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Firefight release party ()
#501 Copy

Questioner

So what give books do you think helped you understand leadership the best?

Brandon Sanderson

Well Art of War is definitely part of that. I would say that The Prince is important for understanding leadership, even though I don't agree with every point he's making. By the way he is not as-- Even though it is Machiavelli writing it, he is not as machiavellian as we think he is in that book… So The Prince--  Hmmm, a lot of Plato surprisingly, is where I pull some of my ideas. King Benjamin's speech from the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah, if you haven't read that, is definitely part of it. Ummm... What else--

Questioner

Like where do you get your-- because you obviously have experience because that's how leadership works.

Brandon Sanderson

It is interviews, it is personal experience, it is talking to my friends who are in the military and asking them "Does this sound right? Does this feel right? Tell me what it feels like to obey. Tell me what it feels like to be in command." And things like that. Just lots of practice and interviews and things is where most of it is coming from.

Questioner

So it’s less like personal experience and more you're really good at researching it.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, a writer has to be able to do that because for a book like this the amount of psychology and medicine, battlefield tactics, leadership, and all these other things you need to know, you can't know them all. You can't do them all personally. You've got to be able to experience it, you've got to be able to write it as best as you can, and then go to experts. Like the medicine in this I went to a field surgeon and I said "Will you read over my Kaladin scenes and tell me where I'm going wrong." Like I was able to get myself 80% of the way there with research and then the 20% is me going to an expert and saying "Tell me what I'm doing wrong."

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#502 Copy

Questioner

So when you are doing a kind of in-depth and very long story-- like The Stormlight Archive... Can you-- Do you tackle that, like, in short-- For like an outline?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh good question.

Questioner

Do you outline the entire thing? Do you outline one at a time, or two at a time?

Brandon Sanderson

…So outlining. You picked the hardest one to outline, by far.  Normally the outlining process for me is-- it goes like this, I sit down and I write Plot, Setting, Character in a new sheet. I put them in outline level one. And then I put all the things that I have been thinking in my head for a while, that I've been brainstorming with friends or-- Every book that I write I spent a long time planning it out, it's when ideas connect together that you know you have a great book.  One idea is not a book, multiple ideas that influence each other in cool ways is a book, to me.  So I write all this down and then I start looking for the structure and what are people's plots.  The way I outline is I outline goal-based.  Say I want to have an interesting relationship dynamic between these two characters, how can I achieve that? What's my goal at the end and what are my steps to get there? That is part of my outline. And I don't like-- And then I do another one. Okay, someone's got to learn to use the magic, what's my end goal, what are my steps to get there, what are cool scenes out of this? Those are all separate in my outline, it's not like in my outline there's "Chapter one: this, this, this, and this". It's Goal, with how to achieve. Goal, how to achieve it. Goal, how to achieve it. That's my normal outline process.

Now The Stormlight Archive is a strange beast, because it is plotted as ten books, each focusing around a character. And for that what I did was I sat down and wrote out my outline more in prose form, my vision for the whole series and then I wrote a paragraph about each book.  Then what I just told you, I did for the first book, then I wrote the first book.  Then I went back and created a much bigger and more detailed outline for the rest of the series. So it's kind of this process. The really weird thing about the Stormlight books is that I actually plot each one like I plot a trilogy.  So for instance, Words of Radiance you can find-- people have noticed them-- breakpoints between quote-unquote books, that this volume is actually written as three books with a short story collection as the interludes woven between.  That's how I approach those books.

My publisher has a love/hate relationship with The Stormlight Archive because they feel they could publish them as four volumes and make four times as much money but I won't let them.  But they don't want me to write other things because they really want more Stormlight because Stormlight is the one that sells the best out of everything.  So they are like "Write more Stormlight, but can we split it please?" and I say "No, you can't split it" and they're like "arghhh" So they release them as these big volumes, as I told them to, even though they know they are each like these three volumes-- And anyway...

That's kind of the shorter version of it. If you guys are... writers, and you want some help, I have two resources. Ask when you come through the line. I have a podcast, with a bookmark that says where it is. Fifteen minutes of writing advice every week. It's called Writing Excuses. I also lecture at Brigham Young University, and part of my requirement for lecturing for them-- I don't take salary-- is that they have to let me put my lectures online for people to see. So my lectures, for the last few years, of my university course, are posted online.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#503 Copy

Questioner

You've come a really long way since Elantris was first published. How has your process of writing changed ever since, in the sense that then you had the feedback from the publishing house maybe, now you have the feedback from the fans, from the critics, and also I can imagine, very much tighter deadlines. How can you reflect on Elantris from now?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, first let me say, I love you, but I had so much time back then! Now, it is a real challenge. Everybody left me alone. I wouldn't go back, because everyone left me alone at book signings, too. My books sat lonely on the shelves by themselves. But the great challenge of this phase of my career is finding enough time to do all the things I need to do. When I turned in Elantris to the publisher, they published it two years and three months later. When I turned in Words of Radiance, three months later. My books pay for the publisher to keep publishing, and they very much like to publish my books, and so it is difficult. I travel a lot, my signings are wonderful but long, and my deadlines are very tight, and everyone is stressed about me turning the books in. I'm just glad I spent all those years writing, with nobody knowing who I was, because that's when I built all of my habits. If you would've asked me, during that time, if it was nice that I hadn't published any books yet, I would've said, "No, I want to publish books," but that era was essential for turning me into the writer I am today. For those who don't know, I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one of them.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#504 Copy

Questioner

My background is twenty years of military, and as I've been reading your Way of Kings, I've found that your insight into what it like to be a member of the service, all the mental trials including post-traumatic stress disorder is all very well thought-out and I'm curious how you came across that knowledge.

Brandon Sanderson

Lots of interviews and lots of reading on forums. People who post their hearts and souls on-- if you find the right forums, where people are among like-minded individuals, you can watch like a fly-on-the-wall and see what people are saying and how they are feeling. Because I strive for authenticity, that's what I-- whenever someone is feeling I want it to be authentic, and the more far removed from my own experience the better it is, if that makes sense to me, to get it into my books. So I try very hard for that.

Questioner

In fact I'm going to be suggesting to the Veterans' Administration to use the series for treatment for PTSD. There are literally some things in there I've never seen anyone actually understand or get before. Some of my military friends have just been in absolute tears after reading your book.

Brandon Sanderson

That is an honor to hear.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#505 Copy

Questioner

Did you do the same thing with Kaladin's depression?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I did but that one is a little closer to home, [several people in Brandon's life have depression].

Questioner

I have depression as well, it's pretty inspiring to me.

Brandon Sanderson

I had never seen a hero who had depression and I was like "I need to do a real, legitimate that it's not about their depression, they just have it" Does that make sense? Like whenever I read a book it is all about them having depression. And I'm like "No, your life is not about you having depression, your life-- that is part of your life but--" So it was very important to me that I get that one right.

Questioner

I just, yeah I just find your book so inspiring so I just really appreciate you doing all this for us.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#506 Copy

Questioner

You talked a little about short fiction, what do you think about flash fiction?

Brandon Sanderson

Flash fiction I think is awesome, and microfiction. I'm terrible at it. I've tried a couple times.

I've got a good friend... Eric James Stone, he's won a Nebula Award, and his business cards have a story on the back. That's the coolest thing ever isn't it?  I want to steal that and do that but every one I come up with is junk. I mean it takes like eight pages to write my name, so…

EuroCon 2016 ()
#507 Copy

Questioner

I would like to make two questions for you. The first one is, when were you really aware that that was the book, or that was the style that could find a public, an audience?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, let me answer this one first. My first five books were very experimental. I wrote two epic fantasies, one comedy, one cyberpunk, and one space opera. I did this so that I could be very sure that what I wanted to do was epic fantasy. I heard a metaphor when I was young for dating which said, "Don't always just date the same flavor of ice cream. Even if you're very sure you love strawberry, date some chocolate, some rocky road, some variety of different ice cream flavors so that you can be sure." I say the same thing about writing. One of my best friends, Dan, first tried only writing epic fantasy, and was having a very hard time being a writer, and then he wrote a horror novel that was super, super creepy, and now he is a famous horror writer because he found his love in that genre. After doing this for five novels, I was sure that epic fantasy was what I wanted to do, and it is no coincidence that book number six was Elantris, the first book of the Cosmere written, and the first book that eventually sold.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#508 Copy

Krystal Hammond

How much do you use science to influence/guide your world building in what most people would identify as a fantasy setting?

Brandon Sanderson

I use it quite a bit, but as I'm writing fantasy, I go by the rule "do what is awesome first, then explain it." Meaning, I am looking to tell a certain kind of story, and while science is often a springboard into a magic, I will sometimes chose to do what I think makes the story better as opposed to what is scientifically rational. The way the Metallic Arts work with mass is one example.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#509 Copy

mikkomikk

SKYWARD QUESTION! I've just read the prologue, did you do anything special to get in to the mind of a 7 yr old girl? Any inspirations for Spensa?

Brandon Sanderson

This one took a few tries--you can probably find earlier readings of it where the age was different, and the speech style was different. As with most things, it's a matter of trying something out, then looking for feedback.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#510 Copy

Questioner

Did you always envision the way that Legion ended?

Brandon Sanderson

No, I did not. That is one I worked out-- I didn't have an ending in mind for Legion when I started. So when I sat down and said, "What ending am I going to write?" This is the one that evolved out of that, but that one was more-- I outlined the story, but it was more of a discovery written ending.

Questioner

It was fascinating. I loved it, but I was really surprised.

Brandon Sanderson

It is perhaps one of the oddest things I've done.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#511 Copy

Questioner

Do you feel there's anything different when writing for a video game?

Brandon Sanderson

Writing for a video game? You know I haven't truly written for a video game yet. What I've done is I've written novellas that bridge between video games, and that's kind of the single thing that I've done. So I can't really say yet. You'll have to track down some people who have actually written for video games.

I expect that it's lots of dialogue, and you have to understand that people might skip part of the story so you have to have a lot of refreshing on plot.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#512 Copy

Questioner

Where do you come up with your leaders, because they're phenomenal.

Brandon Sanderson

It takes a lot of reading and thinking and coming up with who the character is. I don't know how do any of the characters-- they just kind of come, but there is a lot of hanging out on forums where people are talking about leadership positions in the military so I can kind of get a view on how they're thinking. Sun Tzu was very helpful as well.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#513 Copy

tschan22

The one thing that impressed me the most [about Skyward] are the awesomely vivid and thrilling dogfight scenes. How did you come up with these dogfighting techniques? Any particular inspiration that you can share with us? Thank you!

Brandon Sanderson

So, one of the things I try to do in combat situations is define a few rules that are different from the way our world works, nudging the combat to be more fantastical. This (hopefully) allows even those who are familiar with the situation to better suspend disbelief--since the rules of combat are different, then battles can theoretically play out in (plausible) ways that I decide and present, rather than running into real-world situations.

For Skyward, I started with studying real-world dogfights, then added a couple big changes. One was some anti-gravity, the other was nudging the battles more toward the way they might work in a vacuum by removing some of the air resistance. The final piece was the light-lances, further pushing the combat into a direction where pilot maneuverability was enhanced. (And the battlefield could be different each time, allowing more variety.)

That all together gave me the way I went about these battles. But I will say this--watching what some fighter pilots can do with their jets was enormously impressive. I had no idea, honestly, the things they are capable of doing.

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
#514 Copy

Questioner

Out of the Cosmere, you have your whole plan, I'm assuming you have in your brain or written down... When do you finalize, like, whenever you're writing. Is it all finalized then?

Brandon Sanderson

...The books become the canon. Even the wiki is not canon. Until I write it into the books, it's not canon. For instance, you can go find Oaths of various orders of Knights Radiant in there, but I don't canonize those until I write the books, because I usually tweak some of the words. By the way, sometimes people ask me "Can you write an Oath of a Knights Radiant that we haven't seen yet?" in a book, and I always say no. Number one, like, if at the release party I got asked that, like, 8 times; we'd be out of Oaths by now. That's the same reason why I won't tell you the names of Shards that I haven't canonized, or their intents, or things like that. Until I get to it in the books, it's not canon. Because I need that flexibility going forward as I'm putting the whole thing together, to get all the puzzle pieces to fit.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#516 Copy

LameLamas

I was surprised to find out Skyward trilogy is not a trilogy anymore, but four books. How did this happen? You have more stories in this world or book 3 is growing too big, so you decided to split it in two smaller books?

Brandon Sanderson

My normal mode for a series is to write the first book, make sure it works and that I have a good feel for the characters, then sit down and really hammer out the outline for the series.

When I did that for this book (sometime in early July) the outline that worked best was four books instead of three because of where the breaks and climactic moments were.