In a recent interview with SmarterTravel.com, George Martin described the plot of the beginning of the sixth novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter:
ST: One of the dominant themes in the first five books, in fact probably the tagline for the whole series so far, has been that winter is coming. By the end of A Dance with Dragons, winter is no longer coming, it’s finally here. What can you tell us about the book you’re writing now, The Winds of Winter?
GRRM: Well, I’ve posted a preview on my website, so you can read one chapter there, and there will be another chapter in the paperback of A Dance with Dragons when that comes out in the summer. So, you’ll get two free chapters. After that, it’s going to be awhile.
Obviously, I’m going to continue the story. There were a lot of cliffhangers at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Those will be resolved very early. I’m going to open with the two big battles that I was building up to, the battle in the ice and the battle at Meereen—the battle of Slaver’s Bay. And then take it from there.
Martin also told the interviewer a little about what he knew of certain main characters’ fates before writing the novels, and some more about what to expect in the next book:
ST: After what happened to Ned in A Game of Thrones and then Robb in A Storm of Swords, I find myself reading your books with this sort of pleasant pit of dread in my stomach.
ST: And yet, if Ned hadn’t died it becomes an entirely different series. The same with Robb. How early on did you know what was going to happen to those two characters in particular? Or were their deaths something that developed as you went along?
GRRM: I knew almost right from the beginning. I know the major beats of the story and who’s going to live and who’s going to die—the ultimate end of all the major characters. There’s a lot of fine detail that I discover along the way in the writing. For some minor characters I may make it up as I’m writing. So, if a major character is going to battle with his six friends, I don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen to all six friends when I sit down to write it. But the major players and the major lives or deaths or life-changing events have all been planned from the beginning.
ST: Along those same lines, a lot of people think you killed Jon at the end of A Dance with Dragons. You do have a history of doing terrible things to the Starks, but my gut says he probably survived. Would you care to comment on that?
GRRM: (Laughs) I will not comment on that.
ST: With Jon effectively out of the picture as Lord Commander, though—even if he lives—I’m not sure I like the Wall’s chances of holding back the Others now that winter has come. Is it safe to assume that we’ll be seeing them move south of the wall in The Winds of Winter?
GRRM: Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but you’re definitely going to see more of the Others in The Winds of Winter.