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State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

My Year

January–June: Oathbringer Revisions

I spent most of this year doing revisions for Oathbringer. I did several exhaustive drafts during the January–June months, and did the final handoff to Peter (for copyediting and proofreading) right at the end of June.

June–Mid September: The Apocalypse Guard

Then, for the first time in what felt like forever (it was really only about sixteen months), I got a chance to work on something that wasn't Oathbringer or Edgedancer. I launched right into The Apocalypse Guard, the follow-up to The Reckoners…and it didn't work. I spent July, August, and part of September writing that. (I finished the last chapter sometime in early September, and turned in the second draft a few weeks later.)

September–October: Legion 3

I was already feeling a little discouraged by that book not quite coming together, though at that point I assumed I'd be able to fix it in revisions. (Well, I still think I can do that–I just think it will take more time.) Mid-September, I launched into Legion Three: Lies of the Beholder. That took around a month to finish, bringing us to mid-October. By then, I knew something was seriously wrong with The Apocalypse Guard, as my revision attempts were fruitless. So, I called Random House and pulled the book–then launched into Skyward.

October–November: Skyward

I have been writing on that book ever since, and you can read the blog post yesterday about that.

November–December: Oathbringer Tour

The tour was wonderful–somehow both exhausting and energizing at the same time. Here are some of the fan costumes that showed up this year. Thank you all for coming out to see me!

December so far: Skyward

Unfortunately, and I know you guys know to watch for them, there are no hidden or secret novellas or books for this year. I have been running around feeling behind all year, first on Oathbringer, and then trying to find a replacement for The Apocalypse Guard.

SpoCon 2013 ()
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You recently announced in your blog post a new Cosmere short story called Skyward. I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit?

Brandon Sanderson

Skyward is the working title. I've talked a little about it before in my class, so if you watch my videos, I talk about it a little bit in there. It will be a teen novel in the cosmere. It is science fiction era.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Skyward question! The light line is mentioned as using two fingers to shoot it out. Are they the middle two fingers, and was this inspired by any jovial community arachnid folk?

Brandon Sanderson

First draft didn't have specific controls to shoot it out, and during revisions, I thought, "Oh, what the heck. It's not a big part of the story anyway." So yes. :)

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

We'll have the Skyward beta coming up soon.


Oh cool. Yeah, I'll bug Kara and Peter. See if they need some help with that.

Brandon Sanderson

Mmhmm, yep. We need teenagers for that one. We're going to have a separate teenager one, because it's a YA, and an adult one. And the adult one is to find all the nitpicky stuff, and the teenager one is just "respond to each chapter, what did you think of it?"

Publishers Weekly Q & A ()
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Michael M. Jones

What was your inspiration for Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

Ever since I was young, I’ve loved the quintessential "boy and his dragon story." My favorite is Jane Yolen’s Dragon’s Blood. It was one of the very first fantasy books I ever read, and it left a lasting impression on me. But there was also Anne McCaffrey’s The White Dragon, Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, and the How to Train Your Dragon film series. I love this archetype of story, and I’ve always wanted to do one, but I held off until I could find a new direction in which to approach it. Eventually, it drifted away from "a boy and his dragon" towards "a girl and her spaceship."

About four years ago, I hit on this idea, but I only had the framework. I still needed setting, characters, things that would really make me excited about the entire story. As a writer, it’s always about digging down deep into what I love about certain stories—what are the essential elements, what are the concepts that thrill me, and can I build those back up into something new? The more I built this back up, the more excited I became.

For most things, like worldbuilding and plots, I do outlines. But characters develop by instinct, as their voices emerge. The character of Spensa came to me almost fully formed. I was intrigued and enthralled by the idea of this girl who had been raised on stories from our world, the myths and legends, even ones we know are fiction like Conan the Barbarian. She sees herself as the latest in a long line of warriors, except her actual job is hunting rats and selling them for meat on the street. She has this idea of who she should be, what her destiny is, but in real life she’s just barely getting by. Characters come out of conflict, and hers is the contrast between what her life is like and what she thinks it should be, the difference between perception and experience.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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What do you feel is the main difference between writing sci fi and fantasy is? Did you learn things in writing Skyward that you feel will help you write Mistborn Era 4?

Brandon Sanderson

For me, it's a fine line, because I'm not writing Hard SF--but instead, a kind of hard fantasy. So my books tend to ride the line between SF/Fantasy anyway. And Skyward is straight up space opera, I'd say--most of the technology that we use in the books is fantastical anyway.

In SF, I feel I can lean on shared vocabulary a little more. This has been particularly handy in the novellas I've done, where we can use Earth as a reference point. Modern (and beyond modern) communication, and expectations of character education, also play a big part in changing how I approach the stories.

In some ways, it comes down to different storytelling traditions, and what they each afford you. Again, though, it would be different if I were writing hard SF.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
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Have you ever considered writing more female friendships?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you know, that's something that I noticed, right? That's another one of these things we do a bad job of in fiction. Particularly female friendships. Like, you see the bromances happening a lot, particularly in fantasy, but we tend to see-- particularly written by men-- a lot of the "one woman among a large cast of men", and this sort of thing. And certainly that's not to say that there aren't women who have a lot of friends who are male. But it is certainly something I think we get wrong a lot in fantasy. And it's one of those kind of things you don't notice. But I have noticed it about my fiction, that I'm really good at guy friendships, and I have kind of ignored female friendships. I actually took a stab at doing a better job of this in Skyward. So you can tell me if I've done a better job of it or not with this book.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Jesse Estabrook

When it said Spensa’s father was shot down by his own flight, was it supposed to be fleet? I suppose that since there are so many errors, that this is not an example of the actual final release. Will there be further changes so that we will need to re-read all of these preview chapters all over again, once the edited final product is released?

Brandon Sanderson

Any errors in here are only proofreading errors--I've turned the book over to these teams, and won't be making any more story changes. So don't worry. You won't miss anything, other than a little spelling here and there. Though I did mean "flight" instead of "fleet" as they tend to use small squad tactics as pilots, and call these groups "flights."

Publishers Weekly Q & A ()
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Michael M. Jones

One thing we tend to expect in YA is the presence of romance. There's no real sign of it in Skyward, though. Was this your intention from the start, or did the characters just not work out that way?

Brandon Sanderson

It was more the characters. In my first draft, I tried to shoehorn a romance in. I like romance; you'll find them in my adult books. But here, it didn’t fit the characters or the theme, and it felt inappropriate. This is a very traumatic time for Spensa, who's focused in every way on becoming a pilot and finding out the secrets of her past, and romance just didn't work. So I revised in the direction the characters demanded.

The obvious pairing was Spensa and Jerkface. That’s where I was trying to go, but it felt like a cheesy romance in the middle of an action-adventure story about finding out who you really are, and about going into battle, and all of that stress and pressure. Maybe someday I'll release the deleted scenes and people can see how poorly it worked.

Skyward release party ()
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What made you want to write Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

Skyward is a weird book in that it is a science fiction book based on a fantasy idea. Some of my favorite books when I was growing up were stories about a boy who finds a dragon egg or a dragon, and raises the dragon and then flies on the dragon, all sorts of fun stuff happens. And I've always wanted to do one of these stories. One of the very first books I ever read in fantasy was Dragonsblood by Jane Yolen, which I just reread so I could write a little review of it. And it's great. One of my favorite books of all time is The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey. And you'll find some Anne McCaffrey references in this book, you won't have to look that hard. But the idea was I wanted to do one of these books, but I never felt like I could give a good spin to it. And it is when I combined it with some other worldbuilding I had done in a science fiction universe and changed it from "a boy and his dragon" to "a girl and her spaceship" that the story really started to connect, because the worldbuilding that I had built for this galactic science fiction really clicked with this story. And that was kind of the breakthrough that I made, was combining these two things together.

So, Skyward came from me wanting to write a story about a dragon. It just turns out the dragon is a spaceship with a really weird AI.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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I'm really hooked by the "girl and her dragon" idea. Were there any fun or interesting things you were able to explore by virtue of replacing the dragon with a spaceship? That is, it's easy to imagine the fun similarities, but I'm curious if there were any notable differences introduced by that swap.

Brandon Sanderson

Hm... Well, normally in the dragon egg story, a trope is that the dragon needs to learn how to fly/fight and the trainer needs to learn with them.

Here, the ship knows how to fly--but is busted up. So there's a lot of fun in the story relating to how exactly to get parts for the ship--which leads to a completely different style of storytelling.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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[Skyward] looks like it will be a very fun book. How much of the book will actually be released before publishing? and how long is the book

Brandon Sanderson

Book is 110k words long. And...right now I can't remember how much I talked them into releasing. Somewhere between a third and half, I believe.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Projected Schedule

My projected publication schedule looking forward swaps The Apocalypse Guard out for Skyward and moves the Legion collection into the place of Wax and Wayne 4, reflecting what I actually wrote this year. (Note, these are always very speculative. And Peter is probably already worried about Stormlight 4.)

September 2018: Stephen Leeds/Legion Collection

November 2018: Skyward

Fall 2019: Wax and Wayne 4

Sometime 2019: Skyward 2

Sometime 2020: Stormlight 4

Sometime 2020: Skyward 3

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Okay so Brandon, I've gotta ask, Rig's last name is McCaffrey. I thought, oh haha, nice McCaffrey reference.

Then I got thinking.

So Skyward is a story about a girl and her starship (dragon) who join a group to help defend their planet, which is made up of separate caverns (Holds) after humanity crashed (colonized) their world, and who has to defend said peoples from an enemy that periodically comes from the sky called the Krell (Thread).

Let's just assume the world takes place in the DE universe and that Spensa and Co will eventually work out how to psychically teleport and... Brandon... Is Skyward just a sci fi retelling of the Dragonriders of Pern...

Brandon Sanderson

The White Dragon (along with Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen) are direct inspirations for Skyward. And Rodge's last name is a nod to Anne McCaffrey.

I wouldn't say it's only a sci-fi retelling of these stories. But the plot archetype that inspired me is the "boy and his dragon" story. (Including Eragon and How to train your Dragon as well.) I've always wanted to do a story like this, but wanted to find a way to put my own spin (heh heh) on the story.

You'll see how they diverge as the story progresses. But much as Mistborn was inspired by heist stories, this one was inspired by dragon egg stories.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
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For the Saint in Skyward, I just love the funny prophet character. What was your inspiration for that?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the Saint in Skyward. Not giving any spoilers. When I was working on this character, I was really looking for something-- I look for linguistic cues. Because if you can have linguistic cues to who's talking and what the character's like, and something that'll characterize them through their language, that makes it so much better in storytelling, because you don't have to put that in narrative, you can put it in the flow of a conversation. And you'll notice, at least I've noticed, that a lot of the great screenwriters look for these sorts of things, so they can tag who is speaking, even if it's offscreen, by the way that they are talking, and I just love to do this. And a lot of these things come out of me taking a scene and working with it and casting different people in the roles and trying their voices until I hit on one that I say, "That's interesting, let's dig into this further", and that's what happened there.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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I read Skyward, like, two weeks ago, I finished it in two nights. It was honestly one of my favorite books I've ever read, and I can't wait to see where it goes. 

Brandon Sanderson

Thank you! Book two is done. 


I'm excited to see what-- I need to read, uh, about the "Defense of Elysium"?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah, Defending Elysium, it's free on my website. It'll tie-in in ways that you'll find interesting. One of my very first short stories.


I'm super, super excited to see it. I loved the whole idea of when they're peering into the stars, it's like they're looking back with hatred. It's awesome.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
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For Jerkface... Was he supposed to stay a jerk, or did you want him to...

Brandon Sanderson

I planned out his arc. I tried very hard to evoke Malfoy, Crabbe, and... Goyle. I tried very hard to evoke that, and then try to pull the rug out from underneath that. Whether I was successful or not, depends on your interpretation, but he was always supposed to be.

And the real fun and twist to this book is, Spensa's kind of the bully, but she presents him as the bully. And hopefully, as you read, you're like, "Wait a minute..."

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Main Projects


Wax and Wayne 4 is on the slate next after I finish Skyward. (Though if it's going well, I may do the entire trilogy for Skyward first.) I need four or five months at least to do Wax and Wayne, so rain or shine, my plan is to get into this on September 1st at the latest. Hopefully a little earlier.

This will wrap up the second era of Mistborn books. (And yes, I've settled—at long last—on just calling it that. All the other terms I tried were just too confusing.) Once the Wax and Wayne books are done, I'll look to do something else for a little while before coming back for Era Three. (1980s spy thriller Mistborn.)

Status: To be written in 2018.

Berlin signing ()
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I think [my class] enjoy [Skyward] because you have space fights for boys, and for the girls you have a female protagonist. We wondered if this was your intention for choosing a female protagonist?

Brandon Sanderson

No, it really wasn't. My intention for choosing a female protagonist was, she was the character I was most interested about writing in this world. I do try to make sure I have a balance, kind of in vague terms. But mostly I'm like, "Who is the character that this story matches best?" And Spensa, she was raised on Conan books, and she wants to be a warrior like that. And she's very different, she's very weird, in the sort of weird way I like to write people. And she's just somebody that I was kind of bursting at the seams to tell her story and to get her into a book.

The original idea for Skyward came from my love of stories about boys and dragons. There's this classic story that gets told. Kid finds a dragon egg, and then they hatch the dragon egg in secret and become this dragon rider. It's the story of How to Train Your Dragon. (Not a dragon egg, but he finds a dragon.) It's the story of Eragon. It's the story of one of my favorite books of all time, Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen. There's just a ton of this type of story. And one of the things I like to do is isolate a story's archetype, kind of try to break it down to "Why do I love it? What makes it work?" And then try to build it up in a new and different way.

Stormlight, the Bridge Four sequence, I built off of an underdog sports story. Like, if you've seen Hoosiers or Miracle or any of these stories about an underdog sports team who takes on the world. That sort of archetype became the Bridge Four sequence. And Skyward came from the kid and his dragon stories. And that was the seed of it. But Spensa was always going to be the protagonist of that. She was just a character I knew I needed to write.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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An actual Skyward question: Were you inspired by the anime Gurren Lagann at all for this? That anime starts out with humans living in caves and being attacked in order to keep their population down. The cave dwelling and constant attacks is the only connection so far that I see (the rest of the anime gets pretty crazy and I don't think you'd go that far).

Brandon Sanderson

I'm afraid I haven't seen Gurren Lagann, which is probably an oversight--a lot of people talk about it being great.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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The light lines/lances are a very fun concept. Is there anything in particular that inspired the idea of grappling combat in space?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably watching too many cartoons or B movies where someone turns a corner in a vehicle by throwing out an anchor or something. (Didn't the batmobile do this once in the old Adam West batman?)

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Hey, is Brandon willing to tell us which universe Skyward is in yet? He said a while aback that it was in a universe (not cosmere) that he'd written before.

Brandon Sanderson

So, here's the thing--it's a pretty big spoiler. Meaning if you know the novella this is tied to (and it's one of the ones mentioned in this thread) you'll know a moderately large plot point in the book.

It's not the type of spoiler that will ruin a story--I do think some readers would enjoy watching how I lace them together. But do be warned that if you haven't read my science fiction novellas, and you hate spoilers, you might want to wait until Skyward is out to read them.

That said, if you know the terminology of the novellas in question, you'll find your answer in chapter seventeen.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Did you know from the start Skyward would be a good fit for an existing world or was it something you realized after starting to develop the story?

Brandon Sanderson

It was once I started developing the story. I often am working on the elements of stories separately before I combine them into one whole--and so it wasn't until I sat down to do the outline, officially taking several pieces of various story ideas and combining them--that I knew for certain that this was a good fit.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 2 ()
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Kaladin Stormblessed

Did Ironsides mean to refer Spensa's pin as the pin of a traitor so early in the book?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes? I feel like she did. I'm not sure why she wouldn't have, because by that point everyone knows that Spensa's… Unless they're asking maybe if Ironsides didn't... shouldn't have known that that pin was Spensa's father's pin, she could've thought it was given to her by somebody else, but yeah.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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For those who haven't seen this before, Brandon recently updated his website to show that he's started working on a new "Mystery Project".

Anyways, Brandon mentioned in his interview with Crendor that, over the summer, he finally managed to craft a really solid outline for Dark One, and I'm almost certain this is his mystery project.

Dark One is a Cosmere YA story that has stymied Brandon for years on end, so it'd be no surprise that he'd want to write it as soon as possible now that he's "finally cracked it" and has a storyline he's confident with. I can just see him cackling at the idea of springing this on us out of the blue after all these years. We're on to you, Brandon!

Brandon Sanderson

It was almost Dark One...but I have other plans for that right now.

This is a different book that has been brewing for many years that I finally decided to work on. I probably won't talk about this until State of the Sanderson, though, because it will take some explaining.

State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

My Year

January-March: Skyward and Legion Revisions

I kicked off the year quickly doing a second draft of Skyward. Pulling The Apocalypse Guard from the publisher, then promising them Skyward to publish in the fall of 2018, meant that I had to scramble. It wouldn't do to pull a book I judged to be of inferior quality, only to replace it with a book that I didn't have time to revise up to my standards. So you'll see a number of months dedicated to Skyward. (Which, if you somehow missed it, did come out—and is still sitting quite happily on the New York Times bestseller list many weeks later, so thank you all very much!)

Another thing I'd been putting off for months was the necessary revisions of the third Legion story. Tor was quite patient with me on this one, considering the Legion collection was scheduled for publication in the fall as well. But during these three months, I did multiple revisions of both books, eventually getting Legion into a polished state. (There was one more draft of Skyward still to do.) Legion Three, Lies of the Beholder, can be found in the Legion collection that was published earlier this year.

Finally, somewhere in here, I squeezed in an outline and world guide for Death Without Pizza. (Yes, that's a name change—no it's not the final name, but just a placeholder.) More on that later.

April: Children of the Nameless

Sometime around March of last year, Wizards of the Coast sent me an exploratory email. It being the 25th anniversary of their card game, they were wondering if I'd be interested in doing a story with them. As most of you know, I'm quite the fan of Magic: The Gathering. It's my primary hobby, and I have way too many cards. (Which still aren't enough, of course.) I was enthusiastic, and you can read more about the process I used to approach the story in this blog post.

I knew that by doing so, and by writing the story as long as it ended up, it would make getting to some of my other projects later in the year more difficult. (Namely, the fourth Wax and Wayne book, which I'll talk about shortly.) But this was kind of something I had to do, so I ask your forgiveness in taking this detour to Innistrad. I'm exceptionally pleased with the story and the response it has gotten, so if you haven't read it, I present it to you here! Reading it requires no prior knowledge of the card came or the lore surrounding it.

May: Skyward Final Draft

How long it takes to write a story depends on a lot of factors, but in general, three months gets me around 100k words. Shorter stories, with fewer viewpoints, tend to be faster—while longer stories with more intricate plotlines (like Stormlight) tend to take longer. But that's just for the rough draft. Generally, doing all the other drafts takes an equivalent amount of time to the first draft. (So, if the first draft takes three months, the second through fourth drafts will together take another three months.) You can see this at play in Skyward, which took about three months to write in the end of 2017, then took three additional months of revision to polish up.

I did sneak in a little time to do an outline for a piece called The Original in here as well, which took about a week. I'll update you on that in the secondary projects section.

June–August: Starsight First Draft

And, speaking of three month first drafts, here we get me buckling down and doing the sequel to Skyward. It's finished in its first draft form, and dominated my summer. In here, I also did detailed outlines for the third and fourth books of the series. (And this is where I determined for certain that the series would need to be four books instead of three.)

September–October: Odds and Ends

In these months I had some travel to record episodes of Writing Excuses, I did a quick second draft of Starsight to send to my publisher, and I did some revisions to Children of the Nameless. I also did more work on The Original, Death Without Pizza, and Alcatraz Six (AKA Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians, or Alcatraz vs. His Own Dumb Self). Finally, I slipped in some brainstorming with Dan Wells on how to fix The Apocalypse Guard.

Basically, I knew that November would be mostly lost to touring, and I was scrambling to get some work done on small projects to clear my plate for 2019, which will be dedicated to working on Stormlight Four.

November: Skyward Tour

I spent most of November on tour for Skyward, and quickly finishing up final revisions on Children of the Nameless. I got to see a lot of you while touring for the book, and had a blast—but these tours get more and more difficult as the lines get longer and longer. The tour for Stormlight Four in 2020 might require me to do some things I've been dreading, such as limit the lines to a certain number of tickets. It makes me sad to contemplate, but I'll keep you all in the loop about what we decide to do.

December: Death Without Pizza

I needed a break from all the other things I've been doing, so in classic Brandon style, I worked on something fresh and new to give myself a breather. This was where I was going to do Wax and Wayne Four, but doing Children of the Nameless meant that instead of three months extra space at the end of the year, I only had one month. (As CotN had taken one month to write, and one month to revise.) I had the choice of pushing back the start of Stormlight Four, or doing something else for this month and trying to sneak in W&W 4 sometime next year. I chose the latter. It's important to me that I let myself do side projects to refresh myself—but I also think it's important to keep to my Stormlight schedule. It would be too easy to keep putting off the big books until they stretch to years in the making. I told myself I was going to divide my time in half between Stormlight and other projects.

The truth is, I'm getting really anxious about getting back to Stormlight. That's a very good sign, as once I finish a Stormlight book, I'm usually feeling quite burned out on the setting, and need a number of months to recover.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
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So, you always talk about how you're an outliner. So, what do your outlines look like, and how long are they ranging from your YA books to something like Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the one for the new book, Skyward, is about five pages long, and it's mostly-- first it's "Here's the worldbuilding paragraph," there's a bunch of headings and paragraphs. Characters, about a paragraph or two about each one. And then five parts, I tend to do a lot of five act things. So, prologue, part one, part two, part three, climax. Just a bunch of bullet points.


And how long would one be for, like, Oathbringer?

Brandon Sanderson

Oathbringer one's, like, 30 pages.