Second Draft

Posted on May 22nd, 2012 in process, progress

It’s not all whisky and video games down my way, you know.  I mean, mostly, of course, but not ALL.  Work continues, and I finally have a second draft of Red Country.  A coherent, cohesive draft with all the characters in their proper place and the right events happening at the right time and the right people thinking, saying and doing roughly the right things.  A draft I could present to someone to read without saying, ‘ignore this, and oh, this doesn’t work, and oh, I’m not sure about that, and assume this section will be a lot less, you know, shit.’  A book, you might even say.  It felt like this moment would never come at one time, so it’s good to see it all dropping into place.  Still plenty to do, though.  This week I’m taking a look through the chapters of one of the two central characters, who’s seen a lot of changes during the writing process, and whose chapters have been heavily, if not totally, rewritten at the front, to try and ensure some consistency, that key events of the past are mentioned enough but not too much, that there’s a good shape to his development and the way he thinks about things, that concerns established for him at the start pay off later.  Having stripped everything down, possibly adding a little background, texture, and personality back in where appropriate to get this character working as well as possible.

At the same time, horror of horrors, I’m reading the First Law again, probably for the first time in quite a while.  The main purpose is to familiarise myself with how returning characters came across, make sure they feel consistent in this book with what’s come before, check if there are any recurring bits of speech or thought I should be echoing here, any key events of the past that might be significant.  Strange thing, re-reading old work.  I’ll probably post some feelings when I’m done.

On Friday I’ve got a meeting with my editor when she’s going to bring me a marked-up manuscript, and the nitty-gritty changes will get underway.  Aaargh, feel the burn!

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  1. can’t wait any longer ^^
    i love it how you put so much live into the charakters in your books :D (i’m sorry for my [maybe] bad english)

  2. Hey Joe, really looking forward to Red Country. Your pace on new books is pretty damned good, I’d say, so it makes being patient a small bit easier. As for rereading old work: I can’t imagine thinking of it as a “horror of horrors.” The First Law is an excellent trilogy, even moreso that it’s essentially your first outing. I’m sure your craft has improved since, but it had an outstanding foundation to begin with.

  3. It’s all whiskey and diablo 3 / star wars here for me at the moment… Until red country is released that is. Anticipation levels rise with each wonderful post. Keep em comin’ mate! :-)

  4. I would love to hear your retrospective thoughts on the trilogy. That’d be really cool.

  5. Seconded on the request for a retrospective. As an aspiring author myself, I find those kinds of insights endlessly fascinating.

  6. Out of interest, how much editorial/beta reader input have you had up until this stage? Or has that not even begun yet?

  7. Live it up until Friday! Maybe offer your editor a glass of whisky?

  8. Did you mean to spell it whiskey? Because I felt the burn from you once for choosing that spelling.

  9. Go go you!

    Looking forward to the retrospective thoughts post :)

  10. It really pisses me off when my favourite Whisky Deathmatch blogger starts harping on about his books.

  11. Exciting stuff!

    Does having fewer central characters make editing this a different challenge to previous books?

  12. Ahhh – the red pen of doom awaits. Is it like visiting the headmistress’s office – “not bad Abercrombie, but the spelling leaves a lot to be desired, and the grammar, well where do we start….” Be sure and take along something nice for Gillian.

  13. Can not wait for ‘Red Country’. More excited about this than any games/books/movies that have come out since ‘theI Heroes’ came out last year..

  14. *snerk* The feed to FB is still showing the “whiskey” spelling, but I see it’s been corrected here. ;)

  15. Sedulo, Teri,
    Curse you, you are correct. When I mis-spell whisky, however, it is endearing. When you do it, it is wrong and dangerous, and must be immediately corrected.

    Lazlo,
    You’d think it would make it a different challenge, but actually not that much different. The central characters (the likes of Monza, Glokta, Gorst) always require a lot more work than the more peripheral ones (the likes of Dogman, Friendly, Tunny) as you have to get a bit deeper and ensure they work on a more than superficial level. In this case I have two very much central characters, but the most central has always worked pretty well. There are a lot more ‘extras’ in this book, as well, that is to say sequences of linked minor POVs.

  16. Say one thing for returning characters…

  17. …say they can paradoxically involve more work than new characters?

  18. Hmm, if you were to make a returning character suffer from Amnesia would it make things easier or more difficult?

  19. This is great news since I am really excited to read Red Country. I have recently started listening to your novels from Audible and I have to say they are wonderfully done! I can now recommend your books and their audio counterparts. This is a fantastic time for epic fantasy novelists and I think the talent pool is deeper than ever! Along with You, Scott Lynch – Patrick Rothfus – Brandon Sanderson and Larry Corriea make this a time period where something great is coming out all the time. Thanks for the great books – Back to Diablo III ~LATER~

  20. Is it paradoxical?

    They’ve got to fit with their past selves (and it’s been at least a few years) without being identical. I’d guess that’d definitely harder to write than a brand new character without any baggage or expectations.

    Plus, as your characters fairly often return (sometimes for cameos) you need to keep track of who met whom and how they got along (or not).

    Despite all that, I have full confidence in your whisky-fuelled writing.

  21. I envy the writing push you’ve been on getting this second draft done. I have recently started a new schedule (job, life, blah, blah, blah) and it’s thrown my own writing into a spin. Add to that I’m at a spot in my work that stands on a bit of unsteady ground–as far as what’s going on/going to happen is concerned-and it all adds up to a frustrating last couple of weeks.

    Can’t wait to read Red Country.

  22. “At the same time, horror of horrors, I’m reading the First Law again …”

    Good idea, let’s all do it, yes?

    Only, wouldn’t it be really sad if some off us spent all day in padded rooms, wearing straight jackets, rocking back and forth, and reading and re-reading the complete Joe Abercrombie back catalogue. The Blade Itself to The Heroes and back again.

    I do believe some people are essentially doing that with A Song of Ice and Fire, although I gather they have to be sedated if anyone mentions The Winds of Winter.

    Anyway, great work on A Red Country, Joe.

  23. *dances madly to celebrate second draft*

    Way to go Joe! Have you recieved your Max Payne 3 yet?

  24. Joe, I hope while your re-reading the First Law, you are thinking “Damn, I’m a good writer. And I really love the parts with the northmen. They are so damn funny and cool. I really should write a book about them in their prime, before the start of Blade Itself!” I know that’s what I’d be thinking if I were you.

  25. The curse of being so amazing at creating characters is that everyone wants those characters to return again which involves more work as you say. You have to realistic about these things.

  26. Thanks for taking the time to answer, Joe. It’s great that you’re so open about the whole process with your readers.

    I’m looking forward to meeting the ‘extras’, and reading about all the gruesome ways in which you’re going to kill them off.

  27. Hm would be really intersting to hear your thoughts on the first law with a bit of time distance to it.

  28. Hi Joe, Can’t wait for Red Country. I concur with Hawkeyes’comments about writing a prequel book about the northmen. All great characters!, Especially THE BLOODY NINE.
    I think were all reading the First law trilogy again,Fantastic!, keep up the excellent work, cheers.

  29. I just want to add my voice to those who’d love to see your thoughts on TFL after your reread. Please, make it a lengthy review, with comments on the parts that you are really fond of and the ones that you dislike now. Let us know what you’d to differently now, and what were you thinking back then when you wrote something that didn’t really work.

    Please, please, please!!

  30. I’m also re-reading The First Law at the moment, mostly to get an idea of how to bring a band of people together in a way that doesn’t seem forced or unrealistic.

    I think my favourite part of your writing, Joe, is the way that the prose adopts the flavour of the character we are following, despite being written in the third-person. Some fantasy, while doing a reasonable job of imbuing characters with their own voice, maintains the same narrative style throughout; in your books the character seeps out of the dialogue and into the description as well. If you have any tips to share on how you achieve that style, I’d love to hear them…

  31. I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to Red Country. I’ve never read a single series of books as entertaining as The First Law Trilogy. Best Served Cold and The Heroes were very good as well. There is something about your amazing ability to create bad ass characters that I don’t think a single author has ever been able to do like you. I think Logan, Gorst, Whirrun, and Shenkt above all but also Dow, Shivers, Friendly, and even Ganmark right off the top of my head. You are truly gifted and I’m thankful for the many hours of entertainment and fun you’ve brought me with your books!

    To many more as well!

  32. Another vote for a First Law review here.

  33. Joe,

    It’s encouraging to know that great writers struggle as well. I have been writing a book of my own lately, an alternate reality 19th century sort of thing and I’ve been having trouble going back and forth from various characters and thats just the core characters, I haven’t even started thinking of writing the perspectives of lesser characters. I know as a policy you don’t read your fans’ work but if you had any general advice for writing cohesively and coherently keeping in mind multiple characters that would amazing!

  34. “I think my favourite part of your writing, Joe, is the way that the prose adopts the flavour of the character we are following, despite being written in the third-person.”

    I wasn’t copying Joe (honest) but I try and do the same.

    I guess it’s a fairly “extreme” version of “3rd person limited”, which (you could say) almost encroaches onto 1st person. The way Joe does it there are even conversational slips into the present tense within the narrative (without necessarily signifying monologue with italics).

    I just try write my 3rd person narrative as if it were my POV character writing it! So, it’s always there language, their associations, figuring out how they would perceive or feel about this or that object.

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