam Whitehead January 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Actually, the more I think of it, the timeline in ASoIaF is fudgeable because so much of it happens out-of-synch with the rest. For example, the entire Iron Islands storyline in AFFC up to the Kingsmoot takes place chronologically before the end of ASoS. It’s only the chapter with Victarion assaulting the Shield Islands which happens within the timescale of the rest of AFFC, and given the amount of time it must take for news of the attack to reach King’s Landing (which still happens well before the end of the novel), it’s entirely possible that Victarion is halfway to Meereen before AFFC ends (helped by the distance between the Free Cities and Slaver’s Bay not being defined yet). So that can be overcome.

    The only problem is Marwyn. The same study of the chronology that produced the above information also indicated that the sequences in Braavos including Sam’s visit and then his later arrival in Oldtown take place some time after the conclusion of the other AFFC storylines. That could also be fudged as that’s only a fanon timeline, so GRRM could find other explanations making those events happen earlier and getting Marwyn underway sooner.

    So it’s all debatable. We haven’t got a situation with a pair of characters being conceived in one book and in another that can only happen three years later maximum suddenly being a teenager ;-)

  • Gabriele January 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Adam, I suppose there’s a character problem, too. As you said in Tower of The Hand, Martin has admitted that some characters developed a bit differently than he planned (they always do, heh). I suspect it’s mostly Dany here. He needs to get her to Westeros with those dragons, but he has set her up in a way that she cares for the people in Meereen. She set the slaves free and by that caused the economy to collapse and for many people things have become worse rather than better. Dany begins to understand that, I think. But it would take her years to carefully nudge economy into something more just than the slave system (and simply leaving it to heal itself would end up in some very rich and many very poor people, look at what happened in the former Sovjet Union). She’d need reliable advisors without self interest (yeah, easy that one, lol), she’d need to reform the juridical system, set up some sort of government …. in short, it would take her YEARS to get Meereen back to working, let alone working better than it did before she came. And she hasn’t got years. So Martin needs a plausible and convincing reason for Dany to abandon Meereen in favour of reclaiming the Iron Throne. Having her not becoming aware of the problems her freeing the slaves caused would not be realistic, either, imho; after all, Dany is an intelligent if somewhat impulsive woman. Leaving a regent behind? Hm, who?

    The attempts at different POVs could partly be the result of trying to find a way out of that character/motivation knot. It may be easier to see the situation with other eyes than Dany’s, or it could be more difficult.

  • Theodor January 30, 2010 at 6:22 am

    @Adam Whitehead

    Hehe I hate Brienne. If your analyse of the timeline problem is correct it’s partially her fault that the writing have slowed again. I mean wasn’t it because of her that the author had to scrap the five year gap? All the other character were in good 5 years waiting positions.

    So I better hope that her endgame in the last book in the series is worth it and pays off. Otherwise he could just have killed her off all along. :)

  • Keyoke January 30, 2010 at 8:57 am

    I have no clue what to feel. Part of me, sympathizes with the creative process. The other side, C’mon!! It’s gonna be 10 years till he finishes this series.

    I dunno.. I dont want to sound like the grumbling fans out there, I’m just lost as to what to say about it now. Guess the longer it goes, the less I remember of that series. ;)