Progress Report March ’10

March 22nd, 2010

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.

Posted in news, progress by Joe Abercrombie on March 22nd, 2010.

31 comments so far

  • John Hocking says:

    I’m new to your blog, so your pardon if this has been gone over in the past, but I was curious how much outlining you do.
    One of the real joys of The First Law is watching the disparate threads of the narrative winding about and tying together ways both expected and unexpected.
    I’d imagine this was do to a good bit of outlining, but I’m often surprised at which (and how many) authors work without an outline.

    John Hocking

  • Phil says:

    February 2011….late xmas prezzie then!!

    And if you’d said Kemp was playing Logen might have been more WTF!!

  • Pink Ink says:

    Sounds fantastic!
    I’m sure ya won’t tell us but are there any old chars gonna be involved ????

    If it is I’m counting on Ferro (cutthroat bitch)

    A reader (whose trusting in a second encounter)

  • Harvey Quinn says:

    Ahhh I am ridiculously excited about this one, I’ve probably gone through The First Law and Best Served Cold about 6 or 7 times now and its begining to hurt my eyes.

    I can’t read any other fantasy anymore, you’ve done to fantasy literature what Final Fantasy VII did to other Japanese RPG’s.

    You’ve outclassed them, and I kind of hate you for it.

  • Chris Upton says:

    Before They are Hanged at the Gielgud? Isn’t Robert Stanek doing the book?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I’m a heavy outliner on the whole. For me starting a book without a plan and hoping it would stand up would be like starting a house without a plan and hoping it would stand up. Possibly fatal for all involved. Not to say others can’t work that way but I couldn’t. Having said that, I’ve been less thorough in my outlining with the two standalone books, and a bit more organic, since I have the luxury of revising them all at once. Still have a pretty good idea where I’m going, though.

    Pink Ink,
    Lots of familiar faces. More so than last time, in fact. Among the central cast are Bremer dan Gorst and Prince Calder. In significant roles are Caul Shivers, Black Dow, Kroy, Jalenhorm, and Bayaz. Plus a galaxy of more minor returning players.

    Hate me if you must. As long as you buy my books.

  • Matt says:

    This is very likely a stupid question, but is West dead?

  • Dan says:

    Darn you Abercrombie! Where is the Bloody Nine?!!

  • Phil says:

    With those characters re-appearing where does Heroes stand chronologically in relation to First Law & Served Cold?

  • Al says:

    I just finished Best Served Cold and my poor eyeballs are screaming for Visine. Can I send you the bill for my glasses?

    I’m curious about the fate of the material that doesn’t make the final edit. Are they recycled in any way?

    Thanks, Joe, and good luck with the new book.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    It’s not a stupid question.

    Where indeed?

    About three years after Best Served Cold, so about eight after the First Law (I have more accurate numbers, but not to hand).

    As I said above, I’m pretty careful with my planning, so I rarely write whole scenes that are later removed. In fact I can’t think of more than one or two ever, right at the start of The Blade Itself. Tightening tends to be more at the word, sentence, paragraph level, though it’s surprising how much you can tighten up without axing anything major. Material of that kind isn’t really worth keeping any more than potato peelings are worth sticking back in the fridge for later. If I was to, say, cut a character, they’d often be one of a group, and their role in dialogue or action would tend to be passed on to another member, probably slightly modified to suit. The idea being that anything that’s really good gets re-used in some way.

  • JenMo says:

    Yay progress! For some reason I got the idea that you were still in the early stages of writing. To hear you’re near the end of draft 1 is heartening. I can’t wait to go back to the north! Keep us updated. Oh, and any idea what the cover will look like?

  • Liam says:

    Thanks for answering all the writing questions Joe. Very helpful for those of us deluding ourselves into thinking we can do what you do.

    One more though if I may, when you say you more heavily outlined the first law books, is that meaning down to what would happen chapter to chapter? Also how did you know where one book was to end and the others to begin, or did that get decided as you went along?

  • Matt says:


    A hah, ha ha, ohh. I think the dot on the ? might’ve hit you when you ducked beneathe it.

  • Phil says:

    Having just finished the part in Last Argument where Logen fights the Feared and kills Bethod I’m guessing seeing Calder turns up in Heroes that Black Dow never got round to finishing him off?

  • Dan says:

    Read on Phil…

  • Pink Ink says:

    Hell yeah!!!!
    That’s a setting I’m feeling comfortable with!
    Now there’s just one thing left.
    W8ing for 2011

    Joe I love you!

  • George says:

    Joe you slimy bastard. Making us wait to see if our favorite northmen/balding generals are still alive!

    Anyway, what I want to know is, will Crummock have a song and dance number?

  • Nick says:

    Sort of topic, but I just wanted to say that its criminal that the Bloody Nine didn’t get a start over at the Suvudo Cage match.

    He would have destroyed some of the monkeys that are doing well.. Jamie Lannister vs the bloody nine, jamie wouldnt have stood a chance

    Thanks for the update. Look forward to it

  • Wilfred says:

    Ah, too bad there isn’t a West End show in the planning. I’m dieing for a good reason to come to London again.

    I also agree with Nick’s on the Suvudo Cage matches. Though the way those are going you might actually have had Hermione soundly defeating the bloody nine due to all those fan girls.

  • Liam says:

    He wouldn’t make it past the rands, kvothes, and temiaires though. Bayaz on the other hand..,

  • Mark C says:

    I have one vital question: Parchmenty or Mills & Boon?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Each book was split into two parts, and from the start I had a pretty good idea roughly what action each part would contain for each point of view character. Then prior to writing each part I’d work out a detailed plan with the contents of every chapter and indeed every section of every chapter, usually where each would take place, what the conversations or action would need to cover and so on. I was generally pretty faithful to that.

    JenMo, Mark C,
    UK hardcover cover will be very similar to the UK Best Served Cold. Just saw the first sketch for the axe which will take the place of the sword, in fact. There will then probably be a parchmenty B-format mass market paperback very similar (as will be coming for Best Served Cold in June) matching the original First Law covers. Then, depending on how well the First Law A-Formats work, we’ll probably follow up with character-based covers some time afterward.

  • Jon says:


    Best Served Cold and Last Arguement of Kings were 230,000 words? How long were your others? Did you find that such a high word count was a bit of a road block to your publishing process? How long does your first draft generally take? A year? Two? Do you mind if I ask these questions? Would it bother you if there were more? Hello?

  • SGT. Austin Holland says:

    Hey Joe-
    Thought I would try out this new posting format, looks pretty cool. I really like the fact that you can interact with your fans without overloading them like some authors that shall remain unamed. I mean really, all those tweets and Facebooks about what direction your current character is walking in? Anyway, Joe thanks for the very good additions to my bookshelf, and also, for the email you sent me, everytime I see a duplicate of one of your books at any bookstore I always take the extra copiesand put them up front with the new releases. Just my way of saying thanks.

  • Jason says:

    Some what off topic but do you follow football Joe? If so has anyone ever told you / have you noticed that you look rather like Manuel Almunia Arsenals Goalkeeper?*

    *I use that term lightly as hes quite rubbish

  • Mark C says:

    Nice one, Joe. Looking forward to getting my hands on The Heroes when it comes out!

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  • Chris Upton says:

    Like the Heroes cover. Just the right shade of unsubtle that I love! Gives it a sort of spaghetti western feel which I think is very apt.

  • Amber says:

    Wohoo for a new book. I read all so far and waiting patiently for the next.

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