Progress Report July ’17

July 31st, 2017

In line with my restated commitment to do progress reports every couple of months, here comes another…

Work continues on the very rough first draft of the second book in my new trilogy, and I must confess that, for now, it continues apace. Good word, apace, I should use it more in conversation. For the overall plan with these books you can look back to the last report in May. I’ve finished the second part (of three), planned out and started on the third.  That means I’ve written and loosely revised some 70,000 words of (roughly) readable material in two months.  There’s a lot more to writing than sheer number of words, of course, but it’s not a bad measure of progress when you’re drafting, and that is about as fast as I’ve ever written. In fact you’ve got to go back to finishing off Last Argument of Kings, when I was crashing through some scenes I’d been thinking about for a long time and was really keen to write, to get anywhere close.  Can’t count on that level of productivity over the long, long haul, of course, but I shall feel guardedly pleased about it for now.

Still, the speed shows a little bit.  This is the very middle of the trilogy and there’s something of a sense of setting the board for big events to come.  There’s a bit of blandness and repetition – a lot of lengthy conversations that crank the plot along but don’t do enough for character, and could do with happening in more dynamic circumstances rather than just, you know, A ROOM.  Get outside, people.  Visit a goddamn factory while you’re talking.  Or be surprised by dragons or something.  Of the seven central characters there are three that already work pretty good, two that are fine but a little bland, and two that need a fair bit of work.  As is often the case with me, these are the two that really drive the plot along and also develop most during the story.  The whole thing just needs a lot more arresting detail and, well, edge.  That’s nothing to panic about, though, even if I do like a good panic, the whole idea of this big draft approach is to get a firm idea of where I’m going so I can decide exactly what I need the characters to be, and how I want them to develop, over the course of the trilogy.  Personality can be introduced later, a lot of it in the detail of the writing, and not just to the central cast but to secondary characters, the settings and the events.

So, a long way to go, but good progress over the last couple of months.  Onward…

Posted in progress by Joe Abercrombie on July 31st, 2017.

38 comments so far

  • Michael Luder-Rosefield says:

    It turns out the thing I was going to flippantly suggest does actually exist:

    How does ‘violent, nurturing, kindly’ strike you? Or ‘violent, dependable, cruel’ … I think it’s a bit hung up on violent. Which… is actually perfect for a Joe Abercrombie book 😀

  • Matty P says:

    Cheers for taking the time to update! Much appreciated (from Australia).

  • Johanna says:

    Thanks for updating. You are doing very well (obviously!)

  • Gustav Dahlström says:

    I’m dying to get my hands for the new trilogy. But that is just me, take your time. After all… you have to be realistic.

    Thank you for the update!

  • David List says:

    These update posts set you apart from (above) many other authors, to say nothing of your style.

    I bet you knew the stir you’d generate using the word ‘factory.’ The Grimdark fantasy page on Facebook is a flutter.

    I bet 70k in two months is enough to set a keyboard on fire. “Oi’ve got blistahs on me fingahs!”

  • John says:

    Great news!! Anxiously awaiting finished project. Will look for inferior works til then, or just hunker down and re-re-reread Best Served Cold. Cheers!!

  • Steve says:

    For the two characters that need some work, add an eye patch and a parrot apiece and jobs a good’un.

  • Brother Northwind says:

    Hi Joe, what a great news, thank you! I’m curious, will this new trilogy have room for playing around with different genres (like you did with a revenge story, military fiction and Western), or the story will be too large-scale to mess with it?

  • Cheers for letting us know. 🙂

  • Dan V says:

    Thanks for the progress update! I am excited, as I’m sure anyone who follows your work, for this next trilogy. I hope the process going forward is smooth and that you don’t have any major hiccups.

  • Michael Walsh says:

    “Personality can be introduced later, a lot of it in the detail of the writing.” As Henry James said, “Action is character.”

  • Darren says:

    Thanks for the update. Until release day is here any news on a 10th anniversary edition of Before They Are Hanged?

  • Grayson says:

    “Even if I do love a good panic…”
    Thanks for that, I got a great laugh out of it. I relate to this so much that it hurts. Is there a word for self-directed schadenfreude?

  • Dennis Henley says:

    As I age, I admit that I start thinking, “When will those books appear? I’m not getting younger. Will I still be around to enjoy the final volume? Am I going to have to start eating kale so I last until the books have been published? Maybe even, gasp, exercise.”

    Well, you get the idea. And, no pressure, Joe.

  • James says:

    Thanks for the update. It’s interesting to me to gauge the writing process over time. You do have some of the more interesting tweets I’ve ever read too.

  • Adam says:

    I’ll wait as long as it take, but I’m brand new to your work, still missing half of heroes, and everything that comes after.
    Might get a bit impatient when I read the rest and reread the series again after that.
    But seriously these are some of the best books I’ve read, and I’m doing my best to spread the word to everyone I know who loves a good book.

  • D J Harrison says:

    At last you seem to have been getting down to some serious work, Joe. I keep fondling The Blade Itself and hankering after another re-read but the adjacent unread China Mieville collection is regarding me in the manner of a Slake Moth ready to open its grisly wings.
    Write faster, keep me from the clutches of New Crobuzon.

  • misomiso says:

    Three other fan criticisms for ‘The Shattered Sea’

    When you write YA fiction, it’s very helpful if you write from the same characters POV for the Whole trilogy. I know you wanted Yarvi to have all these schemes you could use as twists in books 2 and 3, and see his degradation by being consumed by revenge, but it was very jaring to have to keep switching main characters each book.

    If you do another YA trilogy, try and follow the same three people, or same person, throughout the whole series, as then we can see their progression from boy to man, and the story is THEIR story.

    The Twist in the Shattered Sea setting is good overall, but the problem is that it makes it hard to market and to sell. It may have been better to have just been upfront from the beginning, an say ‘this is set in the future’, then have them discover weapons as a twist.

    When you explain the Hunger games to somebody, you can say its set in a future America, etc etc, but what do you say when you describe The Shattered Sea?

    Finally on Romances in YA, they always need them, but the best ones handle them with a deft touch, and don’t consumate stuff till the end. It’s the anticipation of love, and of who to choose to be your lover, that readers like, not the act itself.

    Looking forward to the next trilogy.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    David List,
    Well, not set the keyboard on fire, but some of the keys are quite shiny.

    Not so much on the clear genre references with this one, I wouldn’t say. Not totally sure how you’d characterise it, really…

    10th Anniversary Before They are Hanged should be coming later this year. I wrote an introduction for it a couple of months back, and have seen a cover. Exactly when, not sure. I would guess in time for this year’s Gollanczfest…

    When I write something, I write it the way I want to, not necessarily the way you want me to. Just the way it has to be. If I write something to please you, or some perception of what a particular kind of reader wants, I promise you there are going to be other people who don’t like it for exactly the reasons you do. I’m not really interested in writing to what the market wants or expects. There are always plenty of people doing that, I would argue that no one needs it from me.

    I mean, better to tell people the twist at the front rather than let them find out for themselves? No, thanks.

  • Darren says:

    Thanks Joe, I’ll put the 10th anniversary book on my list and hope to catch you at a signing somewhere if you have any planned.

    Exactly right on the twists. I love trying to figure out what will happen next or what will make a character change their ways based on the events of a book. You do this better than anyone else in he genre for my money. Keep it up.


  • Lewis says:

    Ahh Misomiso a national of Kekistan perchance??? Joe you could of course tread the same path as everyone else, but for me, beaten paths are for beaten men.

    I as I suspect most of your readers love your characters but would that still be true if nine fingers lost his shit 2/3 times a book, 6 books in a row… maybe but then maybe the shine would have worn off just a little.

    you do you Joe, I’m still keen.

  • misomiso says:

    Thank you for replying!

    If I sounded too negative I apologise, I adore the Shattered Sea, and thinking about it I like the story precisly because of not in spite of the things you put it that I tried to offer criticism for.

    Seeing Yarvi completely degrade by the end is one the best parts.

    I just meant this; although the books have been marketed as YA fiction, they are not ‘classic’ YA fiction – ie staying inside one person’s POV, anticipation of sex rather than the act of, one hero for the whole trilogy etc.

    As said before, part of why the books are great is that they are NOT classic YA, but as a reader I felt I loss something by not being able to stay inside Yarvi’s head for books 2&3, as I missed following him over three books as he tore the world apart in his quest for revenge / power.

    On the setting and the Twist, I was just thinking of Hitchcock’s Mystrey vs Suspense, how being upfront at the beginning could give you MORE opportunities to play with the setting rather than less, and add a different kind of tension. Plus I find the books very difficult to describe to people without being able to tell them what is going on!

    You are right of course; the story has to be the way it is. I guess I’ll just have to blame the author for making characters I care about so much that I go and write posts on the internet….

    All the best, and looking forward to the next trilogy

  • Twerker says:

    Thank you very much for the update. Really appreciate it. And, by the way, Pat, this is how it’s done.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Oh, no offence. Interesting suggestions. Interestingly, though I wrote the shattered sea in part for a somewhat younger audience, I don’t know that I really wrote it as category YA, and indeed the way it’s been sold varies a lot in different markets. So in Germany it was really just sold as adult fantasy like my other books. In the US, much the same. In the UK, somewhere between. In Spain, where the category is maybe a bit looser, much more as YA. These things are always a bit of a random interaction of the imprint you happen to have, your history as a writer, your established audience, as well as the nature of the book you’ve actually written.

    Thanks. But probably not the venue for potshots at other writers…

  • Twerker says:

    You’re right, mate. Disregard that last bit. And thank you again.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    You’re always welcome to twerk over here, mind you.

  • Gabriel9 says:

    Shattered Sea was thoroughly enjoyable but Yarvi was a sweatheart (zzzz) and the other 2 lacked balls (literally). I love women but can’t identify to them in a story.
    Oh god! I hope you make your characters as cowardly, greedy, shallow, naïve and self centered as i am. I mean you have no idea how much of an impact Jezal dan Luthar has had on my life. That man is my mentor, my inspiration and has made me the person i am today.
    God speed and thank you for the awesome worlds you create which momentarily take us away from this god awful one.

  • Brandon says:

    Can we expect any short stories or novellas in the lead up to the new trilogy? I always enjoy a good shorter read on characters we wouldn’t usually get to see.

    Hopefully once game of thrones ends one of the big networks will realize this is the perfect series to adapt.

    Keep up the wonderful work.

    Brandon from Minnesota

  • michael says:

    Joe, You were kind enough to sign some stuff for me a year or three back at Waterstones in Brum. One of those items was the First Law comic series compendium, which I had managed to get from Amazon in the USA. I followed the links (above left) to see if it was still available, and was amazed to find that a used copy in the UK will set you back £120, and one seller in the US is asking $25k for a shiny new one! Mine is mint, naturally, and signed, and obviously an object of daily worship.

    I was wondering if Barcelona would swap it for Neymar so that he could come and play for Walsall this season?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Well never say never but honestly it’s difficult to justify the time spent writing shorter fiction when you could be writing a chunk of a novel. In general the longer stuff just reaches a far bigger readership.

    $25k???? Someone’s off their rocker.

  • Bill Graber says:

    Joe: You are one of the best… You and Stephen King are among my favorites … along with Rothfuss. Keep keeping on and as you have told us too many times…” You can never have too many Knives”… Ninefingers is the reason we stand for something.. regardless of our own self-centered delusions.

  • AntMac says:

    Thank you for the update, it is not exciting so much as reassuring.
    Time passes, and since I read your first novel, times passing has aged three of my siblings children sufficiently to be given a copy for themselves to discover the anti-Gandalf and matters Grim. These future books will arrive some time around my first GREAT nephews tenth birthday. =/

  • Prima Yuda says:

    Thank you so much for the update Joe.

    I just want to let you know that all your fans appreciate the gesture and cannot wait to read your next trilogy.

    And please do have a signing tour to Jakarta if it is all possible (Pleaseeeee!!!).

  • Christina says:

    Hi there, Joe! I’m a big fan, but who here isn’t, right? I’ve been following your blog for a while, commented in the past, and I’m so thrilled to see that you still respond in the comment section. Apologies if you’ve answered this elsewhere already (and if so, please just point me in the right direction), but I’m always curious about my favorite authors’ creative process. From beginning to end of a more or less polished draft, how long does it generally take you and how do you tend to go about it? Do you have a particular approach to fleshing out characters or layering your mini storyarcs within the overall plot? How do you like to worldbuild? And most of all, how do you stay rejuvenated and fresh in your creation?

  • Tom says:

    I reckon it would be wonderful to find out what Ferro is stirring up on her revenge tour!

  • Nick Givent says:

    Thanks man! Looking forward to my favorite author publishing in my favorite world again. You tell the best stories Interesting, what I’ve learned in your updates: I had thought you would tell this trilogy using the south as the setting. The prophet and and bayez ‘s nemesis as (I forget his name), perspectives. You know, The prophet and the emperor as your characters. You always surprise me.

  • Dumond says:

    Hi Joe,

    My brother and I are long time fans, thanks so much for the updates!

    He read the first trilogy before telling me to do the same. Didn’t mention that a lot of the main characters have either a cliff-hanger-ish (or otherwise open) ending, by the end of the third book.

    The jerk.

    Anyways suffice to say we’re really, really looking forward to the next step! Definitely hoping to see some familiar faces here and there, excited for the new ones as well.

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