The origin of The Rithmatist
Six years ago, I was writing a book that I hated.
Now, that's both rare and common for me at the same time. I tire of pretty much every book I work on at some point, usually during the revision process. I push through and get over it. That's what you do as a writer. By the time I'm done with the process, I'm tired of the book—but it's the good kind of tired. The "I worked hard, and now have something awesome to show for it" tired.
Unfortunately, that wasn't happening for this book. Called The Liar of Partinel, every chapter was a chore to write. Though it had started very well, it continued to spiral farther and farther down the drain. I was familiar enough with my own writing by this point to realize the problems with Liar wouldn't work themselves out. The characters were boring, the plot forced. The worldbuilding elements never quite clicked together.
It had been years since I'd had such a bad feeling about a novel. (The last time, in fact, was Mythwalker—my sixth unpublished book—which I abandoned halfway through.) Part of the problem, I suspect, had to do with my expectations. Liar, set in the same world as Dragonsteel, was to be the origin story of Hoid, the character who has appeared in all of my Cosmere novels. (Information here—warning, big spoilers.)
I needed Hoid's story to be epic and awesome. It just wasn't. And so, I ended up "hiding" from that novel and working on something else instead.
The Rithmatist. It started with some drawings and a purely creative week sketching out a world, characters, and magic. That week is the exact sort that turned me into a writer in the first place, and was a distinct contrast to the grind that had been Liar. I abandoned the book and dove into The Rithmatist (then called Scribbler), and wrote a book where everything just came together. It happens sometimes. It just works, and I can't always explain—even to myself—why.
I finished the first draft of the book in the summer of 2007. In the fall, I got the call regarding the Wheel of Time, and my world transformed forever. The Rithmatist, though an awesome book, languished for years because I didn't have the time to devote to it. Doing a tour or contract for another teen book was impossible at that time, and beyond that I couldn't commit to writing any sequels or even doing any revision for the novel.
I did tell Tor about it, though, and they started to get excited. The publisher tried at several times to get me to release it, but I didn't feel the time was right. I couldn't let my attention be divided that far. I was already stretched too thin, and I wanted my attention (and that of my readers) to be on the Wheel of Time.
The month A Memory of Light was done and turned in, however, I called Tor and told them it was time to move forward. I'm pleased to be releasing the book now, when I can give it the attention it deserves.
And hopefully someday I'll be able to fix The Liar of Partinel. (At this point, I'm feeling I need to rewrite it as a first-person narrative, though making that switch is going to cause an entire host of problems.)