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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#2 Copy


Hey, is Brandon willing to tell us which universe Skyward is in yet? He said a while aback that it was in a universe (not cosmere) that he'd written before.

Brandon Sanderson

So, here's the thing--it's a pretty big spoiler. Meaning if you know the novella this is tied to (and it's one of the ones mentioned in this thread) you'll know a moderately large plot point in the book.

It's not the type of spoiler that will ruin a story--I do think some readers would enjoy watching how I lace them together. But do be warned that if you haven't read my science fiction novellas, and you hate spoilers, you might want to wait until Skyward is out to read them.

That said, if you know the terminology of the novellas in question, you'll find your answer in chapter seventeen.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#3 Copy


In this book [Skyward], you have a little bit of telepathy and teleportation. So, was that magic?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, absolutely.


So it's fantasy and sci-fi?

Brandon Sanderson

What it is is, sci-fi trappings. But my science in this is pure magic.

Skyward Denver signing ()
#4 Copy


I really loved both Ender's Game and Anne McCaffrey when I was in early high school, and I felt like this book was in conversation with both of them.

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that that is a really, really accurate way of looking at it. Little Last Starfighter mixed in as well, a little Top Gun.


I just want to know how much were you thinking about Ender's Game in particular?

Brandon Sanderson

Ender's Game, I was not thinking about a ton. More How to Train Your Dragon. Because it really parallels How to Train Your Dragon. I was trying to make sure it didn't hit those beats too closely. I wasn't thinking about Ender's Game specifically, but the underdog sports story part of Ender's Game worms its way into a lot of my different writing. I was thinking more about Ender's Game when  I was writing Bridge Four sequences.


I felt like Skyward was a really interesting philosophical refutation to Ender's Game. Because Skyward is fundamentally a book where nobody is actually wrong, Ender's Game everybody is wrong.

Brandon Sanderson

That's a pretty interesting thing, yeah.


I really appreciate that. Also, the part at the end where Spensa did the navigation thing was so like Between, I almost threw my book at the wall in excitement.

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted for years to do a "Monsters live in the Between" story, which is what this is going toward. 'Cause I always thought-- Like, there's this one episode of Star Trek where someone sees monsters as they are being beamed. And it's one of my favorite Next Generation episodes, there are monsters when you are teleporting. That one stuck with me forever, so you can blame that as part of the inspiration.

Publishers Weekly Q & A ()
#5 Copy

Michael M. Jones

What kind of research did you do?

Brandon Sanderson

Mainly, it was about fighter pilots and what they go through, what g-force feels like, stuff like that. I'm indebted to a couple of real-life fighter pilots for helping me to get it right. Also, I had to research what it's like to live in societies where the machine of war grinds people up out of necessity to keep the country alive, what it does to them. I took inspiration from real-world regimes to create an amalgamation, which still doesn't go as far as it could have. I just included subtle markers to the reader to suggest the sort of stress they live under.

MisCon 2018 ()
#6 (not searchable) Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I sought refuge in the silent caverns. I didn’t dare go back to my mother and grandmother. My mother would undoubtedly be happy. She’d lost a husband to the Krell, and dreaded seeing me suffer the same fate. Gran Gran, she would tell me to fight. But fight what? The military itself didn’t want me. I felt like a fool. All this time, telling myself I’d become a pilot, and in truth I’d never had a chance. My teachers must have spent these years laughing at me behind their hands. I walked through an unfamiliar cavern on the outer edge of what I’d explored, hours away from Igneous. And still the feelings of embarrassment and anger shadowed me. What an idiot I had been.

I reached the edge of the subterranean cliff and knelt, activating my father’s light-line by tapping two fingers against my palm. The bracelet glowed more brightly. Gran Gran said we’d brought these with us to Detritus, that they were pieces of equipment used by the explorers and warriors of the old human space fleet. I wasn’t supposed to have one of course, but everyone thought that it had been destroyed when my father crashed. I placed my wrist against the stone of the cliff, and again tapped my fingers against my palm, an action the bracelet could sense. This command made an energy line stick to the rock, connecting my bracelet to the stone.

A three-finger tap let out more slack. Using that I could climb over the ledge, rope in hand, and lower myself to the bottom. Once down, another tap made the rope let go of the rock above then snap back into the bracelet housing. I didn’t know how it worked, only that it needed to recharge it every month or two, something I did in secret by plugging it into the power lines outside the caverns.

I crept into a cavern filled with kurdi mushrooms. They tasted foul but were edible and rats loved them. This would be prime hunting ground. So I turned off my light and settled down to wait, listening intently. I had never feared the darkness. It reminded me of the exercise Gran Gran taught, where I floated up toward the singing stars. You couldn’t fear the dark when you were a fighter. And I was a fighter.

I was, I was going, I was going to be a pilot...

I looked upward, trying to push away those feelings of loss. Instead, I was soaring. Toward the stars. And again I thought I could hear something calling to me, a sound like a distant flute. A nearby scraping pulled me back. Rat nails on stone. I raised my speargun, familiar motions guiding me, and engaging a smidgen of light from my light-line.

The rat turned in a panic toward me. My finger trembled on the trigger but I didn’t fire as it scrambled away. Why did it matter? Was I really just going to go on with my life like nothing had happened? Usually exploring kept my mind off my problems. Today they kept intruding like a rock in my shoe. Remember? Remember that your dreams have just been stolen?

I felt like I had those first days following my father’s death. When every moment, every object, every word reminded me of him and of the sudden hole inside me. I sighed, then attached one end of my light-line to my spear and commanded it to stick to the next thing it touched. I took aim at the top of another cliff and fired, sticking the weightless glowing rope in place. I climbed up, my speargun rattling in its straps on my back.

As a child I’d imagined that my father had survived his crash, that he was being held captive in these endless uncharted tunnels. I imagined saving him, like a figure from Gran Gran’s stories. Gilgamesh, or Joan of Arc, or Tarzan of Greystoke, a hero. The cavern trembled as if in outrage, and dust fell from the ceiling. An impact up on the surface. That was close, I thought. Had I climbed so far? I took out my book of hand-drawn maps. I’d been out here quite a while by now; hours at least. I had taken a nap a few caverns back.

I checked the clock on my light-line. It had passed to the next day, the day of the test, which would happen in the evening. I probably should have headed back. Mom and Gran Gran would worry if I didn’t show up for the test. To hell with the test, I thought, imagining the indignation I’d feel at being turned away at the door. Instead I climbed up through a tight squeeze into another tunnel. Out here my size was, for once, an advantage.

Another impact rocked the caverns. With this much debris falling, climbing to the surface was definitely stupid. I didn’t care. I felt reckless. I felt, almost heard, something driving me forward. I kept climbing until I finally reached a crack in the ceiling. Light shone through it, of an even, sterile type; too white, not orange enough. Cool, dry air blew in also, which was a good sign. I pushed my pack ahead of me, then squirmed through the crack and out into the light.

The surface. I looked up and saw the sky again. It never failed to take my breath away. A distant skylight shone down on a section of the land, but I was mostly in shadow. Just overhead, the sky sparkled with a shower of falling debris. Radiant lines like slashes. A formation of three scout-class starfighters flew through it, watching. Falling debris was often broken pieces of ships or other space junk, and salvage from it could be valuable. It played havoc with our sensors though, and could mask a Krell incursion.

I stood in the grey-blue dust and let the awe of the sky wash over me, feeling a particular sensation of wind against my cheeks. I’d come up close to Alta Base, which I could see in the distance, maybe only a thirty-five minute walk or so away. Now that the Krell knew where we were, there was no reason to hide the base, so it had expanded from a hidden bunker to several large buildings and a walled perimeter, antiaircraft guns, and an invisible shield to protect it from debris.

Outside that wall, groups of people worked a small strip of something I always found strange: trees and fields. What were they even doing over there? Trying to grow food in this dusty ground? I didn’t dare get close. The guards would take me for a scavenger from the distant caverns. Still, there was something dramatic about that stark green of those fields and the stubborn walls of the base. Alta was a monument to our determination. For three generations, humankind had lived like rats and nomads on this planet, but we would hide no longer.

The flight of starships streaked toward Alta, and I took a step toward them. Set your sights on something higher, my father had said. Something more grand. And where had that gotten me?

I shouldered my pack and my speargun, then hiked the other direction. I had been to a nearby passage before, and I figured with more exploring, I could connect some of my maps. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I found the passage’s mouth had collapsed completely.

I saw some debris hit the surface in the near distance, tossing up a spray of dust. I looked up and found a few smaller chunks streaking down overhead, fiery burning chunks of metal. Heading right toward me. Scud! I dashed back the way I had come. No! No! No! No! No! The air rumbled, and I could feel the heat of the approaching debris. There!

I spotted a small cavern opening in the surface, part crack, part cave mouth. I threw myself toward it, skidding and sliding inside. An enormous crash sounded behind me, and it seemed to shake the entire planet. Frantic, I engaged my light-line and slapped my hand against the stone as I fell into the churning chaos. I jerked up short, connected by the light-line to the wall, as rock chips and pebbles flew across me. The cavern trembled, then all grew still. I blinked dust from my eyes and found myself dangling by my light-line in the center of a small cavern, maybe thirty or forty feet high. I’d lost my pack somewhere, and I’d scraped up my arm pretty good.

Great, just great, Spensa. This is what throwing tantrums gets you. I groaned, my head throbbing, then tapped my fingers against my palm to let the light-line out, lowering myself to the floor. I flopped down, catching my breath. Other impacts sounded in the distance, but they dwindled. Finally, I wobbled to my feet and dusted myself off. I managed to locate the strap of my bag sticking out from some rubble nearby. I yanked it out, then checked the canteen and maps inside. They seemed okay.

My speargun was another matter. I found the handle but there was no sign of the rest. It was probably buried in that mound of rubble. I slumped down against the stone. I knew I shouldn’t go up to the surface during a debris fall. I had practically begged for this. A scrabbling sound came from nearby. A rat? I raised the handle of my gun immediately, and then felt doubly stupid. Still I forced myself to my feet, slung my pack over my shoulder, and increased the light of my bracelet. A shadow ducked away, and I followed, limping only a little. Maybe I could find another way out of here.

I raised my bracelet high, illuminating the small cavern, which had a high ceiling. My light reflected off something ahead of me. Metal? Maybe one of the water pipes? I walked toward it, and my brain took a moment to realize what I was seeing. There, nestled into the corner of the cavern, surrounded by rubble, was a starship.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

We'll have the Skyward beta coming up soon.


Oh cool. Yeah, I'll bug Kara and Peter. See if they need some help with that.

Brandon Sanderson

Mmhmm, yep. We need teenagers for that one. We're going to have a separate teenager one, because it's a YA, and an adult one. And the adult one is to find all the nitpicky stuff, and the teenager one is just "respond to each chapter, what did you think of it?"

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#10 Copy


Skyward question! The light line is mentioned as using two fingers to shoot it out. Are they the middle two fingers, and was this inspired by any jovial community arachnid folk?

Brandon Sanderson

First draft didn't have specific controls to shoot it out, and during revisions, I thought, "Oh, what the heck. It's not a big part of the story anyway." So yes. :)

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

...[Skyward] is teen, 'cause it's in my Reckoners line, and it's a story I've been playing with for some four years now, and I built an outline, and it's kind of like a cross between How to Train your Dragon and Top Gun, with starfighters. A girl finds an old broken-down starship with a really screwy AI that she thinks she can get up and running. In the meantime, she gets into starfighter school and is learning to be a pilot, and there's all kinds of mysteries and things about the nature of really what's happening with the planet why they're being attacked, and things like that. It's a whole lot of fun.

Skyward Anchorage signing ()
#12 Copy


How do you go about jumping from something like Stormlight into a science fiction instead, of something like Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

This is an interesting question for me because, as a writer, I don't look at genre trappings perhaps the same way that you might. I look at story structure and genre trappings as two very different things. Two very important things, but two very different things. And story structure is different.

For instance, the Bridge Four sequence from Way of Kings and the movie Hoosiers and the book Ender's Game are all what we call underdog sports stories. And those are three different stories in three different genre trappings. Modern-day, science fiction, and fantasy; and yet all three of them use the same plot archetype as the core of their story. And you'll find, for instance, that a buddy cop movie and a regency romance will sometimes use the exact same plot archetypes, despite being different subgenres. And so, as a writer, one of the things we do is we start to learn to divide plot archetype, character archetype, genre trappings, and all of these things to build the story that we want to with the feel we want to.

So that's kind of like, when people ask me, "Star Wars. Science fiction, or fantasy?" Well, it's a fantasy plot archetype. (Really, it's a western plot archetype, but they both use the same idea.) The plot archetype is fantasy, it's the hero's journey epic; and the genre trappings are science fiction. So I would place it in science fiction, but with fantasy underpinnings.

So when I'm moving from Way of Kings to Skyward, it's not so much about how the shift between fantasy versus science fiction is. Really, the things I'm looking for that are the big shift are: a narrow focus on one character, versus a wide focus on a large cast. That's the biggest difference for me. Also, the kind of setting-as-character in Stormlight Archive, where you're going to get to know this deep setting, versus setting-as-mystery, which is the setting archetype I'm using for Skyward. We don't know what the enemy is. We're trying to figure out what's going on. We don't know our past.

So those sorts of things, I look as very differently as a writer than I think maybe a reader might look at them.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Projected Schedule

My projected publication schedule looking forward swaps The Apocalypse Guard out for Skyward and moves the Legion collection into the place of Wax and Wayne 4, reflecting what I actually wrote this year. (Note, these are always very speculative. And Peter is probably already worried about Stormlight 4.)

September 2018: Stephen Leeds/Legion Collection

November 2018: Skyward

Fall 2019: Wax and Wayne 4

Sometime 2019: Skyward 2

Sometime 2020: Stormlight 4

Sometime 2020: Skyward 3

Skyward Denver signing ()
#14 Copy


Callsigns. Did you come up with those yourself?

Brandon Sanderson

I did. The callsigns in the back of all the beta readers, they came up with their own. But I came up with all the callsigns. One of the things I was trying to do, I tried to make the callsigns start with the same sound as their real names. And that was what be guidance was so that it would be easier to keep everyone straight.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#19 Copy


As for Skyward, you said before that you got stuck because you weren't liking it, then you finally figured out how to fix it, will you write a blog post after release about how it was before and what needed to be changed to make it fit your standard?

Brandon Sanderson

Did I say that about Skyward? I got stuck on Apocalypse Guard, and pulled it for that reason. I don't believe I had any big issues with Skyward that weren't up to standards, just normal revision issues. The biggest hurdle came long before writing the book, as I was trying to figure out ways to approach this plot archetype in a way that wouldn't simply be a rehash of what people have done before.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#21 Copy


At one point in time you were planning for Skyward to be in the cosmere, which is no longer the case. If you were to pick a Shard, or Shards, that would fit Skyward what would they be? (Not necessarily the Shard that would have been featured in-cosmere, but a hypothetical Shard that fits the book/world in its current state.)

Brandon Sanderson

Skyward was more "The travels of Spensa, space pilot" than a true story back when it was in the cosmere. But as the story is right now, I'd say Autonomy would find it very interesting.

Berlin signing ()
#22 Copy


I think [my class] enjoy [Skyward] because you have space fights for boys, and for the girls you have a female protagonist. We wondered if this was your intention for choosing a female protagonist?

Brandon Sanderson

No, it really wasn't. My intention for choosing a female protagonist was, she was the character I was most interested about writing in this world. I do try to make sure I have a balance, kind of in vague terms. But mostly I'm like, "Who is the character that this story matches best?" And Spensa, she was raised on Conan books, and she wants to be a warrior like that. And she's very different, she's very weird, in the sort of weird way I like to write people. And she's just somebody that I was kind of bursting at the seams to tell her story and to get her into a book.

The original idea for Skyward came from my love of stories about boys and dragons. There's this classic story that gets told. Kid finds a dragon egg, and then they hatch the dragon egg in secret and become this dragon rider. It's the story of How to Train Your Dragon. (Not a dragon egg, but he finds a dragon.) It's the story of Eragon. It's the story of one of my favorite books of all time, Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen. There's just a ton of this type of story. And one of the things I like to do is isolate a story's archetype, kind of try to break it down to "Why do I love it? What makes it work?" And then try to build it up in a new and different way.

Stormlight, the Bridge Four sequence, I built off of an underdog sports story. Like, if you've seen Hoosiers or Miracle or any of these stories about an underdog sports team who takes on the world. That sort of archetype became the Bridge Four sequence. And Skyward came from the kid and his dragon stories. And that was the seed of it. But Spensa was always going to be the protagonist of that. She was just a character I knew I needed to write.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#23 Copy


I'm liking Skyward so far. I can't wait to read about using light-lances, they're rusting cool!

I gotta ask, though: what does "scud" mean? It seems it is an equivalent of "damn" but is there any etymology behind it? Cause, "scud" is also name of Soviet tactical ballistic missiles. Any relation?

Brandon Sanderson

Scud came from the Soviet missile, as a nod to some of my inspirations for the setting of the caverns.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#25 Copy


Did you know from the start Skyward would be a good fit for an existing world or was it something you realized after starting to develop the story?

Brandon Sanderson

It was once I started developing the story. I often am working on the elements of stories separately before I combine them into one whole--and so it wasn't until I sat down to do the outline, officially taking several pieces of various story ideas and combining them--that I knew for certain that this was a good fit.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#27 Copy


How would you say Skyward compares to, say, Mistborn in terms of completion? By the end of The Final Empire you give us enough answers to leave us satisfied with just the first book, but the trilogy as a whole works without feeling like the story is stitched together - will the Skyward series have the same feel, or will the ending of book one immediately call for the next book?

Brandon Sanderson

The ending of Mistborn is one of the standards (in terms of how stand-alone the book feels, yet with promises of where we're going) that I try to achieve. I'd say that Skyward doesn't quite feel as stand-alone by the end as Mistborn or Steelheart, but more so than TWoK did.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#28 Copy


SKYWARD QUESTION! I've just read the prologue, did you do anything special to get in to the mind of a 7 yr old girl? Any inspirations for Spensa?

Brandon Sanderson

This one took a few tries--you can probably find earlier readings of it where the age was different, and the speech style was different. As with most things, it's a matter of trying something out, then looking for feedback.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
#30 Copy


In Skyward, what is your callsign? And what was the process for creating so many callsigns?

Brandon Sanderson

My callsign is Mr. Prolific. That probably wouldn't work as a good callsign, but it was my callsign way back when I was in my writing group, my first writing group with my friends.

The process was, actually, I wanted to pick a callsign that used the same sound as their real name, to help people keep them straight. Because you basically have a double number of names in the book. So same letter or same sound, creating it. And I just started with that letter or sound. And then I wanted them each to feel distinctive. If they're all, like, initials. Or they're all one-syllable names, it can be really easy to mix them up. So I wanted some that were two or three syllables. Some that, they wanted to reinforce who the character was sometimes, things like that. That's where I went on that.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#31 Copy


Why didn't Spensa just go home to get food, instead of just having to hunt?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, there's a couple of reasons. Number one, she's kind of independent and strong-headed, and doesn't want to admit that she can't do it. And number two, she needed that time to work on M-Bot. If she were going down and coming back up, she wouldn't have the time. But she would set snares for rats, which she could check in the off-time, which meant that it saved her a lot of time eating only rats.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#32 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

My Year

January–June: Oathbringer Revisions

I spent most of this year doing revisions for Oathbringer. I did several exhaustive drafts during the January–June months, and did the final handoff to Peter (for copyediting and proofreading) right at the end of June.

June–Mid September: The Apocalypse Guard

Then, for the first time in what felt like forever (it was really only about sixteen months), I got a chance to work on something that wasn't Oathbringer or Edgedancer. I launched right into The Apocalypse Guard, the follow-up to The Reckoners…and it didn't work. I spent July, August, and part of September writing that. (I finished the last chapter sometime in early September, and turned in the second draft a few weeks later.)

September–October: Legion 3

I was already feeling a little discouraged by that book not quite coming together, though at that point I assumed I'd be able to fix it in revisions. (Well, I still think I can do that–I just think it will take more time.) Mid-September, I launched into Legion Three: Lies of the Beholder. That took around a month to finish, bringing us to mid-October. By then, I knew something was seriously wrong with The Apocalypse Guard, as my revision attempts were fruitless. So, I called Random House and pulled the book–then launched into Skyward.

October–November: Skyward

I have been writing on that book ever since, and you can read the blog post yesterday about that.

November–December: Oathbringer Tour

The tour was wonderful–somehow both exhausting and energizing at the same time. Here are some of the fan costumes that showed up this year. Thank you all for coming out to see me!

December so far: Skyward

Unfortunately, and I know you guys know to watch for them, there are no hidden or secret novellas or books for this year. I have been running around feeling behind all year, first on Oathbringer, and then trying to find a replacement for The Apocalypse Guard.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
#33 Copy


Back to the callsigns. Did you come up with Jorgen's name first, or did you come up with his callsign first?

Brandon Sanderson

The callsign was first. And then the name followed out of some of the linguistics I was using... Yeah, the callsign was first.

SpoCon 2013 ()
#34 Copy


You recently announced in your blog post a new Cosmere short story called Skyward. I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit?

Brandon Sanderson

Skyward is the working title. I've talked a little about it before in my class, so if you watch my videos, I talk about it a little bit in there. It will be a teen novel in the cosmere. It is science fiction era.

Starsight Release Party ()
#35 Copy


For the light-lances, where do they get their power from?

Brandon Sanderson

They come from the same sort of place that everything's getting their power. You know, little micro-engines that are basically fantasy-ish. They're... It's super advanced hyper-engines. I think I worked something out where they using acclivity stone in some way. They're like Brandon's versions of Asimov watches with atomic power. They're just fantastically far-future power sources. Otherwise, we couldn't make any of this work. Like, the whole shell around Detritus and stuff. We needed a cheap and powerful energy source.


Exactly. They're just like little bitty things.

Brandon Sanderson

They're basically fantasy novels with spaceships.

Skyward release party ()
#36 Copy


What made you want to write Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

Skyward is a weird book in that it is a science fiction book based on a fantasy idea. Some of my favorite books when I was growing up were stories about a boy who finds a dragon egg or a dragon, and raises the dragon and then flies on the dragon, all sorts of fun stuff happens. And I've always wanted to do one of these stories. One of the very first books I ever read in fantasy was Dragonsblood by Jane Yolen, which I just reread so I could write a little review of it. And it's great. One of my favorite books of all time is The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey. And you'll find some Anne McCaffrey references in this book, you won't have to look that hard. But the idea was I wanted to do one of these books, but I never felt like I could give a good spin to it. And it is when I combined it with some other worldbuilding I had done in a science fiction universe and changed it from "a boy and his dragon" to "a girl and her spaceship" that the story really started to connect, because the worldbuilding that I had built for this galactic science fiction really clicked with this story. And that was kind of the breakthrough that I made, was combining these two things together.

So, Skyward came from me wanting to write a story about a dragon. It just turns out the dragon is a spaceship with a really weird AI.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#37 Copy


An actual Skyward question: Were you inspired by the anime Gurren Lagann at all for this? That anime starts out with humans living in caves and being attacked in order to keep their population down. The cave dwelling and constant attacks is the only connection so far that I see (the rest of the anime gets pretty crazy and I don't think you'd go that far).

Brandon Sanderson

I'm afraid I haven't seen Gurren Lagann, which is probably an oversight--a lot of people talk about it being great.

Legion Release Party ()
#38 Copy


What technology that you have heard of recently in real life has inspired fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

There's gotta be something in Skyward, right? Maybe?

Obviously, the Legion stories are, all three of them, inspired by real-world technology that I read something interesting about, and then go and write a story about. The first one, taking pictures of the past with a camera, not a real-world technology, but I was reading about photography and things like that. The second one, storing data inside of human cells, that's a real thing that lots of people are trying to do that, it's very interesting. And I didn't want to do a story about that, because I thought other people would do stories about that, so I did a story where someone storied data in a body and then lost it. And the third one is directly inspired by my kids love of their VR.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#39 Copy


What do you feel is the main difference between writing sci fi and fantasy is? Did you learn things in writing Skyward that you feel will help you write Mistborn Era 4?

Brandon Sanderson

For me, it's a fine line, because I'm not writing Hard SF--but instead, a kind of hard fantasy. So my books tend to ride the line between SF/Fantasy anyway. And Skyward is straight up space opera, I'd say--most of the technology that we use in the books is fantastical anyway.

In SF, I feel I can lean on shared vocabulary a little more. This has been particularly handy in the novellas I've done, where we can use Earth as a reference point. Modern (and beyond modern) communication, and expectations of character education, also play a big part in changing how I approach the stories.

In some ways, it comes down to different storytelling traditions, and what they each afford you. Again, though, it would be different if I were writing hard SF.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#40 Copy

Jesse Estabrook

When it said Spensa’s father was shot down by his own flight, was it supposed to be fleet? I suppose that since there are so many errors, that this is not an example of the actual final release. Will there be further changes so that we will need to re-read all of these preview chapters all over again, once the edited final product is released?

Brandon Sanderson

Any errors in here are only proofreading errors--I've turned the book over to these teams, and won't be making any more story changes. So don't worry. You won't miss anything, other than a little spelling here and there. Though I did mean "flight" instead of "fleet" as they tend to use small squad tactics as pilots, and call these groups "flights."

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


She noticed that the race in Skyward that the people are fighting are Krell, and that there are krell in Sixth of the Dusk.

Brandon Sanderson

That is not a direct connection. It's just, the Krell are a race of aliens from Forbidden Planet, one of my favorite classic science fiction movies, and I'm just doing it in Skyward as an homage to that. Krell in Sixth of the Dusk is just me looking for a thing that sounds like the right name for the thing.


So they're completely unrelated?

Brandon Sanderson

Completely unrelated. Other than the fact that I've watched Forbidden Planet, like, six times.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#42 Copy


What was your biggest challenge when writing Skyward? And possibly as a follow on - are there any new challenges or surprises that come to you as a writer even after all these years of doing it ?

Brandon Sanderson

The biggest challenge to Skyward was getting the actual fighter-pilot stuff right, followed closely by the fact that I didn't really have a safety net for this book. Having already pulled a book from the publisher, and having a very small time to get this one written, I felt I really needed to nail it on first try--and I did, fortunately.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#43 Copy


The light lines/lances are a very fun concept. Is there anything in particular that inspired the idea of grappling combat in space?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably watching too many cartoons or B movies where someone turns a corner in a vehicle by throwing out an anchor or something. (Didn't the batmobile do this once in the old Adam West batman?)

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#46 Copy


For the Saint in Skyward, I just love the funny prophet character. What was your inspiration for that?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the Saint in Skyward. Not giving any spoilers. When I was working on this character, I was really looking for something-- I look for linguistic cues. Because if you can have linguistic cues to who's talking and what the character's like, and something that'll characterize them through their language, that makes it so much better in storytelling, because you don't have to put that in narrative, you can put it in the flow of a conversation. And you'll notice, at least I've noticed, that a lot of the great screenwriters look for these sorts of things, so they can tag who is speaking, even if it's offscreen, by the way that they are talking, and I just love to do this. And a lot of these things come out of me taking a scene and working with it and casting different people in the roles and trying their voices until I hit on one that I say, "That's interesting, let's dig into this further", and that's what happened there.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#47 Copy


Okay so Brandon, I've gotta ask, Rig's last name is McCaffrey. I thought, oh haha, nice McCaffrey reference.

Then I got thinking.

So Skyward is a story about a girl and her starship (dragon) who join a group to help defend their planet, which is made up of separate caverns (Holds) after humanity crashed (colonized) their world, and who has to defend said peoples from an enemy that periodically comes from the sky called the Krell (Thread).

Let's just assume the world takes place in the DE universe and that Spensa and Co will eventually work out how to psychically teleport and... Brandon... Is Skyward just a sci fi retelling of the Dragonriders of Pern...

Brandon Sanderson

The White Dragon (along with Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen) are direct inspirations for Skyward. And Rodge's last name is a nod to Anne McCaffrey.

I wouldn't say it's only a sci-fi retelling of these stories. But the plot archetype that inspired me is the "boy and his dragon" story. (Including Eragon and How to train your Dragon as well.) I've always wanted to do a story like this, but wanted to find a way to put my own spin (heh heh) on the story.

You'll see how they diverge as the story progresses. But much as Mistborn was inspired by heist stories, this one was inspired by dragon egg stories.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#48 Copy


I'm really hooked by the "girl and her dragon" idea. Were there any fun or interesting things you were able to explore by virtue of replacing the dragon with a spaceship? That is, it's easy to imagine the fun similarities, but I'm curious if there were any notable differences introduced by that swap.

Brandon Sanderson

Hm... Well, normally in the dragon egg story, a trope is that the dragon needs to learn how to fly/fight and the trainer needs to learn with them.

Here, the ship knows how to fly--but is busted up. So there's a lot of fun in the story relating to how exactly to get parts for the ship--which leads to a completely different style of storytelling.

State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
#49 Copy

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.

Skyward Denver signing ()
#50 Copy


You were talking before about how, when a book's not working out, you moved on to something else, and then it started to come together in your mind. Was that something that you-- you were moving on to something else and all these other ideas started popping up? Or were you revisiting your other book every now and then?

Brandon Sanderson

Every now and then I'm revisiting it, and I spend a few days on the outline saying, "How is this going? Are things working?" With [Skyward], it was starting to click, so I went specifically back to this one as things were clicking. I keep a folder of these half-finished outlines that aren't working for some reason or the time isn't right yet. And every time it's time to start a new book, those are all in the consideration.