As many of you know, getting any and every scrap of info about TWOW has been one of my passions in ASOIAF. I even wrote a bloated post on everything we know about TWOW a few months ago. Anyways, I happened to be going through GRRM’s notablog a few days ago, and I found some interesting information about some chapters from TWOW & some interesting things about ADWD.
One of my interests is in the craft of writing itself — how authors do it, the struggles they face, the breakthroughs they have in the process of writing. As someone who’s been writing my own fictional book for a few years now and someone who writes ASOIAF analysis, GRRM’s take on writing has always seemed really interesting to me. He has a very unique style in writing his stories. So, it was really interesting to me to learn about GRRM’s writing of TWOW & ADWD.
Obviously, if you’re seeking to avoid any and all spoilers about TWOW, please eschew this thread!
5 Chapters from TWOW
So, I’ll start with the thing that you’ll probably be most interested in — TWOW. We know from cons, readings, sample chapters and things that GRRM has said that there are at least 11 chapters already written for TWOW. They are:
- Theon I
- Barristan I & II
- Tyrion I & II
- Victarion I
- Arya I
- Sansa I
- Damphair I
- Arianne I & II
And before you freak out that this is all that GRRM has written, I’d caution you that there are definitely a lot more written than that. And that 168 pages submitted back in 2013 to Anne Groelle is not the total # of pages written for TWOW. It was the amount that GRRM was contractually obligated to send to Bantam Books. With GRRM saying that he was about a quarter of the way done in March 2013 and saying that while he’s not finished TWOW, he’s not had to do he has not done nearly as much re-writing for TWOW as he did for AFFC/ADWD and given that TWOW is GRRM’s only writing project and has been for over a year, I’d SWAG (Scientifically, Wild-Ass Guess) that GRRM is a lot further along than he’s let on publicly. I could be wrong, but that’s the sense that I get from the things that GRRM has said.
Now, most (if not all) of the chapters we know about were originally written for ADWD, but when exactly were some of them written? Well, in going through GRRM’s notablog, I think I’ve been able to figure out approximately when at least 5 of the chapters were written.
- Sansa I: So, as we all know, 3 Sansa chapters were in AFFC. However, none were included in ADWD. That said, GRRM originally intended to include Sansa chapters in ADWD. In fact, a Sansa chapter was written for ADWD. When was it written? May 21, 2008
I am getting a lot done. Finished an Arya chapter yesterday, and a Sansa chapter the day before. (And before you guys assume I’m writing a chapter a day, I said “finished,” not “wrote.” Large portions of these particular chapters were written years ago. A chapter a day? I wish). Felt good to get them done. Been making a lot of progress with Dany too. GRRM, Notablog, May 23, 2008
I’m about 100% certain that this Sansa chapter was the one that GRRM later decided to cut to TWOW. What I find really interesting about it is that George has had at least one chapter finished since 2008, and this chapter had been in the writing stages for years before it was completed in 2008. So, we’ll be seeing elements of GRRM’s writing circa the early to mid 2000s come TWOW. And Sansa’s chapter will not be the only one where we’ll find this.
- Arya I: Many of you all read the Mercy Sample Chapter back when George released it, but if you haven’t, it’s still available on GRRM’s website! What’s interesting about this chapter is that it’s a really old chapter.
I mentioned that this chapter had quite a history. It’s true. The first draft was written more than a decade ago. Originally, it was intended to be the opening Arya chapter after the infamous “five year gap,” her first appearance in A DANCE WITH DRAGONS as initially conceived. Then it was supposed to be a part of A FEAST FOR CROWS, after I abandoned the five year gap and split the books. Then it was going to be the concluding Arya chapter in A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. But it seemed more like an opening chapter than a closing one, so shortly before ADWD was published my editor and I agreed to remove it from DANCE and shift it over into WINDS. – Notablog 3/27/2014
So, elements of this chapter are some of the oldest-written material for TWOW. Written more than a decade ago implies that a version of this chapter was written pre-2004, and since it was originally intended to be Arya’s first chapter after the 5-year gap, we can assume that parts of it were written pre-2002 considering that GRRM abandoned the 5-year gap in late 2001.
“I announced the famous five-year gap: I was going to skip five years forward in the story, to allow some of the younger characters to grow older and the dragons to grow larger, and for various other reasons. I started out writing on that basis in 2001, and it worked very well for some of my myriad characters but not at all for others, because you can’t just have nothing happen for five years. If things do happen you have to write flashbacks, a lot of internal retrospection, and that’s not a good way to present it. I struggled with that essentially wrong direction for about a year before finally throwing it out, realizing there had to be another interim book. That became A Feast for Crows, where the action is pretty much continuous from the preceding book.” – Locus Mag 2005 interview with GRRM
On an unrelated note, I find a lot of the older interviews of Martin much more interesting than the recent ones due to the fact that more recent ones have been focused on the show and “when will TWOW come out!?” (as well as irritating topics like who GRRM’s favorite character in ASOIAF is. It’s Tyrion. Do your research media!) These are both good topics, but the older interviews where Martin talks about the themes, storytelling and actually delves into the plot of the stories are much more interesting in understanding ASOIAF.
- Damphair I: Love him or hate him, Aeron Greyjoy is a polarizing POV. However, we know that he’ll have at least one chapter in TWOW. How do we know this? Because GRRM originally intended to have Damphair in ADWD.
Just kicked Aeron Damphair’s scraggly arse out of DANCE WITH DRAGONS. He only had the only chapter, and it will work better early in the next book than late in this one. (That’s how it looks to me today, anyway. I reserve the right to change my mind).
So DANCE has gotten a smidge shorter. But is still not done.
The good news is that I seem to have written more than a hundred pages of THE WINDS OF WINTER already. – GRRM, notablog, July 31, 2010
So, Damphair’s chapter was completed at least a year before publication in TWOW, likely a bit longer than that considering that GRRM decided to cut Damphair to TWOW in July 2010. So, there’s another chapter that was written over 4 years ago for TWOW. And interestingly enough, GRRM had 100+ pages written for TWOW back in 2010. I’d daresay that GRRM had more pages written for TWOW by the time of publication of ADWD.
- Arianne I & II: Finally, we come to the case of Arianne. Arianne had 2 chapters in AFFC, but she had no chapters in ADWD. However, GRRM had Arianne chapters written at least as of 2010.
What’s happened is, I’ve decided to move two completed chapters, from Arianne’s POV, out of the present volume and into THE WINDS OF WINTER. This is something I’ve gone back and forth on. Arianne wasn’t originally supposed to have any viewpoint chapters in DANCE at all, but there’s this… hmmm, how vague do I want be? VERY vague, I think… there’s this event that would of necessity provoke a Dornish reaction. The event was originally going to occur near the end of the book, but in one of my forty-seven restructures I moved it to the late middle instead. And the timeline then required that the Dornish reaction happen in this book and not the next one, so I wrote the two Arianne chapters and was going to write a third… and a chapter from another POV that would be a necessary complement to them, and…
But no, I’ve restructured again, and put the original precipitating event back close to the end of the book. Which means the Arianne chapters can be returned to WINDS, where I had ’em originally. It also means that I don’t have to write that third Arianne chapter and the complementary chapter from the other POV… not yet, anyway… which moves DANCE two chapters closer to completion. (The move did mean I had to revise two chapters from another POV, which took place after the event in last week’s draft, but now take place before said event, but fortunately that was just a matter of tweaking a couple of lines). – GRRM, notablog, June 27, 2010
So, again, we have another 2 chapters completed at least a year prior to the publication of ADWD. And for that matter, GRRM released TWOW, Arianne I in January 2013 on his website and read TWOW, Arianne II in September 2011.
2 Chapters from ADWD
So, another thing that I found interesting in going through GRRM’s notablog was his writing about ADWD proper. Sure, GRRM wrote a lot more about the NY Giants/Jets during the writing period of ADWD than ADWD proper, but there’s some nuggets in the text, especially on two chapters.
- Bran: So, Bran has 3 chapters in ADWD, and they’re some of the most interesting, mystical chapters that GRRM has written. But what’s interesting about at least one of the Bran chapters is how long it took to write:
Well, I finished a chapter of the DANCE this morning. Which ordinarily would not be occasion for comment, but this was a Bran chapter that I’ve been struggling with for something like six years. Bran has always been the toughest character to write, for a whole bunch of reasons, but this chapter in particular was killing me. – GRRM, notablog, March 15, 2008
Now, I’m not sure whether this was Bran I, II or III, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d say it’s ADWD, Bran III (Feel free to weigh in on this in the comments). Regardless, GRRM started writing whatever ADWD Bran chapter back in 2002, and this chapter didn’t see the light of publication until 2011. 9 years. Also, it took 6 years to write a single Bran chapter. That’s… a really long time to write a single chapter, but I think it shows a perfectionist streak (which isn’t a bad thing for writers, IMO).
- Varymyr Sixskins: Finally, GRRM read the prologue to ADWD back in 2007 at a convention.
I had a reading at the convention, and decided to read the newly-completed prologue from A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. I’ve been struggling with this particular chapter off and on for years (not continuously, of course, when a chapter gives me as much trouble as this one has, I tend to put it aside, move on and write something else, and come back to it later with fresh eyes), writing and rewriting it, moving chunks of it around, trying different structures. There’s a lot of flashbacks in the chapter — not just one flashback, but more like four, each to a different time in the viewpoint character’s life — and integrating those with each other and with the present action has proved to be a bitch and a half. I finally did manage to get the ducks all in a row, however, so I thought I’d see how it went over.
FWIW, I have always found convention readings to be very valuable, especially when I’m doing a chapter than I’ve never read before. No matter how many times you go over your work on a computer screen, somehow mistakes still slip past you… but when you’re reading aloud, they leap right up into your face, screaming and spraying spittle. Typos, missing words, double words, tortured syntax, clunky dialogue, you name it. I always try to keep a pen on hand, so I can mark up my reading copy as I go.
And sometimes you see bigger problems too, as I did in this case. The audience seemed to like the chapter well enough, which pleased me. I talked to some of the BWB about it afterward, and was glad to hear that it mostly worked. There are still problems, though. A couple of awkward transitions, a false step and double beat in the middle, maybe too much repetition. Yes, I have reshuffled certain sections of the prologue half a dozen times already, but at the reading it became clear to that I need to look at the sequencing of the flashbacks yet again. I may be close, but I’m not there year. So that’s one of the things I’ve been doing since returning home: polishing, trimming, and restructuring the bloody prologue one more time. For the last time, I hope… but really, who knows? – GRRM, notablog, July 11, 2007
I admire GRRM here. He’s not so arrogant so as to think his work is perfect. In fact, he took fan advice in editing & re-writing this chapter. That’s a really cool relationship that an author can have w/ his fans! And I’m glad that he took this approach to writing that troubled him.
Have something else that you found about TWOW or ADWD in a SSM or notablog entry? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!