Grappling with our ongoing building project at the moment, now more than nine months in the planning. Waiting for quotes from contractors, sorting out a few intensely irritating and time-consuming details, looking for a house to rent when the builders come in (hopefully at the start of may) which is all, of course, a bottomless pit into which time and energy is sunk without trace. Or, on the whole, noticeable progress. It’s going to be a hell of a year…
But I can’t grumble. Writing, nonetheless, crawls ahead, teeth gritted, blood pounding in its ears, dragging itself by its fingernails, leaving a trail of gore through the mud, and the rotten leaves, and dead pine needles in its wake.
The main event, of course, is my latest novel-length effort, The Heroes. I’ve just started the final part of five, and hope to have the whole first draft finished by the end of April or thereabouts. There’ll then be a period of heavy cutting down and revision in which I’ll bring the earlier parts of the book into line with how my sense of it has developed as I’ve gone along. Part of the charm of writing standalone books is that you can revise the whole thing in one go, and you’re therefore free to plunge ahead to the end, and see where you stand without worrying too much about the start. The downside, of course, is that the start then needs to be whipped into line in quite a big way. Certain themes have emerged as important and need more emphasis in the earlier sections. Certain characters have proved important and need to be fleshed out earlier on. Others have proved unimportant and need to be cut, particularly since it’s an epic kind of affair with a whole lot of characters, and a bit of simplification wouldn’t hurt. The personalities of the central cast and the methods for their writing have developed over time, and so they need to be brought into line and made consistent. The secondary characters need to be given more focused personalities, styles of expression, physical characteristics that can quickly distinguish them and lodge them in the reader’s head – particularly important when there are so many to keep track of.
This is the bit of the process I most enjoy, in fact. Taking something that’s a bit of a mess and sharpening it up, cutting it down, refining and improving it, drawing out the central points and cutting away the superfluous ones (hopefully). Taking the uncut gemstone and polishing it to a brilliant diamond, you might say. Or at any rate a flashy zirconium. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s going. A few months ago I was concerned that it would end up really long – quite possibly my longest book yet. It’s drawn together a bit towards the end, though, and I’m intent on pruning it down as much as I possibly can in the editing, hoping to bring it in somewhere around the 210,000 mark. Still considerable, but not quite up to Best Served Cold or Last Argument of Kings, which were both around the 230,000.
What’s that you ask? When can you actually read it? Still looking like February 2011, and if I find out any different, you’ll be among the first to know. The first several thousand, that is.
News on various editions of my already published work:
Last Argument of Kings is out in its new A-format edition, joining the other two First Law books on the shelves of all good (and not so good) UK booksellers. Particularly pleasing is that (from my brief examination of Bath Waterstones) they seem to be stocking both editions of the paperbacks, which is nice.
Mass Market Paperbacks of Best Served Cold are due out in June in the US and UK.
Audiobooks of all three First Law books are due out on digital download in June as well, and from what I heard when I visited the recording, they’re going to be good.
My short(ish) story, The Fool Jobs, is coming in the anthology Swords and Dark Magic (along with stories from a cornucopia of great fantasy writers of the last half century), when else? June. My Mum’s birthday is in June as well. What is it with June? The signature sheets for the Subterranean Press limited editions of the anthology are currently wending their way across the world between the various authors, which means, in fact, I have the addresses of many of my closest rivals. The Uruk Hai hit squads are already on their way, crashing through the suburbs of Sydney in search of Garth Nix’s house…
The Subterranean Press limited edition of The Blade Itself is still in the pipeline, but it’s taking us some time to find an artist we all agree is right for the project and is able to do it. More news on that as and when I have it.
And finally, the West End stage version of Before They are Hanged is due to begin its run at the Gielgud in August. I went along to pre-rehearsals and it seems to be shaping up nicely. When I heard Ross Kemp was playing Glokta I really wasn’t sure, but he’s actually very nimble in the musical numbers.
Alright, that last one was a joke.