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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#251 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#252 Copy

Questioner

As Professor Sanderson, do you get situations where past students have success but you don't really care for it and how do you handle it?

Brandon Sanderson

That has not happened to me. The students who have gotten published, particularly lately-- To get into my class at BYU, you have to submit an application and chapters and there's a three-day window and we get a hundred applications and we take fifteen. These days, about a third of those students that get in tend to be what we call, "continuing education," meaning they are people who have gone to BYU and take only that class. Oftentimes, they move to Provo to take that class. So there's some pretty stiff competition and the writers who are in the class these days are really good.

But even in the older days, the people who got published, you can usually tell, and even if you can't, I mean, there's not a lot of writing out there that I can't read and say, "Wow! I understand how someone appreciates this," right? Part of, I think, being a writer and an artist is learning to appreciate things, even if you don't necessarily care for them, to be able to recognize, "This is good and someone is going to love this. This has craft, even it's not something that I particularly enjoy." But none of my students have even been there. All the ones that have gotten published, I'm like, "Wow, this is a great book." So, maybe someday I'll have to deal with that, but I haven't really had to deal with it so far.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#253 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two - Part One

Backsliding

As I mentioned a couple annotations ago, this chapter is one of my favorites. That, however, doesn't mean it doesn't have flaws. It has a lot of them, the most important one being the fact that it's just a tad out of place. It's almost a chapter from book one pulled and stuck into book three, where it has no business being and is likely to get clubbed on the head and dragged into a dark alleyway.

Book one was far more lighthearted than this final book is, and while I love having this chapter in the book for the nostalgia it evokes and for the opportunity it gives for banter, I will acknowledge that some people may find it out of place.

There is a strong rationale for it being like it is. Elend hit on this while dancing with Vin. The familiar setting and situations brought out the person he used to be when he attended the balls. I think we all do this. When I came back home after my first year of college, I was shocked at how quickly I fell back into being the person I was before that year, which had forced me to stretch and grow a great deal. I was home, and the high-school me resurfaced.

Well, this chapter has the high-school Elend. He goes too far and makes too many wisecracks. He should have known better. In fact, he did know better, and he almost immediately regretted treating Yomen as he did. One other thing to remember, however, is that this is Elend's first real parlay with an enemy king. His previous two conquests were made by Vin and were negotiated via the use of a lot of Allomancy and a rather large koloss sword.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#254 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Talks to Telden

I doubt many people remember Telden, but he was a minor character from book one. We saw him in five or six scenes, interacting with Elend. He was the dandy of the group, and together with Elend and Jastes, formed a trio of friends who were in line to rule powerful houses eventually. (Though, Telden was fairly distant in the succession of his house, I believe.)

Anyway, his reappearance here is another hark back to the first book. We'll see a bit more of him, just like we did of Jastes in book two.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#255 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Warbreaker had just come out, and I was talking about how you used more comedy in the book, and I was asking about it and everything else, and I was so pleased that you've done such a wonderful job with it, I enjoyed the humor aspects, besides it just sets everything up perfectly.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

I feel that a great book is going to have a wide range of emotions, so I try to stick various different ones in.

Oathbringer London signing ()
#256 Copy

Questioner

When Kaladin runs out of Stormlight, is that something you've worked out, how much Stormlight should have, and how much each move takes?

Brandon Sanderson

So, what I do is, I actually write the thing first, and then I tell my assistant, "Work out how much he needs," and then I give him that much. I work backward. Yeah, I do that a lot in books, but that's a little bit seeing how the sausage is made, there.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#257 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Spook's Timeline

One of the problems with Spook's sequences is that I had to break the chapters timewise longer than I'd wanted to. Originally, these latest three or four Spook chapters happened in the course of a week's time. However, when I added them into the rest of the book, I realized I had to space them out a lot farther because of the things happening in Vin and Elend's timeline.

So it's a little bit awkward. Three chapters ago, Spook heard men mention the rumors Durn was spreading about him. Then we had two chapters dealing with Sazed and Breeze's arrival. Only now can Spook finally track down Durn and demand to know about the rumors he was spreading.

It would have made much more sense to have had Spook find a way to do this earlier, but I just couldn't work it in until now. The “count the skulls” thing is coming up too; I haven't forgotten it. Unfortunately, it suffered from this same issue.

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#258 Copy

D.I.

I've heard you are a plotter, yet chose to write The Reckoners as a pantser. What were some of the unexpected difficulties or advantages of pantsing?

Brandon Sanderson

I "pantsed" the first few chapters of Steelheart, but I quickly went from there to creating an outline. The early part was exploration, the first three or four chapters. That's not uncommon, even for an outliner. However, I did then stop and produce a really solid outline for the book. (Actually one of the most solid I've ever made.)

When you're discovery writing, you often have a lot more success creating and discovering characters, in my experience. That's why I often free-write a few opening chapters to a book, so I can get a feel for who these people might be.However, a difficulty with discovery writing (pantsing) is plotting it's very difficult to create a tight narrative without an outline. (That said, many people who love to discovery write can fix this problem in revisions.)

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#259 Copy

Jim

When doing your worldbuilding and plotting work prior to writing do you ever work with maps and soldiers? Do you build out your fights with models etc?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't build any of my action sequences with models, though that's an excellent question. I have a vivid imagination, and generally don't need to place things on a map to create an action sequence. In fact, I think doing so might be dangerous, as I'd be tempted to describe things happening across the action sequence all over, rather than what is immediately happening to the viewpoint character—which is where my focus needs to be.

Often, the only map-based worldbuilding I'll do is a general sketch of a continent or city so I know broadly how everything is related. But then I write the book, and let what has to happen in the book happen—good storytelling trumps cartography. I can always rebuild the map to be accurate once I write the book.

The exception is large-scale battles, like some of those in The Wheel of Time, where I had to involve real warfare strategy and tactics. In those cases, I need to know enough that it's best to draw it out and have a full battle map.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#260 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Number Sixteen

Demoux's problems here are intended to give me another means of reminding the reader of the statistical anomaly found in the numbers of people who fall sick to the mist. As I wrote the draft, I'm glad I was forced to keep Demoux alive, as doing so gave me a character who was intimately connected with the problems of the mists and the things they were inflicting on people.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#261 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Seven - Part One

The Camp Gets Attacked

There's an old adage in writing. If things feel slow, have the protagonists get attacked. (I wonder what literary fiction would be like if they tried this out. . . .) [Editor's note: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?]

Anyway, I'd planned for this scene to happen a little later in the book, but I felt after Elend's last scene—mostly discussion and wrestling with inner demons—that we needed something quick and action-oriented to speed things up. So I moved the battle up to here and had the camp get attacked.

In a way, therefore, Vin's thoughts at the beginning of the chapter were my thoughts. Finally, a fight! A few of my writing group members echoed this feeling when they got to this chapter, which let me know I'd made the right choice. (Maybe it should have been even sooner.)

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#262 Copy

Bobby

Do you have any advice for new fantasy writers to smooth out any road bumps on the way to getting published and how do you juggle success with the life you had before your books took off?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a ton of advice, but most of it I can't put here. I have a couple of resources where I go into depth. The first is Writing Excuses, my podcast. I suggest that you start listening the with January 2015 episodes—it will be very helpful. For something more in-depth, I post videos of my writing lectures on YouTube. This is the class I teach at BYU, and goes very in-depth on publishing.

Here, I'll just say this: Practice a lot. Write the kind of books that you wish were being written. Make good habits, and learn to be a writer long before you publish—own being a writer. Do the work, learn to think like a writer, and guard your writing time as if this were your job. Then when it actually happens, it will be more like "Hey, it finally happened" than "Wow. What do I do now?"

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#263 Copy

Megandia

I know you have your masters in creative writing, as do many authors, though some do not. How much has getting your masters helped you as a writer?

Brandon Sanderson

No class, even the one I teach, can take the place of writing on your own and practicing. That will be the most useful thing to you in your career—practicing lots of styles, lots of writing tools, and lots of types of stories. Your job is to learn for yourself what works for you, and develop your own mix of strategies—writing methods, outlining methods, viewpoint/tense decisions, prose decisions—that help you consistently create great books.

A writing program does several things. First, good writing classes should give you tools to try out, and explain to you what they normally do in writing, and why you might like this too. They give you feedback from established writers. And they give you a writing community to be part of—people to make into a writing group, to bounce ideas off, and to help you along your path.

The danger of a masters in creative writing is that some professors are determined to help people create only one kind of fiction, very narrowly defined, and will try to shove you away from other types of writing. Don't let them do this to you—they should be a resource to you, rather than a force that tries to homogenize you into a single type of storytelling.

Stormlight Three Update #8 ()
#264 Copy

Khalku

How do you decide where/what to cut in a project of this size? When you say it reads better, are you constantly reading the whole thing and re-reading?

Brandon Sanderson

That's exactly how I revise--I re-read the book, making notes about what is working and what isn't, then plan strategies for fixing it. I incorporate beta reader feedback into this. When a section I felt was explosive and interesting gets "meh" responses from the majority of readers, I have to ask myself why, look at the sections again and decide--is this the sort of section I leave as is or change? In some cases, you leave it, as while it might be only okay to some readers, it includes scenes that some others will absolutely love. In other cases, I've miss-evaluated somehow, and need to attack it again.

This is all done as I re-read the book again, using my notes as a guide on what to fix.

Oathbringer Leeds signing ()
#265 Copy

Questioner

What's the concept of the safehand?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. There's a writerly answer and an in-world answer. Which do you want to know?

Questioner

Let's do the writer answer.

Brandon Sanderson

Writer answer, so. I am fascinated by taboo. I am fascinated by the fact that in Asia you don't show your, the bottom of your foot to people. It's terribly offensive. I am fascinated that in some cultures some parts of the body are shown and others aren't. Things that we would consider vulgar, to other people are not, and vice versa. It just fascinates me as a writer and when I approached the books I was looking for a ways that I could give a feel for a human culture but not one that we have seen before and the safehand grew out of that.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#266 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Discussing How to Defeat Ruin

This chapter is mostly intended as a reminder that something larger is happening. I worry a lot that the reader will see the struggles for Fadrex and Urteau as a step down in conflict from book two, where Luthadel itself was besieged. In other fantasy books, the heroes would go on some quest to find a magical object or person that could defeat the dark god for them.

And in a way, that's what they're trying—searching out some mythical answer that may or may not be there. However, my goal with this book was to show that when faced with something as powerful and incomprehensible as Ruin, there isn't much that common people—even Allomancers—can do. They're fighting their best, but how do you even start to deal with something like Ruin?

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#267 Copy

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.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#268 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Spook Escapes the Burning Building

This scene with Spook bursting out of the burning building, trailing smoke, is one of two big focal scenes I imagined for his storyline. Interestingly, I had planned on three focal action scenes, and ended up skipping one as I drafted. I planned to have assassins attack the ministry building and Spook fight them off, but could never quite work it into the pacing of the story, and I figured that after this scene—which works so well to convey what I want—another scene was unnecessary.

FanX 2018 ()
#269 Copy

Questioner 1

When you write the books, do you set up the setting and stuff first, because it's an amazing setting.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I do a lot of planning ahead of time. I'm naturally an outliner. It's not the only way to write a book, some people do it the opposite way, but I do a lot of outlining.

Questioner 2

I have a lot of trouble outlining myself.

Brandon Sanderson

Sometimes it doesn't work. There are some writers, that if they outline the book, it actually ruins the book cause they feel like they've already kind of gone through and written it.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#270 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Another reference to previous books comes when Sazed mentions the executions from book one. This is the second or third time we've had a reference back to those in this novel, and there were a couple references in the second novel as well. I hesitated to put those executions into the first book because of the graphic nature of the beheadings (which, if you recall, were done into the fountains at the central square, causing the water to flow red). However, it became such an important scene throughout the series that I'm certainly glad I did it. The characters needed a poignant visual memory of the Lord Ruler's brutality.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#271 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Playing with Clichés

Well, that turned into a strangely unexpected rant. I'll leave it because it might be interesting to you all, but I did want to continue with my original idea. I didn't bring Reen back (or Kelsier back) because I feel opposed to this kind of plotting unless it is well foreshadowed in advance and built into the magic system. I did, however, want to make the reader think that I'd brought them back, as for some reason it gives me pleasure to bait readers into thinking I'm following the clichés, then ducking away from those clichés. (In a way, that's what this entire series is about.)

As a nod to the intelligence of my readers, however, I didn't let this one last for long. I figured that many would have figured out that the image of Reen was false, particularly after the epigraph strongly hints that Vin has been spiked. In addition, I wanted to use this scene to point out the difference between Vin and Spook. He's an idealist and is rather fresh and inexperienced, despite what the crew has been through. Vin's a realist and a skeptic, and is far more experienced. It makes simple sense to me that she would almost immediately see through Ruin's tricks.

Stormlight Book Four Updates ()
#272 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hello, all. Time for another update on your book. (See the last update HERE, if you are interested.)

This post WILL have Oathbringer spoilers, and slight spoilers for Book Four. So if you are concerned about those things, here is the no spoiler update: I just passed the 50% mark! The book is looking good so far. Moshe had some very enthusiastic and positive things to say about the first chunk I sent him. I'm still hoping for a Christmas 2020 release.

Now, for slight spoilers. At this point, I've finished the second chunk of the book. This means I've finished viewpoint cluster two, for those who are following along. If you aren't, or if this confuses you, I whipped up a little visualization.

This book, as I've said before, starts with all the characters together--then splits into three groups of viewpoints. The first group is the largest, and the most involved, with five viewpoints characters. Two of these, however, will have only a few viewpoints (and one might just appear in other viewpoints, save for an interlude.) Really, this is the story of three characters, and forms the core arc of the book.

The second viewpoint cluster, which is the one I've now finished, follows two characters on a very involved--but more narrowly focused--plot. The final cluster takes two remaining viewpoint characters, and touches lightly upon what they are doing, without going into quite as much depth as the other two groups.

Now that group two is finished, I have turned my attention to group one--the most difficult of the sequences to write. This should take me a few more months. After that, I'll write group three and the interludes.

One issue I've been having with the book is the flashbacks. I'm not 100% sure they'll work the way I planned them to. In that case, it's possible I will toss them and doing them from Venli's viewpoint instead. I'm excited to write more Eshonai, but there's a real chance that the viewpoints will feel like fluff, as Venli is the one who knew the secrets happening behind the scenes among the Listeners at the time.

This might be a place where I have to kill my darlings and just do what makes the most sense for the narrative, even though the other way (with Eshonai having the flashbacks) always appealed to me from a "this is less expected" angle.

I can't say for certain, and my gut says that--in abstract--more people would enjoy reading about Eshonai as a character, but would find the chapters a little boring and out of place. Venli flashbacks would, instead, be filled with cosmere mysteries and answers that will be more interesting.

We'll see how it goes. I haven't written the flashbacks yet, so we'll need to see about them as I write.

Otherwise, how do we look? Well, my trip to France and Spain really took a bite out of my writing time. We're hovering right at about 30k words behind (with 200k finished of a projected 400k.) 30k behind is roughly one month behind. (We've been about this far behind since I started on the book, as touring delays continue to eat up any progress I make catching up.) Hopefully, September will involve a lot of good writing time, as I don't have any trips planned except for Dragon*Con this weekend.

Of course, come October, it's back on tour. (France and Israel this time.) The goal is still to try to finish by January. Getting halfway took basically five months, however, and there are only four months left in the year. If I don't hit January for finishing, we're likely looking at a spring 2021 release.

As always, thank you for your patience and enthusiasm. Also, as always, I promise that I do consider these goals of when to finish only to be goals--not hardfast rules. I will take the time I need to make the book great, and if it comes down to delaying the book or releasing a novel that isn't ready, we WILL delay.

I will not be sending replies to this thread to my inbox, so there's a good chance I'll miss your comments. If I do, just let me say thank you again!

Brandon

Read.Sleep.Repeat interview ()
#273 Copy

Octavia

Steelheart makes you feel a few pretty intense emotions. Were there any scenes in particular that you found difficult to write, because of these intense moments?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the very first scenes I imagined for Steelheart is where the main character David is trapped and pinned down. Certain things have led him to that moment and the events that happen right after that. (I'm not giving any spoilers, but those of you who have read the book will know what I'm talking about. It happens right after the motorcycle chase.) When I'm developing a book, I often go for a walk or walk on the treadmill and listen to cool music, my eyes closed, and ask myself, "What is the emotional resonance of this book? What's it going to feel like to read it? What scenes will make that happen?" This was one of those scenes. For me, it was the most important scene of the entire novel, so getting to it was a pleasure, but it was also an emotional and powerful scene to write because I'd been planning it for so long and wanted badly for it to turn out well. That can be really difficult for a writer when you've got something in your head and you worry. Can I make it turn out on the page?

Firefight release party ()
#274 Copy

Questioner

Do you have any plans to release Death by Pizza?

Brandon Sanderson

Do I have any plans to release Death by Pizza?  When I was getting ready for what I should do my readings on for this I was like "Oh I could read them Death by Pizza" and I opened it up and read the first chapter again and was like "No I can't read--" *laughter* Someday if I have time to fix it, I will. It was mostly-- A lot of what you see me doing is experimenting in other genres so I can practice that genre and incorporate it into my mainline epic fantasies. I think that great writing, particularly in a big book like those, means that you draw on a lot of different traditions so that the different plot lines and characters feel like different types. So I'm practicing urban fantasy, I'm practicing-- Things like Legion is me practicing a detective novel so I can use that later on. That one just didn't turn out good enough to release. It was good practice for me.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#275 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifteen

The actions of this wildman here seem strangely logical to me for some reason. Everything he did simply felt right. Sometimes–well, most of the time–character work that way for me. It makes me worry, actually, that sometimes the characters are too clichéd. After all, if their actions and mannerisms come that easily to me, then maybe I'm not stretching enough.On the other hand, I feel that the characters act naturally because I understand them. If I really understand a character, then won't everything the do feel right because. . .well, that's just what they would do.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#276 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

Siri Is Bathed, Then Sent to the God King

This was a strange sequence of chapters to write. I've spoken before on writing characters of the opposite gender. This has grown easier and easier for me over the years, partially—I think—because I started out so bad at it that I insisted on forcing myself to practice and practice. Now, it's usually as easy for me as writing men. In fact, I don't even think about the gender of the character when I'm writing—I think about who the character is. What their motivations and conflicts are. How they see the world and how they react to things. True, their gender does influence this—just as it influences their personalities. But I don't sit down and say, "I'm going to write a woman now." I sit down and say, "I'm going to write Siri." I know who Siri is, so I can see through her eyes and show how she reacts.

All that said, I'd never before tried writing a wedding night from the viewpoint of a woman. It presented a few interesting challenges. For one, there's a whole lot more nudity in this book than in my other books. I don't shy away from this (even though I myself am probably more conservative than most of my readers in areas of sexuality), as I feel that what you do with your imagination is your own business. This scene could be done in a PG way, a PG-13 way, or an R way. It's completely up to you how you want to imagine it.

One interesting thing to note is that my own wedding happened during the process of writing this book. I wrote this chapter before then, but I was engaged at the time. While working on the novel I got to go through the entire progression of awkward moments of a wedding night myself. (Yes, it was our first time, by choice.)

I think that probably colored how I wrote Siri's viewpoints throughout the entire book.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
#277 Copy

Kasair74

What is your process for pre-writing work? (Worldbuilding etc). When you write something and "get stuck" or it doesn't turn out quite as you envisioned, how do you know whether to take it and add something different to make it better, or just move to another project and let the "stuck" project be? (I was thinking of how Mistborn was a combination of two projects that didn't turn out quite as you thought, but combined they increased in awesomeness).

Brandon Sanderson

Trial and error. Though for me, setting aside a project is almost always a bad thing for that project. That doesn't mean I don't have to do that sometimes, but if I set aside a project rather than continue to work on it until I've fixed the problem, I've found that my personal makeup means that restarting that project is very difficult. It happens, and I've made it work, and there are great books that I have released where I did it, but usually it can take weeks of effort to get back into that project. Because I'm a linear writer—I start at the beginning and write to the end—if I haven't been writing from the beginning when I pick something up, it can be extremely difficult.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#278 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

Siri Enters the God King's Chambers

This is one of those chapter breaks that is there for stylistic drama more than anything else. Thematically, these two chapters are really the same chapter. However, I wanted to break before she steps in because it works so well as a dramatic turn in the story.

I've had e-mails asking me about how to decide when to break a chapter. Honestly, I'm not sure how to answer this one. Breaking chapters isn't something I plan; it's something I just do. A good chapter should have a nice arc of its own, with rising action, a climax, then perhaps some brief falling action. (And thinking of that, you can probably see why chapters five and six can be considered a single chapter in this regard.) But there's not a real science to it—break where it feels right.

Anyway, Siri's entrance here is probably the first big climactic moment of the book. It's where I've been pushing the novel since the beginning, and is one of the focal scenes for this book. (The scenes that I imagine and develop before I being writing, which then propel their section of the novel.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#280 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Siri Wakes Up Untouched, Then Explores the Palace

These Siri chapters presented a little bit of a problem to me in that I generally focus my writing around conversations. A given chapter will have some action and description, but usually the series of scenes revolves around important discussions between characters.

But in the palace during the Jubilation, Siri has almost nobody to talk to. She just doesn't have anything to do. A note to aspiring writers: A character not having anything to do is bad. You want action, motion, and conflict in your stories. That's what keeps them moving and interesting.

But in this case, Siri's lack of direction was necessary to make the plot work. In these chapters, Siri is just reacting—trying to stay afloat in a world very different from her own. So I had to focus on other ways to make the scenes interesting.

A lot of times, in writing, needs like this end up defining aspects of the books. I hadn't intended the palace to work as it did—with each room being modular, any of them able to transform into any type of room. I intended to give Siri her own set of chambers, as might be expected in a situation like this.

But when I reached this point in the book, the chapter was looking dull, and I knew I needed some little twist to the palace to make it original enough to hold Siri's—and the reader's—attention here. It's a very small thing, but I think that one change added a lot to the chapter, and therefore the book.

Alloy of Law Manchester signing ()
#281 Copy

Tortellini (paraphrased)

Someone asked if it were hard to write Jasnah, an atheist character, for a devout Christian.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Brandon said he read a lot of atheist message boards for inspiration. Also, it sounded like he'd had the character in his head for a while, but hadn't found the right book to put it in—e.g. he said it would make no sense to put an atheist in a world where gods walk around (i.e. Warbreaker).

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#282 Copy

NightWillReign

So you said that you’ve moved Szeth and Kaladin’s fight from book 3 to Words of Radiance. Did you make any changes like this on your outline for Oathbringer?

Brandon Sanderson

There was a lot of general restructuring of Oathbringer after book two was written, but there's no one "big" sequence that was moved into the book.

Salt Lake ComicCon FanX 2016 ()
#283 Copy

Questioner

On about Wayne from The Alloy of Law, so reading the first book everyone's smiling because he's a rascal. But he's not really a rascal in the first book. You slowly turned him into a rascal in book 2, filling in what he's done in his past. Book three just a downright rascal... I wanted to know your progression of that character mirrors your progression of that world because the Alloy of Law isn't particularly gritty, but in book three you've got a bit more grittiness.

Brandon Sanderson

See, I would argue that two is the grittiest of the three, personally. It's hard for me to talk about this one just because I wrote Alloy of Law as an experiment to see if I liked it, and then I sat down and built a trilogy about those characters, so you could almost imagine that Alloy of Law is a standalone, and the next three are a trilogy about those characters. I don't know that I made any specific decisions in any way, I just said "what is the story I want to tell about these characters with these three books", and then I took them and I dug into them and I felt like I hadn't dug into them deeply enough in Alloy of Law, to really who they were. It was done, again, kind of more as a free writing experiment than an intentional novel, even though I did have an outline and things for it.

The books two, three, and four--which form a trilogy--have a distinct outline. Any changes are changes kind of focused on that idea. That I took something that was kind of like a seed for a trilogy and then built a trilogy around it. I didn't make any specific determination that I would be more gritty; I think the second book is grittier because of the difference between hunting a group of bank robbers vs. a serial killer. That's gonna have some natural move towards that, but it's not any specific event. That said, reader response is kind of how you decide on these things. I just kind of write the books as I feel they need to be and what you get out of them is certainly valid.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Siri Realizes That She Needs to Be Proactive

As I said in the other section, I think that Siri's plot here is just a tad accelerated from what I'd like—but that's necessary. Nothing is worse in a book than a character who never does anything. She needed to get through her fear and her worry and decide to become proactive. It was only then that interesting things could start to happen in her storyline.

So, I pushed through the moments of indecisiveness and inaction as fast as I could, getting to this moment where she decides to change. I feel that her character being what it is (impulsive and determined) justifies her quickly deciding to take responsibility for herself, now that she's been placed into a situation of great stress.

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

In the second series of Stormlight Archive, are they going to be about the same characters?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question. So when I sat down to build The Stormlight Archive, there were a couple of things that I learned from The Wheel of Time. One was that the further an epic fantasy series goes, the more important it is that you have a structure to the series. It's very easy for the books to start blending into one another, and it's also very easy to let side characters take over books. This is very natural for us as writers, particularly in a big epic fantasy, and I felt that when I approached The Stormlight Archive there are a couple of things I did. One is that I said "All right, I'm going to confine all my side characters to these things called interludes, where I can just go crazy and do whatever I want, but they have to be like, isolated in their own containment unit called the interludes to prevent me from turning from the books just going in all directions at once."

The other thing I said is, "Each book is going to be about an order of Knights Radiant, and it's going to have a flashback sequence directly tied to that order." So that when you say "All right, which book is book three," you're like, "Oh, that's Dalinar's book, that's the Bondsmith book." All of the characters are in all of the books, but each book has kind of its own soul and theme that helps me as a writer structure where I'm going to release information, and what it's going to be about. And so when I set down this, I said said "I'm going to pick 10 characters, 10 orders (and they are not always going to be exactly what you expect), but I'm going to build each book to have a theme based around those things."

The first five were Dalinar, Kaladin, Shallan, Eshonai and Szeth. So those are the five books you are going to get in the first arc. And the second arc is Lift, Renarin, Ash, Taln and Jasnah, right. Now, all the characters from the first five will be in all those books, and some of them will still be main characters. You can expect it, like it is one series. All the ones that survive *crowd groans* no spoilers. But you can expect in the back five, people that you are expecting that are main characters now will still be main characters, and you will have a lot of space dedicated to them still, but the flashback sequences, and the themes of the book, will focus on those five. And so it hopefully will help it all have a structure and a feeling. 

Between book 5 and book 6, in-world, there will be a time jump of about 10 years, so just be expecting that. But I can't say anything more without getting into spoilers, so I won't. But that's what you can expect.

Words of Radiance Portland signing ()
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Questioner (paraphrased)

Twelfth - is it challenging to write from the POV of a female character and why/why not.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Early on - yes it was, now less so. problem was: treated characters other than the main character as roles only, centered around main character. "writing characters without giving them their due". "You have to be able to write the other. Every character has to be a piece of you and a piece of not you." discusses Jasnah in particular. Point of literature is "to see what it’s like to be people who aren't us".

Google+ Hangout ()
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Gabriel Rumbaut

In a lot of your books the internal struggle is just as important as the external conflict. How do you keep that internal struggle from devolving into just, into whining essentially?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, no, that's a real danger. We call it "navel gazing" a lot in writing where if you delve too much into that, you just have scenes with characters sitting and pondering and nothing happens. I have to walk that line. In fact some of mine probably turns into navel-gazing because I probably err on that side a little too much. I would say that the way I try to work on this is to mirror internal conflict with external conflict, meaning what the character is working on inside is, is enhanced, is conflicted, is in some ways changed by what's happening externally which then allows some very powerful ways of showing them working through their problems in the real world, not just sitting and thinking about them.

That has worked with me so far, it is certainly a danger that I'm aware of and something that I think writers need to be aware of. At the same time, you know, what fiction can do is show internal conflict, emotions, thoughts, feelings in a way that other mediums can't. It's one of our specialties and I think that avoiding it completely is the wrong move because, yes, any time you delve into that you risk just getting boring, but when you don't delve into that you're basically just trying to imitate what a film can do, do everything external and a film can do that much better. I like taking what we can do as writers and really playing to our strengths and exploring what the medium is capable of and so that's why I do it.

Oathbringer Glasgow signing ()
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Questioner

Yes, or no. With all of the cosmere books that have been put out, do we have enough information to deduce the Ghostbloods' motives?

Brandon Sanderson

Ummm... *laugher* I would say yes, but it's not like you are a fool if you haven't gotten it.

Robert Jordan once answered a question like this saying, "Well, the answer should be intuitively obvious to the casual observer." Which I never thought was fair. Like, no, it was not. Szeth, some people guessed it. And some people will guess this. A lot of the foreshadowing in my books, it's this weird thing where, when you do proper foreshadowing, and then people have three years between books, they're gonna figure some things out. Which presents a really interesting challenge to me as a writer, because, like, there are big things that get revealed in Oathbringer, that people who have been steeped in the world for the last seven years... they kinda knew this would happen. We get the beta readers, and they're like, "So? Doesn't everyone know that?" But at the same time, the casual reader, beta readers were like "Holy cow! This is a huge revelation!" And books need to work both for the person who has been really steeped in it, and the person who's reading along that maybe doesn't want to go get all the spoilers from all the fan guessing. So it is this weird balancing act that, as a writer, you have to perform, particularly with the longer books in the longer series, where you want to make sure they're engaging to the hardcore fan, but not overwhelming to the person who maybe hasn't reread the books since the last one came out. And I don't know that I have that balance figured out, but it is something I think about a lot...

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Three

The Ball at the Canton of Resource

I didn't want this chapter to be a repeat of the previous ball scene, so I kept the nostalgia to a minimum and focused on the plan. I hope I've established why Vin and Elend are willing to take this risk—a mixture of Elend's desire to avoid attacking the city and the general recklessness being a Mistborn can foster in a person.

Either way, we avoid dancing and small talk in this chapter. I didn't want to write that, and I'm assuming that the reader doesn't care to read it. The tension of the infiltration is what matters now.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Reen

I hope I wasn't too obvious with my increased references to Reen in this chapter. A few of my alpha readers noticed it, but I think it's subtle enough that I decided to leave it. Obviously, I was trying to prepare the reader for the appearance of Reen later in the chapter by giving a few reminders of who he was and what he meant to Vin.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
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Questioner

Is the crem--is it natural--are the highstorms magically created and that's why--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah the crem is there to keep the continent from washing away. So I had to add a magical element that, if it were not in the cosmere with magic, this would not work.

Questioner

Is that why the Weepings don't have crem, is that's a natural storm?

Brandon Sanderson

That is because I didn't want there to be too much crem at that point. These are all story structure things, instead. World-wise, I would say a little more natural, sort of blow off steam, there.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Five

"Reen" is Ruin

Did you really think I'd bring Reen back?

Well, maybe you did. It's all right if you did; we in the fiction world have kind of acclimatized people to strange resurrections of long-dead characters. I'd guess it's due to one of two things. Either 1) The author is so attached to the fallen character that he/she wants to have them return or 2) The author wants to do something completely unexpected, so he/she returns to life a character the reader isn't expecting.

Unfortunately, both answers are based on emotions outside of what is commonly good for the actual plotting of the story. Do this enough, and readers are required to stretch their ability to suspend disbelief. This sort of practice is part of what earns genre fiction something of a bad reputation among the literary elite. (How can there be tension for a character if the reader knows that death doesn't mean anything?)

The trick with saying this is, of course, that I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I've got two books in the works where I'm planning deaths and resurrections—though, of course, I'm building in these elements as plot points of the setting and worldbuilding.

Beyond that, there are lots of instances where this sort of thing is appropriate in fiction, and where it works. After all, one of the reasons to write fantasy is so that you can deal with themes like this that wouldn't work in mainstream fiction. I just worry that we, as a genre, are too lazy with ideas like this. If we push this too far, we'll end up where the comic book world is—in a place where death is completely meaningless.

DragonCon 2019 ()
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Questioner

The concept of bridge warfare and the life of a bridgeman was one of the most horrific things I've ever heard of. Was that inspired by something specific or...? 

Brandon Sanderson

So, there's a couple of inspirations. One is some of the first-hand accounts of World War One I read, where tactics changed so dramatically that people were being thrown into battle not understanding that this was just terrible tactics, you know, charging machine guns, that's, turns out, bad idea in a lot of situations. And the other half of it is being inspired by actual siege warfare.

One of the things I like to do in my books is, I like to have fantastical versions of things that happen in our world, right? And this gives me a way I can look at history. I can read the accounts of, you know, what it's like to run a ladder, change it to suit my own desires and kind of have a bit more expertise where I can say, "In this situation, this is what they're doing." It allows people who know their medieval history to say, "Oh, that's cool," but also, at the same time, suspend their disbelief, right. Like, if you're a medieval historian and you're reading about actual siege warfare, I have to get it really right, or I'm gonna kick you out of the story. But if, instead, they're running bridges, it allows a lot of the mystique for medieval historians to say, "Oh, this is a different tactic, so we can't say one hundred percent what people would've done in that situation. I can enjoy the story too." And as long as I get enough right, that does that.

So you see me doing that sort of thing quite a bit. Otherwise, I do try to get the things that I do right--as right as I can--but I was just visiting some nice fellows who were showing me their sword fighting in Plate. And you'll see, Shardplate is another thing like this. Actual historical plate combat... I wanted to have Shardplate divorced from that a little bit for the same sort of reasons, right? Number one, it allows me to have the kind of epic fights the way I want to have them, it allows me to draw out the fights. And you'll notice if you watch a lot of historical people reenacting fights, the Shardplate fights will look a lot more like people sparring nowadays and not actually trying to kill each other. And that's intentional, because I can watch a lot of those online, right. I can go to conventions like this and see people doing that. You can't see first-hand two people in plate actually trying to kill each other. And if I can make the fight realistically have a good reason why it would feel like a bout, you know, with Shardplate and things like that, instead of what you'd try to do in a normal plate battle is shove a dagger under someone's armpit, right? Well, that doesn't work in Shardplate, so what do you want to do? You wanna hit them in the same place a couple times. Feels a lot more like a sparring duel in our world, and it just allows me to have this line between realism and theatricality that I really like, and allows people who know a little bit about it to be able to like, "Oh, that feels real, but I can also enjoy it." You see me doing that sort of thing a lot.

That's more than you asked, but that's occupational hazard, going on and on and on and on.

Brandon's Blog 2013 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

On my tour, I frequently read from the first chapter of a new novel in the Mistborn world, a sequel to The Alloy of Law. (In fact, you can watch my entire presentation right here. This reading comes at the 45:45 mark.) Tor, understandably, wanted to know when they could publish this book.

Well, it's far from finished, but I do need to be thinking about what comes next. I know that many of you hope that it would be the third Stormlight book, as there has been such a long delay between the first and second. I do promise I'll be more speedy with Stormlight novels in the future—this long delay should, hopefully, be the exception and not the rule. However, my process being what it is, I probably can't move straight into Stormlight Three.

I've spoken about this concept a lot, so I might be repeating myself for some of you. One of the things that excites me about being a writer is the constant energy that comes from switching projects. I'm not one of those writers who can pick a series and write on it exclusively for years and years. Though I will frequently have one main project, I do other things between those larger books. Usually, these other books are small, quick, and the means by which I refresh myself and keep myself from getting burned out on the large project.

While writing the original Mistborn series, I wrote books in the Alcatraz series. While working on The Wheel of Time, I wrote a number of novellas—and The Alloy of Law itself. Now that I'm turning my attention to the Stormlight books as my main project, I'm going to need some things to squeeze between books in order to refresh myself.

For now, that's going to be Alloy-era Mistborn novels. The second and third books in that series will include the same protagonists from the first, and will—if I'm doing it correctly—be exciting, fun, and deep, but not require you to keep track of a lot of characters or plots between novels. This way, I can balance the large, in-depth sequence of the Stormlight Archive with something lighter and more standalone in nature.

As many of you know, the Mistborn series was pitched to my editor way back when as a trilogy of trilogies, with an epic fantasy trilogy, followed by an urban fantasy trilogy with the same magic in the same world, followed finally by a science fiction trilogy in which the magic had become the means by which space travel was possible. The Alloy books aren't part of this original plan, but in them you will find foreshadowing toward the second trilogy.

In the teen book realm, I'll be bouncing between doing the The Rithmatist sequel and the sequels to Steelheart. I realize I have a lot on my plate, and I appreciate you putting up with me as I explore the stories I want to tell. My goal for the next five-year span is to finish up a number of these series, rather than starting anything new.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Shallan Rejected Again

I do wonder at reader reaction to these Shallan sequences. Some in the writing group found these scenes too long. They figured it was inevitable that Shallan would end up as Jasnah's ward, and so spending several chapters with Shallan working overtime to secure the position wasn't interesting to them.

I admit this is a potential problem with the sequence. However, I felt it important to show both Shallan's determination and Jasnah's character with these sequences. I needed to show Shallan working very hard for what she wanted. It also gave me several opportunities to show the contrasting timidity/insolence that makes up how I view Shallan as a character.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Yalb the Sailor

This chapter is Yalb's time to shine. One of the things I love about The Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan's use of side characters who sometimes pop in, steal the show, then vanish. I love how they show up now and then in the text.

I'm not sure I can do the same thing here. Robert Jordan had worldbuilding reasons why small characters would get tied to the main characters and keep appearing in their lives again and again. I don't have those reasons.

Still, writing Yalb, I wanted him to really pop off the page even though he's only in the book for a few pages in these early scenes. I intend for him to return. In another type of story, he'd be one of the main characters.

/r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
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gauzemajig

Do you think you'll ever go outside of the established raunchiness of your books? I don't mean a murder sex party, but you know, straying a bit into the dark and gritty. It's just my opinion but I feel like you play it a little safe. Not necessarily a bad thing though!

Brandon Sanderson

I don't think I've crossed the line where I'm personally comfortable doing, but I think I'm close. Usually, I give a few characters (like Wayne) the ability to go further than others, as an acknowledgement that there are good people out there who don't happen to have my same prudish nature.

I think the thing you'll see that is the closest is when (and if) I write the Threnody novel.

For everything else, you'll have to settle for knowing that one of my quirks as a writer is that I do indeed play it a little safe--and probably will always do so. I'm very aware that my children, nieces, and nephews read my books. Beyond that, I feel that I'm an intentional and specific contrast to other writers in the genre--I consider it my duty to prove that (like many of the classic movies) you can write something that is for adults, and has depth, without delving into grittiness.

This is not a disparagement of people like Joe Abercrombie, who I think is an excellent writer, or others like him--and I'm glad we have them in the field. However, my own path goes a different direction, and I think it's important that I also publish, proving to those who perhaps wish to be more circumspect in these areas that there is a place for them in the genre too.

Xluxaeternax

Does that mean that you recognize that the stories that take place on Threnody, a world of your creation, are stories that you are uncomfortable exploring because they are too harsh or intense? If that's the case I find that absolutely fascinating and very impressive- it's almost as if the cosmere is a real place with real people and you're just communicating their stories to us. I personally would rather you never told those stories instead of forcing them to be something that is untrue to what you created them to be.

Brandon Sanderson

A writer must be willing to do uncomfortable things; I fully believe that. Stories like Snapshot (my most recent novella) have done this before, and if I write the Threnody novel, I intend to do it well. (But also be very clear to audiences that it's darker than other cosmere books.)

It's not about intensity--I feel other books are intense. Or even about violence or darkness. It's about how far the narrative needs to delve into these things, or the relationship of light and hope to the darkness.

Dalinar's backstory in Stormlight is uncomfortably dark, and I won't pull punches from it. But it's balanced by the man he has become. In Threnody, some of the stories don't have that balance.

Stormlight Book Four Updates ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Hey, all. Brandon here, back for another update on your book.

January went well, and the outlining process is moving along. I've set the percentage bar perhaps a little higher than it deserves to be, considering that I plan to get the outline for Book Five done as well y the time that hits 100%, but I haven't started it yet. That said, I'm feeling very good at what I've accomplished so far. I've cracked a few tricky problems in the plotting, ones I anticipate being the toughest parts of the outline--which makes me optimistic that I'm further along than the wordcount might indicate.

I did have to stop to do a quick 3.0 revision on Starsight, the sequel to Skyward, which is coming out in November. That's finished as of around 1:00am this morning. I'll be diving back into Stormlight now, though I'm in LA this week doing pitch meetings for Dark One as a television show. (So far so good, but these are very preliminary-type meetings, so don't expect any big announcements anytime soon.)

Plan is to be finished with the outline of Book Four by March 1st. (Tentative title: The Rhythm of War, but I'm not 100% on that yet.) Then I'll dive into the book.

Writing a Stormlight book is not an easy or quick process. To finish on time, I'll need to do 40k words a month every month this year--which is a tall order. (My average is around 30k a month, though, so it's not impossible.) That would have the first draft done by January 1st, then give me six months of grueling revisions to finish the final draft by July, which would allow a Christmastime release. This isn't set in stone, though, and if I don't meet this schedule the book could slip into the beginning of 2021.

For now, I'm going to solicit a little help from you. While writing Stormlight 3, I built a specific playlist of some of my favorite epic-fantasy-feeling songs. I've posted it before, but if you missed that, find it here.

You can click on my profile to find the similar playlist I made for Skyward. I have been searching through other playlists people have made on Spotify with the right kind of music so I can build a similar playlist for Stormlight 4, but I thought I'd kick the question to you folks as well.

Do you have any suggestions? What songs in specific (songs are better than artists, as I try to keep my playlists varied with only a couple of songs from any one given artist) do you listen to while reading the Stormlight books? What songs would you suggest to me that I listen to while writing the book? (Other than the Kaladin album, of course.)

Generally, I prefer things that have an epic instrumental feel to them--though I don't mind words here and there. And I get tired of things that sound TOO trailer-esque. (Inception sound. Inception sound. Inception sound.

For reference, my favorite song on the Oathbringer playlist--and the one I play in my head at the climax--is Alive by Phil Lober. Anyway, please suggest things for me to put on my playlist. Songs that are on theme, or even songs you just think are epic for whatever reason. (Though do look through the other two playlists I've made first, to double check the song isn't on one of them. I probably won't put any repeats on this playlist.)

And as a final note, I won't be having replies from this thread sent to my inbox, and I don't know if I'll have time for many specific replies to questions. But I do plan a more involved AMA sometime in the near future, where I can answer questions. I will also hop back on the thread at some point and grab the suggested songs.

Anyway, I'll give you another update when the outline is finished. Until then, Journey before Destination.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nine

Kaladin in Bridge Four

This chapter is probably the most depressing thing I've ever written.

Writing a depressed character, someone in this bad a situation, is risky. It goes against almost every writing rule out there. A character like this can't be active, and there is basically no progress to the story. (I talked a little about this in the chapter 4 annotations for both The Way of Kings and The Hero of Ages.)

Sometimes I'll read the writing of new authors in my class who will try to use depression as a character flaw. They've heard instructors—perhaps myself—talk about how internal conflicts can create a really strong character. They also know that depression is something real and difficult to deal with in life, so they figure it will make a good demon for the main character to overcome.

The trap is that if the author is truly good at writing depression, then nothing actually happens in the story. It can be wonderfully authentic and at the same time wonderfully boring to read.

This chapter is kind of the culmination of me breaking rules in the beginning of The Way of Kings. I think this chapter makes the story incredibly more powerful—but the chapter itself is like a kick to the face to read. Slow, depressing. I assume this is probably the biggest place where—if people are going to stop reading—they put down the book and never pick it back up.

As I've said before, The Way of Kings is the book where I decided to break many rules to create something I felt was awesome. Great risk, and hopefully great reward.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
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Questioner

Can you talk a little about your editing process? After you get through the first draft-- You go through it, you look at the acknowledgements in a lot of your books, and other books, there's this huge team of people that have been pouring over this thing.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, so editing for me. Here's my drafting process. First draft I just write-- I write it straight through. I don't stop, I try not to let myself stop. If there is something major I need to change I just change it in the chapter and keep going forward. And then I can change it back later, like two chapters later if I think "No that was the wrong thing". So there will be a new character sometimes in my book that will just pop up for three chapters and everyone acts like they've always been there and then they vanish and no one talks about them not being there anymore. That's just so I can keep momentum and see what works. Draft number 2 I fix all of those things.  Draft number 3, polishing draft. Line by line trying to cut 10%, get rid of the passive voice, make descriptions more active, and make sure that I'm finding the right words and things like that. Really Draft 4 is where it turns into true drafting, and by that point I've given it to my editor and my alpha readers which are basically my assistants, my good friends, my wife, people like that. They read it, they come back with comments for me and I've been thinking about the book, working in my writing group with it and I make a goal-based document, where it's like "Here are the major issues. Here are the medium level issues.  Here are the little things I need to fix." And I start on page one, read through with this open on the screen next to the book when I'm working on it and I try to like-- It's almost like a bug report for programming, I'm trying to clear things off the list. Major things I have to re-write the whole way through so I can't clear them off until the end. Medium issues are things I can put in two or three times to fix through a couple of chapters where they are wrong and then clear it. Little things are just fix this one little thing and it's easy to clear off the list. I do that, I don't get to everything. I move around things on this list, like I maybe [???] I move it down the list.

Then I send the book out to beta readers, who are gathered by my assistant, he handles this, Peter Ahlstrom. Then they do a thing with us on a Google Doc, where it's chapter by chapter there is a document for each chapter and they all put their comments and interact with each other. It's like having a very large focus group, with like 15 people who are all reading the book at the same time and working on it. Once that is done and I've heard back from my editor on the new draft I will then make another draft.  I will do this as many times as necessary to make the book good. Last draft is proofreading and those people are also drawn from fandom, usually, my assistant picks them off forums and things like that and people we've used before. And they are just looking for-- At that point we can't change anything really bigger than a line or two. They are looking for continuity and things like that. But my process is that goal-based "I want to fix this let's see if I can do a draft where I fix this." And I'll do a couple more polishing drafts as I go along.