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State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Main Projects

Death (Without Pizza)

A major bombshell update here: we have finished a first draft of this book! I'm moving this up to major projects, as I anticipate a release of this novel in the coming two years. It is a Dresden Files-esque urban fantasy series set in London, starring a necromancer. (With a very Sanderson-style take on necromancy.)

Many of you have been following along with this project, which I've mentioned for many years in the State of the Sanderson posts. I wrote a rough draft of a big chunk of this book back some years ago now, but didn't like how it was going, so I shelved it. The idea stuck with me though—and I really wanted to give it another chance. Over the years, one part I didn't like was actually the pizza aspect. The original pitch was for a pizza delivery man who became a necromancer.

Well, over the years, I found I wanted a stronger character for the protagonist. Starting with the title Death by Pizza had pushed me to make the story more jokey than I wanted, and had led me to cut corners on the worldbuilding in ways I didn't like. So when I went back to the drawing board, I started going in different directions with the storytelling. A more intricate, interesting magic system. And a character with more heart. Where I eventually ended up going was studying metal music culture.

The subculture of heavy metal music is fascinating to me. I really like how passionate the fans are about it, and how often outsiders are wrong about those inside it. (Do a little reading on the topic, and you might find that a lot of your stereotypes of metal fans are wrong—like mine were. The more I read about and talked to metal fans, the more fascinated I became by the subculture.) It seemed to me that a metalhead who finds out he's a necromancer could be a cool hook.

Well, around the time I was really getting into this, I was chatting with Peter Orullian, a novelist who is a friend of mine. He's mostly known for his epic fantasy series The Vault of Heaven, but he also happens to be a metalhead and a musician. (He's toured internationally fronting metal bands, and recently composed an entire rock opera in the style of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He's even written a book with the band Dream Theater, in conjunction with one of their concept albums.)

Well, the match seemed perfect. He could bring the expertise on metal music, and I could provide the worldbuilding. So we jumped into a collaboration. I wrote out a lengthy world guide and outline, and Peter did a lot of experimenting to find the right voice for our character. We worked on the first volume all during the summer and fall, and the resulting book is quite promising. It's the story of an American metal singer living in London whose day goes from bad to worse as he gets kicked out of his band, then makes his way to his favorite pub to lick his wounds—only to end up getting shot in the head during an apparent robbery. And after that, things start to go really badly for him.

Peter finished the first draft in November, and I've been spending my December doing a second draft. After that, I'll kick it back to him for a third draft so that we can make sure our different voices are smoothed out. We'll see where it goes from there! In any case, though, Death Without Pizza will not be the final title for the story. We'll pick something a little less silly; I'm a little worried people will expect something over-the-top metal like Brütal Legend—which was great, but not the direction this story ended up going. Anyway, I'll post updates as we go along!

Status: Being revised. After that, we'll look for a publisher.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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simon_thekillerewok

Without a commitment, how many books long are you guessing the Death (Without Pizza) series will be?

Brandon Sanderson

3+ if it turns out well. Depends. Once the first book is done and looks good, that's when I look at the series and make some calls on how it feels like it will go.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

Where is the status, or will it ever happen on the pizza necromancer book?

Brandon Sanderson

...Death by Pizza's floating. Really I can only start new things if it's directly for my contract for Tor or for my contract [with Random House] until I clear off a few things, so I'm not letting myself do that one. I considered slotting it in when I did Skyward, but Skyward was the one I ended up doing. So, that one's, basically-- I'm not gonna do it until at least I get Rithmatist and Alcatraz done.

Questioner

Well, I'm excited. It sounds fun.

Brandon Sanderson

It is a load of fun.

Skyward Denver signing ()
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Questioner

The Necromancer's Pizza. How's that going?

Brandon Sanderson

It's going really well. Though the pizza part is getting written out a little bit, because he's turning more into a necromancer heavy metal singer. And the pizza was so much fun, but it's not working as well as I wanted it to, but the book is working really well. So I would expect that one to come out sooner rather than later. It's turned into a really cool thing with a lot of interesting aspects to it.

State of the Sanderson 2015 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Projects in Development

Death by Pizza

I had a nice breakthrough on this book recently, making the main character far more interesting. (For those who don't know, this is about a necromancer who owns a pizza joint.) However, this remains a very out-of-left-field project for me, and something I did mostly for fun. (I have a nearly complete draft of the entire book.)

I don't anticipate doing this anytime soon, though I did briefly consider it as an alternative to the new YA series listed above. It's still just too strange for me to want to do right now. Perhaps eventually.

Status: On Hiatus

Steelheart Seattle signing ()
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Questioner (paraphrased)

What was the inspiration for the necromancer pizza delivery story?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Death by Pizza. I came up with laws of necromancy that I thought would be super cool and I tried to find a book that would fit it. And, that book was fun, but bad. The rules were that necromancy is someone that has been killed and returned to life and each time they return they are more powerful. So a guy who has died five times and got more powerful throughout the course of a novel is a cool archetype that I thought would be a fun thing. So, it's like at the end of the novel, "I need more power, so do I die and get it? Or, not" and things like this. It was a cool concept and even with a mash-up with an urban fantasy world, the world was not built enough so that in the end it was like he was running around an empty city not one populated with as much mythology and wonder and storybook as I wanted an so I eventually said it isn't working and maybe I’ll pick it up again another time.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Questioner

I was intrigued ever since I saw your State of the Sanderson about Death Without Pizza.

Brandon Sanderson

It's good. I'm one chapter, or no I guess it's like three chapters. I'm one day's work away from finishing my revision, to then kick it back to Peter [Orullian]. I'm really, really excited how it's turning out. He knows his metal culture really well, and one of the tricks has been integrating that without making it feel jokey and things like that. I'm very pleased with how it's going.

Questioner

What kind of metal influences were you going for?

Brandon Sanderson

...Peter really likes the lyrical metal like that, like Dreamtheater. I don't know my subgenres very well, but Apocalyptica gets a mention, that's one I knew, Dragonforce gets a mention, I knew them. But I guess Dragonforce is the same subgenre. My job is worldbuilding and plot, and his job is character voice and making sure all of that works. I'm fascinated by it all.

Questioner

So is he more in the editing process, or is he an official co-writer?

Brandon Sanderson

He's a co-writer! I came up with the plot and the worldbuilding, I sent it to him, he wrote the whole first draft. Now I'm doing the next draft and then I'm kicking it back to him to do another pass and make sure the voice still matches, and then we'll take it out to publishers.

Questioner

What's the character's name?

Brandon Sanderson

The main character's name is Jack Solomon.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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jpmoney

A (tangential) Dream Theater mention in a SotS? I can only take so much. I'm really looking forward to the new pizza-less Death set.

Brandon Sanderson

The book is looking good, though it still has a lot of work left to do. Peter has really brought the right musician's touch to the story, though, and a powerful sense of authenticity.

OlanValesco

Question(s), if you will. What types of metal are you including (please don't say atium)? Is one of them djent? Are you only going to be doing big (older) bands (Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Megadeath, etc.)? Or are you going to be including newer bands? Niche bands? Metalheads love pretentious niche bands.

Are you aware of the role of post hardcore as a gateway into screaming music for many people? For example, look up the Spotify plays for bands like A Day To Remember, Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens, and Of Mice & Men. Another big player is nu metal like Linkin Park. Almost every metalhead in the 20-35 age bracket grew up listening to them.

Are you in tune with the fickleness of metal fans? How every time a band drops a new album, all the old fans line up around the block to hate on it. This is often because bands tend to soften their sound with each album (the word sellouts is not unheard in these contexts).

Are you going to include any references to popular metal YouTubers? I.e. Jared Dines (and his 18 string guitar), Kmac2021, Rob Scallon, etc.

Sorry for the barrage. Long time metal listener. Guess I'm just anxious so see it represented right!

Brandon Sanderson

I'm well aware that metal fans rather love their many distinct sub-genres. That's one of the main reasons I knew I needed to have someone working with me. I myself am very mainstream as a music fan. I love Metallica, but that's like telling people you love fantasy because you watched the LotR films. It's absolutely true, but doesn't exactly show off your breath of interest.

While I like a wide variety of musical styles, I wouldn't by any means call myself a metalhead--I just don't know the culture, as much as I like to read about it. But you can be assured that Peter knows his stuff. My job is worldbuilding and plot; his job is voice and authentic representation of the culture.

That said, I fully expect to get some pushback from fans because...well, you know. I'm sure we'll have plenty of metalheads in the beta reads, though.

State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

My Year

January-March: Skyward and Legion Revisions

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

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

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

April: Children of the Nameless

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

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

May: Skyward Final Draft

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

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

June–August: Starsight First Draft

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

September–October: Odds and Ends

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

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

November: Skyward Tour

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

December: Death Without Pizza

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

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

Firefight release party ()
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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.