Progress Report June ’23

June 30th, 2023

The big news over the last couple of months is that there’s a film adaptation of Best Served Cold in the works. Not much more I can say at this stage. It’s in the casting and scouting phase and the script has been revised and rewritten about a million times. Doubtless it will need to be revised and rewritten many more times in response to actor’s notes and scouting and design work and so on, but the writing part of it at any rate is frozen (along with all other film and tv writing work) while the WGA strike is going on.

Still, that has meant I’ve had a couple of months to focus pretty much exclusively on The Devils, which is timely as I just finished a loose first draft at the end of April and had the first round of general editorial notes back from my UK and US editors. The book’s had a bit of a scattered gestation over the last couple of years what with work on the film and other things, so it’s actually quite welcome to focus on it exclusively for a while and try and properly get my head around it, take in my editor’s notes and the feelings of beta readers and put a plan into action that’s gonna get me to a solid second draft (by which I mean one which is consistent start to finish and has the right major plot movements in the right places).

I’ve now made one thorough pass through the whole thing, added three or four new scenes and did some heavy rewriting, cut down some of the sprawling and self-indulgent action scenes a bit and generally tidied up, plus rewrote a few scenes towards the end to get a bit more punch out of them. I usually hate books while I’m writing a first draft, and start to like them while I’m doing the second, and this book’s no exception. It’s the part of the process I most enjoy, in general. With some books one pass has been enough to get things to a decent second draft (specially true of later books in trilogies where you’ve already set things up somewhat and worked out who the characters are), but with this one I’m gonna need to do at least one more. Often as I write a first draft I get closer and closer to what I want, so the last part doesn’t need an awful lot of work, and the second draft is mostly a matter of bringing earlier parts into line with the final one. This time around, though, a lot of the big changes I made were at the end, and rewrites there are gonna need some seeding and setting up throughout.

My current plan, therefore, is to spend July doing another pass through the whole book with an eye on some specific plot stuff I need to tweak and develop, then August looking at each point of view character in turn, working on the voices, trying to give them each an effective arc within the whole, and set stuff up that can pay off later. Some of the characters are mostly there already, but a couple need to be worked on a bit more to feel distinct.

Then it’s into the more detailed and specific rounds of revision – more editorial notes, a pass looking at dialogue and behaviour, a pass looking at setting, line edit (where editors make detailed comments on the text), and a pass on the detail of the language. That’s sept-dec, with the hope of getting the whole thing finished (or at least nearly finished) by year end. Of course the hope is that the WGA strike will be resolved long before that, and I’ll therefore be putting unknown amounts of time into rewriting Best Served Cold, but that all remains to be seen…

Posted in news, process, progress by Joe Abercrombie on June 30th, 2023.

20 comments so far

  • nikonokiki says:

    For me, it’s the other way around with doing music. When I record everything and place each raw and dry track to have a first draft of a composed tune I usually love it. Then as overdubbing, mixing and mastering proceed I hate it more and more until at the end I’m sick of it.

  • Wombat of Hoskopp says:

    Fascinating insights again into the creative process – thanks for sharing, Joe. Sounds like you have a plan and you’re not going to go all GRRM on us.

  • Chris says:

    Hell yeah

  • Colinj says:

    Joe, did you do a full re-read of BSC before starting the screenplay, or did you just go from memory.

    It’s still my favourite book of yours, so I’d be very interested for you do do a re-read report on that book, like you did for the FIRST LAW trilogy. You thoughts retrospectively on the that book’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • Ran says:

    Its ways great to read these reports. Fantastic we’re going to be getting part of the first law on the screen but it’s the next book I’m more interested in. TV never equals the books, however if you get the say on how it’ll be presented, there the hope it’ll be as fantastic as it is on paper

  • WhirrunOfBligh69420 says:

    Thanks for the progress report joe. I’ve been searching “joe abercrombie the devils” every single week without fail ever since Wisdom of Crowds came out.

  • Susan Oke says:

    Really interesting to get a glimpse into how many ‘passes’ are needed and the specific focus required for different aspects of your book(s) – incredibly helpful!

  • Timur says:

    I was quite happy to hear of the film adapation, and especially one with Rebecca Ferguson, who seems as good a cast as it gets. Might be the first movie I’m going to see at least twice in a movie theatre.

    As to the new book, I hope you will spend as much time on polishing it, as you deem necessary, so that it come out a pure gem like the rest of your works.

  • William8fingers says:

    Don’t forget the First Law, and remember; all the Hollywood corporate suits are dead. I recommend hitting a speed bump and waiting out all the garbage agenda-laden content in Hollywood right now; everything has hairs, lice, and doggie. Please do not allow Disney, Amazon, or Paramount to touch your precious baby Monza. Pull a George RR Martin or Patrick Rothfuss and start smoking weed and blowing bubbles while on a trampoline that always works to delay the corporate demons. The last thing we want is for you to turn into an Ernest Cline and sell out your franchise. Don’t forget Spielberg is the enemy now!

  • William8Fingers says:

    I initially thought Zoe Saldana would be a great Monza, but the other fan on this thread is correct that Rebecca Ferguson would be perfect. She single-handedly carried “Silo,” which is an excellent concept but a fragile cast, and it shows her strength and leadership; if you cast the rest of this beautiful group of misfits correctly, this could be a film worthy of the mid-70s through the mid-’80s.

  • Drewb says:

    Really grateful for these updates! Also, my cat’s name is Marmite.

  • Logan’s Lost Finger says:

    Blah, blah, great. Just get it finished.

  • Dan says:

    Alexander skarsgard gets my vote to play shivers!

  • Simon of Surrey says:

    Congratulations on the movie gig success Joe I look forward to seeing it upon its release.

    Crikey O reiley you are an industrious soul. I hope you have sitting in the garden drinking a cold brew squeezed in somewhere on the timetable.

  • Michael George says:

    You are hands down my favorite author. I have read and reread your books many time and love the audio versions as well. I keep spare copies of your books to give to friends. I’ve long thought that your books would make great movies. My only wish is that they would start with “ The Blade itself”. It just seems natural and The sequels are built in. One of my favorite things that you do is character development, and how that builds with each book. I also like how you take minor characters and make them major characters in later works. “ Best Served Cold” is my least favorite book to read (I know you are the “Grimdark guy but, damn! That book is just unrelenting and even the humor is bitter.) That said, I think it’s an important part of your overall story and you need to read it to understand the development of Shivers and other characters. I also like how even though Monza doesn’t appear in later works her presence is definitely felt offstage. Anyway, my hope is that the film is successful and sparks more adaptations!

  • Michael Cabral says:

    New fan ran through all your books back to back such fun I really enjoyed them all. So I’m now in the same holding pattern as the rest of your fans. I just kind of fell into this genre. History to historical fiction purchased in error by Marc Edelheit and read all of his work waiting for his next as well.

    Your work is a bit darker and much more interesting characters. I’ll go through them again in a few months and no doubt will get more out than the first time through. You’re in my top five now two of three really. Thank you for all of the enjoyment you have brought me. I’m old and mostly bedridden I don’t watch TV books are my world and so happy I found you. God Bless you and yours.

  • Neil M says:

    I have a feeling that the WGA strike could be a long haul.

    Internal project name for the film? It’s always a giggle to get a secret project name, and then the word “Skrull” is used in some call, or some other big clue.

    I have always wondered, how easy/hard you find it to pick up things when you have left them alone for a while? Diving back into a story, and still having in your head the arc’s/voices you are trying to balance?

  • Neil M says:

    Oh, if we could have an opening scheme for Rebecca Ferguson, similar in tone to Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, where the first introduction to the character, is where she is doing the yoga in the middle training arena. I am not saying that scene with swords, just the impact / coolness. Great introduction.

    Really changed my view of the tonal shift for Emily Blunt as an actress. Maybe less of a problem for Rebecca Ferguson, since she comes across as a lot harder nosed with the characters she has played before.

  • Adam C says:

    I truly love these updates. It is fascinating to read about your approach. I feel that some authors take too much pride in proliferation, and their books come out of the oven bloated and overly repetitious. While others treat their work with so much care that they simply never release any of it.

    You strike a perfect balance, Joe. You write each individual character with a level of adoration and attentiveness rarely seen, and the arcs they follow over the course of many books never feels anything short of deliberate. But you have the diligence and respect for your audience necessary to ensure we’ve always got a bite to chew on.

    It is not lost on us how much work, integrity and raw brilliance this requires. So happy to hear that both projects are coming along.

  • Nick Brett says:

    I still remember the comic adaptation with great affection.

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