No, I haven't finished writing everything I wanted to include in A FEAST FOR CROWS. I have wrapped up a whole bunch of characters and storylines since the last update in January, but "a whole bunch" does not equate to "all."
And I was facing another problem as well: the sheer size of the book.
All of the books in this series have been big, mind you. A GAME OF THRONES weighed in at 1088 pages in manuscript, not counting the appendices. A CLASH OF KINGS was even longer at 1184 pages, not counting the appendices. And A STORM OF SWORDS measured a gargantuan 1521 pages in manuscript, not counting the (etc).
Any publisher will tell you that a book as big as A STORM OF SWORDS is a production nightmare, and STORM did indeed cause problems for many of my publishers around the world. In some languages it was divided into two, three, or even four volumes. Bantam published STORM in a single volume in the United States, but not without difficulty. Pretty much everyone agreed that it would be a really good thing if the fourth volume in the series came in somewhat shorter than STORM, so I set out with the idea of delivering a FEAST closer in length to A CLASH OF KINGS.
Alas for good intentions. In hindsight, I should have known better. The story makes its own demands, as Tolkien once said, and my story kept demanding to get bigger and more complicated.
I passed A CLASH OF KINGS last year, and still had plenty more to write. By January, I had more than 1300 pages, and still had storylines unfinished. About three weeks ago I hit 1527 pages of final draft, surpassing A STORM OF SWORDS... but I also had another hundred or so pages of roughs and incomplete chapters, as well as other chapters sketched out but entirely unwritten. That was when I realized that the light I'd seen at the end of the tunnel was actually the headlight of an onrushing locomotive.
And that's why my publishers and I, after much discussion and weighing of alternatives, have decided to split the narrative into two books (printing in microtype on onion skin paper and giving each reader a magnifying glass was not considered feasible, and I was reluctant to make the sort of deep cuts that would have been necessary to get the book down to a more publishable length, which I felt would have compromised the story).
The first plan was simply to lop the text in half. In that scenario, I would finish the last few chapters in as short a length (and time) as possible. That would have produced a story of maybe 1650 to 1700 pages in manuscript, which we would simply have broken into two chunks of roughly equal length and published as A FEAST FOR CROWS, Part One and A FEAST FOR CROWS, Part Two.
We decided not to do that. It was my feeling -- and I pushed hard for this, so if you don't like the solution, blame me, not my publishers -- that we were better off telling all the story for half the characters, rather than half the story for all the characters. Cutting the novel in half would have produced two half-novels; our approach will produce two novels taking place simultaneously, but set hundreds or even thousands of miles apart, and involving different casts of characters (with some overlap).
The division has been done, and it think it works quite well. The upshot is, A FEAST FOR CROWS is now moving into production. It is still a long book, but not too long; about the same size as A GAME OF THRONES. The focus in FEAST will be on Westeros, King's Landing, the riverlands, Dorne, and the Iron Islands. More than that I won't say.
Meanwhile, all the characters and stories removed from FEAST are moving right into A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, which will focus on events in the east and north. All the chapters I have not yet finished and/or begun are moving into DANCE. I think this is very good, if truth be told, since it will give me the room to complete those arcs as I had originally intended, rather than trying to tie them up quickly in a chapter or two so I could deliver the massively late Big FEAST.
So there it is. I know some of you may be disappointed, especially when you buy A FEAST FOR CROWS and discover that your favorite character does not appear, but given the realities I think this was the best solution... and the more I look at it, the more convinced I am that these two parallel novels, when taken together, will actually tell the story better than one big book.
And if there are those who don't agree, and still want their Big FEAST with all the trimmings set out on one huge table... well, there's an easy fix. Get both books, razor the pages out with an Exacto knife, interleave the chapters as you think best, and bring the towering stack of text that results to your favorite bookbinder... and presto, chango the Big FEAST will live again.
As for me, I am getting back to work. There's good news on that front too -- A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is half-done!!!
(And before anyone asks, yes indeed, this development means that Parris was right all along. It will now probably require seven books to complete the story).