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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#101 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Five

Lightsong's Very Short, Two-Paragraph Chapter

I was tempted to make this annotation the longest in the pile, just for irony's sake. But I thought that might get boring. So you'll just have to settle for the only annotation in the batch that's longer than the chapter it annotates.

I've long wanted to do a chapter like this, one that's just a few sentences in length. (Or even one sentence.) I toyed with it in Mistborn, but never found a good place for it. When I was writing this book, it seemed very appropriate here. Something about the rising tension, the need to include a scene from Lightsong, and the poignancy of having a chapter like this right here—following the previous Siri chapter—worked perfectly in the book.

The reason I'm most sad for making Lightsong's dreams of earlier chapters more violent is that I lose some of the punch of this chapter. Originally, this was the first place he dreamed explicitly of T'Telir burning. Before, there were hints, but he never remembered the actual scene of fire. Then we got here, and it hit with a pow.

But the need to keep the tension up earlier outweighed the need to make this scene unique. I have had troubles in the past with my endings being too overwhelming, particularly when compared to earlier points in the book. So Joshua's constant pushing on this point here was very appropriate. I think the book is stronger, even if this chapter is slightly weaker.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#102 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


Blushweaver was the first of the gods who I named, and her title then set the standard for the others in the Court of Gods. Lightsong was second, and I toyed with several versions of his name before settling. Blushweaver's name, however, came quickly and easily—and I never wanted to change it once I landed on it.

When developing the Court of Gods, I wanted to design something that felt a little like a Greek pantheon—or, rather, a constructed one. Everyone is given their portfolio by the priests after they Return. Blushweaver was given the portfolio of honesty and interpersonal relations, and over the fifteen years of her rule, she's become one of the most dynamic figures in the court. Few remember it anymore, but she was successful at having her name changed during her first year. She used to be Blushweaver the Honest, and she became Blushweaver the Beautiful through a campaign and some clever politicking.

Many think of her as the goddess of love and romance, though that technically isn't true. It's just the name and persona she's crafted for herself, as she saw that as a position of greater power. She actually toyed with going the opposite direction, becoming the chaste goddess of justice and honor. However, in the end, she decided to go the direction that felt more natural to her.

After these fifteen years, it's hard to distinguish when she is being herself and when she's playing a part. The two have become melded and interchangeable.

When designing this story, I knew I wanted to have a beautiful goddess to give Lightsong some verbal sparring. However, I realized early on that I didn't want to go the route of having a disposable, sultry bimbo goddess of love. I needed someone more complicated and capable than that, someone who was a foil to Lightsong not just in verbal sparring, but someone who could prod him to be more proactive. And from that came Blushweaver.

In the original draft of the book, this chapter had a slightly different tone. Lightsong didn't look forward to sparring with Blushweaver; he cringed and wished she wouldn't bother him. That artifact remained until the later drafts, though it didn't belong. I wrote the later chapters with them getting along quite well, so I wanted to revise this first chapter to imply that he looked forward to their conversations.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#104 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Vin waits for Elend to reveal his plan before the Assembly

I had to do a couple of drafts of Elend's "It doesn't change things" section with Vin. I didn't want to reveal his plan–I wanted Vin to work through it–but I also didn't want it to seem TOO forced that he didn't tell her.

I settled on this, which I think has a nice balance. However, you're in dangerous territory as a writer any time you have characters conveniently forget to tell each other things–or when you keep viewpoints characters plans and schemes back from the reader.

I have a history of fudging these things a tad in this series. I don't give myself that much leeway in all of my books–but I figured with the Kelsier "Real Plan" surprise I had in the last book, I have established that the characters don't always tell the reader every single thing they're plotting.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#105 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Discovers that the Koloss have been left to Destroy, then Elend Executes Jastes

And here we have the scene where Elend Kills Jastes. This, more than anything, is a sign to Elend of the way the real world works. This chapter is a sign of innocence lost, and a measure of the price of idealism. Elend will never be the same man after this.

Some of my alpha readers rebelled against this scene, but–unlike the scene where Kelsier used Demoux to kill a man in book one–I decided not to cut it. This event says too much about what has happened to Elend, and it means too much to his character. However, I did arrange things a little differently. In the original draft, Elend struck and killed Jastes, then explained why he did it. In this version, he outlines Jastes' sins first, then takes his head off.

Now, finally, Elend and Vin have discovered Sazed's lies. Did you wonder about him sending the two of them off to climb the mountain in the winter? Spook was around to stop that, in case you were wondering.

And yes, Spook knew. Considering how long it took Vin to get over the fact that OreSeur knew about Kelsier's plan to die, you can imagine that she's not soon going to forgive Spook for this one. In his defense, he was pulled about between some very strong emotions and motivations, not the least of which being his uncle explaining that if he DIDN'T go, nobody would be there to explain the truth to Vin and Elend and keep them from trekking all the way to Terris. Besides, Spook didn't want to die, and this path offered him an escape. Can you blame him?

He'll blame himself. Book Three.

Elantris Annotations ()
#106 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

By the way, in the original draft, when Sarene gives her "All of Arelon is blessed by your presence" line when the Patriarch is on the docks, the Patriarch originally said "I know." Moshe thought this was a little overdone, so I cut it. In my mind, however, the Patriarch IS overdone and cliché–that's part of his character. But, anyway, one other item about this scene is the storm. I threw it in so that I could fudge the time of the Patriarch's arrival–the triad structure requiring me to have had him on the boat longer than the trip should take. This might actually not be necessary any more–in the original, I had him leave before he found out about the king's death. (I'm. . .not exactly sure why. Something to do with pacing and the triad structure. However, it was always my intention to have him read the proclamation at the funeral, so I had to have him ASSUME that Iadon would be executed, then take off with the proclamation. Either way, I eventually fixed this, smoothing things out considerably.)

Elantris Annotations ()
#107 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-One

This is a different kind of Hrathen chapter. With it, I wanted to set the tone for the final section of the book. Only about 15% of the novel remains, and things are going to change for the last bit. You may have noticed a slight tone shift in this chapter–I made it a little darker, filling it with death imagery. (Incense, ash, darkness, Svrakiss.) I wanted to subtly get across that things are growing more dim for Hrathen and Arelon.

Originally, this scene happened outside, at the Mad Prince's pyre. I liked the death imagery there a little better–Dilaf sifting through the ashes of a funeral pyre made for a very interesting image. However, the visuals in this newer version have their own advantages. I was able to use the lantern to half-light Dilaf's, and the smells from the tent make a nice sensual addition to the section.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#108 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighty-One - Part Three

Elend's Death

I rewrote Elend's death scene a number of times. In the first draft, it happened much more quickly. He and Marsh met, Elend's atium ran out, and Marsh cut him down. Elend always got his "we've won" line, but Human wasn't getting viewpoints, so we didn't cut there. Nor did we have Vin fuel Elend's metals or have him burn duralumin and atium at the same time.

I just felt he needed more. Part of this was due to the reactions of alpha readers, and part of it was due to my own desire to make his last scene more dramatic. I wanted there to be a closeness between him and Vin at the end, and I also had too many people asking what would happen if you burned duralumin and atium at the same time to ignore that possibility.

So, I rewrote several times, eventually landing at this version. As for why I killed him . . . well, for the same reason that I kill any character in one of my books. It just felt like the right thing to do. It's hard to explain when we get down to specifics like this. On one hand, the rational side of me can explain that there need to be casualties to make victory worth something, and Vin needed to lose Elend so that she'd be willing to do what she had to in order to kill Ruin. Logic says that this book was about Vin and Elend defeating Ruin no matter what the cost to themselves, and allowing them to give their lives for the victory was noble and completed their character arcs.

Emotion, however, is what drove me—not logic. It just felt like the right thing to do. It was the right ending for the book. Now, I could have chosen a different ending. I know that I could have. It would have felt contrived to me, and would have lacked bite. Yet perhaps readers would have liked it better. I honestly don't know what doing this (killing both of my main characters) will do to my readership and if people will still want to buy my books after this. The founder and president of Tor Books, I know, would have preferred that I didn't kill my two main characters.

But in the end, I went with what I knew was the better ending. By doing this, at the very least I've earned something. From now on, readers will know that nobody is safe in my books—and that will create tension, will make the novels feel more real. (Note that I didn't do this because I wanted to make readers feel that way. It's just a side effect.)

Either way, this is where this book was pushing from the beginning. Vin and Elend followed in Kelsier's footsteps. They were both ready to give their lives, and in doing so, saved those they love. In my opinion, that's not a tragic or sad ending. It's just an honest one.

Elantris Annotations ()
#109 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


I keep promising that I'll tell you about some of the other silly character revelations I had pop up in the book. This one is particularly embarrassing. To be honest, I have NO idea what I was thinking.

In the original draft of the book, Hrathen turns out to have been from Duladel the entire time. It's revealed in this scene, when he and Sarene are running from the Dakhor. He was of Dula blood, having grown up there, then moved to Fjorden as a teenager.

Yes, I know. I must have been tired when I wrote that chapter. Anyway, at one point it must have seemed like a good idea. It didn't make even the first cut, however–my first readers rose up in open rebellion, and I joined them.

I figure I must have decided that it was more dramatic to discover that Hrathen had betrayed his own people by destroying Duladel. (Note, in the early draft of the book, I made more of a habit of pointing out that the Duladen republicans weren't generally dark-skinned.) In the first draft, I always had Hrathen wear black die in his hair and pretended to be from Fjorden.

Yes, again, I know. It was stupid. We writers do stupid things sometimes. I didn't even pause to think that the drama of Hrathen betraying his own people and religion in the present is far more powerful than a betrayal that happened before the book even started. I denied his entire character by trying to rely on some whim that seemed like a clever, unexpected twist. Don't let yourselves do things like this, writers. Let the twists help develop the character, not exist simply to surprise.

Anyway, I'll post this scene in the deleted scenes section. It'll keep me humble to know people can read it.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#110 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Two

Marsh Visits Penrod in Luthadel

This chapter didn't exist in the initial draft of the book; I added it in revisions. I originally liked the idea of the characters happening upon Luthadel later in the book and having to piece together what happened to Penrod from the aftermath of his getting spiked.

Ultimately I decided to drop that in favor of showing this chapter in-scene. It was a tough choice, but knew I needed to show Marsh being active. I also had enough complaints from alpha readers about the lack of news from Luthadel that I realized showing this scene would work better. We are so attached to Luthadel as a city that it's hard not to know what's going on there. Plus, this choice allowed me to include some interesting things—such as talking about what Marsh and the other Inquisitors were doing with their time and showing another character getting spiked.

You may remember one of the spiking attempts on Elend earlier in this novel, right at the beginning. I flirted with putting more of these in, but decided that it would grow too obvious and too heavy-handed if I emphasized it that much. (The scene I toyed with included a madman unexpectedly rushing Elend with a spike.)

I think this is the last of the Marsh insert chapters, meaning others you read after this were in the first draft. You'll probably notice a larger gap before seeing him again. Marsh and TenSoon kind of get lost in this third quarter of the book, I'm afraid. We still see them, but it's infrequently enough that Spook/Sazed and Vin/Elend dominate.

Elantris Annotations ()
#111 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


I'm a very sequential writer. When I write a book, I usually start with the prologue and write straight through until I hit the epilogue. Though I can't remember for certain, I'm pretty sure that this prologue was the first thing I ever wrote for Elantris.

Back in those days, I didn't outline as much as I do now. When I first put fingers to keyboard, I really didn't know where this book was going to go. I had some vague idea of what I wanted it to be, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. However, this prologue really helped solidify things for me.

I love how it works in the story. It's quick, descriptive, and gives a marvelous outline of the magical setting of the book. It's also one of the most heavily-edited sections of the book. Moshe didn't like my original draft of it because he thought it was over-written. The original first line of the book was "Whispered are the days when Elantris was beautiful." I kind of still like this line better, but it may just be nostalgia. The line kind of has a faint. . .flowing quality to it. An etherealness.

Regardless, "Elantris was beautiful, once" made for a nice compromise. I'll probably post the entire, first-draft version of the prologue in the "deleted scenes" section of the website, if you want to compare.

Despite my preference for the old first line, I like the other changes we made to the prologue. Over all, it became more descriptive and easier to understand. It's a nice springboard to the story, and we've used it several places as a kind of quick teaser to get people to read the book.

(Including putting it on the back cover of the hardback.)

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#112 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In the original draft of the book, Kelsier didn't show up at this meeting. He let Yeden do the recruiting. However, as the drafting proceeded, I decided that I wanted Kelsier to present himself more fully to the skaa population. With Yeden now acting as their employer–rather than just another member of the crew–I also needed to show what Kelsier could do that Yeden could not.

Of course, this is also the first hint we get of Kelsier's true plan. I decided that I wanted him to give this speech here to initiate the idea that he's building himself a reputation with the skaa.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#113 Copy


My question was, have you ever written a scene and had it published and then wanted to change one of your scenes?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I have. There have been a couple of them. There's one at the end of Words of Radiance, when it came time for the paperback I reverted to a previous version of the scene. So yeah you guys will see that when the paperback comes out. One of the ending scenes-- It's a very minor tweak but I had done like four different drafts of this scene and I didn't like the one we ended up with. Even immediately after we sent it in I was like "No that's the wrong one". So we reverted.


Will you post that online?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I'll post that online when the book comes out. I'll be like "By the way guys, Warning. There's a change here."


The internet will freak out.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. The other thing is the ending of Elantris, the spatial-ness of it, and things, I got some of the math wrong. I didn't have Peter back then. And so now that we are doing a 10th anniversary edition I actually had Peter and Isaac, who does all the maps, get together, work out the actual math. The size of the city, the size of the continent, and all this stuff and Isaac's doing a new map and we are changing the text to now match that map. So for instance where it says something is in the original text it will actually move now that we have an actual real map, rather than my MS Paint thing that I was using 'cause you know me and maps. So yeah you nodded, there are a lot of mathematical-- just problems. We've got the new map now and it all works. So I'm glad that it all actually works, once you get the math right. But like the number of steps is way off at the end of that one for instance.

*To Argent/Kurkistan* Have you guys figured that out? Like it makes the size of the planet stupidly big.


When is that coming out by the way?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not sure, we just have to see when we turn it in. I think maybe later this year. Maybe early next year. I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to get it out with one of the Mistborn books, at around the same time.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#114 Copy


In The Emperor's Soul - when did you decide to change the beginning?

Brandon Sanderson

It was Mary, from the podcast with me, is very good at short fiction. She read it, and she said, "This intro is just holding the story back." And I read it again, and I'm like, I really feel that she's right. I felt at the end of it that the intro was interesting for people who liked Hoid already, but for people who didn't, it was just distracting and confusing. So at the end of the day, I cut it out, and I think it was a good move, even though it was sad. If you google the phrase "killing your darlings". it's a phrase we talk about in writing and storytelling. That scene was what made me want to write the book, it's what started me off in writing the book, and then I cut it out. But sometimes you have to end up doing that.

Elantris Annotations ()
#115 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Sarene used to tap her cheek a lot more than she does in this draft. It was a quirk I designed for her at the beginning–a nervous habit I thought indicative of her personality. However, a lot of people found it distracting. They seemed to think that tapping the cheek was an odd behavior. (Just as a note, when she taps her cheek, I'm thinking of her folding her arms, with one hand raised contemplative, index finger resting on her cheek. I've been known to sit that way some times.)

Anyway, I took out many of the references. As Moshe said, "There's just too much tapping going on!"

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#116 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two - Part One

Siri Rides South, Stunned

Already, you should be able to see another tone shift in the book. We've gone from lazy highland romping to frustration and terror. My goal with this book was to keep that up—to always have things moving and the characters being pulled out of their comfortable lives into situations that force them to stretch.

One fun thing you can research yourself by looking at the first draft chapters of Warbreaker I posted. In them, I toyed with having Mab the cook be sent with Siri to be a lady's maid.

I didn't intend this while planning the book, but after writing Mab—and having so much fun with her character—I wanted to keep hold of her and let her add some color to Siri's sections. However, I cut this idea out pretty quickly. (Though a draft of this chapter exists with Mab accompanying Siri—I think in that draft, Mab is the one Siri is complaining to, rather than the poor guard outside the window.)

Why cut Mab? Well, a couple of reasons. First off, Siri's plotline was much more dramatic and emotional if she was forced to leave behind everything she'd known. Giving her a support character like Mab undermined Siri's plot and growth as a character. Beyond that, Siri's plots didn't need more color. We've got plenty of interesting characters and experiences coming for her, so the addition of another character wasn't needed.

I tried the chapter, but then realized that my original instincts had been right. I was forced to cut Mab out. Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
#117 Copy

Maru Nui

You've said you lifted the Shattered Plains from Dragonsteel, what would Kaladin have been doing if not running bridges and what will happen to Dragonsteel without the Plains?

Brandon Sanderson

Both good questions. I've spoken before of the big changes that happened when I wrote The Way of Kings 2.0. One of them was bringing in the Shattered Plains. The problem was that there was a big hole in Kaladin's storyline, because in the original manuscript of The Way of Kings (major spoiler), he accepted the Shardblade. That was the prologue of the book; Kaladin—then known as Merin—saved Elhokar's life. They tried to take the Shardblade away from him, and Dalinar insisted that he be given it. So Merin was made a Shardbearer in the very first scenes of the book. And from that point, his character never worked. So in doing the second version of the book, I decided that no, we've got to build more into this, we've got to dig deeper, and he has to make the opposite decision, which is where the entire framework of him turning down the Shardblade and then being betrayed all came from. The problem was then what was he going to do? I knew I wanted him to have therefore ended up sold into slavery and have terrible things happen to him, but I couldn't figure out what Kaladin was going to do and was unable to write the book until I mashed in the Shattered Plains and said, "Ah, that was what he needed to be doing all along."

I really don't know what I'll do in Dragonsteel without that now. The problem is that it was the part of Dragonsteel that worked, but it was the part that was most at odds with the story in Dragonsteel. The story that I wanted to tell was the first half of the book, which is the more boring part. Hopefully as a better writer now I can make that part more interesting, but that was the core of what Dragonsteel was. The Shattered Plains was always just going to be a small diversion, but when I wrote it it was fascinating, and I ended up pouring tons of effort and time into it. In many ways it was a distraction, a deviation, a beautiful darling. So for a long time I've been thinking, "I can't kill my darling, because that's the most exciting part of the book." Yet it was at odds with what the story of the book was originally intended to be. I wasn't as good at controlling my stories back then, making them come out to have the tone I wanted. Anyway, we'll have to approach that when I actually write Dragonsteel.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#118 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Camon was originally far less competent than he ended up in the final draft. Originally, Vin was constantly (in this chapter and the next) thinking about how he was making mistakes when talking to the obligator and the crew. I thought this would establish Vin as an intelligent, insightful character–one who is even better than the guy in charge of her crew.

However, I eventually realized that this didn't work. Camon was too incompetent–the version of him in the first draft would never have been able to keep control of his crew. In addition, by making him so weak, it weakened the threat to Vin. It's always better to have antagonists be strong, if only to make the heroes look stronger by comparison. Though Camon is only a minor villain in this book, strengthening him made the story seem much more logical, and I really don't think I lost anything.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#119 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Correspondence on Metal Sheets

The metal letters mentioned several times in the book (including in this chapter) were almost all changed to metal in late drafts. (Save the Goradel letter later on; that one was metal from the start.) I realized I wasn't giving enough of a sense that the characters were paying attention to Ruin's ability to change text that isn't on metal, and I wanted to show them taking precautions. I have my writing groups to thank for getting on me about this one.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#120 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Vivenna Begs

This chapter and the next one were originally a single chapter. In the drafting process, I realized that my original chapter just wouldn't do. I'd been in a hurry to get on with Vivenna's viewpoint, and I had been worried about spending a lot of time on the streets with her, since I didn't want to retread ground I've seen in a lot of other books.

In this case, I was letting my bias against doing the expected thing make the book worse. Now, my drive to find new twists on fantasy tropes and plots usually serves me well. I think it makes my books stand out. You know that when you pick up a Brandon Sanderson fantasy novel, you're going to get a complex, epic story with an original take on magic and a different spin on the fantasy archetypes.

However, this same sense can be problematic if I let it drive me too far. It's nearly impossible to write a book that doesn't echo anything someone else has done. It's tough enough to come up with one original idea, let alone make every single idea in a book original. I think that trying to do so would be a path to folly—a path to rarely, if ever, completing anything.

In this case, we needed to have a longer time with Vivenna on the streets. We needed it to feel like she'd earned the sections of time she spent there. I knew I didn't want to go overboard on it, but I also couldn't skimp. So I sliced the chapter into two and added some material to each one, particularly the second chapter.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#121 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One - Part Two

Originally, you may be amused to hear, I was going to have Vin go on this trip with Yeden, with Kelsier staying behind. I even wrote about half of the "leave for the caves" scene with Kelsier telling Vin he's going to send her with Yeden.

I'm still not sure what I was thinking.

Fortunately, I came to my senses, and I quickly reworked the scene. Vin had to stay in Luthadel–she's go too much to do there. But, I did want to get a chance to look over the army, so I sent Kelsier instead. It worked out very well, as I was able to do some other things–such as have Kelsier show off for the troops.

However, I didn't want to spend TOO long out here. When Vin had been the one coming to the caves, I'd planned two or three chapters. When it became Kelsier, I knew I wanted to shrink it to one chapter. So, that's why we get the kind of weird "time passes" omniscient bit at the beginning of the second section.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#122 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Ten

Sazed's Struggle

Here I can see how giving Sazed something to do—letting him study his religions one by one—makes his viewpoints far more interesting. The previous version of this chapter, which perhaps I'll post, had him simply riding along, listening to Breeze, despairing. That was boring.

Yet, making one small tweak—giving him something to do—changed that dramatically, at least for me as I read the chapter. It allows Sazed to struggle, and a struggle can be even more tragic than a loss. Either way, it's more interesting to read because conflict is interesting. Here, he's trying—even though he's failing—to find meaning in the world. He can try to shove aside his depression and read his pages instead.

Elantris Annotations ()
#123 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In these chapters, I had to be very careful during the Sarene viewpoints. As I was writing, I had a habit of accidentally referring to Raoden by his real name, rather than calling him Spirit. Sarene, of course, doesn't know who he really is. I found one place where I called him "Raoden" that somehow lasted all the way to the final edit–hopefully, that was the last one.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#124 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin Figures It Out

And, reading here, I realize that I eventually did have Vin figure out that Yomen was an atium misting. That wasn't in the first draft of the book, and it was added late enough in the process that I'd forgotten that I put it there. I'm glad I did, though. I just couldn't go on pretending that Vin and Elend wouldn't notice this, and it wasn't a big enough reveal to keep hiding it. So, Yomen's an atium misting. Not that big of a deal compared to the other revelations coming out in this book.

Publishers Weekly Q & A ()
#125 Copy

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.

Elantris Annotations ()
#126 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I worked for a while on the last line of Part Two. Originally, Hrathen thought to himself "Well, this isn't good." However, Moshe disagreed with that line. First, he thought it was too quippish. He wanted something more serious here. Second, he didn't think that these events were actually bad for Hrathen. Telrii, a man who had been giving Hrathen serious troubles, and Eondel, one of his main enemies, had just killed each other. On top of that, Roial—the main rival for the throne—is dead. All in all, a lot of annoying people are dead.

Moshe had a point, though I did disagree a bit. I think Hrathen would see Telrii's death as a wasted investment. He was still hoping to control the man, and having Telrii on the throne and amiable to Hrathen would have been a much better outcome, since it would leave Hrathen looking less powerless before Wyrn.

However, I went ahead and changed the line. It now reads "So much for avoiding a bloody revolution." It gets across the same ruefulness as before, without being as flippant.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Everything else in this chapter pretty much stayed the same. In the original draft, Galladon was actually named Galerion. I made the change because the name "Galerion" just didn't fit the eventual linguistic style I devised for Duladel. Again, I didn't do as much planning for this book as I do for books I write now, and I just kind of let the names and cultures develop as I wrote. In the end, Galerion's culture out-developed his name. I figured that the main Dula in the book needed to have a Dula-sounding name. Interestingly, Moshe–my editor–independently decided that he really didn't like Galerion's name. When I made the suggested change, he was very pleased. Originally, he didn't like Raoden's name either–but this came, mostly, because he had trouble pronouncing it. I actually really like the name, but understand that it can be difficult if you don't understand the Aonic language. Remember–two hard vowel sounds formed by the Aon, every other vowel is soft. RAY-OH-den. (Read the pronunciation guide for more.)

Galladon/Galerion originally spoke with a much stronger dialect in this chapter. However, these dribbled off after the first few chapters, and I decided I didn't want him to be quite as difficult to understand. So, I went back and cut them. You'll notice, however, that Galladon still hits the dialect pretty hard in this first chapter.

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Can you tell us a little bit about what Hoid was up to in Terris in The Well of Ascension?

Brandon Sanderson

He was hunting for the Well of Ascension.


In the new continuity, he already knew where the Well was, because he used it to come back to--

Brandon Sanderson

Right, we changed the continuity, didn't we. Yeah. Oh boy. We came up with an explanation of this, because when we wrote the book-- Yeah, why don't you send me an email on that one. Now that I have the conversation with Peter, he brought that one up when I finally got around to Secret History. That was one of our big casualties. What did I come up with? I think he was just really, really-- I will have to-- because I canonzied it to Peter. We're gonna have to go to Peter and say "What's in the wiki now?" Yeah, that was one of the big casualties, and the fact that I couldn't get Kelsier to one of the places where I had left foreshadowing for him to speak in someone's head, and I can't remember what that one was, either.


Oh, that one was Sazed, you said it was his imagination.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I had to make that his imagination. Because I just couldn't get people where they needed to go. This is the problem with writing an outline, then writing a book, and then writing another book so many years later. Certain things, we just can't work into the continuity. Write us an email, we'll get you the official continuity for that one. Because Peter did nail me down when we were working on the book.

Peter Ahlstrom

After Hoid got the bead during the scene in Secret History, he went north to Terris to do research on possibly acquiring Feruchemy. While he’s there, all hell breaks loose, and he ends up embroiled in helping the Terris people.

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Chapter Forty-Four

Cutting the Mad Prince forced me to rewrite a bit of this chapter. As I mentioned, in the original draft, Raoden and Galladon saw Eton's army crouching outside the city. At first, Sarene didn't know what to make of this news. She decided it couldn't be a Fjordell army–one could have never arrived so quickly. She knew it wasn't Teoish.

The chapter used to end with a startling realization from Sarene–she decided that the phantom army must belong to Prince Raoden. She decided that he hadn't died or been killed, but had instead fled to raise an army to take the throne from his father. I thought this was a very clever twist, and it was one of the things I was most sad to lose by cutting the Mad Prince.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Six

Talking Scenes

I realize that my books contain an awful lot of scenes where people stand around talking to each other. I try to keep them moving as much as possible, changing scenery, making the dialogue dramatic, allowing the characters to make conclusions and decisions. But, at the core, my stories consist of a lot of people discussing and weighing options in their heads.

I worry that sometimes I need to make things a little faster paced. I wanted to avoid too much of Elend brooding. In fact, one of the earliest rewrites of the book I did (one I did before I finished the novel, which is rare—I usually don't rewrite until I finish the rough draft) was done specifically to make Elend a more active character. In that same rewrite, I tried very hard to work out his character arc. (It just hadn't been working in the first draft.)

This was what I came up with. The emperor who knows he will end up having to make a very difficult decision, and fearing that he'll do what's right for his people—even if it seems morally wrong at the time. I didn't want to have many chapters of him brooding, but that sort of decision can't be off-the-cuff. For his character to work, I needed him to wrestle with the question—even go back and forth on it, as we as people often do.

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Chapter Six

This chapter is where, in my opinion, the book starts to get good. These kinds of chapters are part of what I write for–good, solid character interaction with some intellectual problem-solving going on. I really like the way that the crew works through their challenges here. The items presented really do sound quite daunting as they're listed; yet, by the end, I hope that the reader feels as the crew does–that this plan could actually work, if they pull it off right.

I had to rewrite this scene several times, bringing the focus away from simply stealing the atium. By the last draft, I had something I was very pleased with. It outlines things simply enough, yet doesn't make everything sound TOO easy. At least, that is my hope.

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"Deadeyes can't make choices," Notum said. "They don't have the presence of mind for it. I know this personally; my own father is a dead eye, cared for in the fortress now."

Third listen of the book, and I only just clocked that. I was under the impression that every single honorspren at the time of the Recreance became a deadeye, and that all currently conscious one's were descended from those the Stormfather made later (aside from the Ancient Daughter). How in the world can Notum's father be a deadeye without him being one too?

Peter Ahlstrom

We became aware of this error sometime in the past year. Turns out Brandon momentarily confused Notum with the Reacher ship captain, who does have a deadeye father. The line will be changed eventually.

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Brandon Sanderson

One interesting aspect of the book that I haven't mentioned yet comes with the metal of tin. Originally, tin wasn't one of the Allomantic metals—I used silver instead. You see, I originally paired silver and pewter together, thinking that pewter had a significant amount of silver in it. Well, turns out that isn't the case. (Remember, each set of paired metals is a metal and an alloy made from it.)

My false impression on the belief that pewter is a silver/lead alloy goes back to my childhood. I remember when I used to paint lead fantasy figures that I bought at the local hobby store. One of the employees told me that they would be going up in price because the manufacturers wanted the figures to be safer. They were going to cast them out of pewter instead of lead, because pewter is much less toxic. I asked what the difference between pewter and lead was, and the employee told me that pewter is lead PLUS silver, and that's why the figures cost more.

He meant tin, I guess. Either way, that's stayed with me for quite a long time. I soundly resisted changing silver to tin during the first drafts of the book, even when I found out the truth. The problem is, I really liked the name "Silvereye" for those who burn silver/tin. It sounds far slicker than "Tineye."

I eventually came around, however. Consistency in the magic system is more important than a single cool-sounding name. I blame Hobby Town in Lincoln Nebraska for my pains.

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Elend discovers that a well has been poisoned

This poisoned well scene is another one that was added to the book during the final draft. Much like Straff's test attack on the walls, this scene is here to remind you that the armies are out there, that Luthadel is besieged, and that things are not going well for the heroes. I don't want you to forget about the armies just because our focus is on politics for the moment.

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Chapter Twenty-Six

Vin and Elend discuss going into Straff's Camp

In the original version of this particular chapter, I had Vin think that Elend's idea to go into Straff's camp was terrible. She thought it was too dangerous, even foolhardy. And, since Vin is generally a very competent and trustworthy character, the readers agreed with her. They all thought that Elend was doing something incredibly stupid in this chapter.

Now, what I had been TRYING to do was have her offer strong objections, then get brought around by the end of the sequence to admitting that Elend was right. Unfortunately, that just didn't work for this scene. The plan was crazy enough that readers were already inclined to thinking it was crazy. When I instead switched the narrative so that Vin had a grudging, yet favorable, opinion of the visit to Straff's camp. With her weight of trust behind the endeavor, suddenly readers had no problem with what Elend is doing.

Readers trust Vin more than Elend, which makes sense. If she tells them that something is a good idea, they're more likely to go along with it. It was an important lesson for me as a writer. I realized that Elend needed Vin's support in these early chapters otherwise he wouldn't have the readers' support. He is untrained and is stumbling as he tries to learn. In order for us to trust him, Vin needs to.

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Chapter Fourteen - Part One

Lightsong and Blushweaver

This is another of the scenes I revised heavily to make the conversation between Lightsong and Blushweaver more snappy. I work very hard in the beginning of the book to establish their personalities and their dialogue, and so the first few chapters were revised more heavily than the later ones. Also, my editor thought that the later ones were already amusing enough; it was the beginning ones that he wanted to have a little more zip.

Their conversation about the weather (playing off the one between Lightsong and Scoot) is one of my favorites from the book. I like how it's able to show some worldbuilding through the theology of the religion, give a strong dose of character through the different ways that Lightsong and Blushweaver talk about the weather and their desires for how it should go, and all the while be snappy and amusing. The line about serving followers as food is a little cheap, though. Sorry.

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Brandon Sanderson

Originally, I had Vin far less emotionally affected by the scene of slaughter. I wanted to imply that she's seen a lot of death and hardship in her life, and so something like this wasn't all that shocking to her. Alpha readers, however, found her too callous here. I did a rewrite, and realized that I liked it much better with Vin reacting emotionally to the scene of death. She still puts up a strong front, which is very like her. However, she no longer just walks through it without reacting.

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Brandon Sanderson

Originally, I had Vasher make an oblique comment about Bebid's daughter as a way to get him to talk. However, I shied away from this in later drafts, moving to more nebulous indiscretions instead. I felt that a comment about a daughter might sound too much like kidnapping on Vasher's part, even though I was thinking that his daughter had done something embarrassing that, if revealed, would get the priest into trouble.

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Brandon Sanderson

I worry just a tad about the light-hearted feel of the end of the chapter here. Originally, this scene was in the book BEFORE the army showed up to attack. In the original draft I showed Elend and company living (and fighting off assassins) without knowing that an army was bearing down on them. Moving the army so that it began the book on the horizon was the major pacing change I made that sped up the book, and increased the tension.

However, we missed a few of the more light scenes–like the upcoming sparring–and I didn't want to cut them because they were so indicative of character. I decided to leave them in. Kelsier's crew is accustomed to dealing with stress and remaining jovial. The only change I really had to make was in the Elend viewpoints, which you will see in the next chapter. Still, I hope the tone isn't off–that's a real worry when you transplant scenes from a previous draft, as opposed to writing them new when you change as much as I did at the beginning here.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-One

Sazed and Breeze Discuss the New Survivor

I'm not sure whether this is an appropriate use of the term ostention or not. I guess Dr. Thursby, my folklore professor at college, will have to read the book and let me know. Seemed like it worked for me.

For a lot of my readers, this opening paragraph—with Sazed acting like his old self—was a very triumphant one. They said "Finally, Sazed is back!" in compliment. However, I took that as a sign that something was wrong in the earlier chapters. True, it's a good archetype to have one of your characters do something wrong for a time before finding redemption. However, the problem with Sazed is that the thing he'd done wrong as a character was boring. You never want that as an author. In the rewrite, I hope that the difference between Sazed in this chapter and previous chapters is still there—just not as stark.

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Hoid the Storyteller Tells Us the History of Hallandren

This whole scene came about because I wanted an interesting way to delve into the history. Siri needed to hear it, and I felt that many readers would want to know it. However, that threatened to put me into the realm of the dreaded infodump.

And so, I brought in the big guns. This cameo is so obvious (or, at least, someday it will be) that I almost didn't use the name Hoid for the character, as I felt it would be too obvious. The first draft had him using another of his favorite pseudonyms. However, in the end, I decided that too many people would be confused (or at least even more confused) if I didn't use the same name. So here it is. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about . . . well, let's just say that there's a lot more to this random appearance than you might think.

Anyway, I love this storytelling method, and I worry that Hoid here steals the show. However, he's very good at what he does, and I think it makes for a very engaging scene that gets us the information we need without boring us out of our skulls.

Is everything he says here true? No. There are some approximations and some guesses. However, all things considered, it's pretty accurate. All of the large bits are true.

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The Storage Caches

One of the major revisions I made to the book during drafting was to reduce the number of storage caches. Originally I'd planned for eleven or twelve. The one here in Vetitan was still going to be the penultimate, with Fadrex being the last—the team just would have discovered more of them between books.

I changed this in order to make the cache in Fadrex seem more important. I wanted to get across the idea that taking that city was vital to the plans and goals of the team, and making it have one of five caches instead of one of twelve seemed to help with that.

In the first draft, the major draw of the final cache was the hope that it contained atium. But I realized that atium just wasn't that useful anymore—or, at least, many of the reasons it might have been useful are no longer important to the characters. Vin's instinct is right—the atium is more important than it might seem at first, but the original draft made it look like they were chasing a hope for something that wasn't even very useful. So, during revisions, I inserted Elend's acknowledgment that they don't really need atium, and I also added Vin's instinct that it's vital. We'll see how this plays out.

Of course, the reason Vin has an instinct that atium is vital is because of Ruin's touch on her emotions, driving her to seek out the final cache, where Ruin himself hopes to find that atium. To him, Vin and Elend are just another pair of pawns—in some ways more useful than Inquisitors because they don't even know they're following his goals. Ruin isn't sure if these caches will have the atium—he's in fact rather suspicious that this is a ruse of the Lord Ruler—but he's willing to dedicate some resources to the possibility, hence what he did to send Elend and Vin searching out the caches. He worries that there will be some kind of guard set at the final cache or the atium that has been told to watch for Inquisitors and keep them away, and he feels that using Vin and Elend is both more clever and potentially more effective than just sending an Inquisitor.

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Chapter Fifty-Seven

Siri Is Led Up to a Room with an Altar

Well, welcome to my favorite chapter in the book. (Of course, I do tend to say that about the climactic chapters of each book.) For me, this is the kind of chapter that drives one to write a book. The chance to get to it, and to have things start coming together, is the biggest thrill I get in writing.

The "sacrifice Siri on the altar" image was one of the original ones I'd planned for this book, but by the time I got to this place in the novel, it just felt lame to go through with that. It's such a clichéd image. That's kind of the point—Bluefingers is trying for something visceral and exaggerated—but I felt that the imagery of it could undermine the entire scene.

I think I did one draft with her tied down to it, but I revised that out pretty quickly. It was far too Snidely Whiplash for me. I like this version much better, where we find out what Bluefingers is going to do, but Siri stands up to him and bullies him into letting her die with dignity. I also went back and seeded the stories about Hallandren and killing people on altars as a superstitious rumor that some Idrians believe. (There were stories about the Mormons, back in the day, claiming that they sacrificed women on the altars of their temples then threw the corpses out the window into the Great Salt Lake. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but in eras without as much media, people can believe some pretty crazy things.)

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What's the most important thing to do when writing to ensure that the story has the tone you want it to have?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, I'm not sure if there's a one catch-all most important thing. The answer, unfortunately, to most writing questions is: practice a lot, and then show your work to people and get feedback, and then learn how to target it better. With tone, one thing I've noticed that is really tough to pull off is switching very frequently between something that's supposed to be humorous and something that's supposed to be serious. And this is not a bad instinct, because some of the great filmmakers and writers we know are able to do this. This is like a Joss Whedon hallmark, right? We're gonna go from witty comeback to sudden gravitas in the matter of, like, whiplash. So we're like, "Wow, I like movies like that, I like books like that. Terry Prachett can make me laugh and then make me cry in the space of a page. I want to learn to do that." But it is really easy to have your tone go completely off the wall when you're trying to do something like that. And whenever I fail on that thing, on tone, it's almost always because I'm trying to inject something funny into the middle of something with a lot of gravitas.

This actually happened-- "Funny" is maybe the wrong term for it, but in the last Wheel of Time book, a scene we cut. The beginning of the Wheel of Time book, to not give spoilers, start with a really dramatic fight scene where some people are struggling to survive under terrible situations, and they are getting picked off and dying, and things are burning. And I alternated that with a different scene I had written separately of several characters getting engaged. Which were both scenes I wanted in the book; but when I finally came to fold the stories together, these different threads, this one went opposite this one, and wow, it did not work. It was so bad. You would be reading these scenes about people dying, you'd be like, "I'm not interested in the people getting engaged." Even though it's something that maybe you've waited for the entire series to read because of the tone mismatch of where you're jumping back and forth. So that was one where we actually cut out the scene of the engagement, and just let the scene that was the more powerful scene stand on its own.

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Vasher Confronts Vahr

Vahr's original name was Pahn. You can find it used in earlier drafts of the book. I liked the sound and look of that so much, in fact, that I based the name of the people he came from on his own name.

That made for a problem, though. That's like having a person named America. It happens, but it's kind of confusing in a book. So, I eventually had to change his name to something that had a similar look and feel, but which wouldn't lead to so much confusion.

Vahr dies here, and one of the major revisions I made to the book was to bring out more of his influence throughout the book. I didn't want it to be too in your face. However, he was a very important man. We see only the very tail end of his life here, but he worked for over a decade as a Pahn revolutionary, trying to inspire his people to rebel against Hallandren oppression. (Or at least what he saw as Hallandren oppression.) He eventually became such a popular figure that he raised an army, with monetary support from several of Hallandren's trade competitors across the sea.

We see here the end of that—Vahr, captured and being tortured. He's a lot more important than he seems, both to the world and to the novel itself.

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This fight scene is, in my opinion, a lot more fun that the previous one. It's what I want–quick, dramatic, and shows off character by the way that the various people approach the fight.

I probably should have cut this scene, honestly. The book is a little too long. It's 250,000 words, where both Elantris and Mistborn 1 are around 200,000. I worried about this, particularly since the original Well of Ascension was only around 235,000, but we added 15,000 through editing to make the pacing work.

Regardless, when this beast got in, the people at Tor (the typesetters and the like) immediately raised a warning flag. However, some of the things they said surprised us. They said that the hardback for Mistborn 2, by their counts, was going to be over 700 pages long! Well, I knew that the book was a bit longer, but Mistborn 1 was under 500, so they were claiming it was around 40% bigger–and unpublishable.

My editor went to bat, claiming that 1) It was only really about 20% bigger and 2) That didn't matter, because the book was the right length–it worked well, and was paced well, and that he didn't want to cut it. We caused a big mess of various people arguing, and then finally the people down in production called up and said they'd done a re-assessment, and that the book would be around 560 pages or so. Very doable.

I don't know where those extra 140 pages went. If you find them, let me know. . .

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The main edit to this chapter came very early in the process. Very few people have seen this section–I don't think it made it past the first revision. I'll probably post in on the "deleted scenes" section, though. What good is a website if you can't embarrass yourself?

Anyway, the scene dealt with Daorn and Kaise approaching Kiin (during the fencing practice) and asking him if they could go with Sarene into Elantris. He responded by saying that they could as long as they did some silly homework-style projects for him. (Essays or multiplication tables or something like that.) In a re-read, I realized that this was WAY to modern, even for Kiin. I'd think that people who did this today were being progressive–and a bit odd. (What are these kids? Home-schoolers?)

Anyway, I cut the scene.

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Chapter One

This was the hardest chapter in the entire book to write.

That's often the case for me. I will write a first chapter, continue on through the rest of the book, and then be forced to write the first chapter a few more times to get it right. For this book, I wrote the chapter some five times. If I'm feeling proactive, I'll post some of these chapters in the deleted scenes section about the time Mistborn 3 comes out.

Anyway, I just couldn't get the right feel for the first chapter. I wanted to start with a dramatic fight scene involving Vin (you now get that in chapter two) but every time I did, the book actually felt too slow. That's because, in order to have a fight, I need to explain Allomancy.

I started to get this one right when I backed off of the fight a bit and just had Vin creeping through the city. This let me get out a little bit about Allomancy before I threw her into the fight.

However, I didn't actually get it right until I added the Elend and Ham scene at the beginning. This scene had been in the book, but much later. The first chapter wasn't the only one I rewrote, actually—this entire first section of ten chapters underwent some significant revisions to fix the pacing. Originally, I didn't say much about the army until the later chapters, after Vin's fight.

However, I realized that I needed to give the sense of large-scale danger to the book before I got into the smaller danger of Vin's fight. Elend and Ham here talking sets the book off right—it introduces the conflict right off, shows what we're going to have to worry about in this book, then gives context to Vin's fight.

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So, this section marked one of the biggest changes to the text during the revision process. In the Mad Prince version of the novel, the soldiers who ride up to Kiin's house were members of the Mad Prince's army. They arrested Raoden–he went willingly–and tried him for the death of their leader. This took the better part of two chapters, and ended with Raoden almost getting beheaded.

Overall, I kind of happy to lose the scene. The trial was a big distraction, and I'm not sure that I ever pulled it off narratively. There were a few interestingly tense moments, and it did let Raoden show his honor in his defense (he accepted the judgments of the army assuming they promised to make Sarene queen.) However, I sense that the scene in general was just over-written.

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Brandon Sanderson

Elantris 10th Anniversary

First, in relation to Elantris, May is the 10th anniversary of its release, my first published book! In celebration, we've been putting together a 10th Anniversary Edition, which is coming out later this year. It will be in trade paperback form (the paperback format which is more the size of a hardcover), and I'm hoping I can get Tor to print at least a few hardcovers for those who want to get them.

We've packed this edition with some cool extras. It includes a new foreword by Dan Wells, a retrospective by myself, an Ars Arcanum appendix (as this was the only one of my Cosmere books not to have one), brand-new redone maps by Isaac Stewart, and a very short extra scene. In addition, as I mentioned, we've changed a few things.

Now, this is the dangerous thing I talked about above. We've seen in certain high-profile films that changes done by the creator many years later are controversial. It's a slippery path. Part of creating a work of art is learning when to let it alone—most writers I know could just keep tweaking something forever. The quote (often attributed to da Vinci) that says “Art is never finished, just abandoned” is quite a true statement.

However, Elantris needed some attention. When I wrote it, I didn't have access to a good cartographer who could make the continuity of my crazy map-based ideas for the story work out. I did my best, but it never quite clicked. The maps didn't match the story, and the conceptualization of the ending was always kind of vague because of this disconnect.

Well, I have Isaac now, along with Peter who is really, really good with the minutiae of this sort of plotting. We've made two kinds of sweeping changes, then, to the text:

Map Continuity: We've had to shift the locations of some buildings and events as we've figured out a scale for the maps and for the city. We've tweaked the ending; the events are the same, but where certain things happen has been changed to fit. (Over the years, many of you have asked me about this, and I've had to admit that we just got it wrong.) This shouldn't change the story in any significant way except that now it actually makes sense, but I thought you should know.

Language Changes: Peter has done a very, very thorough copyedit, and has made some stylistic changes to remove some of the quirks of my earlier prose. (Extraneous commas, for example.) Again, this shouldn't change the story in any significant way except to make it more readable.