Will Winter ever come?  Morbidly modeling George R.R. Martin’s writing pace

By: Patrick W. Zimmerman

There is rampant speculation that George R.R. Martin will, in fact, never finish his epic A Song of Ice and Fire low fantasy series.  The not-brief-by-any-measure TV series based on the books already caught and passed his storyline three years ago, in spite of the books’ 14 ½ year head-start.

The issues causing fans to fret break down into two categories: his age (69) and his plummeting publication pace.  If The Winds of Winter were published today, it would be the longest-to-write of the 6 books…by nearly 2 years…and he’s announced that it won’t come out in 2018.

So, should fans of the book series be worried that they’ll need to completely rely on David Benioff and DB Weiss for a satisfying conclusion to the saga of Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, and Tyrion Lannister?  Well, age and health and writing pace are things we can model, and we here at Principally Uncertain like models.  It is known.

It is known
Models are useful

The question

We’ll take three scenarios regarding Martin’s writing pace and likely book length, and use two estimates of his probable health (and adjustments of the Social Security Administration actuarial tables), is winter ever gonna come?

The short-short version

There’s totally a risk that Martin never finishes, though it’s far from certain.  If his BMI is towards the lower bound of our guess and his writing is closer to his series average rather than his recent average, he should finish by around 2021.  If, on the other hand,……….his writing is actually as slow as his recent form suggests, it might not matter which BMI category he falls into; he’s going to run out of time before he runs out of pages.

The models

We broke things down into three models, based on an extrapolation of Martin’s writing pace and book length from previous entries in the series:

  • Generous: we used his overall series averages for length and pace for book 7 (A Dream of Spring) and assumed the best-case scenario for book 6 (The Winds of Winter): January 1, 2019.
  • Midrange: we took the averages for his last 3 books (4, 5, & 6) for book 7 and put publication of book 6 on July 1, 2019.
  • Harsh: we assumed that the pace of book 6 is really how he writes now, and took the max length (book 5) as the new normal, with book 6 publication on January 1, 2020.

The results

Mouseover for details.

Model Book # Title Pages Date Days to publish Writing rate (pp/day)
Known 1 A Game of Thrones 694 1996/08/01
Known 2 A Clash of Kings 768 1998/11/16 837 0.918
Known 3 A Storm of Swords 973 2000/08/08 631 1.542
Known 4 A Feast for Crows 753 2005/10/17 1896 0..397
Known 4 A Dance with Dragons 1040 2011/07/12 2094 0.497
Generous 6 The Winds of Winter 846 2019/01/01 2731 0.309
Midrange 6 The Winds of Winter 896 2019/07/01 2911 0.308
Harsh 6 The Winds of Winter 1040 2020/01/01 3096 0.336
Generous 7 A Dream of Spring 846 2021/02/03 1298 0.651
Midrange 7 A Dream of Spring 896 2025/08/16 2562 0.350
Harsh 7 A Dream of Spring 1040 2028/06/23 3604 0.336

Model Avg book length Avg days to write Avg pace
Overall 845.6 1364.5 .733
Recent (books 4 & 5) 896.5 1995 .447

Does Martin finish?

This also, as you can get a hint of from the dashboard above, depends a great deal on his health, about which we can only speculate.

He is 5’6”, and we took two guesses at his weight to get him in possible BMI categories: 200 (which would qualify as Obesity I), and 220+ (Obesity II and up).  Why does that matter? Because there is some interesting research into how to modify the standard actuarial tables for different BMI categories.

In short, his median life expectancy is likely another 10 or another 7.7 years.  Does he make it?

Does he finish?
Model Obesity I BMI Obesity II+ BMI
Generous yes yes
Midrange yes no
Harsh no no

The take-home

Well, this model is based on some estimates, but they are reasonable bounds.  Yes, he might live to 100 and pump out 2 pages per day over that span, or he might keel over tomorrow, but our target is the most likely scenarios

In summation: be worried, SOIAF fans, but don’t panic yet.  Unless The Winds of Winter doesn’t have a set publication date by this time next year.  Then start panicking.  

About The Author

Architeuthis Rex, a man of (little) wealth and (questionable) taste. Historian and anthropologist interested in identity, regionalism / nationalism, mass culture, and the social and political contexts in which they exist. Earned Ph.D. in social and cultural History with a concentration in anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University and then (mostly) fled academia to write things that more than 10 other people will actually read. Driven to pursue a doctorate to try and answer the question, "Why do they all hate each other?" — still working on it. Plays beer-league hockey, softball, and soccer. Professional toddler wrangler. Likes dogs, good booze, food, and horribly awesome kung-fu movies.

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