Progress Report August ’18

August 30th, 2018

Things have been more than a bit disrupted over the last couple of months with no less than two moves and a couple of holidays. But today, after eight months out, we are finally moving back into our house. Totally unfinished, of course, so there’s going to be a month at least in which we’re sharing the place with the builders as they finish off, but hopefully getting back to some kind of normal by the end of September.

Work cannot stop, though, of course, and the last couple of months I’ve been ticking over, finishing my reread of all the published First Law books and making notes of anything relevant to the new series, receiving comments from my editor, coming up with an action plan and then going through the First Draft of A Little Hatred with a view to making a Second Draft.  

For me this round of revision is the heavy lifting which brings the start of the story into line with where it’s finished up, addressing the bigger editorial concerns, maybe adding a scene or two, but mostly tweaking the characters into line with my long term vision for them, laying the groundwork for later developments of plot and character which I might not have fully anticipated when I wrote the first draft, and getting the voices of the central cast and maybe some of the key secondary characters a bit more consistent and distinctive.  

I’m also always looking to cut down.  Sometimes a word, sometimes a phrase, sometimes a paragraph.  Readers can get panicky about that, with a thought process like, ‘I love the words, and now there’ll be less,’ but cutting is one of the most powerful tools a writer has.  You remove what is bad, after all, and leave what is good.  You prune what is unnecessary, repetitive, off-point and render sentences, paragraphs, scenes more pacey, meaningful and dynamic.

Still, in general, after a round of revision to get to the first draft where I’m usually cutting quite heavily (maybe 5% of total word count?)  In getting to a second draft I’m usually adding words back in on aggregate, with a few themes needing to be emphasised, features picked up on, and maybe a scene or two to add.  First draft was 170,700 words.  Second will be closer to 175,000, I would imagine, which funnily enough is pretty much exactly what I was aiming at.  There is a first time for everything, after all…

Generally when I revise I go through character by character, rather than in chapter order, in an attempt to get each point-of-view’s voice and feelings and progression firmly in my mind, as consistent as possible and as distinct as possible from everyone else.  I’ve nearly been through 6 of the 7 central points of view now, with one still to go.  He’ll be one of the most difficult, mind you.  Still, I expect to have this second draft done within a couple of weeks.  Then I need to decide whether to try and do the same thing to the second book (which in some ways needs more work), or push on to some of the more detailed revision of this first one in an effort to get it actually finished.  Need to have it done (or at least ready to be copy edited) by year-end to give plenty of time for the September publication date, but that should be plenty of time still, I hope.  Very much looking forward to getting another First Law novel out there.  Feels like a long time since the last one…

Posted in news, process, progress by Joe Abercrombie on August 30th, 2018. Tags: , ,

47 comments so far

  • Dennis says:

    Great up-date. Re-Reading all the books myself.

    How’s the grit level?

  • Darren says:

    Always great to hear your updates Joe. Looking forward to reading about the first law world again. If all goes to plan are you looking at a similar release schedule to what you did for the shattered sea?

  • Jake O'Neill says:

    Only discovered this series two years ago and they’ve quickly become one of my favourite series of all time. Genuinely will be counting down the months until the new book comes out!

  • VZ says:

    > no less than two moves […] back into our house

    Have you been intentionally reenacting “There and back again” as a homage to Tolkien? Even though I’m a fan too, this is really taking it to another level.

  • Steve Hick says:

    Joe, do you ever come up with ideas for new or additional subtexts during the editing process that might lead to something larger than you want to include and, if so, what do with them? Do you ever prune sections entirely, same question?


  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Grit level ranges from First Law up to Best Served Cold later in the series…

    For these books it’ll probably be yearly. Makes absolutely sure I have time to get them finished and maximises the impact. With any luck I can get started on what comes next well before the third comes out…

    Never question my commitment…

    Mostly it’s a case of changes in my feelings and new ideas between starting the first draft and finishing it. Second draft is often a question of bringing the whole book into line with the concept that’s developed by the end. With a project of this scale there’s a lot more to think about than with, say, a standalone book, mind you, so there is a fair bit to do in this phase, especially to the first and second books. I might add a scene or two, but I can’t think that I’ve ever cut an entire scene. Usually every scene is doing at least one thing I really have to have, or I probably wouldn’t have put it in to begin with. Some scenes are pretty baggy after a first draft, though, and need some heavy pruning.

  • TG says:

    Any news on film or TV adaptations???

  • Ben tully says:

    Will Ferro or any of her family feature in these books…?

  • Wyatt Mitchell says:

    Cannot wait! Super excited for this 🙂

  • Jack says:

    Always appreciate these updates, it’s so nice to know how the anticipated book is coming along, and it’s good to hear it’s going well.

    Personally, my favorite update will be the cover design reveal, I’m looking forward to that one! That always gives a feel of “the book is here”.

  • Manuel Stark says:

    Always nice to listen to your updates Joe.
    It’s so nice to know how the intended book is going, and it’s nice to know it’s going well.
    how do you plan working hours for the book?
    do you have any particular method to give free rein to your imagination and where do you find inspiration for the character of your characters?
    I will count the months until the new book comes out!

  • Fez says:

    How was rereading the other First Law books? Any changes you wish you made? Especially now as they pertain to the new books?

  • Joakim Lindell says:

    Thanks for the update,

    I’m really looking forward to what’s to come. You’ve become one of my favorite authors thanks to your great storytelling.
    Partly of the great world and lore you’ve constructed, partly because of the likeable characters you fill them with (even the bastards are likeable) and partly becase of the great pace you tell your stories. Among other great things of course. Whenever I talk books with people, The First Law-triology is my first pick to recommend anyone who are likely to appreciate this genre.

    I get so inspired to write myself, probably one of those “I’m gonna write a book but probably never going to”-kind of book, but the ideas spill over to my dungeon mastering so no waste there.

    Anyhow, thank you for all the entertainment and keep up the good work. /Joakim, Sweden

  • Jennifer McMenemy says:

    As a teacher I love showing students the perspectives of current, living and breathing writers, who revise a lot. It helps them see how important revision is, even in the lives of us layfolk, and especially in a time when many people tend to write a response and send it off without consideration to their words. Revision of ones thoughts and words should become habit.

    I found your series because of an amazing group of students, now on their journey to adulthood, and we are all so anxiously awaiting more First Law. Plus, my daughter and I are traveling through the Shattered Sea together. Nothing’s like memories made through beautiful words.
    Words, words , words.

  • Scott says:

    Looking forward to the advances in technology and the impact that has on the military thought process (provided you include the military in this series). Have they progressed much past the use of gunpowder?

  • The Bloody Nine says:

    SPOILER ALERT: I violently murder everyone at the end.

  • hawkeyye says:

    As I recall, Logen was 50’ish years old in Red Country. I hope we see him as a 65-70 year old wise man of some sort in the series….maybe?

  • Nathan Towns says:

    “scenes more [P]acey”
    I like where this is going.

  • Adam says:

    I will reread all first law books as well
    I love them

  • Dominic Adler says:

    Hi Joe. A question, please? With a word count upwards of 150K what (if any) tracking tools do you use for reference? A notebook? Scrivener-style software? A spreadsheet? Or are you one of those lucky people who can remember stuff off-pat? Cheers and good luck, the next book is a Day One buy for me.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    If there was news I could share on film and tv adaptations, I would be sharing it from the rooftops.

    Ben Tully,
    Not directly.

    Manuel Stark,
    It’s in the first draft phase that I usually have to impose a bit of discipline on writing hours – I enjoy the editing and revision much more, so usually I find I’m keen to get to the desk and see it all come together.

    The last post on the blog was all about re-reading.

    As a trilogy it’s over 500k. No special software, I just use Word. Always have. I have a big table of dates and timelines for the central characters to try and keep key things like ages and timing of past events straight. I work on each chapter in a separate document until quite near the end of the process, and I have a big table where I can easily see the order and word count, colour coded by point of view character, from which these days I can instinctively judge the balance of stuff and easily shuffle things around. Then I have big documents of concerns and questions and things to try and include or change, organised by character, generally, which I’m constantly referring to throughout this process. But yeah, there is no substitute really for just trying to immerse yourself in it and somehow keep it all in mind…

  • Matt says:

    Great update as always Joe! Wonderful insights about the writing process you have, Ive been a bit naive about the effort to write a book I notice.
    It’s a great move not to rush it, Ive seen bad accidents before with rushed books..its not a pretty sight.

    I do except this book to be the best Ive read the last 5 years or so, but no pressure, you just have to keep your normal level for that.

  • @therealjobercrombie says:

    SO bayaz has to die or else you’d be repackaging. I bet your gonna be all optimistic and break the bayaz v kahlul wheel after spinning it half a turn. Then all the characters can reflect on the new age and be depressed by new problems. Good humor and good intentions radiating from his deep lined face, “ah I remember.”

  • think4yerslf says:

    Hooray!!!! Come on Sept 2019!!!!

  • Michael Yonkers says:

    I’ve re-read (actually listened to) the First Law series, the stand-alone novels and Sharp Edges this summer. As great an experience as the first time around! Greater, really, since I picked up on connections between the books that I missed in the initial reading. I really love your work and am looking forward to the new trilogy.

  • Marco says:

    As always, thank you so much for the update. We’re aware they’re a chore to do, but we really appreciate them.

  • Tyler H. says:

    You are awesome! Love these updates. Wish more writers tackled they’re work like you do… Maybe they do, I don’t know, but it doesn’t feel like they do.

  • Elif Kaya says:

    Thank you for the update and looking forward to your novels. I have read everything you wrote and, amazingly, I love all of them.

  • Lukin says:

    Joe! I cant begin to tell you how excited this makes me. (The second most excited ive been about your work since the movie rumors abounded at the beginning of the year – alas).

    Currently listening to them all again (Stephen pacey is awesome).

    The new books cant come soon enough. Cant wait to see what the denizens of the circle of the world have been up to. Glokta in particular!

    Thanks for the amazing stories sir,


  • Jesper Ejsing says:

    I look so much forward to the next book of the first law. Sit tight, lean back in “Ægget” with your laptop and enjoy…

  • Jovan says:

    HUGE fan Joe. The problem with finding an amazing series/author though, is not being as impressed with other writers. You have any book suggestions to tie me over until the release?

  • J says:

    Huge fan, heroes stands as possibly my favourite novel ever and Glotka as one of the greatest characters in genre ( and out of it ) i realise you can’t give spoilers but since the short story in Sharp ends wet my appetite i have to ask will glotka make a appearance in the new series and if he does will it be more then a cameo or side character?
    But whatever the case can’t wait to read the new books!

  • Carl Baldwin says:

    Joe: I don’t usually post on author websites/blogs, but I am always eager to see when your next First Law book is coming out. These books are full of great, great characters – I would be surprised if some of them don’t make the big screen in due course.
    Keep up the good work please – thanks for the entertainment. Can’t wait for the next instalments.

  • Taliesin says:

    Hi JOe,

    Your publisher has listed A little Hatred with an April release date. Do you know if that is correct? You mention september in this post so…


  • Taliesin says:

    Hi Joe

    Your publisher has listed this book ( A Little Hatred) for April, is that correct?

    I see you mention September in this post.


  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Glokta is not a point of view but he is a significant character. Kind of like Sult in the First Law, I guess…

    Far as I’m aware, it’s gonna be september. Not sure where that date comes from.

  • Misery says:

    Just two questions I wanted to ask. Will Logen Ninefingers be in this trilogy and if so, will his appearance be significant. And who is your personal favourite character from The First Law universe?

  • Al says:

    Joe, I love all your books and can’t wait for the new series (though I guess I will have to). I keep going back to The Heroes, must’ve read it 5 or 6 times. It would be fantastic as a film or mini series and great to meet all those unique characters that live and breathe in my head. What are the chances? Also, were you influenced in any way by the battle of Waterloo when writing it?

  • The Dogman says:

    Hey Joe, great to read the update, so excited for the next trilogy. This is sort of unrelated, but what would you think of writing a cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk novel. With your Western influences, grit and dark humor, I would really like to see this.

  • Ste says:

    I think Logen would be too old to be part of the story.

    And thanks Joe, for giving us updates frequent. I wish more authors would do that. Love your work

  • Superiorl Pike says:

    Gosh i’m on my second audible play through of the series after countless re-reads. i’m excited and appreciate all the updates. Keep up the good work Mr. Abercrombie!

    Will we see more of Ferro? Khalul POVs? or some of the south? maybe a new apprentice for Bayaz? Calder’s son? Jezals son?

    “what kind of wizard are you” “the one you obey” one of the most interesting lines of the series. and sums up power in Adua. Also more of Finree? Gosh so many great characters to choose from or their relatives.

    Tolomei and Yulwei still in the tower of the maker? will we revisit that fearsome place? Or other Magi in the world?

  • Xtopher says:

    Similar question to Al’s, but the Heroes reminds me strongly of Gettysburg: A completely unplanned meeting engagement that leads to a bloody multi-day battle with one side entrenched on a hill and the other side basically slinking away when the cost of victory becomes too high or impossible.

  • Nikola Kambourov says:

    Hi Joe

    Any chance of a progress report in October?

    Best fantasy I’ve read.


  • Dumond says:

    Hey Joe,

    I can’t believe the next big book is on it’s way, and at the same time I can’t wait to feel the pages turn under my fingers. Your books are my favorite by far.

    Not sure if you can give a straight answer to this question without giving anything away, but I’ll try my luck: what’re the chances we find out more about the history of the world, of magic and the mythology overall that serves as the constant backdrop of these stories?

    The tales from the time of Juvens and Kanedias, of the twelve Magi, or even further back. Will all of that still be involved (to some extent) in the new trilogy, or will there be less just because (as you’ve said) the world is a more technologically advanced one than we’ve been used to?

    Thanks, and the very best of luck for the rest of the series (kudos on the TWO moves by the way).

  • Mike H says:

    Mr. Abercrombie
    First Law series is one of the best works of fiction ever created. I have purchased them all of them in both print and audio formats.
    There are so many characters I enjoy that there is not enough space to list them and why.
    I do have one request/plea for the new masterpiece.
    Whatever you do PLEASE keep/buy/kidnap Steven Pacey for the audiobook version.
    I cannot tell you how absolutely maddening it is for a audiobook fan to get excited for the new edition of a popular series only to find the narrator has changed.
    It is comparable to actors being changed in the middle of a movie scene with completely different interpretation of the mannerism of the character. I have never understood publisher/studio decisions to change narrators 3 books into a series unless they have passed away. I would rather wait until Steven Pacey is available or spend more to purchase A Little Hatred then to allow a idiotic decision suck all the life out of your characters.

    Thanks for all the pleasure you have given my ears and brain over the years Mr. Abercrombie.

    Mike H

  • Omar Al-Khateeb says:

    For the hours of pure pleasure you have provided me with sir, thank you.

  • Clayton says:

    I very much enjoy hearing you describe your creative process. One of the things I love most about your work is the pacing, so kudos for not giving in to those asking for more words.

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