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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#201 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eleven

Siri Visits the God King's Chamber Again

To be honest, in a perfect world, I'd probably slow this down just a tad. I'd insert another chapter from Siri's viewpoint with her going to the chambers, the God King watching her, and her being subservient. I wouldn't do this chapter, where she explodes at him, until their third scene together.

But that would only happen in a book where I don't have quite so much going on with other viewpoints. My books are already a tad on the long side, as far as the booksellers are concerned. They'd like it if epic fantasy novels shrank down to about 120,000 words (instead of my average of 240,000).

If I'd really thought it mattered, I'd have put the extra scene in. The real problem is that since Siri is only one of four major viewpoints, I needed to be careful. If this book were only about her, I could have filled her chapters with more political intrigue and added a lot of subplots. That would have made a slower pacing with the God King work. However, I decided not to go that direction with the book, so I needed instead to make sure the pacing was quicker on the main plot she's involved in.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#202 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Guns in Fantasy

Gunpowder is mentioned in the epigraph. It's odd how we fantasy fans feel an inherent and deep aversion to gunpowder. We have this idea that guns will damage the fantasy feel of a book. I still remember reading a fantasy book when I was younger—I think it was one of Robin McKinley's—and running across a passage where it mentioned that the characters had rifles. I felt suddenly and strangely betrayed, as if the book had just been ruined.

That's silly, of course. A story can have guns and still be fantasy—at the very least, Pirates of the Caribbean proves that. Still, I'm always hesitant to use guns. Maybe I will someday, but for now I'm keeping them out. Fortunately, in this series I had a very good and interesting reason why we could have nineteenth-century canal and civil engineering technology but no use of gunpowder.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#203 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Homicidal Hat Trick

My editor tried very hard to get me to cut the "homicidal hat trick" line. Not because it wasn't clever, but because he felt it was anachronistic, as the phrase is commonly a metaphor for some quite modern sports. However, I was able to prove via Wikipedia (which is infallible) that the term was used as early as the nineteenth century and didn't always refer to sports, but to three wins in a row in even simple games of chance. So, grudgingly, he let me keep it.

I love the line because of the way that little section harks back to the old Elend. He's still in there, hidden behind the emperor-at-war exterior. The old Elend could be clever and awkward at the same time, just like he is here when he tries to make a point to Vin but comes dangerously close to an insult instead. That's the same guy as the one who would, while standing on the balcony at a party, compliment a lady and then immediately turn back to his book and ignore her.

And, on that note, I believe that I warned you about the coming ball scenes. We're going to have another nostalgia chapter fairly soon, and it's one of my favorite chapters in the entire series.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#204 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Narrative Clues about Spook's Condition

The scene here where Spook goes into the building without a torch, and Sazed stands outside waiting, is a direct parallel of a scene in book two where Marsh does the same thing to Sazed. Both Spook and Marsh can see in ways Sazed cannot, and both tend to forget others aren't as talented in that area.

That's not the only similarity. I intended Spook's glasses with cloth wrapped around them to be a reference to how an Inquisitor looks with spikes through the eyes. Both these parallels are designed to be big clues about what's happening to Spook in this book.

Words of Radiance Portland signing ()
#205 Copy

Swamp-Spirit

When you're writing YA do you ever feel-- Because I was feeling this while reading the Alcatraz novels-- Do you ever feel like you're limited in what you can explore by not wanting to go too dark or too complex for a certain audience? Or when you are writing that sort of story does that not really...

Brandon Sanderson

Complexity does not enter into it, for me, except for the fact that I generally focus on one character. And so there is a complexity issue there, in that, you know, it's like I'm doing one, maybe two, viewpoints. And I think it's basically coming because when I'm choosing a story I'm matching a story to an age, I'm not matching an age to a story, does that make sense? So when I say "this is a YA story" that's because it exhibits the sorts of things I want to tell-- exhibits the sort of things that work for that market. I don't tend to write down but I do tend to keep the number of viewpoints more limited, just to keep the books a little less thick. So yeah, yes but not really.

Words of Radiance Portland signing ()
#206 Copy

Swamp-Spirit

How do you-- Like both Shallan and Kaladin obviously haven't had good lives, but like-- How do you write these really tragic backstories without them feeling kind of gratuitous or forced?

Brandon Sanderson

Good question... This is really about the whole idea of making sure you are avoiding melodrama... And melodrama-- the defining aspect of a melodrama is a story in which each character only exhibits only one emotional state. A great example of this done poorly is--despite me liking a lot about it--there was a show called Lost... So there's a character whose son gets kidnapped, and from that moment on the only thing he cares about or talks about is the loss of his son. And it's a very tragic thing for him. Losing your son, I can imagine how tragic that would be, and yet this character became so defined by that one attribute that it turned into melodrama for him. The rest of the characters will be standing around saying "Alright we need to do this thing, these guys are over there with guns, they are going to take us down. What do we do?" And they're like "We should do this." "We should do this." and this guy is like "My son!" They're like "We know you want your son back but--" "My son!" "What do you want for dinner?" "My son is gone! How can I eat dinner?!?". And so having a character exhibit only one emotional state is always going to feel like you just set-- It's going to ruin the character, whatever that is.

So a tragic backstory-- People joke about Batman. When Batman is written poorly it's always about "My father's d-- My parents are dead" and when he's working well that's an aspect that influence things he does but it's not the only thing about him. And so that would be my warning to you. You can do all of these sorts of things but make the character's not about-- You know we are in part defined by things like this but as real people we are not about the bad things that have happened to us, we are about so much more. And make that the case, alright?

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#207 Copy

Questioner

What inspired you to write Dalinar's amnesia and all that? What was your inspiration for that?

Brandon Sanderson

That, all of that, was really just partially narrative necessity. I didn't want to dig into that until I got to the right book, and so I needed the meddling to have pulled a little bit of that back. Plus, the fact that he was an alcoholic let me get away with a little bit of what was going on there. I really liked the intriguing element of someone who had had a piece of their memories ripped away and then was being given it back at the right time, right? That deliberateness of it was really interesting to me. I thought it made for an interesting story hook, when you meet a character and then realize he's had part of his memory excised. It's a bunch of things moving together.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#208 Copy

Questioner

I just finished rereading through Legion, and I was curious what led you to write so much about religion and that sort of thing. As a religious person, I really appreciated the fair way that you dealt with it in those books.

Brandon Sanderson

Being religious myself, it fascinates me, and the different ways that people intersect religion. Having one person who had all of these different personas that can all have different, varying levels of interaction with religion and the divine was also really fascinating to me. It offered me an opportunity that I probably couldn't do in any other story.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#209 Copy

Questioner

Were you intending to kill Eshonai off from the beginning of the series, or is that a decision you made later on?

Brandon Sanderson

That was a decision I made later in the outlining process. It was not begun that way, but it became obvious I needed to do it fairly early on. Why?

Questioner

I was just wondering, because as I was reading Way of Kings, a lot of people thought she was going to be a continuing character, maybe even be one of the good guys later on.

Brandon Sanderson

Right. The decision I came to, and it was probably-- Trying to remember exactly when it was. When I came to the decision that Venli was more interesting as a perspective, viewpoint character than her sister was, because we already had characters in the series whose attribute was paragon of their-- This kind of paragon soldier who's trying to do the right thing is well covered in The Stormlight Archive. She was intended originally, but pretty early in the revision process, I decided it needed to go the other direction, 'cause Venli just worked way better as a viewpoint character.

Questioner

Is Eshonai still getting a flashback book?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, she's still getting a flashback book. I didn't change any of that. In fact, before I even began the series, I knew there were some characters who would not make it to their flashback book, and I wanted to make sure that I made clear that that could happen.

Questioner

You said that before, I was like, I want to hear it.

Brandon Sanderson

Eshonai was intended to continue through, but I changed that pretty quickly, when I realized-- like I said.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#210 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin Confronts Lady Patresen

I played with this scene, our first ball scene in hundreds of pages, several times—trying to find the right balance I wanted to convey. I wanted to have a nice circle pointing back to Vin's interactions with Shan in the first book, showing how far Vin has come. However, I knew I didn't want to dedicate much time to it, and I didn't want Vin to fall out of character. So, this is the scene that came out. A short, blunt scene with Vin pushing the politics of the party to fit what she wants, rather than playing the games the way they're supposed to be played.

Originally I had Vin's attack convince Lady Patresen to seek Vin's favor, but a friend of mine, Janci, convinced me that it was far more realistic to have the lackeys suddenly switch sides instead. For setting me straight, Janci gained the dubious right to rename Lady Patresen, who had been called something else before. And, being who she is, Janci named the woman after herself—then said, "I get to be the girl who gets spurned by Vin! How cool is that?"

JordanCon 2018 ()
#211 Copy

Argent

During past events and interviews you've said that you've had to make your peace, so to speak, with some fans guessing reveals in future books before those books have even come out. Obviously you can't write for just a fraction of your fans who obsess every detail, and every word that Hoid ever utters. (Balderdash.) But have you ever written anything specifically for those people going, "Oh, that's gonna blow their socks off"?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah. So, for any who didn't hear, I get the question of, "How do I feel about fans guessing things before I've revealed them in the books? How do I respond to that?" And I've said I have to just make peace with that. Because I feel like trying to change-- like, I'm such an outliner, that if I change the target, if I change what I'm doing, then it's just not gonna work at all. Changing the target after I've shot the arrow, it would mean me moving the target away so the arrow misses, and saying "Haha, you guys got it wrong!" just wouldn't work for the way I tell stories. But the way I tell stories, you need to be able to see the arrow flying. I like that. And when you get three years in between books, you're gonna see where those arrows are flying. So, I just had to make peace with the idea that the hardcore fans, and maybe even some of the medium-core fans, they're going to know, they're going to see these things. Like, the big revelation-- one of the big problems I had with this was: the big revelation at the end of Oathbringer was something that the hardcore fans had figured out in book one. But the characters hadn't, because they are steeped in this world, and in the lore, and in the customs of the world. So something that was mind-shattering to a lot of the characters was old hat to some of the readers. And I had to figure out how to-- one of the things the beta readers helped me with on that book was figuring how to make sure I layered surprises at the end of Oathbringer, so that ones would be emotionally impactful to the readers while the characters were reeling from something the readers might not be reeling from. That was a challenge.

Anyway, the actual question he asked is, "Are there things I write saying 'Oh, they're gonna love this one'? Do I tease?" Yes, I totally tease. I write in words that I'm like, "Oh, I'm gonna name-drop this person they have never heard of. Because I feel like the character would name-drop, and plus it's gonna drive them crazy." I try to hold myself to the cosmere-aware sections of the books for doing that. Things like Secret History or the Letter epigraphs, and things like this. Places where the casual reader will be like, "You know, I don't get any of this, so it doesn't matter. I can move on." Where I'm kind of, like, taking you and quarantining you in your own section of letters from the cosmere, and stuff like that. But I'm gonna read you one of those in a minute.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#215 Copy

Questioner

There's a huge movement in the genre, almost away from heroic, truly good figures and it seems to me like a lot of your books are kind of, there is some darkness in them but you are holding really tight to the light… What do you think about the idea of the true heroic character and where they're going?

Brandon Sanderson

I think that people can be truly heroic and I'm happy that the genre has lots of room for different types of storytelling, but the books I'm most interested in are the ones that are people still trying to do what is right, and so that's what I want to write about.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#216 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Returns to a Ransacked Home

I'm a little annoyed at myself that it took so long to introduce Jewels. Here we are in chapter seventeen and she still hasn't shown up. She barely gets a mention here. Unfortunately, I knew that her arrival would present problems for Vivenna, so I felt the need to put it off until Viv was attached enough to the mercenaries that she'd be able to overlook a certain "pet" that Tonk Fah talked about earlier.

Prague Signing ()
#217 Copy

Questioner

How behind on word goal are you right now?

Brandon Sanderson

I have like 28 working days left before the end of the year and I would have to write 5,000 words a day of each of those so I'm somewhat behind. I'm about right now somewhere around 15,000 words behind. When I get back from this tour I'll be somewhere around 35,000 words behind so I'll have to try to catch that up. We'll see, we'll see if I do it.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#218 Copy

Questioner

As I read about the Parshendi, can't help but think of indigenous peoples. How do you deal with that and respecting the whole experience of colonization?

Brandon Sanderson

I think one of the things I have to do is embrace it. Like, if I just ignore it, it's worse, and so that's why I've tried to dig into and kind of acknowledge the issues. I mean, it is a minefield, right? I'm wandering into a minefield by writing a story that is basically based off of--

Questioner

American colonization?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. But at the same time, ignoring it wouldn't work. And the thing about it is, most cultures in our world, this is a question they had to deal with. Whose land is it? I mean, we're still fighting this war--we, I say, we aren't--but war is still being fought in the Middle East over whose land is it, and it's both of theirs, right, depending on how far you go back. And things like that, and so I think ignoring it is the wrong thing to do. But I also think there's a danger in trying to present an answer that is too easy, and so that's the line I have to walk. Embrace it, talk about it, not present an answer that is too easy, present multiple sides on it. It's kind of like the same way like the people in Roshar are both incredibly racist and incredibly sexist, right? Writing people who are racist and sexist without the narrative itself bolstering those sorts of those things is really hard. But, you know, we sign up to do hard things, and if I fall on my face, the best thing I can do is just acknowledge that I've fallen on my face, as I have done in the past.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#219 Copy

Questioner

We have a lot of fan theories about your work, and most of them are wrong by necessity.

Brandon Sanderson

...That is true.

Questioner

Are there things that are sort of directly designed to encourage or dissuade certain theories?

Brandon Sanderson

...As a member of Wheel of Time fandom growing up, I have experience on both sides of this now. And I decided after-- and this was partially looking at Robert Jordan's notes, looking at how he approached it, how it worked, being a fan-- I decided that that direction lies madness. Trying to stay ahead of the fans, trying-- if you try to twist so much that the fans can't guess, then that just means your foreshadowing is not going to work. On the other hand, doing too many in-jokes and things like this, it risks just making your book uninteresting, or not long-lasting.

And so while I read a lot of fan theories, and I even take them on occasion-- like Shardfork? That was totally a fan thing. Someone suggested that, I'm like, "Yeah, that would totally happen." But I kinda have to approach it from the frame of mind of "What would the characters do?" And I try not to actively write things that dissuade or encourage certain theories, I try to write what is best for the story. And let the fans then-- if they're going to guess, they're going to guess. If my foreshadowing is good, they probably are going to guess. At the same time, I know how insane they all are, 'cause I'm one of them, and I know they're just gonna go off on weird tangents. And that's just fine too.

So, it's this weird balance where I try to be part of the fandom, but make sure not being overly influenced by the fandom, and Wheel of Time gave me a lot of good practice on this. One of the things I really worried about with Wheel of Time was that the book would become a sequence of in-jokes for people who had read the series before. And yet, at the same time, as a fan, there were certain things I really wanted to see happen. I wanted to see certain characters meet up again after a long time apart, and I had been waiting for that for, like, a decade, and I was gonna make that happen, right? And I had to balance those two things, and that's just what I do with my books, even still.

Firefight release party ()
#221 Copy

Questioner

On one of your older Writing Excuses you guys talked about doing retellings or reimagining stories. I was curious if any of your--even your short stories-- are either in full or in part retellings?

Brandon Sanderson

I use the bits-- You ever read the Alcatraz books?

Questioner

Actually those are the only ones of yours I haven't.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, so those I actually--don't get weirded out-- but I used the Oedipus myth.  A little bit. Not the weirdest parts. But the y'know--

Questioner

Fate...

Brandon Sanderson

Fate, and being blind but not blind, and prophecy, and things like like that because the character tells you the end of the last book in the first paragraph of the first book and then it's all like it's almost fated to be. And so there is metaphorical blindness, and there's-- things like that. So that's the only one I used any-- and even that's really loosely structured. I wouldn't say I used any specifics, yet, for any of my books.

Unless you count archetypes. Like I like taking certain archetypes and mixing them in. Like Bridge Four is an underdogs sports story. So I use the archetype of something like losers but I made it being killed on a field of battle instead, and things like that. But those are more general, it's a more different sort of thing.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#223 Copy

XavierRDE

How much work, time, care and difficulty goes into constructing each book's ketek in the Stormlight Archive and sticking every phrase into the different parts of the book?

Brandon Sanderson

More than I expected, that's for sure. Not being a poet, it takes a lot of work for me to get something that I feel isn't embarrassing for the keteks.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#224 Copy

life_b4_death

I would love to know how Mr. Sanderson comes up with such wonderful names.

Brandon Sanderson

I use a bunch of different methods. Some involve creating a language, or parts of it, and building names out of that. Usually, though, I'm looking in those for something with the right sounds. I'll usually "audition" a name for a while by trying it in a book and seeing how I like it.

I also look for certain linguistic markers that can signify a character's country of origin. Symmetrical names for some people from Alethkar, for example.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#226 Copy

Questioner

Do you know the value of a heliodor and a smokestone and all that, the relative values?

Brandon Sanderson

Peter does. I wrote it out once and now I have him just fact-check it for me when I write the books. So I will often say, "Worth about this much, give me the right money and change". So I made the original guide that they follow, but nowadays I don't have to use that; I can just bracket and say, "Something worth about this much".

Stormlight Book Four Updates ()
#227 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Time for another update on your book, everyone! If you missed the previous update, it can be found right here. This update will get into some nitty-gritty outlining and wordcount details, which some of you might find boring. (Just a fair warning.)

Since the second update, I've indeed started into the book full-time. However, you might have noticed a little delay in the progress bar ticking up. This is because at the end of February (just before going to Hawaii) I decided that Starsight (Skyward Two) needed some more work.

I requested that the publisher push that book back a couple of months (it's now scheduled for first week in December) as I did a medium-sized overhaul based on some decisions I'd made after reading the beta reader comments. I'm pleased to say that revision went really well, and Starsight is in excellent shape. It did put me a little behind on Stormlight Four, I'm afraid. Looking at my tracking spreadsheet (which I used to gauge how I'm moving along) when I started into Stormlight four first part of April, I was about 45k words behind. I'm moving at a good speed, and am about 42k words behind now, with about 15k words finished.

This is merely a way of marking guideposts; I don't intend rush the story in order to meet arbitrary deadlines. This is partially me just trying to give you, and my publishers, an idea of when to expect the book. If I finish it by January 1st, the book can come out Christmas 2020. If I don't, we will probably have to nudge it back.

For reference, one percent on my progress bar is 4k words, and I anticipate the final book being 400k words long. A lot could happen during the next year of writing--the book could go super long, like happened with Oathbringer. Or I could run into some serious plot problems, which require time to work out. (For example, I've already thrown away chapter one after doing a short reading of it at an earlier convention--trying again with a slightly different tone.)

That said, I really like the new first chapter, and am now well into the fourth chapter. I promised you an update on the outline this time, and I'm looking at this book in a different way from the last two. As you may remember, I tend to plot each Stormlight book as if it were three volumes, combined together. (Along with a short story collection in the form of the interludes.)

With books two and three, the outline divided the novels into "books" by section. Part one of Oathbringer, for example, was "book one" of my three-part outline. Rhythm of War, however, is plotted more like The Way of Kings--meaning the separate books in it are divided by viewpoints.

In TwoK, Kaladin's complete arc was "book one" of my outline. Dalinar's was "book two" and Shallan's was "book three" with all of them being interwoven into the final product, and with Part Five being a capstone epilogue to them all. This novel is similar, though with more viewpoints.

We have what I'm calling the Primary Arc, which focuses on four characters who are all together in one place, their plots interweaving. The Secondary Arc is three different characters, their arcs interweaving, but in a separate location from the primary arc. The Tertiary arc is the last two characters, in a third location.

There will be ties between the three arcs, but the book will read a little more like TWoK than Oathbringer--with several separate stories that imply interesting things for one another, but which generally focus on their own goals. Book Five should, then, be an interweaving like Book Two or Book Three.

That's the plan, anyway! I'm not 100% done with the outline yet, as I want to explore some viewpoints first to make sure everything is lining up the way I want.

The next update probably won't be until mid summer, as I want to take a nice chunk of writing time to determine how things are progressing before I come back to talk here.

Until then, please enjoy listening to the community playlist of favorite epic tracks that remind them of Stormlight. This is what came of the previous thread, where I asked for suggested music to listen to while I work on Book Four. I've been doing so, and am slowly cultivating a shorter list of my favorite tracks that I'll release at a later date. Thanks to /u/DevilsAndDust- and my assistant Adam for putting this together.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#231 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So I can turn this into a general question because it's very-- people find it very interesting. How do I plot a series?

What I usually do is I have independent ideas that are spinning around in my head and they start sticking together. An idea by itself, such as "Hey what if the hero prophesied to save the world failed?" that's a cool seed but it's not a story yet. But when you smash that into "Gang of thieves want to pull off a heist. They're gunna rob the dark lord" those two ideas make something cooler. The sum of the parts, for me, is greater than the individual pieces. And ideas come from this, you start with random characters, and plot ideas, and setting ideas, and magic-- Allomancy was developed for a separate book, that I wrote and was terrible, and then it laid in my notes file until I started needing a magic system a bunch of thieves could use that could complement them and each thief could have a different power. And I pulled Allomancy and redesigned it to go in this book. All of these thing happen, often independently.

I then build an outline. I'm an outliner. I build an outline. I then do character sketches, which are short in-viewpoint or first-person dialogue/viewpoint things of the character just living their life. It doesn't go into the book. Usually. But it gives me a feel for who the character is, because it's very hard to outline a character. If you do then they start to feel rigid. And so I do this-- try to discover the character, and then I go back and rebuild my outline, then I write my book. And then I outline the next books in the series. Usually.

So Reckoners is a good example of this. I built the first book, wrote the whole book, had no ideas for sequels when I wrote the first book. Then once it was done I sat down with my team, they read it, and I said "Alright, here's the feel I want for this. We-- For instance I want illusionist powers that are very different from what Shallan does. I want to have this and this and this. Let's design sequels, and then I'll go back and re-write the first one to match, with the new outline for the sequels. I release the first book and then I write the sequels." That is kind of the basic process for designing a story for me.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#232 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I'm a little late to this, because of travel/booksigning woes, but I did want to jump in and offer a few things here. As Lyn said above, the AMA isn't often going to be able to dig into details about what was in the original draft--that's the sort of thing we like to keep a little closer to the chest. I'm okay with revealing things like that in the abstract, but having a wholesale "let's reveal plot points in early drafts of books without context" reveal seems like it might be dangerous.

So here, off the top of my head, are some of the things that I changed in the book related to Beta Reader comments. These topics are "open" for discussion--meaning you can ask Betas for more specifics on them, if you feel like it. These were all things I changed specifically because of Beta interaction.

Adolin's viewpoints were added to Part One. As was a quick run-down on Renarin's powers, and what he was learning to do with them.

The romantic angle between Shallan/Adolin/Kaladin was tweaked as I more and more referenced the idea that two different personalities of Shallan's were in love with two different people. IE--moving it further away from a love triangle, and instead showing more clearly that that Shallan was splitting further into multiple people, with different life goals.

This wasn't coming across in the early drafts, though I sometimes coulen't quite tell which responses were knee jerk "Twilight ruined love triangles! Don't do them!" comments and which were "I'm not convinced these four people--counting Shallan as two--are actually working in relationships." (I'll note that I, personally, am very pleased with how this part turned out in the books--but the betas certainly helped me get there. I'd guess that this is one of the more contentious matters of fan discussion about the book. The point of bringing it up here isn't to discredit anyone's feelings about the actual arc, just point out how the betas helped me find the balance I wanted.)

I got a LOT of help from people for writing Shallan's getting drunk scenes.

Slightly beefed up Yelig-nar's part in the plot, as what he did wasn't coming into play enough--and originally (I can't remember if this was a beta thing or an alpha thing) he wasn't as involved in the Amaram/Kaladin fight.

I revised part four heavily, moving the scene where Kaladin runs into our "so very beautiful" friend from Elantris (and the subsequent dip into the Spiritual Realm) from happening in the market to happening in the Lighthouse. Originally, the Lighthouse was run by Cryptics. (Which was a lot of fun.) However, I needed stronger establishment of Kaladin's motivations earlier in Part Four, which was going kind of off-the-rails a little.

Lots more conversation between characters who weren't talking enough in Part Four. (Most specifically Azure.)

There are hundreds more, but those are a few that might be of interest--and I need to be up in three hours to get on a train to go do more signings. Jet lag sure is fun!

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#233 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering if you could talk a little about expletives and blasphemy?

Brandon Sanderson

*amusedly* Expletives and blasphemy... So, It's really interesting, one of the first things that I think about when I'm coming up with a fantasy world is "How would they-- How do they curse?". And I don't know why this happens to me, but it feels like you can build out and extrapolate a lot about a culture from what they curse by, and how they curse. And it's become a thing. Like in one of my short stories I did I used *stumbles over words* saying "hell take you" to someone was a compliment because they didn't want to go to heaven because there was a god-king they hated. They were like "We don't want to go where he is so hell must be the better place". Which was a lot of fun to me in coming up with that. Or other ones I have them curse by in-world and sometimes I just use the biblical curses, the damns and hells and things like that. Why do I use those? I use those in Mistborn because I was writing about a bunch of thieves living on the streets and when I tried to use kind-of more fantasy-ish curse words it just felt fake for them. And yet it didn't feel fake when I started using "Merciful Domi" in Elantris because the religion of that world was so important to all the people that they would use the name of their own deity.So this is just something I kind of dance around and it's very interesting to me being a religious person myself. I will sometimes never-- like I don't use the curses that my characters will, but I'm not my characters and things like this. So it's something I think about, perhaps way too much, is how are the people going to curse in these books. That's a very good question.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Mason Wheeler

How do you write Wayne? The guy is a little bit crazy, but when you see things from his perspective it makes sense. How do you get in that headspace to write that?

Brandon Sanderson

I put on his hat. Well it’s--characters are so hard for me to define how I do them. Everything else I can define, right? I can talk about it. With character I write their viewpoint and see if I get to know them, and if I do I’ve just got it. That’s all I can say.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

What is the most unforgettable frustration ever since you became a writer?

Brandon Sanderson

Ah most unforgettable frustration since becoming a writer. Boy. I would say that, as a writer, since being published the number one frustration is sometimes I have to meet a deadline instead of just going off and writing whatever bizarre thing I want. I still do that a lot but once in a while I've got to meet a deadline, and I've been training myself to be like no, I'm writing this book, and I have to be creative and excited about that book. And I can't write until I get creative and excited about it. So it's that trying to get myself to make sure that I'm created and excited about a book, that's very difficult. I would say that touring is also, it gets very exhausting. I was surprised at by how exhausting  going on tour a lot can do. We've mitigated that by keeping me from having to get early mornings, when I don't have to have an early morning I'm much more chipper. I'm not a morning person, I'm a night person, and numerous days in a row with not enough sleep can make me a zombie.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

You've developed so many worlds and so many magic systems, how do you keep them all straight?

Brandon Sanderson

How do I keep everything straight, all the worlds and all the magic systems? I use a wiki--

Questioner

You do your worlds all at once--

Brandon Sanderson

Nah I jump around-- I use a wiki. I use a personal wiki called WikidPad, you can't use it, it's only mine, and it's like 400,000 words at last count, which is about the length of Way of Kings. And I have now a continuity editor who goes in after I write a book and they put everything in. That's my method. But I am kind of scatterbrained, I will forget my keys, I'll go to the airport without my wallet and have to talk my way through security. But I don't forget stories. They stick up there.

Fantasy Faction Q&A ()
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Overlord

 I remember you saying originally that a lot of your work you wrote from your heart and based upon your own interests. I believe you struggled to get much attention from this early work and I believe you said Mistborn you wrote for the market as opposed to for yourself. Now that you are self-publishing certain titles, do you think we will be seeing more 'unique' and 'out-there' projects? I.e. Fantasy that is quite unlike things we have seen before?

Brandon Sanderson

You've got the story mostly right, though it was the original draft of Mistborn (that did not get published) which was a 'For the market' book. It was awful. The Way of Kings was the book I wrote after that, giving no care to the world, writing only from my heart--and so you can say I've already started doing that. I would like to point out, though, that the second version of Mistborn (the one that got published, in which I tossed aside everything but the magic system and some original character concept) as in my mind a 'return to form' of the books like Elantris that I'd been writing and feeling were not getting attention.

Fantasy Faction Q&A ()
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Tym

Hi, I could be wrong, but I think I read somewhere that you're writing an Urban Fantasy? Just double checking tha t:P

Brandon Sanderson

I wrote one as a 'for fun' deviation during a break about a year and a half ago. I do this often, experimenting. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This time, it was fun, but it wasn't high enough quality to release. Perhaps I will re-visit it, but more likely, I will leave it alone. Any artist creates 'b-sides' so to speak as they practice different styles and experiment. This was one of mine, and I don't like the idea of releasing something that didn't turn out well enough.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

First and foremost, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us!

You are an established (and highly respected and loved) author of adult fantasy (we are huge fans of your Mistborn books, The Way of Kings, and Warbreaker—excuse us while we fangirl a little bit). The Rithmatist, however, is a young adult title—what made you want to get into the YA space? Do you read YA fantasy novels?

Brandon Sanderson

First off, thank you very much! I really appreciate the fangirling. I do read quite a bit of YA fiction. In fact, during the era when I was trying to break into publishing—the late 90s and early 2000s—a lot of the really exciting things in sci-fi and fantasy were happening in YA and middle grade. Garth Nix, J.K. Rowling, Dianna Wynne Jones and others created some wonderfully imaginative writing during this time.

I dipped my toes into middle grade with my Alcatraz series soon after I got published. I hadn't written a YA before, but I wanted to—for the same reason I write epic fantasy: there are awesome things I can do in in epic fantasy that I can't do in other genres. And there are awesome things I can do in teen fiction that I don't feel I can get away with in the same way in adult fiction.

Science fiction and fantasy have a very fascinating connection with YA fiction. If you look at some of the series I loved as a youth—the Wheel of Time, Shannara, and the Eddings books, for example—these have enormous teen crossover. In fact, when you get to something like the Eddings books, you've got to wonder if they would've been shelved in the teen section in a later era.

Back up even further to the juveniles that were written by Heinlein and others, and we see that teen fiction has been an integral part of science fiction and fantasy. Some of the early fantasy writings—things like Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and C.S. Lewis's works—were foundational in how the fantasy genre came to be.

So YA feels like a very natural thing for me to be writing because I enjoy it and I respect what it has done for the genres.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

What can your fans expect from The Rithmatist, as compared to your other adult novels? Was it easier or harder to write for a YA audience (or was there anything different about the writing process for this particular book)?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question! I wouldn't say it's either easier or harder. For me, a story grows in my mind till I just can't ignore it anymore, and I have to write it. That certainly happened with The Rithmatist.

As for what I did differently, there are a couple things. When I work on a teen book, I usually try to focus the viewpoints. That's one of the big distinctions for me between an epic fantasy that has teen characters—like the Mistborn books—and a book that I've specifically written for a teen audience. I usually focus on a single character—maybe two—so the narrative is a bit more streamlined.

The other big difference here is that I really wanted to write something with a sense of fantasy whimsy to it. I say whimsical, and it might be the right term, and yet it's not. For example, the magic system is one of the most rigorous and specific that I've written. I hope readers will find it as interesting as I do—with the defensive circles and the different types of lines.

With my epic fantasy books like The Way of Kings, for example, I looked at the size of the planet, its gravitation, its oxygen content—all the sorts of things that allow me to worldbuild with some scientific rigor. I consciously didn't want to do that with The Rithmatist. I replaced the United States with the United Isles, turning the country into an archipelago. I shrank the planet, and I did really weird things to the history of the world because I thought it would be fun. For example, I let Korea conquer the world, because I'm a fan of Korean history.

It's not like I'm sitting down and saying, "What is plausible?" I'm sitting down and saying, "What is awesome?" Then I write a story in which that awesomeness can shine. I let myself do that in my YA works more than in my adult works to give them a different feel. Writing this way allows me to exercise different muscles.

I believe that children and teens are better able to mode shift. When they pick up a book, they don't necessarily feel that it has to fit in one of the genre boxes. As an author, that allows you to do some interesting things in teen that are harder to do within an adult genre. 

Stormlight Book Four Updates ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Back in update #3, I promised to check back with you mid summer. I'm here a little early, as this felt like a good point to let you know how your book is going. Yesterday, I finished Part One of the novel, which (at 111k words) puts us at just under the 28% mark, assuming the book is 400k words total. (The first book was around that; the next two were longer, so fair warning, the % may not be entirely accurate.)

The short, TLDR version, is this: Part One is done, the book is looking good, and I'm modestly confident in a 2020 release.

Read below for a more fiddly, numbers oriented analysis of how things are going.

I gave myself 10 months to do the rough draft as a hypothetical deadline. That is a little on the quick side, but doable. That translates to about 1300 words a day, if I were writing seven days a week. (Which I don't do--I usually manage to write new fiction four days a week, with one day dedicated to email, meetings, newsletters, grading student finals, that sort of thing.) Once in a while, I sneak in a little work on Saturday, but I don't count on it.

What this really means is during those four days writing time, I need to do about 9k total words to keep pace. This wordcount number, I should warn you, is more a way for me to judge my progress rather than it is an absolute requirement. The writing process needs to remain flexible, even for someone who likes a strong outline like myself, and while guidelines for wordcounts are helpful, I'm careful not to treat them like a factory quota, to be achieved regardless of quality.

They are helpful for pace, though. In an average week, I commonly do between 8k and 15k of writing, so this is a manageable goal. With that in mind, how is it going?

Well, as talked about in the last post, I started Stormlight about a month late because of some work I decided needed to be done on Starsight. That meant I started the book at about 44k words behind in April. Steady writing through April up until May saw me making up ground. When I flew to Germany for the tour there, I was 31k behind instead, and was feeling good about the progress.

Germany was, of course, a disaster for new writing. (Tours almost always are.) I got some work done on a sequel novella to Sixth of the Dusk, but no Stormlight writing. (Really complex narrative is difficult for me to do when traveling a lot, as it requires more focus than I can often give.)

When I got back, I had slipped to 52k words behind. I dove back in, and restored the writing grove for Roshar, and have made back most of that time. As of yesterday, I'm 33k words behind, assuming I want to have the rough draft done by January 1st. (Which is pretty much a must if I want to release the book in 2020.)

As before, I do need to give the warning that if the book needs more time, I WILL take it. I recognize that is what most of you would like anyway, so we'll see what happens. Part One, however, turned out very close to my plan--and I'm pleased with it. As I said, this book follows more of a Book One style plot than a Book Two or Three style plot. The characters will be mostly isolated doing their own thing in three separate plot lines, interwoven in the narrative, but with little interaction between them. In fact, the three different arcs should (if I work it out right) hit their climaxes at three different points, giving a more sequential hit of more intimate plot moments rather than one big enormous finale, like happened in Books Two/Three. (Not that there's anything wrong with that; I just prefer some variety. Book Five, as you should be able to guess, will be more like Books Two/Three than Books One/Four.)

So my next step is to dive into a revision of Part One. This will put us a little more behind, as it will take about a week--but it will let me get the first chunk (which is book length on its own) to Moshe for editing over the next few months. That way, we can use his time in parallel to mine, as well as let Karen do continuity edits and Peter (eventually) do an editorial pass.

If that works as it should, and if I do this with each part as I finish them, I'll have 3/4 of the book waiting with editorial work done on it come January 1st. That will let me dive into a third draft immediately.

My goal after the revision of Part One is to pick one of the character clusters mentioned in the previous updates, and work on it straight through to the end. (I'll probably pick the second arc, which should be around 80k words long and follow three viewpoint characters in their distinct plot sequence.)

As always, thanks for reading and for putting up with my eccentricities as a writer. As a note, like in the other posts, I will not be sending replies to my inbox--so apologies if I miss something you say in this thread.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

In all of your other books, you write strong, layered female characters—what can we expect from The Rithmatist in the protagonist/heroine department?

Brandon Sanderson

I often worry about falling into the trap of making female characters strong by not making them feminine. In Mistborn, Vin is strong in part because of how good of a warrior she is, and that's fine. There are plenty of women like that, who can hold their own in a fight. But in The Rithmatist, one of the things I wanted to do was write a female character who is more girly, so to speak. I wanted to make her a strong protagonist in a way that does not undermine her femininity. I hope that I've managed to approach that with Melody in The Rithmatist.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

You create some of the most elaborate magic systems in fantasy today; these systems function as intrinsic parts of your worlds and characters. Typically, how do you address the different types of magic systems in your different books? Do you define these systems before you start writing the books, or do they evolve and develop as you go along?

Brandon Sanderson

The answer to that is yes! It's different for every book. With my Cosmere books—which are the shared universe of my epic fantasies—I need to be a little more rigorous. There are fundamental underlying principles that guide the magic systems, and so there's a larger developmental phase before I start writing the book. Then I stick more strictly to the rules I've given myself.

All the way back in 2007, I was writing one of my epic fantasies, and it just wasn't working. I needed a break to something creative, different, and distinctive. So I jumped ship, abandoning that epic fantasy, and wrote The Rithmatist instead, which had a lot less planning than one of my epic fantasies.

With something like The Rithmatist—which is outside the cosmere—I'm allowed a little more freedom, which is one of the reasons I like writing books like this, where I allow myself to develop it as I write. The magic was the first thing that got me excited about The Rithmatist, so I based the book around it.

The first thing I wrote was the scene—now late in chapter one—where Joel watches Fitch get defeated by Nalizar in the classroom. It started out on a chalkboard, but I eventually moved it to the floor because that made more sense. As I was writing these chapters, I developed the Rithmatic lines and let the story feed the magic and the magic feed the story in a way that some writers call "discovery written."

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

In addition to The Rithmatist, you've also ventured in the the Science Fiction realm with your short stories ("Defending Elysium" and "Firstborn"). We recently learned that you're creating a cool, limited edition tête-bêche ("head-to-toe") bind-up format of these two novelettes, in the style of the groovy old school Ace Doubles. What made you want to create this particular type of print version of your novelettes? And, since these are science fiction, tell us a little bit about writing scifi and how that differs (or is similar to) fantasy.

Brandon Sanderson

We were looking at doing con exclusives, something I can take to conventions to make them a little more special for those who make the extra effort to come see me. Yet we didn't think it would be fair to my readers who can't make it to the cons (my readers in Sweden, for instance) if I took a story that was only available at cons. But "Firstborn" and "Defending Elysium" fit perfectly. Both stories have been out awhile, and both are free to read online. If you can't make it to the con, you can still read and enjoy these stories.

Singly, neither story was long enough to justify the price point required for us to go through all the effort to create a book. But both stories are science fiction, and both are novelettes, so doing an Ace Double-style book sounded like the way to go.

A lot of my short fiction comes out as science fiction. When I sit down to write something short, I've often wondered why a science fiction story pops out. Why do my longer works come out as epic fantasy? I've got lots of theories. They're armchair theories from Brandon the English major, not so much from Brandon the writer.

In science fiction, a lot of times the worldbuilding is easier to get across. Science fiction films have been such a part of our culture for so long, and imagining the what-ifs of the future leaves you with more groundwork to build upon, that in many ways there's more the reader immediately understands and accepts.

I've often said that great stories are about great characters first. But beyond that, science fiction stories are about ideas and fantasy stories are about the setting. I think that's why when I come up with a great idea story, I write it as science fiction. If I come up with some interesting setting element, like a great magic system, I write it as fantasy. I've found that getting across an interesting and complex magic system in a very short amount of time is extraordinarily hard, so it tends to work better for longer stories.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

When you put together different magic systems, do you just have a file of those that "this is goiing to work for this one"?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a file of magic systems, characters, and settings, and plots. Usually I review it for a while, periodically I mean, and certain connections are made. I build on those in my head, then eventually stick them back in if it doesn't end up working. But ocasionally it's like-- Like Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, I wanted to write a book about a bounty hunter woman who runs an inn and kills the people who come to the inn. I developed that all without the magic system or anything like that, and then said what world would this fit on? Would it fit on any of them? Do I need to make a new story? And I'm like "This worked really well on Threnody" so I put it there and put the magic in. Usually it's the other way around, I've got the world and things and I need some characters to plug in.

Firefight Miami signing ()
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Questioner

How would you have changed Steelheart from Young Adult to Adult.

Brandon Sanderson

More viewpoints. I probably would have shown other peoples-- like, a Prof thread would have been a big part of it. The big difference for me, for the Adult and the Young Adult is the characters you're focusing on, and the number of viewpoints. That's the basic thing I change.

Questioner

Not so much about violence, or anything along those lines?

Brandon Sanderson

No, not really. For a middle grade, I will probably hold back a bit. That's why Rithmatist, which I consider middle grade, is a little less. But Steelheart-- Generally, in the business, we consider YA to be the genre that is not edited for content, and middle grade to be the one that is. And that's just-- Based on what's going on with teens, and things like that.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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Arcanist

Most of your heroes are true traditional "heroes", because they want to be useful for the family/society/other, and they often lack selfish, "dirtier" motivations. Will we sometimes see characters, who are not villains but are rather egocentric?

Brandon Sanderson

Kelsier. :)

Expanding that, however, I feel that in general, other people are telling stories about "dirtier" characters and doing it well. I don't feel characters who are generally good characters are any less realistic, however--in fact, almost everyone I know is more like Vin or Dalinar. They want to be good people, they TRY to be good people. Fantasy has taken a very dark turn in many ways, and this is fine, but it is not the type of story or characters in which I am interested.

That doesn't mean I won't ever do it. There are some far more borderline characters mixed into some of the series, but they are more the exception than the rule.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Dr. T

In plotting an epic like The Way of Kings, to what extent do you outline the whole story? How does that compare with the outline and notes provided by Robert Jordan for the remaining volumes of WoT?

Brandon Sanderson

Robert Jordan and I plot differently. In the notes he tends to talk about scenes that he's working on at the time, whereas I tend to plot out everything, kind of in reverse order. His outlines do end up looking like my outlines in some ways, in that he talks about important moments and I tend to plot backwards, starting from those important moments and moving backward from them. He seemed to be much more of a "I work on this scene because I'm passionate about it" writer, where I am a "I build a framework for the entire book and then start writing" writer.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
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Daz925

Where were you in your writing process for Elantris-- I know it was your sixth book and you were on your nineteenth when you got it published or--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, good question.So, where was I in my process when I wrote Elantris and when I got published, which was my sixth novel. So what happened with my career, it's kind of a very weird thing. You find that everybody has a different path to success as a writer. I heard early on that your first five books are generally terrible and this was really relieving to me, because I--a part of my brain-- this would not-- someone else, this might've been the worst thing to tell them. But for me it was the best thing because my brain said, "Okay, good, you don't have to be any good at this for your first five books".

And so my first five books I experimented quite a bit in story and tone. I did a gritty cyberpunkish thing. I did a comedy. I did an epic fantasy. I tried a lot of-- I did a space opera. I did a lot of different things. And once I had done all that, I came back and said, "You know, my first love is epic fantasy, and it's what I really want to do." So I sat down to write book number 6, which was Elantris.

And at that point, I had gotten a few books underneath me. I kind of knew what I was doing, though I was not-- I hadn't figured out my process quite as well as I would have liked. Elantris and a lot of the books during that era I did a lot more discovery writing, and I naturally am better when I have a stronger outline. But that's where I was.

My biggest weakness as a writer at that point was revision. I had spent those five early books just trying different things, and that permission for me to not be good yet also kind of gave me the psychological ability to be like, "Well, I don't have to revise this one, because I don't have to be good yet." But what that meant is I didn't practice revision. So once I finished Elantris, I was not good enough yet to know how to take a good book and make it great. So it went the rounds in New York and got rejected; rightly so, because it was very flabby and had not been focused. And I know, from a guy who writes thousand-page books, focus is a weird thing to say. *laughter*

And so, when I actually sold Elantris to Tor, it was after it had gone through four or five drafts and I had finally sat down and kind of buckled down and said "I need to learn revision and learn how to make my books better". So I sold it right after-- right while I was working on Way of Kings in 2002, 2003, somewhere around there.