Or at least it’s what I deduce from Martin’s last blog post:
Well, I’ve made it across the ocean safe and sound. Typing this from an internet cafe.
No, I didn’t finish the novel, though not for want of trying. Nothing to be done about that but push on when I return.
Considering that (I think) he won’t be back till August, and that he still has work to do on it, a late 2008 release is basically impossible. Usually there’s a full year between the finished novel and the published book, for major releases like this one the gap is reduced to something like six months.
With the book probably finished in September I think the release will likely be pushed to spring 2009.
I wonder why Martin doesn’t try to look at what he’s doing with a detached eye and change his plans. The decision to split book 4 in two is where the original mistake was. Instead of surrendering to an endless drift he should have kept the plot tight, cut the meaningless parts and make a more lucid plan about where he wanted to go.
Scott Bakker commented this from a similar point of view:
I know when I started working on The Judging Eye, I found myself inventing a whole series of new viewpoint characters. I didn’t realize what I was doing until I started reading A Feast for Crows, at which point I scrubbed them all save one. I told myself I was adding these new viewpoint characters for the reader’s sake, when in actual fact I was doing it for my own – I mean, multiply the time you’ve spent with The Prince of Nothing by a thousand, and you’ll have a rough ballpark sense of how much time I’ve spent with my cast. The urge to “freshen things up” is almost irresistible, as is the attendant assumption that you’re doing it as much for your readers as for yourself. But when you already have a complicated narrative on the go, you really do risk drifting across that fateful line where your story starts to decohere. Whether or not this was what happened with Martin’s last book, I’m not sure – all I know is that it threw what I was doing into perspective, and led me to take an entirely different tack. It took me a while, but I eventually fell back in love with the old fogies.
In the end I think it marks another difference between Martin and Erikson. Erikson knew exactly from the beginning where the story would end, and the theme of all the ten books. Then it’s a matter of self-discipline and learning.
Martin instead has surely other many vantage points over Erikson, but he lacks the same lucidity and now he doesn’t seem honest (to himself) enough to look at the whole thing and make choices. The problem isn’t about finishing the single page, it’s about deciding what to do with the whole series, where to lead it. He could decide for example to end it with the sixth book, so that the next is the last, as one last effort to give a closure to the plot.
In fact I would be more eager to read an overall consideration, than updates whether he finished one chapter or another. He doesn’t need to keep working in the hope to finish a novel that doesn’t seem to come out. He need to stop, sit back and think about it. Where do you want to go? How?
Martin and Erikson are like reversed patterns. Where Erikson became stronger in the longer term, demonstrating his tight control and talent, Martin instead got carried away, was overambitious and now trapped himself in a corner.