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Legion Release Party ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

You mentioned that you thought Rithmatist was gonna in the Cosmere. Did you have a Shard in mind?

Brandon Sanderson

Very early on, I did. But I won't tell you who it was. It it not a Shard we've seen. If I ever do write Rithmatist 2, you might be able to piece it together. Though I'm, in revisions of the outline, really trying to push it away from where it was originally, so it will have a distinctive feel of its own. So I'm trying to write out some of the cosmere elements. But this is one of those things that, if I write it out too much, it just won't match with the first book. So I have to be okay with some of the sort of cosmere relationships.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#2 Copy

KalynaAnne

Near the end of The Rithmatist, you mention that one of Melody's brothers, who isn't a professor, also has a coat. Do the colors of Rithmatist coats have meaning outside of academia?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they do! Those at Nebrask also pay attention to coat colors.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
#5 Copy

TransFattyAcid

One of the drawings in The Rithmatist contains a spoiler for the chapter that follows. How do you all normally ensure that doesn't happen? Do you read the whole book or is it more of relying on the art request telling you what to avoid?

Ben McSweeney

That's something that falls at the feet of editing and layout, at the publisher. I produce illustrations to spec, but I don't get a lot of input on where they're ultimately placed on the page or in the book.

That being said, someone really should have caught that. [Peter], do you know if this is something that was fixed in later editions.

Peter Ahlstorm

The illustrations are all the way Brandon designed them. Some of them contain information that comes up in the text of that chapter.

Ben McSweeney

That's about as definitive an answer as an answer can be. :)

Starsight Release Party ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

In the Rithmatist, the Rithmatists get kidnapped by the guy [Harding] but it never explains how they got out of the room [the bedroom].

Brandon Sanderson

They could just go under doors and things like that because they're 2-dimensional so they don't actually have [height].

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Are you ever gonna make a book that's based on Earth, but in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

No. The Rithmatist started that way, and I pulled it out of the cosmere, because I didn't want Earth in the cosmere. So, that happening tells me pretty surely I'll never do it.

Questioner

Out of curiosity, what Shard would have been on Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

I will RAFO that for now, because it didn't get far enough that I had even really settled. Like, it was when I was designing magic, and doing the worldbuilding. When I started asking questions like this is when I kicked it out. I didn't even write any chapters of it before I kicked it out.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#10 Copy

little_wilson

What's the earliest that we'll be seeing more of Scribbler (I'd heard a bunch about it at TWG, and so I found the sample chapters on your site and now I'm REALLY wanting more of it, so I'd like to know when I should start looking again...)?

Brandon Sanderson

Sigh. I really want to do something with Scribbler, but I can't justify it right now. I'm doing the fourth Alcatraz because I can't put it off any longer because of contracts, and Kings because Tor really wants a solo Brandon book next year. But I can't justify working too much on a project that hasn't been sold and which—if published—would end up pulling me into another side trilogy. I have to leave the WoT with the space it needs and deserves. Until it is completed, I have to shelve side projects. That, unfortunately, includes Scribbler. For now.

There are some things in the works with it, and I'm very excited about the possibilities. But there's nothing tangible I can give you now. It's coming. Maybe sooner than I've made it sound, but best to be careful as nothing is set yet.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

What gave you the idea to use chalk in Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

I cant even remember. I was just wanting to play magical Starcraft on the ground and chalk made the most sense.

Questioner

With the chalk *inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

They do not believe right now, but the study of actual chalk composition is a relatively new science that they have not paid enough attention to.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#13 Copy

Argent

Keeping it on Scadrial, the ranks within the Set are obviously inspired by either mathematics, or programming, or logic, or a related field. Can you talk about this motivation (either yours or the Set's) for this?

Brandon Sanderson

My motivation ties directly to the same reasons that we see mathematics playing out in behind-the-scenes ways on Roshar. This plays into the themes of the cosmere, the rule-based magic, and the fascination I have of the ties between art and mathematics. (See the Rithmatist, which was originally a cosmere novel.)

The Set's in-world reasonings are similar to this, though less self-aware.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Secondary Projects

The Rithmatist

This continues to be the single most-requested sequel among people who email me or contact me on social media. It is something I want to do, and still intend to, but it has a couple of weird aspects to it—completely unrelated to its popularity—that continue to work as roadblocks.

The first problem is that it's an odd relic in my writing career. I wrote it as a diversion from a book that wasn't working (Liar of Partinel, my second attempt at doing a novel on Yolen, after the unpublished novel Dragonsteel). It went really well—but it also was something I had to set aside when the Wheel of Time came along.

I eventually published it years later, but my life and my writing has moved in a very different direction from the point when I wrote this. These days, I try very hard to make stories like this work as novellas or standalone stories, rather than promising sequels. I feel I did promise a sequel for this one, and I have grand plans for it, but the time just never seems to be right.

The other issue is that writing about that era in America—even in an alternate universe—involves touching on some very sensitive topics. Ones that, despite my best efforts, I feel that I didn't handle as sensitively as I could have. I do want to come back to the world and do a good job of it, but doing an Aztec viewpoint character—as I'd like to do as one of the viewpoints in book two—in an alternate Earth…well, it's a challenge that takes a lot of investment in research time.

And for one reason or another, I keep ending up in crisis mode—first with Stormlight 3 taking longer than I wanted, and now with The Apocalypse Guard not turning out like I wanted. So someday I will get to this, but it's going to require some alignment of several factors.

Status: Not yet. We'll see.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
#17 Copy

The Book Smugglers

What can your fans expect from The Rithmatist, as compared to your other adult novels? Was it easier or harder to write for a YA audience (or was there anything different about the writing process for this particular book)?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question! I wouldn't say it's either easier or harder. For me, a story grows in my mind till I just can't ignore it anymore, and I have to write it. That certainly happened with The Rithmatist.

As for what I did differently, there are a couple things. When I work on a teen book, I usually try to focus the viewpoints. That's one of the big distinctions for me between an epic fantasy that has teen characters—like the Mistborn books—and a book that I've specifically written for a teen audience. I usually focus on a single character—maybe two—so the narrative is a bit more streamlined.

The other big difference here is that I really wanted to write something with a sense of fantasy whimsy to it. I say whimsical, and it might be the right term, and yet it's not. For example, the magic system is one of the most rigorous and specific that I've written. I hope readers will find it as interesting as I do—with the defensive circles and the different types of lines.

With my epic fantasy books like The Way of Kings, for example, I looked at the size of the planet, its gravitation, its oxygen content—all the sorts of things that allow me to worldbuild with some scientific rigor. I consciously didn't want to do that with The Rithmatist. I replaced the United States with the United Isles, turning the country into an archipelago. I shrank the planet, and I did really weird things to the history of the world because I thought it would be fun. For example, I let Korea conquer the world, because I'm a fan of Korean history.

It's not like I'm sitting down and saying, "What is plausible?" I'm sitting down and saying, "What is awesome?" Then I write a story in which that awesomeness can shine. I let myself do that in my YA works more than in my adult works to give them a different feel. Writing this way allows me to exercise different muscles.

I believe that children and teens are better able to mode shift. When they pick up a book, they don't necessarily feel that it has to fit in one of the genre boxes. As an author, that allows you to do some interesting things in teen that are harder to do within an adult genre. 

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

In all of your other books, you write strong, layered female characters—what can we expect from The Rithmatist in the protagonist/heroine department?

Brandon Sanderson

I often worry about falling into the trap of making female characters strong by not making them feminine. In Mistborn, Vin is strong in part because of how good of a warrior she is, and that's fine. There are plenty of women like that, who can hold their own in a fight. But in The Rithmatist, one of the things I wanted to do was write a female character who is more girly, so to speak. I wanted to make her a strong protagonist in a way that does not undermine her femininity. I hope that I've managed to approach that with Melody in The Rithmatist.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
#20 Copy

The Book Smugglers

You create some of the most elaborate magic systems in fantasy today; these systems function as intrinsic parts of your worlds and characters. Typically, how do you address the different types of magic systems in your different books? Do you define these systems before you start writing the books, or do they evolve and develop as you go along?

Brandon Sanderson

The answer to that is yes! It's different for every book. With my Cosmere books—which are the shared universe of my epic fantasies—I need to be a little more rigorous. There are fundamental underlying principles that guide the magic systems, and so there's a larger developmental phase before I start writing the book. Then I stick more strictly to the rules I've given myself.

All the way back in 2007, I was writing one of my epic fantasies, and it just wasn't working. I needed a break to something creative, different, and distinctive. So I jumped ship, abandoning that epic fantasy, and wrote The Rithmatist instead, which had a lot less planning than one of my epic fantasies.

With something like The Rithmatist—which is outside the cosmere—I'm allowed a little more freedom, which is one of the reasons I like writing books like this, where I allow myself to develop it as I write. The magic was the first thing that got me excited about The Rithmatist, so I based the book around it.

The first thing I wrote was the scene—now late in chapter one—where Joel watches Fitch get defeated by Nalizar in the classroom. It started out on a chalkboard, but I eventually moved it to the floor because that made more sense. As I was writing these chapters, I developed the Rithmatic lines and let the story feed the magic and the magic feed the story in a way that some writers call "discovery written."

Miscellaneous 2017 ()
#21 Copy

Dan Wells

This is actually an idea we came up with on the cruise last year was to do an episode about all the things that we have tried to make work and couldn't; the novels that we abandoned halfway through or the short stories that just never came together. And we thought it would be a really fun way to end this year in kind of a backhanded, inspirational way to say, look, we're all successful at this and we still screw up all the time.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. And it's not just what we do when we were trying to break in, not those old trunk novels. It still happens every year. Let's take each, our biggest one, like the thing we got the most involved in, or the one that was most tragic to us that we couldn't make work and talk about it. And I'll just go ahead and start.

Brandon Sanderson

I - right before I got the call for the Wheel of Time, which changed my life dramatically - I had finished the Mistborn series, I'd finished Warbreaker and Elantris, and next I thought, I'm going to jump back in the shared universe of my Cosmere and write the prequel series that started it all, where everything came from. This is the backstory of the character known as Hoid, who is a fan favorite. And I'm like, I'm going to do this trilogy, or more books. It's going to be super awesome. It's going to just be the greatest thing ever. And I actually finished the whole book and it was a disaster. It was a train wreck of a book. The character, for the first time - it's like this whole problem you have when you have a really engaging side character that you try to make a main character - didn't work at all as a main character, at least as the personality I had for them way back when. The plot was boring. The setting just was even more boring, which is saying a lot for me. I tried to pull and incorporate some different elements from books that I had tried before and none of them meshed. And so it felt like five books with a bad character and no plot. It was a huge, just terrible thing.

Howard Tayler

Did it have a good magic system?

Brandon Sanderson

The magic system was weak.

Here's the thing. It had a really good magic system from another world that I ported into this world that didn't jive. And the one that was from this world never meshed well with that. And so the magic system was really weak in that it was doing cool things, but in complete contrast to the tone of the novel. Dan may have read some of it, Liar of Partinel.

Dan Wells

Uh, no.

Brandon Sanderson

OK. The writing group which just kind of baffled by this. I actually tried -speaking of what we did last week - I actually started with the clichéd scene of someone being hung and then flashing back to show how they got there - like it had so many problems with it.

Dan Wells

72 hours earlier.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Yeah, it was, exactly. It was one of those things. Exactly one of those things. Like "I'm going to to try this tool. Oh, this tool is not a tool," right? Like some tools you try and you're like, "Oh, that's a cool tool that doesn't deserve its reputation." Some of them you try and you're like, "This is so..."

Dan Wells

There's a reason everyone makes fun of this one. Wow.

So I kind of want to ask questions about how bad it was.

Specifically with Hoid.

Because that's what fascinates me about this. He was, he is a fan favorite and he's always the side character, you know.

He's the one who's sits off and makes goofy comments and, you know, maybe appears once and then leaves. What did you do when you attempted to make him a main character? Like what was your process there?

Brandon Sanderson

So I knew the biggest chance for failure on this was, you know, taking him a bit, having be too wacky through the course, right? It's the Minion movie thing, which worked for my kids, but for a lot of people are like "These side characters that add flavor to a larger story, when you make the whole story about them, are super annoying." I'm like, I can't have him be super annoying! Well, that's OK. It's you know, when he was young, when you're seeing him in the books, he's hundreds and hundreds years old. He was young, and so I will take that part out. But I did this weird dual identity thing with him, where he was like pretending to be someone else for a big chunk of the book because it had a really cool twist when I did the whole reveal. But then that meant I had to characterize him as somebody you grew too emotionally invested in somebody to...at the end you're like, "Surprise! In the next book you'll get to know who he really is." Which was part of it. And the person I was having him be was bland on purpose because it was like trying to hide and pretend to... Oh, man! There were so many problems with this character, like it was trying to be too clever, leaving out the cleverness that had made him a fan favorite on purpose. Right? So it's a different kind of cleverness. And it just did not work. Didn't work at all.

Dan Wells

Do you think that if you were to write that book today, you could make it work?

Brandon Sanderson

I have completely scrapped that, and what actually changed my opinion on how to do this was Name of the Wind. It needs to be him in the future, flashing back and talking about himself because people will have already bonded to who he is in the future. And it needs to be a memoir. It needs to be...the Assassin's Apprentice is a better example of what this needs to be, because Robin Hobb does such a great job of showing you that contrast between what someone is now and what they've become. And so I need to do something like this. This is now my feel on it. If I then can set in his own voice, I can have these, you know, this first person where we're really, really fun in Hoid's voice for all, and then he fades into the story when he's telling a story, he's not nearly as, you know, he doesn't try to zing you every minute, he tries to tell the story well. That's who he is. And so he will tell the story well. And then we can pop out occasionally and get, you know, it's like Bilbo from The Hobbit.

Brandon Sanderson

So we'll see if I can write it. But that's my plan right now. And there is my true confession of failure. There've been other ones since, but that's the one that hurt, hit me the most. I actually wrote The Rithmatist as I was supposed to go into the sequel to this and start outlining it, and I'm just like "I can't, this book is so bad." And I wrote The Rithmatist without telling any one of my editors I sent that in instead of Liar of Partinel.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#22 Copy

Questioner

Steelheart and The Rithmatist, are they a part of the Cosmere as well?

Brandon Sanderson

They are not, yup.

Questioner

Just someone in line said that Steelheart was Hoid's planet, but I thought that they were not part of it.

Brandon Sanderson

They are not part of it. Anything that mentions Earth is something that I didn't want to be in the Cosmere.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Vrlover123

How is [Rithmatist] not a VR game yet.

Brandon Sanderson

I have tried for years to get one made, and would love to do it. I also am fine with (not for profit) fan creations in most instances.

The problem has always been that people who are interested in making a Rithmatist game don't have enough experience in the industry to really make me think they could do a good job with it. (I have had a lot of offers from first-time game makers, for example.) However, the sales of the book--while good--are not enough to interest big game makers. (Where we've had trouble even getting something like a Mistborn game made, a series with several multiples more fans than the Rithmatist.)

Skyward Houston signing ()
#24 Copy

Questioner

How did you get the idea for The Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist started with the drawings. I did the little doodles first, of all the defenses and things. And I just started drawing and drawing and drawing. And I drew all those out, and I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna write a book around this idea." I wanted to do something where people played a sport with magic, rather than only using it for, like, war and things.

Steelheart San Francisco signing ()
#25 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

He was asked how many contracts he's had and has.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

He started to talk about the story where he had a contract for Dragonsteel and another book, which became Rithmatist. He said the first book of Dragonsteel didn't turn out well, and that he wasn't ready to write that series, which ties in all of his universes as a prequel. And said he'd be avoiding more series where you have to really have read everything to get it until further down the line. Confirmed that the next several books are going to be Stormlight related, along with the in between Wax and Wayne books, Steelheart books and Rithmatist.

Brandon's Blog 2013 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

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.)

Firefight release party ()
#28 Copy

Questioner

Where did the idea to use chalk come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Y'know, I have trouble pinpointing that one. I remember the idea of chalk circles, and things like that, and just seeing those in the lore of our world's sort of magical mythology and thinking about chalk circles. I remember thinking about how I want to do a book some day about people who play a game with magic, and things like that. At the end it is just one of things that I'm like "Hey, magical Starcraft with chalk. Go!" and I just started working on it, and it happened.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

I was just wondering, is Joel going to become a Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

Is Joel going to become a Rithmatist. You get a card too! *laughter* For those who don't know The Rithmatist, my Young Adult book, the pitch for it, to myself, was "A Muggle at Hogwarts". It is the story of the son of the cleaning lady, who gets free tuition to the magic school, but doesn't-- has no talent-- He just doesn't have the ability himself. So he gets to go to this school, but can't use the magic. So you will have to see what happens in future books, and how it plays out.