What do you mean about a timeskip in winds of winter? :0 you said it won't happen, but in what shape would it have been there? I've still put off reading the new Chapters, but this matter sounds worrisome (feel free to talk about spoilers tho, i dont mind)
When GRRM was originally working on ASOIAF, he wanted it to be an (in-story) years-long adventure, where the characters would start out as children but by the last book they’d be adults. (At the time, the story was conceived as a trilogy – A Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons, The Winds of Winter.) But not only did the story get bigger as he wrote it, but everything happened so quickly – instead of AGOT taking years, with months-long gaps between each chapter, most chapters take place very soon after each other and the whole book is just over a year, at most. A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords also move quickly with even fewer timejumps between chapters, everything happening during a year at most together. So for example, Arya’s 9 in AGOT and by the end of ASOS she’s 11.
Therefore, to catch up with his original idea, that the younger characters would be adults by the end of the series, GRRM planned a timeskip, a five year gap. A Dance with Dragons (now planned to be book #4) would have started five years after the end of ASOS. That’s why so many storylines conclude in ASOS and why so many mysteries are resolved (Jon Arryn’s murder, the murder attempt on Bran, etc) and why so many characters are in a place where you can see their future has so many possibilities albeit on one specific track. Like, Jon’s elected Lord Commander, Dany chooses to stay as queen in Meereen, Tyrion’s killed his father and is off to Essos, Arya’s off to Braavos using her Faceless Men coin, Bran and company have made it through the Wall with a guide to take them to the three-eyed crow, Sansa’s at the Eyrie with Lord Protector Littlefinger having killed Lysa, Brienne’s off to find Sansa and Arya, Jaime and Cersei are in charge of King’s Landing after Tywin’s death, Euron has taken the Seastone Chair, etc.
And ADWD was supposed to begin 5 years after that, with all that had happened in those 5 years maybe occasionally shown as flashbacks after the first new status quo chapter. Jon and Dany and Cersei would have been entirely sick of ruling, with all the trouble that comes with it. Tyrion (probably) would be a slave in Meereen. Brienne (probably) would be wandering the Riverlands, jaded and wounded. Theon would be Reek, having spent years in the dungeons of the Dreadfort. Bran, 14, would be deep in his lessons with the Last Greenseer, having gained all kinds of power and knowledge. Sansa, 18, would have spent years learning the game under Littlefinger’s tutelage as Alayne, ready to work on the next part of his plan. And Arya, 16, was supposed to begin ADWD with “Mercy”, in which she’s someone else entirely, a cold faceless assassin actress who uses seduction to entice a man and kill him (while snapping back to being Arya while she does so), before returning to this not-Arya self. Later chapters might explain exactly how Arya got to this, but the point was this post-five-year-gap chapter was supposed to shock the reader with how much she’d changed, what she’d become.
However, GRRM ran into trouble writing ADWD – not the least that this “endless flashbacks” structure became incredibly unwieldy with very forced and complicated writing. Parts of the story moved too quickly time-wise, with Dorne needing to respond to Oberyn’s death immediately, not five years later. The Ironborn storyline also needed to happen right away. Other problems involved some characters having done basically nothing for five years while other characters had done a ton of things in the same time period. And the big question of the main ice-and-fire plot, why exactly have the Others decided to wait doing nothing for five years, when they were so active (with the attack on the Fist of the First Men, etc) just before, why are they finally starting to move again just when everything else is also finally happening. It was just very contrived and GRRM was more and more uncomfortable and frustrated with it as he wrote.
So a few (our world) years into writing this uncomfortable and frustrating project, GRRM decided to throw out and rewrite tons of material. There would be no five year gap, everything would happen real-time as it had in AGOT-ASOS, and all these “training sessions” and roadtrips and ruling difficulties would be shown on page. The problem of the kids being so young would just be dealt with, and “if a twelve-year-old has to conquer the world, then so be it.” The book was split into two, A Feast for Crows mostly dealing with southern Westeros, King’s Landing and Dorne and the Iron Islands, and A Dance with Dragons mostly dealing with the North and Essos. (The new ADWD ran into its own writing slowdown problems mostly because of “the Meereenese Knot”, figuring out the order of Dany’s many visitors, but at least there was no flashback structure anymore to deal with.) And notably, in-world the story still moves with few gaps time-wise, taking place over less than a year. (It’s “January” 300 AC at the start of AFFC, “August” at most by the end of ADWD.)
But then GRRM released his TWOW preview chapters… and “Mercy” is still “Mercy”, even though Arya’s only 11, not 16. It was significantly revised, he said, very different from how it looked when it was Arya’s first post-five-year-gap chapter, revisions that happened because of the removal of the timeskip… but there’s still a lot of extremely uncomfortable sexual elements in it, IMO. And I shudder to think at what it might have looked like back when Arya was a Westeros legal adult. Or for that matter Sansa being 18 in her post-ASOS storyline; while it might have made some relationships more palatable, I hesitate to think about what GRRM might do, because GRRM. Although the fact he’s said he’s not going to change his plans that much despite the kid characters being so young still… well… well… we’ll see, I guess.
Hope that helps! And if you’re interested, you can see more discussion of the five-year gap that never happened under this tag (including many links to GRRM quotes on the subject), and my specific reactions to “Mercy” here.