Joe Abercrombie and Editing

Over on his blog, Joe Abercrombie has been writing about the editing process on his latest book, The Heroes:
I find writing to be a bit like pouring cement, in that when you draft a scene or first revise it, it’s fluid, you can slap it about into new shapes, cut and improve it with abandon.  By the time you’ve gone through this many read throughs and refinements, it seems to have set hard, and even quite minor alterations can be a time-consuming effort to get your head round.  Often, when my editor suggests a significant change, tells me I should consider doing a certain scene a different way, my first utterly irrational thought is – “but … that’s not what happened.”  Then I gradually and with extremely bad grace concede that she might be right.  Then I do it, realise she was right, and pretend it was my idea all along.

I'm a film and video editor and find his comments about pouring cement and then it setting to be very similar to my work. When I first began in this field I often had to force myself to remember that the material can, and indeed should be changed after it's begun to set. Sometimes a producer will be sitting right there with me in the suite and sometimes they'll send me a list of notes (changes to make) either way it's a very collaborative process and one I enjoy very much. I wonder if I would like it so much if, instead of spending a few weeks cutting together a rough cut from material someone else had shot and collated, I'd spent multiple years crafting the work word by word?



  1. Hah. I spent ten years or so as a film and video editor myself and, as you say, often had to unpick my lovely work at the behest of some producer, director, or exec. Lo and behold, despite my massive reluctance, it usually gave me the opportunity to rework, reconsider, and end up with something everyone felt was improved, especially me. Truly valuable experience for working with an editor as a writer, and gives one great respect for the value of the opinions of others...

  2. Hey, Joe, I'm not sure how you found your way to my little blog but welcome! I totally agree that the work is improved by input, no matter how much it may sting to remove that gorgeous montage with all the variable speeds and glow effects :p I love it though - dealing all day with theme and subtext and tone and pacing - and I feel very fortunate that I get to do it for a living :)

    Thanks for stopping by.


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