First stage of the edit on Red Country goes on. I’m half way through the second part, now, and have done most of the serious changes, including mostly rewriting two chapters and heavy changes to a third in line with a big shift in how I’ve written one of the central characters, and I’m feeling a whole lot happier with it overall. Most of what I’ve been doing has been cutting, honestly. So far I’ve cut nearly 8,000 words out of the 56,000 I’ve reviewed, about 16%, which is a hell of a lot for me, especially considering I’ve added some here or there. Some of that cutting is general tightening because I’d deliberately left things pretty loose at the front, not knowing exactly the direction I’d want to go. Redundant back and forth in conversation, cumbersome descriptions, repetitions that aren’t needed. Some cutting is because some sequences or characters have become unnecessary in the long run and can just be taken out entirely. Some cutting is just a gain in confidence with the central characters – it’s easy in a first draft to include more thought, feeling, and remembrances of the past than you really need, trying to get as much about a character across to the reader as possible when in fact a lighter touch and a slow drip of information – or for that matter not knowing at all – can be way more effective. There’s also a degree to which reading it through at some speed, rather than painstakingly grinding the words out over days, gives you a better feel for pace, a sense of where you want to crack on rather than digress. Probably there’ll be less and less to cut as I get further into the book. And probably I’ll end up adding on balance in some of the later passes through when I start paying particular attention to things like setting.
But for now, phew, feels good to sweat out those excess pounds…
29 comments so far
Keep up the hard work!
Ah editing, an almost sexual process
Sounds great Joe, keep it goin so Damn excited.
Fantastic can’t wait for the release 🙂
Love your work ethic and the way you keep your fans aware of your progress. I am pretty sure I will never have to indulge my fantasy of chaining *you* to your computer/ typewriter/ pencil so that I can get my next fix. (That is my GRRM fantasy, but less so since what he does produce is so not as good as what he sued to produce.
Oops – Make that *used* to produce.
Fascinating stuff! Keep up the fantastic work Joe, looking forward to reading it.
Thanks for the updates Joe. This post is somehow bittersweet to me, since while I want as great a novel as possible, I also want it to be looong!! I finished the Heroes in the same three days that the battle lasted!! 🙂
Yeah, it’s going to be somewhat shorter than the Heroes, I’m afraid.
I love the continued glimpses you keep offering us into the writing of Red Country. I still can’t believe how quickly you’ve been able to write and release new, high quality content over the years. Make up whatever arbitrary metric you’d like; your quality to time-spent ratio is remarkable!
Looking back, I was finishing the Heroes in November 2010, and I’ll be at a similar point with this book in August, hopefully, so it will have taken 21 months. The Heroes took 19. I was predicting back then that we’d be maybe publishing in August 2012, and it’ll be October 2012, so it’s taken a little longer than I’d hoped but actually not too bad. Doesn’t seem massively fast to me, I’ve got to say, but it’s ticking over and, hey, it takes as long as it takes in any case…
Is there ever a danger that cutting things out becomes formulaic? I can imagine that going through something with a fine tooth comb, that you’ve already spent hours and hours writing can sometimes be difficult to concentrate on.
Did you ever edit out something in a previous book you’ve since wished you hadn’t?
Joe, I think I read that Elmore Leonard said that a popular novel should not be over 300 pages long. I may be wrong in that but since you’re talking about editing down RED COUNTRY have you become more ruthless about trimming the fat from your work since you wrote the FIRST LAW trilogy?
No. I’ve never regretted cutting something. Quite the reverse, I read old books now and see where I could have cut more. I think people have this notion that what’s cut is somehow great stuff, whole beautiful coherent scenes cavalierly thrown away, and it really isn’t. It’s the repetitive and unnecessary. It’s the worst of what’s there. It’s the cliched, the dull, the pointless. That’s why you cut it.
I’ve always been firmly of the belief that you can pretty much always improve something by cutting it, and I’ve always tried to make things as tight as possible (within the context of writing pretty hefty books, I’ll admit). I think you get better at expressing yourself more economically and seeing where you can cut or amalgamate or do things more quickly. So I look at the First Law now and think there are plenty of places where it could be tighter both at the macro level of scenes and chapters and the micro of sentence and paragraph. No doubt in a few years I’ll look at the Heroes and think the same.
Thanks for sharing with us some of the creative process.
Always been curious about what gets left on the cutting room floor, seems like it would be similar to film when you view those little extras on the dvd’s of deleted scenes that mostly turn out to be irrelevant or incongruous.
Wonder how much quality story and dialogue gets trapped in the cracks between scenes that prove themselves dispensable with your books. After all there is some pretty magical dialogue you conceive my friend. I propose a later edition with an “extended cut” for the hardcore fans out there.
Looking forward to the release.
Will you be saving the “deleted scenes” to post on this site after the release? Id love to see some of those scenes that didn’t make the cut, but still have a bit of flash to them.
You mean… fantasy writers aren’t immortal creations of modern myth that write pristine, flawless drafts at the very onset of their imaginings?
My long held illusion, is dead, good sir…
Again, there’s very little that one could actually even call a scene. Occasionally there’ll be a good line or idea in a chunk that I’ve cut, I’ll drag that out and aim to re-use it elsewhere. Can’t afford to waste anything worthwhile…
As I say, not much coherent enough to post as a scene. With the Heroes we prepared an enhanced e-book which had a whole section on editing, showing three or four chapters at different stages in the edit and talking about what had changed and why. Hasn’t yet seen the light of day, but hopefully will at some stage.
I don’t know about other fantasy writers, but mu first drafts are pristine and flawless. They just need to be made more so…
It is indeed quite fascinating watching you work,the image of a sculptor comes to mind,when he slowly gives shape to his art!
Joe,if you’d care to reveal some more of your secrets,in the editing process who would you say you trust more?Your instincts?Your editors?Your family?Your vicar?
Yeah, that special edition e-book of THE HEROES remains a mystery.
I bought the Kindle version and had no clue what the map was saying day-to-day.
I hoped that the progressive day’s maps would be posted on Joe’s site, so we could follow the battle throughout the story. But they weren’t.
Nice to hear. But take your time. Better to wait a bit and get it the way it sould be than to hurry.
Ah, 19 months or 21 months to write a novel …
All my favourite writers (GRRM, Guy G Kay … Joe Abercrombie) are slowish. Methinks there’s a connection between taking time and quality.
Also, I recall a post within which you talked about writing in two two-hour blocks per day. Maybe you curse yourself at times for not doing more, but honestly I think short inspired bursts can be much preferable. Preferable to staring a blank screen turning your brain inside out and wondering why (after six hours slog) you can’t think anymore.
I just reread The Fool Jobs today.
What is the differnece for you, other than time obviously, for editing/rewriting short stories vs novels?
Do you find you still cutting away words or do you find yourself adding words?
Re-reading Best Served Cold. Can’t wait to see Cosca again! Why are your characters so damn cool?
Han skar ham til bein, til knoklene! Han var Blodig Ni!
Alright enough singing( I still don’t know what he swung his axe like).
Looking forward to Red Country 🙂
[…] mit einem kürzeren Text da als am Anfang. Das liest man ziemlich oft, zum Beispiel gerade wieder bei Joe Abercrombie. Der Großteil der Autoren schreibt offensichtlich erst mal mehr, als man eigentlich wissen […]
Yes Joe, editing is very important! Just look at the second line in this very blog. Bloaaat!
“I’m half way through the second part, now, and have done most of the serious changes, including mostly rewriting two chapters and heavy changes to a third in line with a big shift in how I’ve written one of the central characters, and I’m feeling a whole lot happier with it overall.”
Wee bit of a tangent here but what’s your thoughts on the new revamped Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition?