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Firefight release party ()
#51 Copy

Questioner

I know that with creation you start to lose-- honestly, your confidence in it, with creation. I was wondering if you experience that loss of worth in it, and if so, what do you do to counteract it?

Brandon Sanderson

It happens mostly when I'm working on a book. Once it's done I'm usually proud of it, but about the three-quarter point--

Questioner

I've heard that a lot. Just what do you-- How do you convince yourself it's still worth, y'know--

Brandon Sanderson

...When it starts to happen to me, I sit down and say "How can I make this scene awesome? This one that I'm writing right now?" because I can use my tools, my skills, and my practices as a writer to make that scene really awesome. And usually I'll shake things up a little bit, I'll write a different viewpoint or I'll do something I wasn't expecting to do according to the outline, just to make that scene really great. And that restores a lot of my confidence.

YouTube Livestream 4 ()
#52 Copy

M

What areas in your writing are you still focusing on improving, if any?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that there's a continual struggle for all authors I know to be more active and less passive in their writing. To be showing more and telling less, and this is like a lifetime quest for authors to just be thinking of better ways, more active ways to get information across on the pages. So I'm still working on that, most certainly. Specifically, I feel that the weakest area of my stories is generally the prose. I don't think I'm terrible at it, but I also think that I repeat the same phrases too often, and these sorts of things. So prose has been a major focus for me over recent years, and it's something that I hope to continue to keep focusing on. Those are my main areas.

Obviously, whenever I write a book, one of the things I do is I pick something I want to do a little better. Like, in Oathbringer one of my focuses was "let's do a more wide variety of viewpoints," which is why I did an entire section that saw a bunch of different viewpoints from the different members of Bridge Four and me trying very hard to make those viewpoints distinctive and interesting. Each book has a little mini-focus.

Miscellaneous 2021 ()
#53 Copy

SilentWasteland

What was the collaboration process like? Did you each work on the same scene/chapter? Do you each take a chapter? Some other way of collaborating that I can’t think of?

Janci Patterson

So I wrote virtually everything.

We brainstormed together.

Then I submitted outlines. We tossed those back and forth. I wrote a first draft and Brandon gave me a redline edit.

Then I did a revision,  we went to beta and line edit with my editor, I did another revision, then final copyedit.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#54 Copy

carmen22

When it comes to crazy plot twists, fascinating characters, magic systems, humor, religion, etc., what do you feel, for you, is the hardest part to get on paper or come up with?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that the most difficult parts have to do with getting a character's internal conflicts (if they have them) right. Sometimes, this can take a lot of exploration. Sazed in Mistborn 3 took a LOT of work before I was satisfied.

Second hardest is getting the humor right, particularly witty style humor like in the Lightsong sections of Warbreaker. There are frequently times when I spend hours on a single line in sections like that.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#55 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever reach a point where you've got your outline done, but you've got an impasse where you can't figure out how to get from A to B?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Do you just start writing and hope for the best?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you've got your outline, but you don't know how to get from Point A to Point B. What do you do? I just start writing. I find that the number one thing that helps me get me past problems in my stories is writing. Even if I take what I've written-- And this is very hard for some newer writers, is to know what your writing is gonna be set aside and not end up in the final product. But if you can change your mind over to you being the product, not the book-- Again, it's much easier to say "I'm gonna write today, and it's exploration that is not gonna end up in the book." And doing that will help you explore; you can try three different ones of those, and it will get you further faster than sitting and staring at the page, worrying that each paragraph has to be the right direction that you're going, that you're gonna to screw something up. Writer's block, the easiest way to get over writer's block I've found is to write anyway, even if you just have ninjas attack. In a world where no ninjas exist. *laughter* Like, you're writing a Regency romance and ninjas show up. Writing anything will get your mind working on the problems you've had and help you get past it. Another good thing to try is jumping to other viewpoints, or to-- setting the scene in a different location, to just kind of jar yourself out of that.

Shadows of Self San Diego signing ()
#56 Copy

Questioner

...How and when do you manage to sleep? *laughter* You read and write and have a family.

Brandon Sanderson

So, I'm not allowed to talk about the clones *laughter* writing my books.

I set a strict schedule, and what I do is, I get up at noon, because I'm a writer! And I'll write from noon until 5:00. 5:00 until 8:30 or 9:00 is family time, and that's just-- that's sacrosanct. I don't do anything else during that time except hang out with family, I play video games with the kids, if you've got a seven or eight year old, Terraria, great for kids, you can get it on tablets and sit next to them. It's like an easier Minecraft. We play games, I go out with my wife, we do stuff like that. And then, at about 9:00, the kids are in bed, we're usually back, and then I go back to work. And I work from about 9:00 until as long as I need to work to get my work done that night. And when I'm home, that schedule works very well. It can get me up to twelve hours of writing time in a day if I'm really crunching on something. Since I don't have a commute, it actually-- I get that extra time in my day. And when I don't have a time crunch, then I can be done by, like, 2:00 AM and play some video games or something. I have a very-- My mental health is good. You don't have to worry about me not sleeping, and things like that. On tour? All bets are off. These things usually get done about midnight or 1:00 AM, and I often have a flight the next morning at 8:00. So, on tours, I just don't sleep. And I usually don't eat, either...

Starsight Release Party ()
#58 Copy

Questioner

You've talked a little bit about scripture readings contributing to your writing earlier today. How do you keep that separate from the worlds you're creating?

Brandon Sanderson

I've really never had a problem with that. It's easier than keeping myself separate from other fantasy writers' things and that I've had to learn to put a line in place where I'm like "Ooh, this is a cool idea. Remember that this was someone else's cool idea." Because I consider the scriptures history, I don't mind if they influence me. Like, history does a lot. In Roshar you'll find the Mongolian invasion being a big basis for where the characters for the Alethi come from and in the same way, King Benjamin's speech is a bit of an inspiration for Nohadon's Way of Kings. I don't mind getting inspired by history.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#59 Copy

Questioner

How do you schedule your time?

Brandon Sanderson

These days its based on deadlines, so for instance Rithmatist is a side project, I don't have a contract for that. I just write them, give them to the publisher, and say "its time to publish this". Steelheart i sign a three book deal that has dates in it: when i have to turn them in, if that makes sense. So when I have extra time I do something like this, when i don't, you know, when the contract comes through I've given my obligation to the publisher that i'll do certain things, so i write those. That's how it is these days. It used to be more along the lines of whatever i felt like at the time. You know, its now my job when then it wasn't my job, and as my job there are certain things I need to do.

Skyward Denver signing ()
#60 Copy

Questioner

You were talking before about how, when a book's not working out, you moved on to something else, and then it started to come together in your mind. Was that something that you-- you were moving on to something else and all these other ideas started popping up? Or were you revisiting your other book every now and then?

Brandon Sanderson

Every now and then I'm revisiting it, and I spend a few days on the outline saying, "How is this going? Are things working?" With [Skyward], it was starting to click, so I went specifically back to this one as things were clicking. I keep a folder of these half-finished outlines that aren't working for some reason or the time isn't right yet. And every time it's time to start a new book, those are all in the consideration.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#61 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

All right, folks! Time for the fifth update. This should be the last one that I post before some redditor inevitably beats me to the "It's Done!" post by watching my twitter feed very closely.

I do hope to post another update or two during the next year, discussing how the editing and publication process is proceeding.

Part Four is done as of half an hour ago. The part is around 80k words long, and brings the book total so far to 420k words. Final book is still projected at 450k, though I do plan to try to trim it back in revision. (Tor's book binding company can't do a book longer than Words of Radiance, so if I go longer, we have to shrink the font or change binders. I won't cut important parts of the book just to meet this length requirement, but I also generally need to trim significantly in revisions to tighten language.)

Part Four turned out very well, and I'm very pleased with the book so far. I consider it as strong, or stronger than, book two. I also don't see any major structural or characterization problems that will slow editing. (So far, my editor's comments on Parts One and Two have been minor, save for the slow-down in Part Two that I was aware of--and probably don't mind existing, since Parts Three and Four are much faster, and the characterization in Part Two is strong.)

If you're following the Visual Outline from the second update, there structure of the book has undergone some revisions as I've worked through it. It now looks something more like this

Unlisted is that I nudged one flashback into Part Five. Shown is that Secondary Main character #2 had their viewpoint stretched through all five parts, but has a slightly smaller number of viewpoints in all of them. I juggled tertiary characters, making Parts Two and Four the expansive ones (with many viewpoints) and Parts One and Three the narrow ones (with a focus only on the main characters.) Yes, this is complicated, and you don't need to pay any attention to it. I posted this for those who like to dig into these things.

I'm going to power forward into Part Five starting tonight, then do a second draft of Parts Four and Five together. (I'm not sure why I'm treating those like proper nous.) After I turn that in, I will still need to write the prologue, some of the interludes, and the epigraphs. (Those little bits of text at the starts of chapters.)

And then, revisions. My favorite part. Yay.

As with previous threads, I'll try to post answers to questions where I can--but I have to balance that with the actual writing, so some questions will go unanswered or get a quick RAFO. I apologize in advance for that. Despite jokes to the contrary, I really am just one person, and I can't do ALL THE THINGS, as much as I would like to.

Also, thank you to the community for your kind words. I know that people joke about my writing speed, but this book has taken over a year of dedicated writing--and that's not counting the year before of outlining and writing out some of Kaladin's chapters. It's been two full years of work, and then some, to finish this book. With another six months of revision ahead. Together with other projects, that will make three and a half years between books two and three. So I do beg your patience with this series. The books take a lot out of me, and while I'm very proud of the result--and consider this series to be my opus--the novels aren't going to be terribly fast in their release schedule.

YouTube Livestream 21 ()
#64 Copy

Zarin

What is your favorite part about worldbuilding?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably the magic system. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

That, or finding connections between different stories I'm working on. I really enjoy when I can make the worldbuilding for one book be foreshadowing for the worldbuilding of another book, and things like that. And where I can sneak in combinations between things in the cosmere, and stuff like that. That's really satisfying for me. I don't know why, but it's one thing that really excites me.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
#65 Copy

BusinessCress

Speaking of writing process, how does it feel to work with your own series and with already existing (Magic, WoT)? Is there some differences?

Brandon Sanderson

It's actually a lot of fun to take established rules and see how I can play with them. It makes working on something like MTG different in an interesting way for me. I don't have absolute control of everything, and have to work within certain narrative restraints--which gives me a chance to do something new and different.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#66 Copy

Questioner

When you're thinking about parallel stories and writing them, how do you keep them disparate so that you don't have characters from one story overlapping with another story...

Brandon Sanderson

This is a balancing act I perform when writing big, long books, because a lot of times for narrative reasons, it is better to write them "this set of characters, then the next set, then this set, then that", and go back and forth, but a lot of times, for continuity of theme and character building, it is better to write them straight through, right, that one character's throughline, so you make sure it has an emotional arc to it. And the longer the book gets, the more delicate that balancing act gets, right?

So on a Stormlight book, I usually split the book in my head into three parts, like I write a trilogy of books, and then bind them together as one, with a short story collection making up the interludes and things. And I usually would go, alright, part one, Kaladin from beginning to end of part one. Part one, Shallan from beginning to end of part one. Now I will weave these chapters together and I will read through for theme and make sure that the pacing is working, because the pacing and tone can really get messed up when you're doing that.

Fun story about that: A Memory of Light, I did this with some of the things, and I was weaving them together for the prologue, and two of the things I was weaving together, was characters getting engaged, it was the ladies making a bridal wreath to give to Rand, and the other was the fall of Caemlyn and the people who were trying to live as things were happening there. Not to go into too many spoilers, but it was a really dynamic action sequence, with a lot of terrible things happening, and when I wove those two together, the tone whiplash was terrible. And it was like, one of the worst parts of the book was "here's a happy thing where we're gonna get engaged, now this person dies, then we go back to this happy thing". *crowd laughs* So I had to yank the engagement sequence from the book, because there was no tonal place in that novel where it could go that it wouldn't do that.

And so you run into that trouble, but I think that with the longer books, what you're noticing, keeping the characters' throughline consistent is the more important factor. It's a lot easier, I think, to fix pacing and tone by where you move the chapters and what you cut out and what you add in in revision.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#67 Copy

Questioner

You're a lot faster at getting your books out, getting these really awesome books out, then many other writers. And I think you know who I'm thinking about. What’s the secret?

Brandon Sanderson

The secret is my work ethic. It's beaten into me by my parents I think. I write every day. It's like that classic pioneer work ethic. I just, I write my stories every day, I do this compulsively. I think the other thing is, we talk about someone like Pat Rothfuss. He is a perfectionist, to a level beyond me. I am okay getting my prose pretty good and then handing it to the editor, and letting them work on it, you know what I mean. He has to be perfect before he hands it on, if that makes sense. And I think that as a result, his biggest strength over me as a writer is his prose is more lyrical because he works so hard on it. So it shows. It's like he takes that extra one percent, but that extra one percent takes him like two extra years to get. Some other writers, as you get older, they just, the grind of it gets to them and they slow down. I just love what I do and I write every day.

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#68 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hey, all! Back again to talk about the progress of your book. I promised you updates through the year, and I'll do my best to pop in here now and then and let you know how things are going.

Oathbringer, if you somehow missed the update last month, is done. But it's not DONE done. I turned in the rough draft, but immediately jumped into the third draft. (Because I did the second draft at the same time as the first--basically, after finishing each section of the book, I jumped back and revised it before sending to my editor. The goal being to get him a second draft to begin editing so he could work at the same time I did.)

I've finished Part One and Part Two of the third draft as of today. This included adding in two interludes, which I hadn't finished in the rough draft. Later today, Part Two should be going to the beta readers.

(To answer the inevitable question, the beta readers are chosen by Peter--my assistant and editorial director--from among those who have been very active on the fan websites, or who know us personally.)

I'll jump into the Part Three revision soon, then will do Parts Four and Five together. That will get us through the 3.0 draft.

4.0 and 5.0 drafts will be done together, hopefully in March/April. 4.0 will input beta reader comments and writing group comments, and 5.0 will be the polish where I try to trim words and perfect the language.

We're still in the early stages of the art, as Isaac was busy last fall with the Mistborn Leatherbound and doing maps for Tad William's new series. So we'll need to work hard getting artwork done. Plan is to have a new set of colored endpages for the hardcover of the US edition, as we've done in the past, though I can't announce what those are yet.

Book is looking great so far. Part One needed a heavy revision at the intro, but nothing more than that. Part Two (the slowest of the parts) remains a bit of a questionable area. The only way to speed it up is to cut some fun, but ultimately flabby, chapters. I think they are chapters people will love, as they have some unusual viewpoint characters, but the have a bit of an interlude feel to them. If Tor puts its foot down on length limits for the book, I'll have to cut these out.

Part Three has some larger revisions I've been planning with Peter these last few weeks, so the 3.0 draft on that might take a little longer than the other two did.

Anyway, it's exciting to see the book coming along! November release date is looking very good, and I doubt we'll miss it. Also, my Spanish publisher contacted us with the hopes of trying to do a translation and get their edition out at the same time as the US/UK editions, which would be a first for any of my books in translation. So a big thumbs up for them.

Thank you again for your patience. Hope to see some of you in Boston next month, where I'm guest of honor at a convention. Otherwise, I should be mostly nose-to-the-grindstone, as my travel schedule is very light until I head off to Germany (and maybe Poland and Bulgaria) in March.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
#69 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hello, reddit. I figured I'd pop back in and give you a new update on your book. (I can't believe it's been six months since the last one.)

I'll give a slight spoiler warning to everything below this paragraph. I'm obviously not going to say anything story-wise that would spoil the book. However, I'll be talking a little about the structure of it and what's going on with the draft. I can see some people, very sensitive to spoilers, being concerned about learning anything at all about the book. For you who fit this description, let me just say that I'm approaching the halfway point, but I'm not there yet. The book is going very well, and I'm pleased with it.

Now, on to a deeper discussion of the novel. The first thing I did for Stormlight 3 was work on the flashback sequences for Dalinar and Szeth, as I hadn't yet decided which one would match this book. Through this process, I decided on Dalinar--a decision contrary to my original outline from the start of the series. This didn't concern me; the decision was made based on how the series had developed, and it's always good to expect some things to change during the actual writing. (For example, much of Kaladin's plot from book two was originally slated for book three.) Being too slavish to an outline isn't ever a good thing.

This decision made, I sat down and wrote Dalinar's flashbacks in their entirety. By the end of them, I was completely convinced these were the best paring for this book. That meant, as this was "his" book, I wanted Dalinar viewpoints to show up in all five parts of Oathbringer. You see, Stormlight Books have a kind of strange format. I plot them in this bizarre fashion that likely makes sense only to me. But I'll try to explain.

I split each book into five parts, which group together to form three chunks plotted like individual volumes of a trilogy--with a large, over-arching plot that ties into the five-book arc of the initial sequence, which in turn is half of the complete ten book arc. Each volume, then, has a complete trilogy's worth of arcs and climaxes for the primary characters (Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar) while also having a self-contained flashback sequence, at least one secondary novelette about a character that hasn't had viewpoints so far, and a related short story collection. The "main character" for the book gets, beyond their flashback sequence, a role in each part of the story.

So this means a slightly larger plot for Dalinar, and a slight scaling back for Kaladin and Shallan. (Don't worry; both will be in the book around as much as Kaladin was in Words of Radiance.) Now, the plotting for Oathbringer--as I mentioned--is broken into five chunks, which combine into three chunks. (I call them books here for lack of a better word, as the novel--like each other in the series--is a trilogy bound in one volume. Don't be confused. This doesn't mean I'm splitting the book for publication, only that it is plotted in a way with divisions between the story arcs.)

"Book One" of Oathbringer is all of Part one, plus the interludes. "Book Two" is parts two and three, plus two sets of interludes. "Book Three" is parts four and five, plus interludes. Of these, part two is going to be the biggest oddball, as I'm putting another novelette (separated into six chapters) in here as I feel I need a glimpse at another character. So it's going to have the least focus on primary viewpoints.

I've finished all of the flashbacks, all of the viewpoints for part one, the novelette for part two, and part of the other novelette (the one that will take the place of Szeth from book one or Eshonai from book two.) This, so far, puts me at about 180k words written--with 130k of that being part one in its entirety, and the rest being scenes listed above.

If that sounds confusing, I apologize. These books are somewhat involved to write, and more complex stories demand some outlining that gets a little crazy. However, I did whip up a visualization of the viewpoint structure, which I've posted below.

Stormlight Three Visual Outline

This doesn't give an exact view of scale, as--for instance--part one will likely be the longest of the five. Part Two looks the most full, but it's likely to have only three or four chapters from each of the primary characters (well, one chapter from one of them) so it should actually be shorter than part one. Part Five isn't cut off; I know it will be short, as it was in the other two books.

Next up is to do a revision of part one. (I don't often do revisions in the middle of a book, but with books this long, it's helpful for me to keep the plot under control and maintain continuity through the parts.) From there, I'll write Dalinar for part two, interweave with the appropriate flashbacks and the already-finished novelette, then look at the detailed plotting of the other three viewpoints in the part. I hope to bring this part in at around 70k words, bringing the total book to 200k and getting us to roughly the halfway point.

If this makes your head spin, then don't worry, you can ignore it. It is important to me that these books, though epic in scope, retain a tight view of the primary characters through all volumes. You will see a lot of Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan. You will see a moderate amount of Szeth, Eshonai, Jasnah, Adolin, and Navani. There will be a few surprises regarding other characters who have slightly larger places in the plot, but in general, anyone not on one of the above lists isn't allowed more than a viewpoint here or there. (Until the second five books, where our primary characters will shuffle. So you Renarin fans will have to be patient.)

I'm determined to maintain momentum in this story without letting it veer too far away from the primary plot. I feel that a careful outline and a consistent structure are the methods by which I will achieve this.

Thanks for your patience.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#70 Copy

Questioner

How many hours a week do you spend writing? You write more than anybody--

Brandon Sanderson

I do it in normal person's job, I'm... Eight hours a day probably. Two four-hour sessions usually. I'm not that fast, I'm just very consistent. It's just my personality. It's served me really well in writing, just because I can consistently write everyday. I don't go through mood swings and things.

Stuttgart signing ()
#71 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

How do you choose worldhoppers to depict in your books?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

There's couple of ways I choose worldhoppers. The background story plays a big part, but some worldhoppers just want to be immigrants. Some people you meet, you'll notice they're from a different planet but aren't involved in any schemes. They just wanted to get to another planet.

There's groups like the Ghostbloods, but there's also just trade between places like Roshar and Nalthis. I have to be careful to not make everyone an easter egg from other worlds. That would strain plausibility very easily.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#72 Copy

Questioner

Is there any character that you think you have learned something from while writing? Or--

Brandon Sanderson

Each character that I write is a mix of two things. It is a mix of some part of me, and something very different from myself. In order to write those characters, I usually do a lot of exploring and trying to find out about people who are like the character that I'm writing, and that teaches me a ton. You could say that the character has taught me a lot on that case. Doing, for instance, Kaladin, and trying to write a hero with depression whose story is not about having depression, and going to people I know and people I love and people I don't know, and asking them what it feels like, has taught me a whole ton. I don't know if that answers your question, but often the exploration of where a character goes is me exploring my own thoughts and feelings on an idea. And I would say that every character, to an extent, takes me on a journey as I write them, and kind of combine myself with something else. So yes, they all have, but also they all are partially me.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#73 Copy

Questioner

When you started writing, especially Mistborn, did you know you were writing a series, or were you just kinda writing--

Brandon Sanderson

Did I know I was writing a series, or was I just kinda writing? I usually know I'm writing a series. I like to outline. The beginning, middle, and end; then what came before, and what came after before I start any project. That is different for some few; for instance, the Alcatraz books were more freeform. I didn't know how long they were going to be until I wrote the first one, but almost everything else I know the length of what I'm shooting for. It's just kind of a quirk in the way that I write.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#75 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Vin stands out to us at the Pixel Project because she went through a lot of abuse in her young life, physical and psychological, at the hands of family and people that she should have been able to trust. She is a survivor, and with the help of her new friends she eventually finds self-worth, she realizes she can overcome her past trauma, she grows as a person. The question is, why did you decide to write a character with this kind of background, and what kind of research did you do to write the character who is an abuse survivor?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. So, two part question. First up: How and why did I decide. There are two main parts to this. One is, I knew I was writing in the world of Mistborn, a very less than perfect society. Let's just put it at that. The pitch for myself was, what if Sauron had won? What if you had to grow up in Mordor? I felt that if I had a character who was untouched by that, that the story would lack sincerity. If the only main character was someone who had somehow avoided that, there would be a certain-- like I said, lack of sincerity. There would be a certain, sort of-- I feel that, when you're writing stories, one of the things you should be looking to is to let characters who are part of a problem, solve the problem, rather than people outside the problem coming in to fix the problem. It's generally stronger storytelling, and generally more respectful of people who have had these life experiences themselves. So, I knew I needed someone who had been through a lot of trauma, because of the things we needed to change in this society.

The other part about it was planning-- I am an outliner, with my plots and my worlds and my characters, I discovery write. And oftentimes, what I'll do when I start a book is I'll start with multiple attempts at writing a person into that world. It's almost like I have a bunch of actors come in and try out for the part. I wrote three very different first chapters for that book, and the one that worked was the Vin you ended up with. What drew me to her as a character was the mix of strength and vulnerability at the same time, that she has. It's hard to explain why I came up with that, because really, as a writer, you're just kind of searching for someone whose voice works and whose soul matches that of the story. And it gets very mystical, for me, when you talk about characters, which I don't like, I like to be able to break things down, and talk about how it works and why I made the choice I did. But I made the choice of Vin because Vin was right. Part of that was, she was solving a problem that she had been directly-- that had directly affected her life.

How did I go about doing it right? This is where the best research that I get is reading the stories of people who are willing to share them with the rest of us. Reading firsthand accounts from people who are willing, because that takes a lot of bravery. It takes a lot of-- it's not something I could ever ask anyone to do, but it is something that people offer. On their blogs, and on forums, and spending your time listening to what people say, and trying to get the characters to express the way that these people would express it if they could write that character in their story, is one of my main goals. In fact, I think that's my prime mandate as a writer, is, try to write the characters like the people who have their life experience or beliefs would write them if they had my skill as a writer. And, so I spent a lot of time on blogs, I spent a lot of time on forums, and I wasn't ever posting on these, I was just listening. And then I made sure I had some good readers. Shallan has gone the same way. I can directly credit some very helpful beta readers who have had life experience similar to Shallan's, which have made sure, at least I hope I do this right, and always do better, that I'm walking a line between not sensationalizing, and not glorifying, but using this person's life experience to help them become the person that they want to become.

Anushia Kandasivam

And is that why we don't learn about the characters abuse on screen-- it's never on screen, it's always in their thoughts-- did you purposely write it like this because you didn't want...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. This was very, very conscious. I feel like one of the biggest traps that writers in fantasy fall into, is using abuse of women, specifically, but all people who are in positions of lacking power, as a means of proving how bad your villains are, or how heroic your heroes are. I think that there are certain authors who are really good at doing this without making it a sense that this is how the world is. So it's not me pointing fingers and saying you shouldn't do that, but I felt that if I was to put it on screen, I don't think I could handle it without sensationalizing it. And by making it there, but never explicit, I think everyone knows it was there, I think everyone knows that Vin suffered abuse, but I could write a story that can deal with overcoming these things without having to sensationalize the thing itself.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#76 Copy

Questioner

When you write your stories, do you plot them by outline, or do you start with the first thing--

Brandon Sanderson

Good question. Do I plot with an outline or not? I am an outliner. I like start with a really good outline, though I outline backward. I start with the climax and what I want to have happen, and then I work forward, working out what's gonna work to lay the groundwork for the ending that I want to have happen. But then I write forward, I start with the first page and go.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#77 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

I've lost track of the number of magical systems that you have created and I was just wondering if you could say a little bit about your process of creating magical systems.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

What I'm looking for is something interesting. It is kind of hard to explian, because to create a magic system, I've read a lot of fantasy, and personally I feel that one of my duties is to push the genre in different directions. There was a period where our worldbuilding was not as extensive as it should be. Stuck as we were for a while, it felt like the genre hit a bit of a rut, and I wanted to push it in different directions. The screwy magic systems I create are part of that. I feel excited about them, it's something I feel ?? Google Sanderson's First Law.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
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Questioner

I want to know how you get into the zone while writing. How do you go from normal Brandon Sanderson life to... how do you make the transition.

Brandon Sanderson

Usually, if I'm having trouble, going for a walk, turning on music, thinking about what I'm going to be doing for the day. Sitting down, turning on music and starting. If I'm having any trouble, reading what I wrote the day before helps. Usually there is not a difficulty for me but those help me if there is.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#79 Copy

Questioner

How do you fool your writer's block?

Brandon Sanderson

I write a bad chapter. Usually, writer's block, what's stopping me is I that know the chapter's not gonna work, or something's wrong. I write it anyway. And then I think about it for a few days, and then rewrite it over. It works almost every time. Once in a while, it's a bigger problem that's stopping me. And those cases, often it takes, like, a big extensive rewrite to get the book going in a different direction. But nine times out of ten, I'm just having a funk on one chapter; changing the perspective or writing it poorly in a sitting and letting myself think about it works very well.

Google+ Hangout ()
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John

Although like stories and you know, plot characters, twists are all very important, for me a great story is made up of great moments and the question I wrote in the post there was about when Dalinar swaps his sword for the bridgemen and asks the question, "how much is a life worth?" and for me that was a moment where I had to put the book down because it was just so great, it brought the characters together and all these reasonings and all these visions, it all came to a head and I was thinking how many moments like these do you think a great book needs for example I mean other things I'd seen in that book was when Kaladin, he tells his men to come out after the storm and see him alive again or in The Gathering Storm when Rand is on Dragonmount and everything you know, he destroys the Choedan Kal. So how many moments like that do you think they need and can you give me an example of a great book that you love from another author's book where you think there is a great moment like those ones?

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, excellent, I'll start with the last one, one of my favorite books of all time is Les Miserables and it's full of moments like that and I'm going to have to pick the moment where Jean Valjean goes for Marius and brings him back through the sewers and things like that, moments like that are what makes books work for me.

What you're noticing is part of the way I design my plots. When I'm going to write a story I feel like I have to have moments like that prepared and planned that I can write towards. I will often go and turn on epic music of the right type--whatever I'm feeling is epic at the time--and go and walk or go on the treadmill, or do something active. And while doing that I will try to imagine what moments like that will be for this given book. What will be the really powerful character or plot moment that just make you want to put the book down and sit back for a minute and say "Whoa!"

I have to be able to imagine some of those for every book I write, otherwise I can't start the book. I write my books kind of... the points on the map philosophy, meaning I have to have something to write toward for me to get there. It's like having a map where you say, okay, I'm going to drive from one place to another and here are the places along the way I'm going to stop. I need to know where those places are and these places are usually these powerful moments and it's how I build stories.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#81 Copy

Questioner

How do you keep motivation for writing in general, because i always have a lot of trouble with that.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, well that depends on what part of my career you are talking about. Early on I envisioned this cubicle chasing me and if it caught me i'd have to get a normal, boring desk job. That was actually a big motivation to me, because it was like I only had a certain amount of time to do this thing that I loved and if I didnt actually sit down and do it I was gonna have to be a real boy. After i got published and it got a bit hard I started using the carrot philosophy; i would let myself open up a new pack of magic cards if I hit a certain word limit every day.

Questioner

Oh, thats really cool!

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, and that worked really well during the hard years when I was trying to get through the Wheel of Time. They were great books but they were so hard to write cause they were way harder than writing my own fiction. Now I don't really need that anymore, now its kinda become this thing where I have all these fans who are waiting for things and I have to make good on the promises I've made to them. Now its more like a "i need to do this", so yeah.

/r/fantasy AMA 2011 ()
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Remagoen

When plotting a series of books, how do you account for plot changes you didn't foresee you had to do? For instance, I read that Elend was originally going to be a minor character, but the end of Mistborn wouldn't have been the same without him. How did you work him into the plot later on without breaking the story?

Brandon Sanderson

After I wrote the first book, and Elend grew more important in my mind, I reworked the three-book-outline. Usually, when I build a series, I spend a lot of time on the first book and then have a few paragraphs on the rest. Then, after finishing the first book and seeing how it worked (and how the tone was) I go and do much more in-depth outlines for the rest of the series.

When the first book is happening, things are much more 'anything goes' as I don't have any established canon yet. I allow myself to toss the rest of the outlines out the window, and just try to make the first book the best it can be. From there, I have continuity, and I feel it is important to maintain that for the integrity of the series.

Orem signing ()
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Questioner

What's your writing process?

Brandon Sanderson

I am an outliner, so I generally start with a really solid outline for the book I'm gonna write. I don't always stick to it 100%, but I do kind of keep it revised as I go. I work better from that. And not everybody's like that, but if you really wanna know my writing process, my BYU lectures are online. They're (*inaudible*) and comfier as opposed to mine.

YouTube Livestream 29 ()
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Jeremy

Your work on the lore of the cosmere is immense. How much have you had to figure out ahead of time? How much do you develop on the fly while writing?

Brandon Sanderson

It really depends on the situation. I do some of both. Mostly, the on-the-fly stuff is where I realize that there is a hole in my understanding where I'm like, "I didn't account for this." And you'll see this when fans ask me questions; I'd say a good half the time or more, they ask a question, I'm like, "I didn't account for that. Let me think..." This is why I like having foundational principles of how the cosmere works, rather than focusing on little details. (Which, a lot of those, I'm deciding on as I'm writing.) I try to get these really solid foundations so that the little details answer themselves, if that makes sense.

I've heard people talk about this with characters. Like, instead of deciding when you're building a character what their favorite color is, decide who they are, decide the personality, decide the foundational moments in their life. So when someone asks you a question that you haven't anticipated, it makes sense; there's only one way you could answer. "Well, of course their favorite color is blue, because that's the color of the uniforms of the soldiers that saved them when they were a young child, so they're gonna pick that color." That sort of thing for worldbuilding works really well, too. When someone asks an off-the-wall question, you can say, "Well, the mechanics are like this, this, and this. So that leads me to have an answer that is this." That you get into more trouble when you assume that's the case, but then when you think about it later, you're like, "No, that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be that way," and you can go a different way. But that's how I try to do it.

Oathbringer San Diego signing ()
#85 Copy

Questioner

Going back to when you first started writing books, how did you go about figuring out how to revise them?

Brandon Sanderson

...Through lots of pain. *laughter* I am not a natural reviser. I still don't like it. I spent six months of this year in revisions on Oathbringer, and every minute of it was pain! No, I'm joking. I mean, I still have the best job in the world, right? I get to sit in my chair and tell stories. And then, for some reason, people throw money at me. Revision was hard, and for me, part of the breakthrough was to treat a revision like I treat a first draft, in that I create an outline for the revision. I create a bunch of goals, I create a bunch of bullet points and things I want to work on. And I come up with a strategy, because I am naturally an outliner, for making the revision work. And when I started doing that, revision got a lot better for me, but it was also just a lot of practice.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
#86 Copy

Questioner

How do you come up with the David analogies and the metaphors?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, man, this is so much harder than you think it is. For those who haven't read them, the main character is really, really bad at similes. And where it came from is, there's actually a contest every year, where people intentionally try to write bad similes, and submit them. And every year it comes out and makes me laugh. Just-- I love it. And I started writing Reckoners, and-- Normally, you read this things as an author, to watch out for things to not accidentally do. If you read the bad metaphors, you can be like, "Oh, this is why you don't want to do this. You don't want people laughing." You get aware of this sort of thing. It's very good for you as a writer to watch. And, lo and behold, I'm writing a book series, and I wrote a metaphor, and I looked at it, and I'm like "That is really bad." And you do this as an author sometimes, and sometimes they slip in the books, you just write it and they're really bad. And I went to delete it and I'm like, "What if I ran with that?" This is because I tend to discovery-write my characters. So, I outline a lot for my settings, and I outline a lot of my plots, and then I go freewrite who these characters are, and then usually I have to do a lot of rebuilding of my plot after I figure out who's who. And in the Reckoners, I just ran with that, I did the whole sequence, I did the whole first chapter like that, and I'm like, "This is really fun." And then I locked myself into it, and it got so hard. Being bad on purpose is, like, ridiculously difficult. But it was also part of the fun. I would save them up, I'd be walking on the street, I'd think of something, and I'd be like "Ooh, how do I make that bad?" And I'd spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes writing a really bad metaphor. And sticking it in my pocket, because they all have to be bad in different ways. If they're all bad in the same way, then that's not any fun, you get used to it. So they all have to be bad in different ways, too. So, yeah, it was harder than I thought, but it was a blast.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#87 Copy

Questioner

When you're developing magic systems do you have it all planned out before you start writing the scenes?

Brandon Sanderson

I usually do, but I let myself have some wiggle room to change things as I go. Usually by the end of the first book I have it all locked down. Before the first book I have an outline for my magic system. I write the book and see how it works and see if there are things I need to tweak, and then I go back and make sure that it's locked down, and then I can write the other two to be consistent with the first one.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Nightfire

Hey Mr. Sanderson, I know that A Memory of Light should be finished in the next couple years (at the latest). I know that you tend to work on multiple projects. Unless you are planning to do another (totally) new project can we expect another WarbreakerElantris, or preferably Mistborn book as you release the ten Way of Kings books?

Brandon Sanderson

I do like to work on multiple projects. During those early unpublished years, I was always hopping from book to book, and it became habit for me. It really helps me keep fresh, allowing me to try new things and experiment with my style. One of the hardest thinks about working on the WoT has been the number of side projects I've had to set aside because of lack of time.

And so, with The Way of Kings series (aka The Stormlight Archive) I plan to do the books on a 2-to-1 ration. Meaning two Stormlight books, followed by one random side book. Generally, you should expect three books every two years from me, as that's been my speed. So there should still be a Stormlight book every year, though we'll see.

Some will be new things, others will be in current series. My current plans are to do an Elantris sequel in 2015, for instance, and I'd like to do the second (and final) Warbreaker book eventually.

MisCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

So, when you were plotting out Mistborn, did you do the whole trilogy, kind of thing?

Brandon Sanderson

I did nine books when I did the plot for Mistborn. Normally how I approach plotting is: first book, I do with minimal outlining for the rest of the series. So there's-- I'll do a pretty good outline for the first book. And then I will write that first book (and of course everything changes from the outline as you're writing it) and then I sit down and I outline the series, whatever the series is going to be, with about a page on each book. And then when it's time to write that one, I sit down and I kind of attack that outline. Usually, I'm looking for about-- roughly, outline is 10,000 words for every 100,000 words of book. So, a lot of my YA outlines are 10,000 to 20,000. 15,000 words, something like that. For something big like Stormlight, we're looking at a lot more.

With Mistborn, I finished the first book, and I went to my outline and I created the spine of the three eras. (Which became four! Because I'm an epic fantasy writer.) And then I called my editor, I'm like, "Hey, this is what I want to do." And he's like, "Wow, you're ambitious."

Questioner

Are you going to complete 'em eventually?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I will. We're getting really close to doing the next era. So, Mistborn, if you haven't read them, there's an era of epic fantasy, there's an era of urban fantasy. (It's more like steampunk, there's a steampunk era). Then we're gonna go to a true urban fantasy, kind of 1980s level of technology. Which is gonna be really fun.

The fun thing (have I told people this before)? In the second era books, we did these newspapers, these broadsheets that we put in as art. And I always like to have some art in my books. It's gotten more and more over the years, as I've had the resources to do more and more. What I want to do for Era 3, as our art things, are comics of Wax and Wayne from the-- *crowd laughs* Like, they've become characters-- So, you might wanna do a Golden Age (you comic book fans will love this), a Silver Age, and then a new dark gritty reboot. You'll have, like, a Golden Age classic-Superman sort of thing. And you'll have Silver Age, where it's just bizarre. The giant monkeys attack the city. Silver Age comics, they liked monkeys for some reason, they always put them on the covers. Then we'll do this, like, Frank Miller sort of, "Here's the reboot of the Wax and Wayne comics that happened." It's gonna be a blast, 'cause it'll be three books.

Questioner

Sure it won't be four books?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't know...

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#90 Copy

Questioner

When you do the big twist at the end of a book, do you always have that twist in your mind when you begin writing the book, or do you do the twist after?

Brandon Sanderson

I generally have it ahead of time. I am an outliner. I like-- Writers tend to fall into two camps with a lot of variety in between--they're not polar opposites--between what we call "gardeners" and what we call "architects." I'm more of an architect. I like to build a structure and then hang my story on it. That said, you need to be flexible and willing to take something better if it comes along. For instance, Secret Project, which I can't tell you anything about, had a different ending than the ending I just put into it, because the ending just didn't land, right? I'm like, "Alright, I need to go back to square one and I need a better twist for this story," and I dug into it and came up with one. That causes a lot more revision to have to be done, but at the end of the day, I think you need to be able to do it. Sometimes when you're writing you just come up with something better, you're like, "I need to try this instead 'cause it's stronger".

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Joshua_Patrao

The Eternal Question: Mac or PC?

Brandon Sanderson

PC. Not out of any avid devotion, but because it's what I've grown up on. My wife is a Mac person, though.

Joshua_Patrao

Your word processor of choice?

Brandon Sanderson

Word. Same reason as above.

Joshua_Patrao

Do you have music on real loud when you write (I've heard Steve King writes like that) or is it soft in the background?

Brandon Sanderson

Soft in the background.

Shadows of Self Houston signing ()
#92 Copy

Questioner

The fight scenes in the Mistborn novels are incredibly visual. How do you write that, do you have to diagram it out?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, how do I write the visual fight scenes from something like Mistborn? Actually, you do a lot of research by watching Jackie Chan films, *laughter* but really what you're doing is actually, at least the way I approach it, you can do whatever works for you, but the way I do it is I actually approach what I want the emotional and mental beats to be in the scene and I build the scene around that. What is someone going to realize? What is someone going to feel? What is someone going to connect? How are they going to bring these things together? And then I use those to construct the scene so that even if someone is not following it, or is not as interested in the action, they'll get the emotional parts, and have these focuses for themselves. And I just construct the action around that. And often in the first draft, it's actually pretty rough. One of the biggest things I have to do in second drafts and third drafts is fix blocking for these battle sequences, which is where everyone's moving, because I'm working on the emotional beats first. And I feel like that's the way to go for me. I can construct a really awesome looking fight scene but the problem is you can't do a Jackie Chan thing in a book, like he punched him, he punched him really fast, this other person punched her twice as fast but then she kicked him twice. It's just boring right, and even the blow by blows, when they get exciting, kind of feel boring sometimes. But if you've got those emotional and mental things connecting, and pulling the reader through the story, then it's going to work better.

Shadows of Self Lansing signing ()
#93 Copy

Questioner

Where does the concept for the broadsheets come from?

Brandon Sanderson

So I get together with my team: which is Ben McSweeney who does a lot of the artwork, Isaac who does all the symbols and maps, my editorial assistant, and myself. And then we brainstorm as many cool things as we can, and then Isaac lays it out, Ben does all the art, and then together we all just write different *inaudible* for the articles so it feels like a newspaper that a lot of different people are writing.

Questioner

That's awesome. Thank you very much this is very cool.

Brandon Sanderson

That's how we do it.

Isaac wrote the Allomancer Jak pieces in the next one so you should read that one. It's really fun, it's his debut of fiction.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Questioner

How long did it take you to figure out how to kill your characters without really ticking off your readers?

Brandon Sanderson

Well. I think it still does tick them off. But my thing is, if I make sure that somebody has a satisfying resolution, even if they don't get to see it, usually people are satisfied then. So, if what the character wanted finds satisfying resolution eventually, that is where I go.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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carmen22

 How did you ever keep the unique power systems all straight and use them so well for your readers to understand?

The powers, to me, were just so fascinating, well developed, and unique on so many levels! I think with a lesser artist than yourself the powers might have been too much to take in, but I found them quite easy to follow and understand. Just amazing! You seriously are one of my favorite authors. I'll be in line for all of your books!

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks! It took a lot of practice. Keeping them straight for myself isn't so difficult—it's like keeping characters straight. The more I've written, the easier it's become.

What is more difficult is keeping it all straight for the readers. This can be tough. One of the challenges with fantasy is what we call the Learning Curve. It can be very daunting to pick up a book and find not only new characters, but an entirely new world, new physics, and a lot of new words and names.

I generally try to introduce this all at a gentle curve. In some books, like Warbreaker, starting with the magic system worked. But in Mistborn, I felt that it was complex enough—and the setting complex enough—that I needed to ease into the magic, and so I did it bit by bit, with Vin.

In all things, practice makes perfect. I have a whole pile of unpublished novels where I didn't do nearly as good a job of this. Even still, I think I have much to learn. In the end of Mistborn One and Warbreaker both I think I leave a little too much confusion about the capabilities of the magic.

MisCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

Do you ever find yourself writing so much of your own work that you actually go back and look and realize you've forgotten pieces?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, I have to reread, particularly in Stormlight. Yeah, absolutely. It's hardest when I get hit with questions like this, there are sometimes I get hit with a question, I'm just like, "What?" I usually just RAFO it. But it is particularly bad-- If you wanna read bad answers by me, go get any of the ones where I first start answering questions in London after an 8-hour time jump. Like, I get off a plane, they set me in front of a crowd, they say "Go." Imagine signing and writing things in books while people ask you questions about complicated fiscal policy. And you have to keep writing and answer them. And those questions just-- Every time I'm in London, I get back and people are like, "You said this!" I'm like, "What?" Any time I'm in Europe. The first signing, particularly, in Europe, you can find delightful questions... It took me a few hours, the last one. I did get, eventually, into the zone, and start answering questions. But that was a miserable signing all around because it was the winter in London, and it was a particularly cold winter, and they decided to put the line outside. And they'd never done this to me before at this bookstore, but the line was so big that they're like, "We're gonna run them around the block." It was a very long line, but I'm sitting here trying to answer these questions, while at the same time I'm worried, I'm like, "These fans are outside in the cold. This is not right!" And so I was stressed and jet-lagged, so some of my questions were just off the walls.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#97 Copy

Questioner

What does your writing desk look like?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't have a desk. I set in an easy chair. I sit, lean back, and relax.

Questioner

So maybe it's comfy when you're leaning back and relaxed.

Brandon Sanderson

Yep. And I do-- I go, like, walk on the treadmill or run on the elliptical-- I don't know what you call it on an elliptical, half-run or whatever-- and plan out my writing of the day. And then I go sit in my easy chair, and I-- it's by the hearth-- and I just work.

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing ()
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Questioner

How did you like doing the graphic novel compared to normal stuff.

Brandon Sanderson

It was fun. The thing about it is, my main part in it was to write the book, 'cause its a prose novel that I wrote years ago, and then to look over things as my team was putting it together. They had a writer take my book and condense it down to the dialogue bubbles and things like this, and built it out and I would see a page and say "good". So I didn't really make a graphic novel I wrote a book that people who know what they are doing adapted into a graphic novel.

Questioner

Makes sense. Would you do more of it?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on how people react to this. If the fans like it and say "yes, this is a book we enjoy. Keep doing things like this." I will do more.

Stormlight Three Update #8 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

This might be our final Oathbringer update--as today, I finished the fifth and final draft of the book, and am ready to send it off to Tor. From here, the book is in /u/peterahlstrom's hands as he handles the copyedits, the gamma read, and the proofreads. It's possible I'll make a few small tweaks to the text, but the book is mainly his burden now.

I'm extremely pleased with the final draft, which I managed to cut to 450k words. That meant trimming about 64k off of it--roughly 12.5%. These are mostly line edits, with only a few small scenes being cut out. I improved pacing, and even added a few small sections to smooth out certain plot lines.

Fans tend to hate the idea of cutting--but trust me, this version reads far better. I did make sure to keep anything substantive I cut so you can see it later as deleted scenes.

We're still planning a November 14th release in the US. (I think UK releases on Thursdays instead of Tuesdays, so it would be a few days later over there.) Simultaneous audio and--if we can swing it--simultaneous Spanish.

For now, I'm at Supanova in Sydney and Perth--which unfortunately means I won't be monitoring these comments (or my direct messages.) Be forewarned, you might not get a reply to questions posted here. (I will try to do a proper AMA about the book once it's out.)

My next project will be The Apocalypse Guard, a book with loose connections to the Reckoners. I'm chomping at the bit to do some actual writing again, as I've been working on revisions of Oathbringer nonstop for almost exactly six months now. I think the last time I wrote anything non-Stormlight was Snapshot, fourteen months ago. Whew!

By the files in my folders, the first chapter I wrote for Stormlight Thee was started on June 24, 2014. The last scene I added was written today, in my hotel in Sydney. The bulk of the writing happened June 2015-December 2016, with revisions lasting until just now.

It clocks in at 122 chapters, with 14 interludes, plus a prologue, epilogue, and ketek.

Looking forward to you all being able to read it, come November. Thanks, as always, for your support--and your patience.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

How much do you plot books? How much do you plan out what happens before you start writing?

Brandon Sanderson

I am a plotter. I am very naturally-- I do a lot of extensive plotting. So, I would say I have, like, 90% of it before I start most books, thought I knock out like, 10% or 20% while I'm writing and change it if something better comes along. 

Questioner

Do you go chapter by chapter, or do you kinda just--

Brandon Sanderson

It's more like an outline of, like, "Here's my goal. And here are ways to achieve it." I do a whole lecture on it in the BYU lectures, if you're interested,  that are on YouTube.