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Firefight Houston signing ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

Of these books that you wrote in the past that you have not published, will any of them be available online?

Brandon Sanderson

Will any of the unpublished books be available? ...Most of them, no, they won't be available. They aren't very good. The first few, in fact, are really bad. Number six was Elantris, which after a lot of revision I eventually sold. Number seven was Dragonsteel, which was my honor's thesis at BYU and is Hoid's backstory. That is only available through inter-library loan because the book is bad, and I won't let anyone else have it, but BYU has a copy. They loan it to people. The one after that was called White Sand, which we're redoing as a graphic novel right now. If people really want to read the prose version of that, I send it to them if they write me an email and ask. Because it's not aggressively bad, it's just kind of weak, does that make sense? The big weakness of it is that it's too long for its story, and I found that, looking back through it, that I can trim it and turn it into a graphic novel that would be really solid. It's just that it's got too many pages for the story, and you have to trim a lot for a graphic novel anyway. So I think that one will work. A couple of the other ones got cut up and turned into other books, and number 13 was The Way of Kings, which I rewrote from scratch when I released it. It's a very different book now, but it was kinda the first draft of that.

Footnote: Brandon has since changed the method for obtaining the prose draft of White Sand. It is now automatically sent out to anyone who signs up for the newsletter on his website.
General Reddit 2017 ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I don't like emailing out this book [Dragonsteel Prime] because of things /u/JawKneePawLick talks about. All the good things in it have been done better in later books--there isn't a single character attribute or theme by this point that hasn't been repurposed better in Stormlight.

You can glean some little things about the cosmere, but not much. I didn't start canonizing real cosmere elements until Mistborn. The book just isn't great, and what it does contain in regards to the cosmere has either been changed or will be changed.

Manchester signing ()
#3 Copy

Questioner

I wanted to ask, at the beginning you mentioned that you had twelve books written before your first book was published, can you tell us, or are you allowed to tell us how many have actually been published?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I can actually go down the list for you. It is somewhat interesting, I think, for people. My very first book was a book called White Sand, and it was basically kind of a Dune rip-off. Your first book is always  a rip-off, right, of somebody, as a new writer? And that doesn't count the one in high school, which was a SUPER rip-off, like a major rip-off, it was basically a Tad Williams meets Dragonlance. Full blown with elves and things-- Yeah it was totally--

White Sand is the first one I finished, and I actually then went and wrote a science fiction book called Star's End.  And then I wrote the second half of White Sand, because I just stopped and said "This is long enough to be a novel" and then I wrote the rest of it and called that book two, that's actually the only sequel in there I wrote. And then I wrote a comedy, where a lot of the thesis of that comedy came out in Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians ten years later, so that one's kind of half been published. White Sand and Star's End are not any good, they have not been published. And then I wrote something called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was really weird and sci-fi-y and stuff, and that one hasn't been published because it's really bad too. And then book number six was Elantris which was pretty good. Book number 7 was Dragonsteel, which became my honor's thesis as an undergraduate and half of that book ended up in the contemporary Way of Kings, the Bridge Four sequence was all from Dragonsteel and I ripped that out when I re-did Way of Kings.

After that was a re-write of White Sand, with better writing nowadays, and that one we're turning into a graphic novel, that one's good enough to read-- The biggest problem it has is its a little too bloated.  The story-- It's like 300,000 words with 150,000 words of story. And so we are going to condense it-- into a graphic novel, so you will eventually see that one. The next one was called Aether of Night, that one didn't get published, it's really two decent books that don't work well together, like one half is a Shakespearean farce about a guy who takes his brother's place on the throne, they're twins, it's mistaken identify, yadda yadda; the other half is this dark brutal war book with an invasion going on, and the two halves never really translate well. People read this and they're like, that chapter is hilarious and fun, and OH MY GOODNESS, and yeah, so-- Maybe someday I'll do something with that.

After that I wrote a book named Mythwalker which became Warbreaker. I ripped out the good parts of that and wrote Warbreaker later on. Then I wrote a book called Final Empire, which is not Mistborn: The Final Empire, because then I wrote a book called Mistborn, and neither of those books were working very well. And then I wrote a book called Way of Kings and then I sold Elantris and I said "I want to take these two books that weren't working very well, and I think if I combine them--" because Mistborn had a cool magic system and the Final Empire had this whole thing about the Hero who failed and the Dark Lord took over and mixing these too ideas turned into a great book and that became Mistborn: The Final Empire.

And basically everything from then I've published, Warbreaker came next which was a re-write of Mythwalker. The Way of Kings, the one you hold, is a complete rebuild, I started from scratch, and added the Bridge Four sequence from Dragonsteel and some of these things... The only good one in there, that wasn't published, is White Sand I think, and I think it is going to make a really nice graphic novel because the story is really solid, the characters are really solid. I just wasn't a good enough writer to know how to condense where I needed to.

Rhythm of War Preview Q&As ()
#4 Copy

LewsTherinTelescope

Something I've been curious about: will Liar of Partinel be released as a Sanderson Curiosity eventually? I noticed that in the stream a while back where you listed your unpublished books, you didn't list it among them.

Also, you gave four approximate sort of "quality tiers", of

  1. Decent but not great: White Sand, Aether, WoKP, Dragonsteel Prime
  2. Readable but not good: Final Empire Prime, Mistborn Prime
  3. Bad but not horrible: Knight Life, Star's End, Sixth Incarnation of Pandora
  4. Just plain terrible: White Sand Prime/Lord Mastrell, Mythwalker

Which tier would Liar be in?

Brandon Sanderson

Liar would be #2, I'd think. Problem is, it's close enough to continuity (having been written after I'd outlined the cosmere) that I wouldn't want to actually release it until after I've done the actual Hoid backstory book. I've changed some dramatic things about how I want to present the story, so it would be bad to release this one.

We've reached a point where Dragonsteel, however, wouldn't be a spoiler. So I'm tempted to release that one in the next kickstarter. I've been kicking around the idea of an actual revision of White Sand, to make it publishable, and release that as an actual cannon novel. It's the only one that could happen to.

ItchyDoggg

Does this mean there is no chance of a cannon version of Aether of Night ever being published? I really enjoyed it and think a fully polished version would be fantastic.

Brandon Sanderson

It is unlikely, but not impossible. Aether could be made cannon with only slight changes--but it doesn't fit into the larger cosmere story any longer, so I don't know of how much interest it would be.

LewsTherinTelescope

To clarify, you're referring to the actual Aether of Night novel, not the future rewritten Aether books that you've mentioned before, right? Or are those not likely anymore either?

Since Aether of Night could be canon with slight changes, I assume the Aethers in the book will be mostly canon as they are, at least in your current outline?

If you were to revise Aether to be canon, would you be replacing Ruin and Preservation with two other Shards, or would you be more likely to just remove Ruin convincing the Twins to imprison Preservation?

Brandon Sanderson

Future Aether books are very likely. And the aethers themselves are going to be very like the ones in the book.

If I did try to make it cannon, I'd probably remove the whole Shard plot from the book and instead either use another Shard, or not add a new one, since the Aethers (as I have them now in the notes) function without a Shard's involvement, and even predate the shattering. (Note, that's not yet canon.)

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

Bridge Four

I've spoken before on my creative process. I build books out of good ideas, often developed in isolation until I find the right place for them. (Allomancy and Feruchemy were originally developed separately, for separate books.) When a book doesn't work, the ideas get broken apart and bounce around in my head some more until I find another place to try them out.

Bridge Four—and the plateau runs—were originally part of Dragonsteel. Dalinar was too, so that's not all that surprising, I guess. However, Bridge Four is unique here in that when I decided to move them from Dragonsteel to The Way of Kings, I had already completed both books and felt pretty good about them. They are both important sequences in the Adonalsium Saga, and lifting Bridge Four from Dragonsteel meant taking away its most dynamic, powerful plot structure.

That decision was not easy to make. The problem is, both books were fundamentally flawed. Oh, they were both good, they just weren't great—and I felt I needed to be doing great in this point of my career. (Hopefully during every point of it.) The Way of Kings had an awesome setting and some great characters, but no focal plot sequence that really punched someone in the gut. Dragonsteel had wonderful ideas, but they never really came together.

In the end, I took the best part of the book that otherwise didn't work and put it into the book that needed a little extra oomph. The moment of decision came when Ben McSweeney, who was doing concept art on the book, sent me a concept he'd done that looked shockingly like the Shattered Plains. (Which, remember, were not even on that planet at that point.) I realized that they would fit the worldbuilding of The Way of Kings better than they ever did Dragonsteel, and that I could put greatshell monsters in them.

So, I ripped apart a book I love to make a (hopefully) better book. Rock came along to Roshar for the ride (he was an original member of Bridge Four in Dragonsteel). I added Teft, who had been left languishing for a decade or so after Mythwalker became Warbreaker and he didn't make the jump. Bridge Four seemed like a great home for him.

[Assistant Peter's note: Teft is mostly the same character as Hine from Mythwalker, but also has a character aspect from Voko in that book.]

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#6 Copy

ccstat

There IS historical precedent of accidentally setting off fission reactions in the cosmere using the magic

Now this is a story I look forward to hearing :-)

Brandon Sanderson

One of the first magic systems I designed for the cosmere was based on the manipulation of sub-atomic particles, and involved the ability to look directly at atoms and interact with them. I decided to back off on this, as it was a whopper of a magic system to get right with my limited (at the time) writing experience. It was fun, though, and is still a canonical Cosmere magic.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

At what point did you go, "Elantris was good, Mistborn was good, now let's do 40 more books"?

Brandon Sanderson

So, a brief, brief history (writer's side, not the in-world side) of the Cosmere is this. So, Elantris was written without the cosmere in mind. This was-- Elantris was the first, kind of, book in my--

So, the way my history works, I was told early on that your first five books are generally terrible. And this was actually really relieving to me, because I'm like "Oh, I don't have to be good until book six." So I wrote five books as, just, lots of experimenting. Lots of different types of stories. And I didn't really even try, I sent one or two of them out, but I didn't really aggressively try to publish them. They were White Sand--not White Sand that you can get from my newsletter signup, an earlier version--which is my first book. And then Star's End, which was a little science fiction book, and then a sequel to White Sand, and something called Knight Life, which was a comedy. Yes. But bits of that got repurposed into Alcatraz. And then The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was a weird cyberpunk, far-future thing. And I got done with all of those, and I'm like, "All right. I kind of know what I want to do. I thought it was epic fantasy. I now know it's epic fantasy." And then I wrote Elantris. My next books were Elantris, a rewrite of White Sand, and Dragonsteel. And this was kind of me exploring "What do I want to do? How do I want to-- What is my-- What do I want to add to this genre?"

But the idea of the interconnected universe grew out of doing these things, writing these books. I started planning The Way of Kings then, I started planning the book that became Warbreaker then. It was called Mythwalker at the time. And I wrote a book called The Final Empire and a another one called Mistborn, which are neither of the ones that you guys actually have read. What eventually happened, is when I sold Elantris, this whole thing of the cosmere had really come together, this is what I wanted to do, I was really excited by it.

And so, the first book that I wrote knowing about the cosmere was Mistborn. And Elantris got retrofitted into this as I was writing the Mistborn trilogy. And it was while I was working on the Mistborn trilogy that I made the nine book arc that is kind of the core, though-line of the Cosmere, the past/present/future Mistborn. I called my editor in... 2005 with a really big, exciting, sort of huge outline for 40 books (it was 32 back then), I'm like, "It's gonna be this, it's gonna be this, it connects here, and all this stuff--" That's when it all kind of happened, and I built that all out. It was the process of working on the Mistborn original trilogy and building out the nine book arc for those that really solidified a lot of these ideas. By then, I had written Dragonsteel, so I knew--- Dragonsteel was book number seven, so I knew about Adonalsium and all of this stuff, but it was really kind of in Mistborn where I decided how I was gonna incorporate all of that. And even then, even in Mistborn, there are still things that I was still putting together.

So, yeah. There's a brief history of it. By the time I had those three books done, 'cause I wrote them in a row, I was pretty solid on how all of this was gonna come together.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever take inspiration for your characters from people you know in real life?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I do. Usually, it's one small thing about a person that I know. Sarene from Elantris is based on a friend of mine named Annie. And many of my characters have some little attribute... I was just talking online with <?>, who is a guy that I know from Mongolia. I'm LDS, and I served a mission, and he was one of the other missionaries. And he threw shoes at people. This was his deal. Like, when he got mad at you, off came the big old Doc Marten and he threw it at you! So, in Dragonsteel, one of my books that's unpublished but we'll publish someday, there is an entire race that that's what they do when they're offended. The shoes come off. And Hoid once described it as, "When a bunch of them when they get angry, it's like a tornado hitting a cobbler shop." And shoes go everywhere.

So, definitely, they do.

Starsight Release Party ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Has Hoid ever died before?

Brandon Sanderson

Define died. He has had his head chopped off. It just, like, didn't work.

Questioner

Didn't work?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. He actually ends the book Dragonsteel - that's unpublished - being beheaded. That event happened, although that book didn't happen as the book was written.

Sofia signing ()
#10 Copy

Questioner

My question is about Yolen. If, or when, you chose to write Hoid's origin story, do you plan to keep the same plots in Yolen? Where the moss is taking over the planet?

Brandon Sanderson

So I need to give you some back history to this one... My epic fantasy books, this is all of them but not Steelheart and not The Rithmatist, so the epic fantasy, are all connected, if you weren't aware. They all have little ties between characters, and there's a character named Hoid who's shown up in all of the books basically; he's the same person. When I was earlier in my career, before I published, I tried writing his origin story and I failed. The book wasn't very good, and I tried it again later, after I was published, and I failed again. It still wasn't very good. And this still happens to me. Sometimes I try things out and they just don't work. So the question am I going to try it; when I go back to it will it be the same story? The core part of it will be the same. There are certain events that Hoid has talked about in the books that are published that I will make sure are still relevant, but the story continues to evolve in my head. So I will have to decide eventually what things I want to do and what I don't. I think it will change from what I originally planned, but the soul should be the same. The core should still be the same. It will be very different from Dragonsteel, though, which was the one I wrote in 1998, because that had Bridge Four in it, and I moved them to The Stormlight Archive. So most of that book is gone, and it ended up in The Stormlight Archive, so who knows what will go-- It'll be very different from that.

General Reddit 2015 ()
#11 Copy

Paradox2063

Soooo, hope you don't mind, but not long ago I finished reading The Aether of Night and the White Sand ... books.

And I've seen that Dragonsteel exists, but there are only 5 copies and they're all in the Harold B Lee Library at Brigham Young University.

Is it possible to get a copy to read the same way we can get the first two I mentioned?

Sorry to bother you. Can't wait til January though.

Brandon Sanderson

I don't send it out yet. Maybe once I've gotten far enough in the cosmere that certain things in it are not spoilers. But the book, now that Bridge Four is gone (they used to be in that one) really doesn't have much to recommend it, unlike the others.

Maybe I'll change my mind some day. For now, I don't send it out. (Sorry.)

YouTube Livestream 24 ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The initial premise of Dragonsteel, which you guys will eventually be able to read, is: the King has a bet on whether people from a rural village can be trained to be as smart as people from the noble court. And this is part of the bet. And that’s kind of the initial place that this starts and goes.

Hoid shows up pretty overtly; he’s got viewpoints in this book. He is not hidden at all; you will see him when he comes on screen, and you will know him. I think he goes by “Cephandrius” in this one.

You will be able to read that, eventually. Like I said, it’s not bad. It’ll be easier for you to compare when you get to the Bridge Four sequence, which was originally in Dragonsteel, and compare it to the new Bridge Four sequence from Way of Kings and see how the new Bridge Four sequence is so much more strong.

It is no longer Cosmere canon. Nothing in it really spoils too much. It spoils some of the magic system that’ll eventually be part of Dragonsteel, and some of those things. But when I go back to this planet, it’ll be Hoid’s viewpoint. Jerick has basically been written out of the Cosmere; I don’t know that I will ever do a book about him. It’s possible, but there’s so much overlap between his story and Kaladin’s story, now, that I don’t know if I could do it and make it interesting and distinctive. One young and somewhat brooding man raised to be a scholar from a no-name village is probably enough for the Cosmere. Even though there are distinctive different parts, since Kaladin’s father was educated.

Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Folks,

This essay I just posted:

http://www.brandonsanderson.com/article/55/EUOLogy-My-History-as-a-Writer

Started as a blog post for this thread, talking about the old books I wrote to give context to my previous post. It outgrew the length of a proper forum post, so I put it on the site instead. But this might help you understand some of my history as a writer, not to mention explain the origin of all these old books Ookla that references all the time.

Lightning Eater

I remembered a thread from ages ago in which Brandon posted a list of the books he'd written, I looked it up when I realised it wasn't in the article, and I figured you guys might be interested too, so here it is.

1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)

2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)

6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)

7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy)

8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)

9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)

10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)

11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)

12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)

13) The Way of Kings(Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)

16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)

17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages(Unfinished. Coming late 2007)

18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)

19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks for posting that. Note that I can never quite remember which was first, Aether or Mistborn Prime. I always feel that Aethershould be first, since it wasn't as bad as the two primes, but thinking back I think that the essay is more accurate and I wrote it between them.

This would be the new list:

1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)

2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)

6) Elantris (First Published)

7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic, other than the not-very-good Final Empireprime.)

8 ) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt, turned out much better.)

9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)

10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)

11) Mistborn Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)

12) Final Empire Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)

13) The Way of Kings Prime (Fantasy War epic.)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Came out 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Came out 2007)

16) Alcatraz Verus the Evil Librarians (Came out 2007)

17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages(Came out 2008)

18) Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Came out 2008)

19) Warbreaker (Comes out June 2009)

20) Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia(November 2009ish)

21) A Memory of Light(November 2009ish. Working on it now. Might be split into two.)

22) The Way of Kings Book One (2010ish. Not started yet.)

23) Alcatraz Four (2010. Not started yet)

Peter Ahlstrom

Will elements of your untitled Aether project be worked into the Dragonsteel series?

The Silence Divine(Working title. Stand alone Epic Fantasy. Unwritten.), Steelheart (YA Science Fiction. Unwritten), I Hate Dragons (Middle Grade fantasy. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.), Zek Harbringer, Destroyer of Worlds (Middle Grade Sf. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)

These titles are news to me. You described two potential YA or middle-grade books to me and Karen when you came out to Book Expo, plus Dark One, but now I can't remember the plots except they were cool (and that one of them involved superheroes). Are they among this list? Also, is that really Harbringer or is it supposed to be Harbinger?

Brandon Sanderson

Bah! That's what I get for typing so quickly. Yes, Harbinger. It should be "Zeek" too. Short for Ezekiel.

Steelheart would be the superhero one, though that's a working title, since I'm not sure if it's trademarked or not. Haven't had much time for thinking about any of these books lately.

Peter Ahlstrom

Brandon, here you said Alcatraz 4 is called Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent; is that still the working title? Also, you mentioned Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens, but now you say The Liar of Partinel is a standalone. Change of plans? (I know you can't get back to Dragonsteel for a while.)

Brandon Sanderson

The Alcatraz titles are in flux because I need to know if Scholastic wants the fifth one or not. (They only bought four.) Dark Talent will be one of them for certain.

The Liar of Partinel was part of a two-part story told hundreds of years before the Dragonsteel epic. However, since I've dropped plans to go with Liar anytime soon—A Memory of Light has priority, followed by Way of Kings—I don't know what I'll end up doing with the second book, or if I'll ever even write it. I was planning on not calling either of these "Dragonsteel" in print, actually, and just letting people connect the two series on their own. It wouldn't be hard to do, but I didn't want the first actual book in the main storyline to be launched by Tor as "Book Three" since there would be such a large gap of time.

YouTube Livestream 24 ()
#14 (not searchable) Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Dragonsteel: Chapter One

The lumberman’s son was born into a world of magic. Perhaps others would not have thought so, but to a young boy full of curiosity and wonder, the forest was a place of enchantment.

Jerick saw magic in the growth of the great pines, seeds barely as large as a pebble eventually becoming monoliths, with trunks so wide that when he hugged them, pressing his check against the rough bark and stretching his arms to their fullest, his fingertips still didn’t touch at the back.

He heard magic in the wind, which blew whispers through the branches, dropping cones and needles to the ground like a rattling waterfall.

He tasted magic in the fruits of the wilderness, berries both sour and sweet, musty pine scents that tickled the back of his nose.

He felt magic in the forest’s life. A group in which the lumberman’s son included himself. Like the branch rat, the wolf, the rabbit, and the deer, Jerick was a creature of the woods.

His first steps had been taken on a floor of pine needles. His home, a simple hut constructed from those same trees that surrounded it. The lumberman’s son knew other, less fortunate children who lived in a village a short distance down the river, a place where the mountainside tapered and the trees fell away into a broad plain. Here, people lived cramped together, their houses huddled like frightened rodents or birds too young to leave the nest. Other lumbermen lived in this village, taking carts or boats each day to the lumbering camps.

Jerick could not understand these men. They worked with the forest, yet it did not intoxicate them like it should. He did not know how they could leave the beautiful woods each day, instead choosing to live in a place so crowded and suffocating.

Jerick had friends in the village. They didn’t see things the same way he did. When he showed <Cenn> and the others a tree older and stronger than the rest, they would shake their heads, not understanding its strength. When he found a large fish swimming in the river’s sheltered shallows, its bulbous, unblinking eyes regarding him with an unasked question, the other boys would only try to catch it. When Jerick wondered how the clouds could move in the air when there seemed to be no wind, the others would ask him why he cared.

So, though trips to the village were exciting, Jerick was always glad to return home. Home to his mother, who would be finishing the day’s washing. Home to his forest on the mountainside, where he could listen to the pines rustling, <fallow owls> calling, and twigs crackling, as opposed to the silence caused by men yelling to one another.

He loved to accompany his father into the woods. The lumberman was so tall and broad-chested, he seemed almost to be one of the trees. <Ryn’s> arms were thick and rough with hair, his tough axe-calloused fingers like ancient roots, his beard like a thick gathering of pine needles that poked and scratched Jerick’s skin when they hugged. His father had deep, understanding brown eyes and wide lips that were usually parted in a contented smile.

As far as Jerick could tell, his father was the only person alive who understood the forest better than Jerick himself. <Ryn> could tell the strength and quality of a tree’s wood simply by rubbing his fingers across the bark. He could see birds nesting high in branches that Jerick had assumed were only shadows. And he could always find sweetberry bushes to sate a growing boy’s appetite.

More importantly, the forest seemed to accept his father. Jerick soon came to understand that this was because his father respected the woods. “Look at the trees around you, my son.”

(By the way, I’m not gonna do the dialect. I had dialect in Dragonsteel. People from the rural areas don’t say the word “the,” they just say “ta.” So, “Look at ta trees” is what they would say. But I’m not gonna do the dialect.”

… his father would instruct as they walked together. “Man can be born, grown, and die in the time it takes one of them to get so high. They’ve seen the likes of us come and go.” That would be all he said for a while. <Ryn> didn’t speak much, not like the other lumbermen, who always seemed to have something to say and not enough people to say it to.

<Ryn> was a King’s Man and cut lumber for the king’s shipping. Like the other lumbermen, <Ryn> used a shiny bronze axe to do his work. The most important possession he owned; bronze was rare. The only other piece of metal Jerick’s family owned was his mother’s bronze cooking knife. Jerick had heard men in the villages speaking of a new, stronger metal that had been discovered recently in the south, something called mountainsteel. They said its name came because it was the same color as mythical Dragonsteel. But to Jerick, it was all the same. He had never seen either one; bronze was good enough for lumbermen.

As soon as he was able, Jerick followed his father to the lumbering camp. After a few weeks, the burly men welcomed his presence, and he was allowed free rein of the camp, where he watched, thinking of questions to ask his father as they travelled home. He wanted to know what made the men’s arms so big. Why the trees fell the way they did. And what the lumbermen did with all the branches they cut off the trunks. He wanted to know why the King needed so much wood. And how long it took to float all the way down the <Trerod> river to the palace.

Some of the questions, his father could answer; others, he could not. Some things, Jerick simply noticed and asked no questions. Most of these had to do with his father. For instance, after felling a tree, his father would dig two holes and drop pine seed into each one. The others did not. Every day when the work was done, his father would start a small fire of green pine needles sprinkled with pungent witherdust and let it burn among the trees slated for the next day’s lumbering. The smoke would trigger a reaction in the pine larks and <cheps>, and they would fly or scamper away, taking their young with them. The other lumbermen would scoff at his father’s precautions. But Jerick watched with pride. Actions like these, and dozens like them, were where the lumberman’s son learned the most important lesson his father ever taught him: all life was precious.

Such was Jerick’s life up until his eleventh year. He wandered the forest, helped his mother with cleaning and baking, ran chores in the lumbering camp. To him, there could be little else to life; he was content, and he wanted nothing else.

His father, however, had other plans.

 (I consciously did a bit more of a storyteller’s style for this. You can see; that first section’s basically omniscient. This was always kind of meant to be a story that Hoid was kind of telling after the fact. You can kind of see hints of that in some of these sections. Other sections go more into the third limited. But you can imagine that sequence that I just read you all being said by Hoid to people who want to know about what happened and how everything came to be.)

“Jerick, son, go fetch your mother some water.”

“Yes, Father.” It was dark outside, and his mother had little need of fresh water, but Jerick complied quickly. His father made few demands; when he did, the lumberman’s son did not question. He did, however, run quickly, so he could return to listen outside the door.

“The boy notices things, <Martle>,” his father was saying. “He’s quick of mind. The other day, <Javick> and Henry hadn’t been watching the angle properly as they cut. That tree would’ve fallen the wrong way and could have killed a man. Jerick saw the error in an instant. He pointed it out to them. A boy barely two hands old speaking lumberin’ to a pair of men who’d been cuttin’ trees their entire lives. He has more questions than I can answer; though sometimes he answers them on his own.”

“And what would you be havin’ us do about it?” his mother asked. Jerick could imagine the slight frown on her face as she asked the question, her broad frame seated on the floor beside <Ryn>. His mother was practical in all respects, evaluating everything on its ability to be used. When Jerick asked her a question, the answer always came in the form of another question, usually asking him what he would do with the answer if he had it.

“There’s that new school in the village,” his father explained. “They say the king himself ordered it built.”

“I’ve heard of it,” his mother said hesitantly. His mother disapproved of anything that broke with tradition.

“I’d take the boy to it once a week. He’d be able to learn.”

“What could he learn that would do him any good to lumberin’?” his mother asked.

“Probably nothin’ at all,” his father admitted.

“’Tis an unnatural thing, <Ryn>. It won’t last long; the people won’t put up with it. Schools are for nobbles and kings.” (I used “nobbles” instead of “nobles.” We had a nice little vowel shift in this.) “Not for lumbermen.”

“I know, <Martle>. There was silence for a moment.

“Well, then,” his mother said, “as long as you understand that, I doubt there’s any harm in it. Just be sure not to let the boy get a wrong thinkin’ about it. Learning could spoil him.”

“I doubt anything could be spoilin’ Jerick,” his father replied.

And so, the lumberman’s son went to school.

The scholar was the most fabulous creature Jerick had ever seen. (No, that’s not Hoid.) His robes were made of cloth, not furs or skins, and they were a red as deep as the colors of the setting sun. More amazing, his hair was a pale yellow, like the mane of a light-colored horse, rather than deep black like everyone else. His beard was not bushy and wide like that of Jerick’s father, but it was straight and stiff, about a handspan long, and only came out of his chin. It was pulled tight and wrapped with thin strings, making it ribbed, like a bale of hay. The beard almost resembled a slice of bread, with the short end glued to the bottom of the man’s face, and made his chin seem like it was a foot long. His head was covered with a tight cowl that stretched across his forehead and hung loosely against the back of his neck. And his eyes were dissatisfied as he stepped from the chariot, a wonder in itself, and regarded the village.

Jaw moved slightly, and his face pulled tight, as if he had suddenly tasted an extremely rotten, bitter fruit. Around his neck, Jerick could make out a gleaming castemark; the mark of a man’s rank in life. It was made of gold, rather than the plain wood of those like the lumbermen.

“Bow, lad,” his father ordered. Jerick complied, joining the rest of the village in bowing for the strange man.

“Why do we bow, Father?” he mumbled as he lowered his head.

“Because the man’s of nobble blood, boy,” <Ryn> explained.

(I’m not gonna do all the accents, but he says “formers” instead of “farmers.” Sound change. The whole idea is that the nobility accent is shifting away from the way that the accents of the lowborn are, which is kind of this fun thing that happens in linguistics. And this is one of the things that causes vowel shifts, where you’ll often see different vowels getting replaced over time. I find that sort of thing very fun. I’m probably not going to read that to you. But you can see it when you read the book.)

“Lumbermen and farmers must bow before anyone higher than them, whether it be a merchant, a noble, or even crafters.”

The idea seemed wrong to Jerick, but he said no more. People were beginning to raise their heads, and, for the moment, he was more interested in viewing the odd, brightly-clothed scholar than he was in asking about the nature of the caste system.

“Classes will begin at noon,” the man declared in a high-pitched voice. The words sounded odd, as if the man couldn’t form them properly. They were sharp and separated; not smooth and comfortable, like what Jerick was accustomed to hearing.

“What’s wrong with his speakin’?” Jerick asked, furrowing his brow in confusion.

“That’s how nobbles are speakin’, boy,” his father explained. “They’re not the same as lumbermen. They think differently. They have learning. You’ll get used to it. Now go play ‘til noon; since we’ve come to town, might as well see about gettin’ my axe sharpened.”

Jerick nodded, his eyes seeking out <Cenn> and <Yon>, two of the boys that he usually played with. However, as his father walked off toward the smith’s, Jerick turned away from the boys. He was still more interested in the scholar than anything else.

The man was speaking softly to <Millen>, head of his father’s lumbering camp. <Millen> was a short man with graying hair. His head bowed practically to waist level, and he was bobbing subseqiously. Jerick had never seen such behavior from the foreman before. Eventually, <Millen> gestured for the scholar to follow him. The man nodded to his several companions: two packmen and younger woman that Jerick hadn’t noticed before. She must have also been a noble, for her hair was light and luxuriously long, not cropped short at the shoulders or pulled up in a bun. The scholar reached up his hand to help the woman from the bronze chariot. She looked distastefully at the ground, though Jerick couldn’t understand what she found wrong with it. It was, after all, just ordinary mud.

<Millen> led the four to a house at the center of the village. Jerick had noticed the building earlier; it had been a storehouse, but that had been emptied and its walls washed unnaturally clean by the efforts of a dozen workmen. He’d wondered what it would be used for. Not the school; a building on the other side of town had been prepared for that. It couldn’t possibly be a place for the scholar to live; it was far too large for that. What would one man, even four, do with so much space? It was so silly an idea that Jerick only gave it a passing thought.

As the five people disappeared into the building, Jerick made a decision. He ignored the calls of the other boys, waving for them to go on without him, and wandered over to the structure, looking as if he were interested in the pile of stones beside the front path. His interest soon changed to a small beetle, a large leaf, and several other objects that progressively brought him closer to the building, until he was standing just beneath the window, admiring a snail as it climbed up the whitewashed wooden wall.

Though his eyes followed the snail, his ears stretched to catch more of the noble’s strange words. He jumped in surprise as the door opened and <Millen> and the two packmen left. Determined not to run away, Jerick focused his eyes on the snail and tried to look engrossed. The men paid Jerick no heed, and he congratulated himself on his strong nerves, then thanked the snail for remaining so calm, as well. The small creature continued to slide along, completely oblivious to Jerick or its own part in the subterfuge.

Calming himself with a few breaths, Jerick concentrated again. His efforts were rewarded, and soon he could make out the whiny, snappish voice of the scholar speaking within. “I spend an entire year training in <Trexados>, the grandest center for learning on the continent, and my reward? Forced exile to an insignificant mud pit on the far side of the kingdom.” His strangely accented words sounded less authoritative than they had before. It almost resembled the voices of the younger boys who pled to be allowed to play with Jerick’s friends.

“Calm yourself, brother,” a second, feminine voice soothed.

“I cannot and I will not calm myself, <Willan>,” the scholar snapped. “You cannot feel what an outrageous appointment it is. Tomorrow, that chariot will carry you back to <Emory>, leaving me to be forgotten. He must hate me.”

“Perhaps he simply wants someone to teach the people here.”

The scholar snorted loudly. “Teach lumbermen and farmers? <Willan>, be rational. What purpose could that serve?”

“I do not know,” the woman confessed. “It seems ridiculous. But he did appear sincere when he gave you the instructions.”

“It must be a move by House <Strathan> to discredit us,” the scholar declared as if he hadn’t heard his sister’s comment.

“Discredit us?” The woman’s voice was now amused. “Brother, no matter how much your trip to <Trexados> inflated your pride, you can’t possibly have deluded yourself into thinking you’re important enough for house politics. You’re the fourth son of a second son. Be glad the family didn’t decide to send you off to the Eternal War and be rid of you.” (That’s where the Shattered Plains are in this book.)

There was no reply to that comment, but Jerick could feel the dissatisfaction seething through the wall.

“So, what will you teach them?” the woman eventually asked.

“As little as possible. The philosophy of the Three Realms of existence is far beyond them. Perhaps I’ll teach them some tricks of mathematics or history, things that might actually be practical in a place like this.”

“Reading?”

“By the Lords, no!” the scholar replied. “You know what damage that could do?”

“The king implied that’s why he was sending you,” the woman noted. “How will you get around it?”

“Reading requires materials, <Willan>,” the scholar said with a self-satisfied tone. “Look around this town. I doubt you will find a single scroll of text.”

Jerick waited patiently for the conversation to continue, but either the two had decided not to speak further, or they had moved to another part of the building. Sighing, Jerick realized how little of the conversation he’d understood. None of it made sense to him.

One thing was clear; the scholar had spoken to the king himself. And that made him an important man, indeed. Jerick had heard stories of the king and knew from them that only important people ever spoke to the man directly.

Reaching up, he allowed the snail to slide onto his hand, then rose from a squat to walk away from the building. He placed the snail on a shrub he often saw them eating, then wandered off in the direction the other boys had gone.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

Is Hoid a dragon?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh I will give you a RAFO card. You're very good, Have you read Dragonsteel?

Questioner

I have not but--

Brandon Sanderson

Don't read it, it's bad.

Questioner

Okay then. I am just-- What? Okay then. That's awesome. We have some ideas but-- Hoid is amazing. I figured he was really old but it's cool knowing for sure that he's exceptionally old.

Brandon Sanderson

He is one of the oldest people in the cosmere, but he is not the oldest.

Questioner

Ahhh...

Brandon Sanderson

The person he is writing a letter to is indeed older than he is.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

I admire your imagination and I wanted to know when you first thought about your first book. I meant what is the earliest book you thought of and what age?

Brandon Sanderson

I was fifteen or sixteen, and it was Dalinar, the character. So he eventually became Stormlight Archive, although back then it was a book called Dragonsteel.

Questioner

Was it similar?

Brandon Sanderson

No, just vaguely similar. It was about a man who was the brother of the king who had to take over when the king was assassinated, so that part is the same. But the personality changed a lot over the twenty years before thinking that and writing it.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

Based off of your previous question, the first Kaladin became Adolin?

Brandon Sanderson

Adolin was actually in that book, and so the first Kaladin wasn't even-- didn't even become Adolin, like the first Kaladin was like-- you've read this book before probably. The young peasant boy trains to be a knight, that sort of thing and was just too familiar, it was too-- I was playing the tropes and hitting the nails on the head, but in a way that was not interesting. Adolin and Renarinare both in that book basically as the people that they ended up being. Shallan and Kaladin are the people that I basically pulled out and replaced with new characters, because neither of them were working. I'll someday release that book and you can read it and be horrified about this book where really, really different things happen, and the characters half feel like themselves and half don't. Bridge Four isn't in that version of the book, Bridge Four is actually in Dragonsteel. Which is another book I wrote, which is where Dalinar started too. I wrote 13 books before I sold one. Dragonsteel was number 7 or 8. Half the ideas for the version of The Way of Kings you read came from that and half the ideas came from the original Stormlight Archive.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

World Map

The world map for Roshar changed dramatically between various iterations of the book.

Work on this novel started when I was fifteen. Back then, most of the plots and characters were combined with another world of mine, called Yolen. (That's where the book Dragonsteel takes place.) Somewhere in my early 20s, after I had a whole lot more experience and knew (kind of) what I was doing, I realized that the plots I had going in this world didn't click well together, so I divided the books into two separate series.

I wrote Dragonsteel first, back in 1999 or 2000. (Although Dragonsteel was the third book I wrote in the cosmere—after White Sand and Elantris—it was meant to be the chronological origin of the sequence. Hoid was one of the main characters of that series. The first book even includes significant viewpoints from him.)

I started outlining The Way of Kings fairly soon after. That original map I imagined as a continent with three prongs facing downward, with a connection at the top. There was the Alethi prong in the center, Shinovar to the west, and a long prong with Natanatan on the east.

Over the years, my worldbuilding skills grew. And part of that growth was realizing that the map I'd designed didn't work well for the story I wanted to tell. I wanted something better, and I changed designs.

I gave Isaac the outline of this world that became Roshar. (Based on an iteration of a Julia set, though for a while I played around with making the whole continent a cymatic shape.) That didn't happen for Mistborn, where I basically just told him, "Make the world map as you wish, with these guidelines." Mistborn, I knew, was going to happen basically in a couple of cities.

The Way of Kings was going to be huge, and I wanted scope for the project. That meant a big, epic map. I'm very pleased with Isaac's work here. Do note that this is a southern hemisphere continent, with the equator up north.

YouTube Livestream 16 ()
#19 Copy

Jake

Do you see yourself ever releasing any more Sanderson Curiosities? And if so, when?

Brandon Sanderson

Response to Way of Kings Prime was strong enough that I would at least like to release, in hardcover form, the good ones. The good books from the Sandersons Curiosities are: White Sand, Aether of Night, and Dragonsteel. They are all of an equivalent quality, I would say; as in being slightly worse than Elantris. Maybe significantly worse, but has similar problems. They're all good enough books that I don't think you waste your time reading them. They are just not good enough books that I would want to mass release them. They are, I think, great books to read as somebody who is like, "This is one of Brandon's early books that could have gotten published, good enough to get published, but didn't quite make it there." And I think people can have a lot of fun with those.

So I would imagine that we do one of these per Stormlight Kickstarter. Because we will probably continue to do... the Stormlight Archive books are just a big enough thing and require a big enough gear-up and enough funds that we'll probably continue to do one of those every three years. We will continue to do other leatherbounds, not as Kickstarters. They have smaller print runs, and we probably will continue to do all of those in bonded leather, and then do the Stormlight books in Kickstarters. And we will probably have a new Curiosity each time. So I would expect us to have White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Aether of Night curiosities in the next three of these Kickstarters.

And then we'll take a long, hard look at what we have left. Because after that, we go down another jump in quality. We have Mistborn Prime and Final Empire Prime, which are probably the next two in quality. Where they aren't bad books, and I think they're readable, but they're a little step further away from what ended up being my vision. But I think that White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Aether of Night are probably a little bit stronger of novels than Way of Kings Prime. So maybe Final Empire Prime and Mistborn Prime are both kind of equivalent to that.

Then, after that, we have another big dip in quality, and then you get things like Star's End, which was my second novel. You get things like Knight Life, which was my attempt at a comedic, sort of Bob Asprin adventure-style comedy. (Mostly cringe, with a little bit of actual comedy.) And the book I called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which is a cyberpunk look at immortality, where people have been turned into superweapons with nanites and stuff like that, and I have no idea how that book measures up anymore. It's the book I wrote right before Elantris. But those ones, I could even see releasing those.

Then, we have a huge dip in quality for White Sand Prime and Lord Mastrell Prime, which are the first versions, the first books I wrote, and are really bad. And Mythwalker, which is the one I didn't finish because it just wasn't any good. And those are the other Sanderson Curiosities. I would not expect us to ever release those. Those are just bad enough that they aren't worth charging you for. Whereas a lot of these books are things I was experimenting with and exploring with and getting better at, they're my journeyman works, the first version (White Sand Prime and Lord Mastrell) are the equivalent of the stuff you do as a filmmaker in high school with your parents' camera, your parents' phone, where you make your own Indiana Jones movie with your parents' phone when you're sixteen. That's the equivalent of what you would be getting, and I just don't know if I can charge people for that. Maybe we'll put 'em up free on my website, and if people really wanna complete the collection, they can complete them and have them bound themselves.

A Memory of Light Raleigh Signing ()
#20 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

I’ve been fortunate enough to read White Sand and Aether of Night and I enjoyed them very much. Will they ever be published? I also managed to read Dragonsteel and I enjoyed that too.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

White Sand will definitely eventually be published. Aether of Night, not so sure on, because Aether is two halves of two books that didn't fit together. The two pieces didn't mesh. White Sand is part of the sequence and will be done. Dragonsteel is part of the sequence and will be done, but it will be very different now that the Shattered Plains have been used in Way of Kings.

Firefight release party ()
#21 Copy

Questioner

I have a copy of your Dragonsteel master thesis, I haven't read it though.  And I was wondering, how you've grown as an author, do you like people to read that or would you rather they wait until you do the better version?

Brandon Sanderson

I-- I'm-- That one I don't really like people reading that much because it has an inferior version of Bridge Four that I don't want people to meet. Does that make sense? Like the Bridge Four team--

Questioner

...And when you re-write it it will be better?

Brandon Sanderson

Well Bridge Four won't even be in that book anymore I moved them to Roshar. So you go back and you find the version of Rock that is not quite the right version and you'll find-- Teft is basically the same dude but a lot of the other ones have changed and morphed and they basically won't feel right anymore, if that makes any sense. Feel free to read it, don't feel bad reading it but that's the part that I'm not--

Questioner

Is that the only part you are worried about? And the rest you are like "It's not my best writing" but--

Brandon Sanderson

The rest is not my best writing but whatever. But the Bridge Four stuff, I'm like I did it so much better that it's not even going back and seeing it in rough sketches, it's like if da Vinci had painted a Mona Lisa that was ugly and a different person? You don't want it cemented in their mind that that is what the piece of art is. The rest of it I don't mind so much, I mean the main character his conflict will change dramatically because I pulled that out and gave it to another character in the books. So basically the only thing remaining that is still going to be canon is Hoid and his story, the story what's going with him there is still stuff he would have done...

Shardcast Interview ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I'll release [Dragonsteel Prime] for the Words of Radiance Kickstarter.

Basically there's not a whole lot that's canon in that anymore. The Sho Del are, the dragons are, and the Tamu Keks are. But all the Hoid stuff is not really canon anymore. He'll get a completely new book backstory. I have really done some work lately on the aethers in ways that I really think is working. So I think I can start canonizing aethers, sneaking [them] into the mainline cosmere books. Whether I can ever write the book about the aethers is another question, but you should see more than just little cameo pieces now that I'm sure about some of the ways they work. I made some major breakthroughs in how I wanted that to all connect.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

You like dragons very much, right?

Brandon Sanderson

I do like dragons very much.

Questioner

Well then you don't have dragons in any of your books.

Brandon Sanderson

One of my books has dragons. It's the one I wrote but didn't get published and will eventually re-publish, called Dragonsteel. So one of the very first I wrote had dragons, but I don't want to do dragons in every book. So I'm waiting for the book that it is right for.

Questioner

Hmm.

Brandon Sanderson

Good question.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#24 Copy

har

Is Cephandrius the real name of the character who goes by different names on different planets?

Brandon Sanderson

No, but it's one of his earliest aliases.

faragorn

I'm positive this is RAFO bait but would one of Hoid's aliases possibly be Cephandrius?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid is Cephandrius. It's less an alias and more a long term identity. If you read Dragonsteel, it is super obvious.

TWG Posts ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it's looking like my next series--after Warbreaker, which is looking like it will be a two-book cycle--will be set in the Dragonsteel world. I'm revamping the setting significantly, mashing it together with Aether of Night, which always had a cool magic system but a weaker plot.

I have some sample chapters done, actually. Dragonsteel is now the series name, and the first book will be titled "The Liar of Partinel." (Probably.) The book you all read (now tentatively titled "The Eternal War") will be the third or fourth book in the series, and we will wait that long to introduce Jerick, Ryalla, and Bat'Chor. "Liar" will take place some five hundred years before "The Eternal War."

Brandon Sanderson

The following is a complete Brandon Sanderson Bibliography, published and unpublished.  Prime indicates an early attempt at a book which was later redone.  (Note that when I redo a book like this, it isn't a 'rewrite.'  Generally, it's me taking some elements from the setting and writing a whole new book in that setting, using old ideas and mixing them with fresh ones.)  Published books are in bold.

1) White Sand Prime (My first book, took two + years to write.  1998)

2) Star's End (Science fiction.  1998)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime.  1999)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.  1999)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Science fiction.  1999)

6) Elantris (2000.  Published by Tor: 2005)

7) Dragonsteel (2000)

8 ) White Sand (2001)

9) Mythwalker (Never finished. 2001)

10) Mistborn Prime (Stole the magic system and title for a later book.  2002)

11) Final Empire Prime (Stole a character, some setting elements, and title for a later book.  2002)

12) The Aether of Night (2002)

13) The Way of Kings (350,000 words.  Took a long time.  2003)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (2004, Published by Tor 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (2005.  Contracted to Tor for 2006)

16) Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians (2005.  Contracted to Scholastic for 2006)

17) Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (2006.  Contracted to Tor for 2007)

18) Warbreaker (2006.  Tentatively to be released by Tor for 2007)

19) Alcatraz vs. The Scrivener's Bones (2006.  Contracted by Scholastic for 2008)

20) Dragonsteel: The Liar of Partinel (Unfinished.  2007?)

21) Alcatraz vs. The Knights of Crystallia (Planned.  2007  Contracted by Scholastic for 2009)

22) Nightblood (Planned.  2008)

23) Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens (Planned. 2008)

24) Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent (Planned.  2008.  Contracted for Scholastic for 2010)

I'm not sure if I got all of those dates right, but the order is correct.  I'm finished with all the books up to Dragonsteel, though Mistborn 3, Warbreaker, and Alcatraz 2 are all only in the third draft stage.

Brandon Sanderson

You DON'T have to have read the other Dragonsteel to understand this. The other Dragonsteel will never be published. Some of the plots and characters in it, however, will eventually become book three of this series. Not because I'm doing a 'Dragonlance' type thing, but because when I sat down to work on this project, I realized that I'd rather start back in time a few hundred years. In other words, I'm writing the prequels first, if that's possible.

Brandon Sanderson

In worldbuilding this, I realized that I missed a big opportunity in Dragonsteel Prime by not dealing with fainlife all that much. It was a powerful world element that got mostly ignored. By writing a book here, where I can slam a city in to the middle of the fain assault--before people learned really how to keep the alien landscape back--I think I'll be able to focus more on the setting.

One thing that always bothered me about Dragonsteel Prime is that it felt rather generic for me. I like more distinctive settings, with more distinctive magics. Yet, Dragonsteel Prime had a fairly standard fantasy world (though one set in the bronze age) with magic that didn't really get used all that much in the first book. The idea here is to add the Aether magic in, which is a 'day-to-day' magic, and to enhance the originality of the setting by using fainlife more. Microkenisis, Realmatic Theory, Cognitive Ripples and Tzai Blows, and all of that will STILL be part of this world. I've simply folded the Aethers in as well, and hopefully I can make it all feel cohesive.

Starsight Release Party ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

You talk about dragons, are you ever going to write a book with a dragon in it?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. There are dragons in the Cosmere. Hoid has talked to one. If you read the letters in the beginnings of the Stormlight books, there's one where he's talking to someone he calls, "You old reptile." That's actually Frost ,who's a dragon. The planet that Hoid comes from, there are dragons on. It's where I got the word Dragonsteel which is the name of my book. I just didn't end up publishing that book but they're still in canon. So eventually I'll do a new version of that book and release it. There are actually dragons off world even, but they can shapeshift in the Cosmere.

Brandon's Blog 2008 ()
#28 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

MY HISTORY AS A WRITER

I’ve been thinking that I should give a little bit of an explanation of my history as a writer for those of you who don’t know. I think it might give you some context for some of the posts I’ve made, and things people are saying in the forums about my unpublished novels. Read on if you want a little context.

This all started in earnest when I was 21, about eleven years ago, back in 1997. That was the year when I decided for certain that I wanted to write novels for a living.

My first goal was to learn to write on a professional level. I had heard that a person’s first few books are usually pretty bad, and so I decided to just spend a few years writing and practicing. I wanted time to work on my prose without having to worry about publishing.

You might call this my “apprentice era.” Between 97 and 99 I wrote five novels, none of them very good. But being good wasn’t the point. I experimented a lot, writing a variety of genres. (All sf/f of course—but I did some epic, some humor, some sf.) As you can probably guess by me writing five books in two and a half years, none were very well edited and while I had a lot of fun writing them, they were done very quickly, and had a lot less planning than my later books. Not many people read any of these novels, and I only ever sent one out to publishers (the second one, STARS’ END.)

Around 1999 (I can’t remember the exact date) I started attending the science fiction magazine THE LEADING EDGE at BYU; I also took an important writing class, less because of what I learned about writing (though I did learn a lot) and more because of people I met. Through TLE and the class, I ended up as part of a community of writers, editors, and science fiction/fantasy readers who were serious about what they were doing. During this time, I founded a writing group with Dan Wells and Peter Ahlstrom (Fellfrosh and Ookla over on the TWG forums.) Other members included our friend Nate, who doesn’t hang out here any more, and Ben/Tage, who used to be one of the board’s mods and who is still often one of my alpha readers. Eric (St. Ehlers) was another of our good friends, as was Kristy (Brenna), among numerous others, many of whom don’t hang out here very much any more.

You might call this the “Golden Era” of my unpublished career. I was getting to one of the most creative points in my life, and was very energized and excited about the writing I’d learned to do. After practicing for five novels, I felt that I was finally in a position to do justice to an epic fantasy story. In 1999, I started a book I called THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS, which eventually just became ELANTRIS.

As I said, this was the golden era of my unpublished career—though I think the ‘unpublished’ part of that statement is important. I hope that I’ll grow and progress, and think that the books I’m writing now are better than the ones I wrote then—just as I hope that the books I’ll do in ten years will be better than the ones I do now.

However, the three novels from this era—ELANTRIS, DRAGONSTEEL, and WHITE SAND—represent some of the best worldbuilding I’ve ever done. Of the three, ELANTRIS turned out the best by far. WHITE SAND was good, though it will feel dated now if you read it, since my writing skill has improved quite a bit since then and it never got the level of editing and revision that ELANTRIS did. DRAGONSTEEL has moments of brilliance surrounded by some really boring sections; it had trouble because of the scope of what I was attempting. I think any of the three could have become publishable if they’d gotten the right editing and revisions.

Anyway, I wrote these books in 1999–2000. By 2001, however, this era was lapsing. I finished at BYU, and since TLE was for students, a younger crowd was taking over and I no longer quite fit in there. I continued my writing groups in various forms, and we started the Timewaster’s Guide as a project and forum for those who had worked together during that era of the magazine.

I was collecting rejection letters for ELANTRIS, WHITE SAND, and DRAGONSTEEL. I felt these books were good—very good. But nobody was giving them much attention. At the conventions, editors kept saying that fantasy novel submissions were too long, and that new writers shouldn’t be trying such beastly first books. I sat down to write MYTHWALKER, by ninth book, and halfway through just couldn’t continue. (It remains the only book I’ve ever given up on.) I was trying another epic fantasy, but I was increasingly disappointed in how poorly the first three had been received. MYTHWALKER felt like an inferior knock-off of my own DRAGONSTEEL, and needed to be rethought. So I stopped working on it. (Though one side story in the book about two cousins named Siri and Vivenna really interested me; they would later get their own book as WARBREAKER.)

The next little time is kind of the “Dark Era” of my unpublished writing career. After giving up on MYTHWALKER, I decided that New York wasn’t looking for my brand of epic fantasy, and that I’d try to see if I could write something else. I wrote three books during this era. MISTBORN PRIME (I added the prime later to differentiate it), THE AETHER OF NIGHT, and FINAL EMPIRE PRIME.

In MISTBORN PRIME, I tried to write a dark anti-hero involved in a story that was NOT epic. I tried to write something much shorter than I’d done before, forcing myself to stay away from grand stories or epic style plotting. The result was a 100k work (which is half the length of my other fantasy novels) which just . . . well, wasn’t very good. The magic (a preliminary form of Allomancy) was awesome, and the setting had great points to it. But the plot was unexciting, the character uninteresting, the story uninvolving.

Depressed by this failure, I didn’t send the book to a single editor. (Though I did show it to Joshua, who is now my agent, as he was curious and following my career at that point. He agreed that this book wasn’t publishable. He never saw ELANTRIS, he’d given up halfway through DRAGONSTEEL—which means he never got past the boring part—and had really liked WHITE SAND, but had wanted to see more from me before picking me up. He felt I still had room to grow, and he was right.

After MISTBORN PRIME, I wrote a book called AETHER OF NIGHT, which was far more successful. I think it’s the best of the four “Brandon tries to write more toward the market” books. At 150k, it was only 50k shorter than what I’d been doing during the ELANTRIS era, and I let myself play with slightly more epic stories and scope. At this point, I was trying for something with a little more humor in it, something with lighthearted, fun characters in a situation that was at times ridiculous and at times adventuresome. (A more David Eddings like approach, if you will.) It’s not a bad book. I probably won’t ever rewrite it, but it’s not a bad book. Joshua liked it just fine, and thought it was a step forward from Mistborn Prime.

At this point, my epic fantasy books got another round of rejections, including ELANTRIS rejected by DAW and DRAGONSTEEL rejected by ACE. I’d just sent ELANTRIS to Tor, but figured I’d never hear back. (They’d had WHITE SAND for several years at that point and never gotten back to me.)

Feeling uncertain about my writing and my career again, particularly since I felt that AETHER hadn’t come together just as I’d wanted, I turned my attention to trying the most basic of fantasy stories. Prophesied hero, orphaned, goes on a travel-log across the world to fight a dark lord. This was THE FINAL EMPIRE PRIME. Of course I was putting my own spin on it. But my heart wasn’t in it—I just couldn’t convince myself that I was adding anything new to the genre, and I was again trying for a ‘half-length’ story. Though there were no dragons, elves, or mythical objects to rescue, I felt that I was just plain writing a bad book. (Note that I was probably too down on this book, as it had some very inventive concepts in it, including a precursor to Feruchemy.)

I got done with FINAL EMPIRE PRIME and was just plain disappointed. This was the worst book I’d ever written. (And it is, I think, the worst—though MISTBORN PRIME is close.) Here I was, having written twelve novels, and I seemed to be getting WORSE with each one. I wasn’t selling, I was out of school working a wage job graveyard shift, and my social life consisted pretty much of my friends taking pity on me and coming to hang out at the hotel once in a while.

I think this was one of the big focus points of my career. That year, 2002, I made three decisions. The first was that I was NOT going to give up on writing. I loved it too much, even when I was writing books that didn’t turn out right. (I think this is important for every author to decide.) The second was that I was NEVER AGAIN going to write toward the market. It was killing my books. If I never got published, so be it. At least I would stop writing terrible stories mangled by my attempts to write what I thought people wanted. The final decision was that I’d go to graduate school in creative writing to get myself into that groove of being around writers again, and to also ‘delay’ for a few more years having to get a real job.

Enter THE WAY OF KINGS era. The last book I wrote before I got published was actually pretty darn good. I tossed out everything I was being told about how to get published, and just wrote from the heart. Over 18 months between 2002 and 2003 I wrote a 300k word book with a 180k outline/backstory/worldbuilding document. (Yes, the setting guide itself was LONGER than the previous three books I’d written.) Beyond that, I plotted the book as the first of TEN in a series.

KINGS was good. It had problems, but they were fixable problems, and I was extremely proud of the novel. I felt I’d found my place in writing again. I honestly think it’s the best of my unpublished books; almost as some of the published ones.

In 2003, I got the call from an editor wanting to buy ELANTRIS.

I suppose the story of my unpublished career ends there, though there’s one more side note. Why did I not published THE WAY OF KINGS? Well, a couple of reasons. First, my agent (Joshua) felt it needed a lot of work. (It did.) Secondly, it was so long that I think it scared Tor to consider it. They have published books longer before, but the market has changed since then, and approaching a book that length as an author’s second book made my editor apprehensive. He’d have done it, but he was already talking about how we’d need to slice it into two novels. (And I really didn’t want to do that.)

But more than that, I felt that it wasn’t time for KINGS yet. I can’t explain why; just gut instinct, I guess. I wanted to follow ELANTRIS up with a fast-paced trilogy. Something that could prove to people that I could finish a series, and that I really could write. I felt that launching from ELANTRIS into KINGS would be asking too much of my readers. I wanted to give them time to grow accustomed to me and my writing, and I wanted to practice writing a series before getting myself into something enormous.

And so—perhaps brashly—I looked at the two greatest disappointments of my career and said “Let’s do these the way they SHOULD have been done in the first place.” I took the best ideas from both, I added in a greater majority of other new good ideas, and I planned out a 600 thousand word epic told in three parts. My goal: A kind of calling card to fantasy readers. A trilogy they could read through and get a feel for who I was and what my writing was like.

Of course, then the WHEEL OF TIME came along and changed everything. I’m even more glad I did what I did, as I didn’t have to stop a series in the middle to work on AMoL. Plus, working on the WHEEL OF TIME has given me an unparalleled insight into the mind of the greatest master of the long-form fantasy series of our time.

Anyway, that’s a bit of history for those who are curious. Thanks for reading.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

Did the Physical, Spiritual, and Cognitive Realms exist before Adonalsium split?

Brandon Sanderson

They did. In fact, if you can ever get a hold of Dragonsteel, (Which I don't let a lot of people read because it's got big spoilers and it doesn't really work anymore. It was one of the early books I wrote. It is the prelude to the Cosmere.) the opening chapters are in a classroom where someone is learning about the three aspects. So, yeah.

TWG Posts ()
#31 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

Dark One. What is it?

Brandon Sanderson

YA novel I'm working on. I have a few sample chapters, if you want them. I may have to change the title, though, since a very dissimilar book just came out with a close title.

I'd rather not talk about the book too much, since I won't be able to get to it for a while, and I'd like to keep the ideas off the internet for a bit.

Brandon Sanderson

Well, anyone here can have the sample chapters if they want. In fact, anyone can have sample chapters of any of my books. I send those out pretty freely. I'm just not sure I want to go posting the ideas for this one about yet.

Also, if anyone wants any of my old books--anything pre-WAY OF KINGS--you need but ask. Most of them won't ever get published in their current form. So, if you're ever board, you can read an old, unpublished Brandon novel.

The complete Brandon Library is:

1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)

2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)

6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)

7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy)

8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)

9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)

10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)

11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)

12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)

13) The Way of Kings (Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)

16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)

17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Unfinished. Â Coming late 2007)

18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)

19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)

MisCon 2018 ()
#32 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

After I finished Elantris, I went back, and I wrote a book called Dragonsteel. Which was to start off the Cosmere. That was kind of it's goal, I'm like, "I'm gonna start something off." Dragonsteel is really interesting, it's a Bronze Age epic fantasy, which is fun. And it was supposed to kind of be the starting point for something. But then I couldn't sell that, I tried for years.

TWG Posts ()
#33 Copy

MsFish

I am glad Dragonsteel will not be on the front of the book, because Tage tells me there aren't really any dragons. If I picked up a book called Dragonsteel and then realized there weren't really any dragons (in the classical sense) I would feel extremely cheated and never read it just because of my anger.

Peter Ahlstrom

There was one dragon in the original book, of whom Brandon added more appearances in the later drafts. He was almost completely exciseable from the plot of that book (at least, in a simple, non-spoiler explanation), though he was clearly important to the universe as a whole and the series' overall arc.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#34 Copy

Yamato

Where did you get the idea for your Adonalsium mythos? Did it develop in your head for a while, or did you have a sudden flash of inspiration.

Brandon Sanderson

Over time, particularly when building Dragonsteel as a novel. I was planning it as I wrote Elantris. Hoid has been around forever, long before Adonalsium became the central plot of his story. I have an old short story from the early, early, early days where he's on a planet trying to figure out how the local magic system works.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#35 Copy

Questioner

I was just re-reading The Way of Kings when Kaladin meets Hoid, and Hoid mentions the stone that he's named after? Are we gonna find out more about that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, though the 17th Shard probably can answer that for you right there *points, presumably*.

In the very first book that I wrote with him that I finished, his nickname in that book was "Topaz".

Chris King interview ()
#36 Copy

Chris King

Are there any eventual plans for release of things such as-- things like Way of Kings Prime or the old version of Dragonsteel after the new version is released?

Brandon Sanderson

Once there are no more spoilers in those books I'll do what I have done with things like White Sand and whatnot, that if people write me— Mistborn Prime is a good example. There's no real spoilers in Mistborn Prime if you've read the trilogy. It's not a very good book but you can read it and kind of understand the history of where the story came from. So I'll do the same thing with these books.

Oathbringer release party ()
#37 Copy

TheFulgid

...I know that a lot of [Dragonsteel] is not canon anymore? How much of it, like, percentage-wise, I don't need specifics. 

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that all... I consider almost all the worldbuilding to be canon, but the characters to not be.

TheFulgid

So, anything about Topaz, does that not stand?

Brandon Sanderson

Doesn't really stand. The whole thing with the gods, and stuff like that, is really in flux.

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

Maru Nui

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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