Progress Report August ’16

August 28th, 2016

It occurs to me that I have been pretty goddamn remiss on the blogging front over recent times.  Nothing lays that bare more than the realisation that my last of what were supposed to be regular bi-monthly progress reports was nearly a year ago.  I have become that author I never wanted to be – you know, the one with the dusty old website last updated in 2012 with a post saying ‘I’m back!’, and a front page that proudly trumpets an early review for their last-book-but-three.

Still, I’ve just returned from a long holiday in Scandinavia with the kids (well, when I say holiday, I mean a constant refereeing of various family squabbles) and maybe I can get some regularity back into the posting and writing.  Stranger things have happened…

A progress report, then.  The last year’s been an odd one (maybe they all are in this business), with some non-book bits and pieces bubbling away in the background and taking up a fair bit of time and energy, of which more later, perhaps.  Sharp Ends, my collection of stories in the First Law world, came out at the end of April, and book-wise I’ve been developing a new trilogy set in the First Law world since then.  As I’ve probably said before, this is a set of books taking place maybe 25-30 years after the end of Last Argument of Kings, in a world moving rapidly forward into the turmoil of early industrialisation, set mainly in the Union (and the North), featuring some old friends in the background while focussing mostly on a new cast, and perhaps picking up some threads left over from the First Law trilogy a little more directly than the standalone books have.

The First Law was really stewing in my brain throughout my youth, gradually developing, and I spent years as a hobbyist writer, before being published, experimenting with the characters and style and thinking about the plot.  The Shattered Sea, meanwhile, was a much more focussed set of three individual, linked stories, really, rather than a grand ambitious trilogy.  So you could say I’ve never really taken on such a big project as a professional writer, and I want to make sure I take the time to get it as good as it can be.  That means to some extent trying to replicate the situation with the first trilogy – to remove the pressure of imminent deadlines, to just live with the characters until I get comfortable with them and their voices distill down and become vivid and interesting (hopefully), in that effortless way that in fact takes an awful lot of effort to develop.  For me, characters are always at the heart of a book (or books) – if the people aren’t interesting, no plot, however packed with shock and explosions, will ever make a mark, whereas if the characters are fascinating and the voices arresting you can watch them do nothing and still be captivated.

Still, you need a plot and a setting and all that other stuff too, and my experience has been that you don’t always know what you need a character to be until you get to the end of a book.  Character and plot grow up together and inform each other, in other words.  You’ve got to plan carefully, but at the same time you’ve got to experience how the writing comes out – what the characters feel like on the page before you really know where you’re going.  So my hugely ambitious and probably in the end completely unworkable plan with these books is to plunge through a rough draft of all three as fast as I can, then see where I stand, and revise the first one thoroughly for publication.  That, of course, will mean a pretty considerable wait for the first book but, hopefully, a regular publication schedule thereafter and, again hopefully, the best and most coherent end product.

Anyway, long story short, this is planned to be a trilogy of nine parts – three books each of three parts – and I’ve drafted the first and am tackling the second – so getting towards half way through a really rough first draft of the first book.  Feeling pretty pleased with it so far, though experience has taught me that I’ll generally hate books at this stage and suffer many and frequent crises of confidence, so I try not to have high hopes for my feelings while a project is underway.  Making progress is enough, actually liking what you’re doing is way too much to ask at this stage.  Hoping to put in some concerted chair time in the run up to Christmas and make some epic progress. But then I’m always hoping for that…

And there is your progress report for August.

Posted in news, progress by Joe Abercrombie on August 28th, 2016.

79 comments so far

  • solicemoon says:

    Can’t wait. I’ve been itching for some new First Law material and it makes me incredibly happy to hear that some new stuff is brewing.

  • Harry says:

    Not gonna say anything else other than: good on ya. Glad you’re making progress! Keep it up, and no pressure!

  • Scott Kaelen says:

    Wise words on the characters being the most important aspect of a story, an element which (unlike many authors) you’ve totally nailed from the offset. It does help to let those characters stew for a long time, for them and you to realise just who they are, how they fit into the story, and how they’re going to react to the various interactions and plot movements.

    Keep up the good work. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to perfect a book (or trilogy); it’s a lot better than releasing a steady stream of books that are scarcely more than sub-par recycled tripe, which unfortunately is all too common in epic fantasy circles.

    Looking forward to the planned trilogy. Good luck in getting the chiar-time in!

  • Abi says:

    Don’t sweat it. We know you love us and your characters and want to create something worthwhile you can be proud of. Hats off to you. Stick to what you believe in and I respect you all the more for it. Better than churning out dross to tick off another book and another cheque. Scheduled updates aren’t essential when you’ve got plenty else to be thinking about. 🙂

  • Leon says:

    Oh, how sharp ends took me back. I’m really looking forward to the next trilogy. I can only agree with Harry, you’re doing great work!

  • Charlie says:

    The First Law world is amazing, the characters are fascinating, and we fans patiently look forward to more of both.

  • Cheers for the update, Joe – much appreciated. 🙂

  • Pedro says:

    Keep up the good work my good man

    Have all your books,and much prefer the First Law World,so even thou theres the time jump of possibly 30 years…please let us have some Stranger Come Fucking and please,even as an old guy..Ninefingers has to show up..i got to be realistic about those things


  • Christina says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that characters are what make the story. Execution of characters and plot is important, too, of course and that tends to be where I run into trouble sometimes ad an amateur writer. As always, looking forward to more from the lord of grimdark!

  • A says:

    Thanks for the update! Keep pushing, we know it will be worth the wait!

  • Antonio says:


    What I most enjoy about your work is how authentic and paradoxical the search for meaning feels in the books. How the characters at the beginning wade through mounds and mounds of shit towards this grand goal, get there, become somewhat disappointed with the thing itself, look back and find reward in the strength of character demonstrated by themselves as they trod through all that mud. Then with new found strengths and insights, their original destination becomes new starting point. It’s paradoxical, because the prize feels rarely worth it, and yet it is so fundamental to start the whole thing. Revenge set Monza in motion. Truth for Glokta. Inner peace for Logan. Acceptance for Yarvi. Etc.

    You have the above down to a tee. This has the caveat of showing inklings of a formula. Even if it’s a different formula. Lately it feels like you’ve been throwing different skins over the same framework.

    As a fan, I can only hope for the possibility of you shaking off the pressure in this massive break in publishing cycles, and seizing that to incorporate some new kind of fundamental dynamic to your prose.

    All the best in your journey! Your books had a tremendous effect upon me. I love Best Served Cold.

  • Jason says:

    Jesus, would it kill Rothfuss to do a blog like this just one time?

  • Mark says:

    Thank you so much for providing us with an update! Can’t wait to read the books.

  • Gino says:

    hey Joe! You are a hell of worlds and characters builder! I read novels all the time. Yours i recall with vivids images, feelings and chills (that nine fingers brawl in the Red county). Dont doubt! you are a master. cant wait for the new books ! thanks for the update!

  • Jod says:

    I am totally stoked by the news! I am looking forward to the next set of stories in the First Law world! I hope you take your time making that character-based stew, I’ll be waiting when it tastes just perfect!

  • Ola says:

    Will Steven Pacey be involved in the new trilogy?

  • Jan Foley says:

    Good for you. The last thing we need are books that have a half-cooked feel to them. Take your time and let them slow-cook to perfection. We’ll be patient. Waiting for your books is always worthwhile. Thanks for posting this.

  • Marina says:

    This is thrilling news! I’m so excited for more of the First Law universe! Thank you for the update and good luck.

  • Sam says:

    Thank you for giving us nine books to look forward to. I shudder to think of what “moving toward industrialization” will be like in a world ruled by Bayaz.

  • Iangr says:

    I have to admit that Sharp Ends acted like an appetizer. I think it got all your fan base drooling about another trilogy set in the First Law.
    Also it does makes sense that your world is evolving,would love to see some steampunk elements,you’ve got to admit Steampunk Grimdark does sound mysterious!

    Now that the rules are established and the world is built,I think it’s time for some rule bending, you’ve got to be realistic about these things…

  • Dakota says:

    This is exactly what I needed to clear my hangover. Happy beyond reason. Thanks Joe; you are a good among men.

  • Mark Denton says:

    Good to hear from you Joe. Keep going.. do the work.. and thank you for bringing such classy entertainment into my life. I’m too long in the tooth for the Half a X books but the others are truly remarkable for their realistic dialogue and wit.

  • Sharon says:

    So excited you’re revisiting the Fist Law universe! No doubt they qill be equally as character driven as the first set. Really looking forward to reading them.

  • Zhenya says:

    You just made my day, Joe. Thank you for thinking of us, fans; posts like this help us to deal with the First Law withdrawal symptoms

  • Nick says:

    Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie, say he knows how to brighten up a rainy bitch of a day!

  • Andy says:

    Joe – thanks for the update chief. I think that you have earned the right to take your time and perfect your next trilogy! You have been incredibly productive over the last ten years and given us some of the best novels in this or any other genre. I look forward to the next instalment and am already set to revisit The Blade Itself and start over again! Cheers

  • Giovanni says:

    Nine books? Ok Joe, we trust you. Just please do not make tv series in the process, and end the story. No pressure, take your time, and keep aiming to the end!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    No, no, perhaps I have mis-phrased. Three books. A trilogy. But each book will be in three parts. No way I’d take on a nine book series in one go…

  • Christian the Terrible says:

    Thanks,Joe. Appreciate the update and am glad to have more First Law to look forward to. No one writes like you. Thanks again for the entertaining yarns.

  • Candace Wise says:

    Loved the Fist Law and can’t wait (but will) for a continuance of Characters. Specifically Bloody Nine. Loved him. Thanks you for your writings.

  • Matt Lomax says:

    Can’t wait for the new books Joe….I’m sick of typing ‘recommended authors if you like Joe A’ into Google…

  • Jonatan says:

    We love you Joe! You’re awesome.

    Just finished Sharp Ends, was a great read!

  • Jeremy Abernathy says:

    I’m a fairly recent fan of your works, and no less excited to read this! Such great news and I’m looking forward to more to come. I know you won’t disappoint you geniusly gifted marvel!

  • Finn says:

    Joe!!!! Please avoid industrialisation concept for the new trilogy. Otherwise they will end up going steampunkish or looking like Fable III

  • Mykah says:

    Any chance Cracknut, Shev, or Javre will be included??

  • Aaron says:

    I know you aren’t big on revisiting old POVs, but I really hope this new trilogy brings back Ninefingers and gives him a PROPER ending, not just that “off into the sunset” weak-sauce from Red Country.

  • Kreso says:

    Great to hear the new trilogy is coming along!

    I am proud to see I finally got my girlfriend hooked on the First Law world, she’s absolutely loving it 🙂

  • David M says:

    When you were writing Red Country you published a reading list of what was guiding your writing – do you have a similar list for this new trilogy?


    (PS – I am currently reading “Last Stand at Saber River” by Elmore Leonard. I never used to read Westerns you bastard!)

  • Miles Cohen says:

    Can’t flippin wait!!!!

  • James Webster says:

    Excellent news, great to hear.

    To Mark Denton, you should really give the Shattered Sea trilogy a try. Ok, it doesn’t have swearing, but its just as cynical, bloody and humorous as the rest of Joe’s work, and with some new favourite characters. Thorn!!

    If you like any of the Northmen POV in The First Law, I am pretty sure you will enjoy it.

  • […] la serie. Non so quale sia il suo prossimo progetto (anzi, lo so, perché l’ho appena gugolato: una nuova trilogia ambientata una ventina di anni dopo Last Argument of Kings) ma personalmente non mi opporrei a […]

  • TheRealYarrrviPirate says:

    I really don’t understand why you neglect us so. The apology is appreciated, however, and I do look forward to the next evolution, m’lord.

  • Janusz says:

    So there will be three books not nine… I was afraid that I might not live long enough to finish. 🙂

  • phil.i.p says:

    Thanks for the update, Joe.

    I’m pregnant with anticipation (or maybe just a bit overweight).

    Any hint of a publication date for the first of the new trilogy?

  • Div Div says:

    New books in the First Law world?

    Hopefully narrated by the great Steven Pacey?

    …OH shit…

    Fucking SOLD.

  • Lukin says:

    I’ve listened to all 9 books on audible 3 times. I’ve spent so much time digging through audible listening to samples, reading sample chapters, purchasing a book, only to be let down by the middle of the book by contrived and simple characters with no depth and no reason to care. I believe sir, your books, for me at least, have set a standard that very few could ever hope to aspire to.

    Out of frustration, I’ve started listening to the first law series for the 4th time (I have very long commute each day in miserable traffic), and it’s been like talking to old friends. I get in my truck, back out of the driveway a day press play and the advice of Logen sets the pace of my day, the pain that Glokta endures I sympathize with (back problems are devastating), the bravado of Jezal and the calculating genius of Byaz are just enough to give my day an edge that leaves me mentally prepared to deal with idiots. Hah.

    I cannot wait for the next series. Chomping at the bit as they say. Good luck with it.

    On a personal note, I’ve wondered for some time now how you were able to capture and create the pain that Glokta sufferso in such a stunningly real and relatable way. I’ve had back problems for years, multiple surgeries, and the pain that is described for GLokta is so dead on accurate that it leaves me thinking, “good lord did Abercrombie go through this???” Anyway, someday I hope you will disclose some of your inspiration for this amazing character.

    Thanks for sharing your world with us.


  • Alejandro says:

    Nice one. I like trilogies the most.

  • Millclose says:

    Fantastic News!

    I just finished Sharp Ends, and it was such a joy to spend time with your characters again, as well as meeting your latest veteran’s Shevv and Javre. After seeing the world through Bethods eyes, i enjoy how every new characters perspective give a fresh view of the First Law world.

  • Davids says:

    Just looked up your website for 1st time to see if any news and I got lucky. Just recently found your books as always avoided fantasy as more interested in sci fi. I crossed over by way of Richard Morgan and have now read the first law trilogy twice and just finished the heroes which I enjoyed immensely. Its definitely the charachters in your books which have hooked me. Still got red country and sharp ends to go but good to know if I eke them out there are further books in pipeline. Finding an author you enjoy is like finding a box set, it’s really hard not to binge.

  • Eric says:

    Looking forward to it, love everything you pump out. I enjoyed the Shattered Sea but am excited about more First Law and what that will bring. Thirty years is a long time, though I’d really love to see some more of Shivers again.

    Keep up the great work and take care!

  • Eric S says:

    I really look forward to it! With everything I have read from classic literature to modern fiction I have never gotten such an adrenaline rush while reading as I have when the bloody nine emerges. With an engaging and fast paced plot coupled with great character development, your novels are what every reader hopes for. I wish you success in your next venture.

  • Darren says:

    Hi Jo,

    We will be attending your talk at Harrogate. Just wondering, will you have the 10 year anniversary The Blade Itself book there to purchase hopefully signed)?


  • John says:

    Hey Joe,

    First off long time fan. finally go the trade paperback of LAOK and now that collection is complete.

    So given that Chris Metzen left blizzard you going to show them how a storyline is really written?

  • SwindonNick says:

    Update gratefully received, any projection on publication dates?

  • Jon McCarthy says:

    Love all your books so far. Any idea when Sharp Ends will be available in paperback?

  • misomiso says:

    Loved the First Law trilogy; thought the characters were really well drawn and brilliantly subversive…

    I have two questions for you

    1) I read some where that you really liked Fighting Fantasy when you were young. is this accurate? If so do you have any favourites? Mine was the Sorcery series which I thought was very creative.

    2) Do you ever want to write any Sci Fi as opposed to fantasy? And have you ever any read any Sci-fi that was a big influence on your writing (50s sci fi? HG wells?)

    Thks dude.

  • matt says:

    How cool would it be if First Law gets series like Game of Thrones? Game of Thrones is ending and what better to come after. GOT has so many interesting gray characters. Well the First Law is full of gray characters.

  • Fluxdeluxe says:

    Not sure I get the please avoid industrialization comments. You can see that this is being set up as a direction to go from the Heroes. Bayaz and his group of university adepts are experimenting with rifling, metallurgy and powder, it’s the logical conclusion to think that factories come next to mass produce weapons based off these principles. If you look at our own history it gives an author an awful lot of inspiration.

    Birth of Marxism
    Birth of Capitalism as a codified philosophy
    De-gentrification (already hinted at with the merchant classes in the previous books)
    De population of rural areas
    Population leaps
    The emasculation of royalty as the ruling class
    Workers rights and uprisings

    Even if some of these subjects are explored through the lens of the first law world, adding art, eaters, north men and new frontiers into the mix it promises to be a fascinating read. There’s also Bayaz and his cohorts who are almost an illuminati like organisation already, with Khalul and his followers on the other side.

    Just because it’s going to be industrialised doesn’t mean it needs to be pigeon-holed into steam punk. If the update has demonstrates anything it’s that Abercrombie is looking to avoid these comparisons.

    Looking forward to a new trilogy.

  • Veronica says:

    Hey there,

    I love the shattered sea series I am on book two and love it I cant wait to read the first law trilogy

  • Mario says:

    I read all of your books and love the most of them. I like Fantasy stories, so it would be a pity if you change the settings to early industrialisation time.
    However, hope to read new stuff from you asap.
    Best regards

  • Heider Mesquita says:

    Love your work man.

    I hope to see more from Ferro Maljinn in the new trilogy =)

  • Sando says:

    Take your time. Plenty of other stuff out there at the moment.

    I’ve loved the Mark Lawrence – The Red Queen’s War trilogy and recommend it to anyone waiting for the next Abercrombie book.

    Hopefully it’s not too far into the future that we don’t get a look at the fate of Ninefingers.

  • Stefan says:

    “…if the characters are fascinating and the voices arresting you can watch them do nothing and still be captivated.”

    Exactly. This is Joe Abercrombie in a nutshell, and this is why he’s so good. If I read an Abercrombie book on a train people look at me weird cos I keep cracking up laughing. It’s all about the captivating, entertaining characters.

  • Matthew says:

    I have bought every one of your books.
    I have had so many questions on characters from the First Law books, like the woman that left ice footprints, the wizard, the cripple, and of course the Eaters. I apologize I dont remember the names, I read those books three times and it has been awhile since last time.

    Please write these books, I am incredibly excited to read this.

  • Neuro says:

    First law series and your stand alone books made me view the world in a different way. I believe that is the most any author could do for its readers. You are amazing because your characters are not made to be liked or disliked. They are what they are and they don’t feel like simple plot pieces that are thrown around just to help you have an ending that you desire. Looking forward to your next book.

  • Noga says:

    Your books are fantastic. Your second trilogy will probably be done by time martins 6th boom comes out lol. Your third trilogy done by time his 7th book is almost done. I like that you can actually write a book know a decent amount of time. Finishing sharp ends read all the first law and the three after. Fantastic! Just a matter of time before they give u a show and you make assloads of money. Just as good as a song of ice and fire and maybe better. The way you capture violence in your writing is truly gruesome and beautiful. Keep writing first law forever!

  • Apollo Dingo says:

    Hi Joe, glad I stopped by. I’m extremely excited to hear that you are jumping head first back into the First Law world. Sharp Ends was nice appetizer, but nothing comes close to the full experience. Still, I was happy with the Shattered Sea, so I’m happy as long as your cooking something in the kitchen. Anyway, I actually stopped by to mention this new Tyranny from Obsidian. I’m enjoying it. But honestly, it makes me think of Bayaz. Well, it makes me realize why Bayaz has chosen to rule indirectly, because the incredibly powerful tyrant in Tyranny creates a really depressing world merely by the fact that everyone knows she is calling the shots. Whereas, the ignorance of most of the Union makes it less gloomy.

  • Ovi says:

    That’s a nice progress report.
    Even better than I have expected, to be honest. I was assuming that now (since you’ve got yourself a name already, one that, in my opinion, you definitely deserve) you’re just taking your time enjoying life & shit like that up to some point (a far one) when the echoes of your past success start to slowly fade, that verge when people nearly forget about the First law, and time calls for the new follow-up trilogy set in this awesome world. A moment that will send some shivers down some spines again, fueling the cash flow for a new period of “taking your time enjoying life & shit like that”… Or at least this is what I would imagine myself doing :))

    But now, to know that you already have something written… Boy, I have to say, my eyes formed a bit of moisture. Damn ninjas cutting onions!

  • Sam says:

    I loved Best Served Cold.

    I know you caught some heat for this, but it’s one of my all time fav’s.

    Everything after was a little disappointing Joe.

    Friendly reminder not to forget about your edgy anti heroes.


  • Pharcee says:

    Joe, My Dear Joe,

    You know what the fans want, you know what you must do; bring the Bloody Nine back for another round. Give us the conclusion we crave.

    I know what you’re thinking, Jesus Christ, enough already. In my defense, and in presumed defense of others, Logen is one of the best characters ever brought to life.

    The First Law Trilogy, God Damn it, is now my bench mark when it comes to grim, dark, imagination shattering books. Nothing holds up anymore. Its like you gave me the best 3 fingers of whiskey, only to tell me that I’ll never have it again, probably.

    As I said, Logen is one of the best characters ever brought to life, now give us a good, long, mind altering, make me stop drinking whiskey, death we so crave. If not a death, give us more of the glory.


  • Arthur says:

    Really excited to see what’s coming next. I have not read “The Shattered Sea” yet (waited for the German translation and starting the first book now). The First Law was simply amazing. Then “The Heroes” and “Red Country” came very close to it because of the characters. The other one didn’t really work for me because I really didn’t care about the characters that much.

    Why am I writing this?

    Just wanted to say I just played “The Banner Saga 2” and there is this character, Bolverk Bloodaxe. That guy reminded me of Logan and when I got to play him I was just right back in The First Law again. The game got so much better and I just needed to come here and see if there is something new. 🙂

    Good Luck with the new stories.

  • Jared says:

    Come on! more First Law!

    So stoked to see what’s next.

    Any rough ETA of the 1st book? We talking 12, 18, 24 months?

    Love your work!

  • dj says:


    I started the first law trilogy in May and finished it in July…absolutely loved every moment of it.

    The characters were fantastic, the story line had a great intensity. I have been working on the first book of my epic fantasy series and reading your works have really galvanised and helped me develop a clearer sense of narrative and character voice.

    AH, and that ending for LAOK! Damn it man it really got…to me! Super excited for the next trilogy!

    Thanks a bunch for making my daily commutes genuinely exciting!!!

    p.s. why the bloody hell hasn’t your trilogy been made into a TV show yet. With all the great action and clarity of character it would be so cool!

  • Enrico says:

    *sigh of relief*
    Now that I’ve read this I know we’re in good hands. I really cannot wait to read the new trilogy, I loved the first one and the three linked books (just started the last one, Red Country, maybe the weakest of the sextet)
    Enrico from Italy

  • John says:

    Really loved The First Law Books, but my all time favorite is Best Served Cold. Really happy to see Monzcarro made it to “Blades”. Fascinating character. I could read about her all the time. Looking forward to that next trilogy, but no pressure!!!

  • Michael says:

    A trilogy in 9 parts sounds a bit D Adams’ish!
    There is of course no pressure as we are all still young 🙂

  • Johan says:

    Lovely news

    First Law are my favourite books ever. Yes even more then Game of thrones who are my second favourite books now.

    I would like to ask you if there will be a book about Logen back in the day (when he seems to have been ..well not the most pleasant guy to cross paths with.

    Maybe this question has been asked before but i have not found any info about it, so i apoligize in advance if that is the case. Which it probably is.
    I mean comon who does not want a book about Logens past and to actually read the events hinted troughout The First Law books.

    Thanks for the very good awesome books!

  • Neal says:

    More bloody 9 please! He rips

  • Logan G says:

    Hello from Elmendorf Texas, U.S. I am a huge fan of your work sir. Since discovering it 2 years ago, I still find new enjoyment often in all of your books.

    As a Texan, I particularly liked Red Country. I figure the environment was unfamiliar and out of your area of expertise- but I believe you did a really great job of capturing what in essence the european “civilizing” did to the otherwise normal almost empty and peaceful wide-open. Not to mention many chuckles at the rich prose and punchlines. All-in-all well done.

    You have enriched my life, if a little more darky. 🙂

    I am truly excited for your upcoming trilogies!

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