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Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#1 Copy


So how long has "Zahel the swordmaster" been slumming it on Roshar? I mean I don't know who that is obviously.

Brandon Sanderson

Zahel the swordmaster has been on Roshar for a long while at this point. There's something on Roshar that's very easy for him to get that's very hard in other places. And so, yeah.


So he retains his previous abilities?

Brandon Sanderson

He was actually in the first draft in 2002. But yes there's something in Roshar that makes it better for him to be there.

WorldCon 76 ()
#2 Copy


You mentioned that Adolin was supposed to be killed in the... *inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, he was supposed to, I mean the original outline had, not the original... The outline for the 2002 version, he died in. He never died in the outline for the 2010 version. By then, I had reworked *inaudible*. But he did-- I'll eventually release The Way of Kings Prime, and you'll be able to see. Both Adolin and Elhokar died in that one. Yeah, the confrontation between Dalinar and Elhokar *inaudible*, Dalinar has to kill him to better the country. It's a really <unlikely thing> for Dalinar. I went a different direction in the published version. Those are two of the big things. Navani's not in the books at all. There are a whole bunch of things that I changed... Yeah, Dalinar killed Elhokar *inaudible*.


How did... Adolin die, then?

Brandon Sanderson

Adolin died in a highstorm, I'm pretty sure. He got caught in the wrong time. Like, Adolin was not as big a character. Renarin was always the big character. So, things went wrong, and Renarin's brother got... so.

Skyward Denver signing ()
#3 Copy


How did the Nahel bond manifest in Way of Kings Prime? What was missing?

Brandon Sanderson

I had a little light-and-sound show. It never actually happened on-screen. I had it-- If you've read Snapshot, it was this sort of thing that I intended to be a thing that they would see and could not be replicated, and you just kind of knew when it happened. Like, you were glimpsing the Spiritual Realm, something like that. But it never actually happened.


Was he actually a Herald, then?

Brandon Sanderson

He was actually a Herald. The book ends with him dying, and no one believing; except Jasnah, the atheist, believed he actually was a Herald, even though she didn't believe in God. And so it was like, "Well, we have to find out how to get him back. Because he can obviously be reborn." So that was one of the ends.


Are we ever going to get to read that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, once it's no longer spoilery.

General Reddit 2015 ()
#4 Copy


By the way, if "Awakeners" were something different back then, what did you call Vasher? Or was he just "some guy from another world, I'll explain his magic later".

Brandon Sanderson

The latter. There are hints he has a mysterious past, but not much more.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#6 Copy


When are you going to write the other Warbreaker book? Last time I came to hear you talk, you said you were going to, and now you have 3000 other projects!

Brandon Sanderson

I know, and the Warbreaker fans really get on my case about that. Well, I wrote Words of Radiance, and I got Vasher into it, so that would kindle interest, and make sure that you at least got to see your characters again.

But did you hear the story about that? So, I wrote The Way of Kings in 2002, the first version, and in that version Kaladin trained with a swordmaster, and that swordmaster, a guy named Vasher, had a mysterious past. After I finished that book, later on I wrote Warbreaker as a prequel to Way of Kings, to show Vasher's backstory. But then Warbreaker came out before Way of Kings, which was a really kind of interesting thing. So in my head, Warbreaker is the prequel, but to everyone else... Yes, it is a totally different world, different planets, people get around...


So how much of Vasher's backstory do we actually have?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, a huge chunk of it…! If you were reading Way of Kings, you would know nothing, and then you’d read Warbreaker and you’d be like, “Oh, here’s a whole past that he had!” That doesn’t mean it’s all of his past.


(He’s not giving any hints as to whether Vasher had any connection with Roshar prior to Warbreaker – or at least not without someone asking a much more direct question.)

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#7 Copy


Who is your favorite character you've written, if you had to pick one?

Brandon Sanderson

That's a hard question, I can't pick a favorite character. Dalinar is what I normally say, just because I've been working on him the longest. Honestly, I don't know. It's whoever I'm working on at the time.


Dalinar is a good character, I like Kaladin a lot too.

Brandon Sanderson

Kaladin has really worked out well. It's interesting because Kaladin-- the first time I wrote The Way of Kings, in 2002-- did not work and I had to rip him out and try a completely different personality and things for him. So it's cool to see it finally working.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#8 Copy


Was Elhokar going to be a Windrunner squire or was he going to be a different Order?

Brandon Sanderson

He was actually going to be a Lightweaver.



Brandon Sanderson

Yes. And some interesting story with him because--here's a little tidbit for you... In the original draft that I wrote in 2002 I pushed him far enough that Dalinar had to kill him. It came to blows. And I never quite liked how that turned out, so in the 2010 version we had a different path for Elhokar. But he's been doomed from a long time ago, poor guy.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#9 Copy


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.
Oathbringer release party ()
#10 Copy


So, November is the National Writer's month. Have you ever participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge?

Brandon Sanderson

I have!


Awesome! How did that go?

Brandon Sanderson

It went pretty well. I'm a pretty compulsive writer, so-- I don't do it as much anymore, 'cause I'm almost always on tour during it or something. But during the early days when I was trying to break in, I did it all the time. I actually wrote a big chunk of the first draft of Way of Kings in 2002, in NaNoWriMo.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#11 Copy


Will we ever see that thousand page Way of Kings Prime?

Brandon Sanderson

Way of Kings Prime is the book that I wrote that-- (I will actually read to you a little bit from it today. That's my reading, is from this book.) Eventually, I will just release the whole thing. Warning! It falls apart, and I actually did a little trim of the scene I'm gonna read to you today, because I was really into describing worldbuilding elements back then. You can watch the video from yesterday, where I read it before editing it, and there's like two paragraphs about the architecture. And then there's another two paragraphs about where they got the cloth for the clothing, and things like this.

I will eventually release it. Right now, it still has spoilers for things that happen in the series, and so I don't want to release it quite yet. But we're getting close to the place where I can release it, where all the spoilery things have happened in the main series, that are going to happen.

MisCon 2018 ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The fandom found out about The Way of Kings pretty early on. I don't know how this happened, but Amazon put up a listing for it in like, 2006. The book was eventually published four years later. I hadn't written it in 2006. I'd written a version of it that I sent to my editor at Tor when he wanted to buy Elantris. I said, "Here's the other thing I'm working on."

And he read Way of Kings and he called me back, terrified. Because it's 400,000 words long. Well, the print version is 300,000 words. And they say, you should shoot for maybe 120,000 for your first novel. So it's big, and I had all these notes for this art I wanted to put into it. So it was going to be really expensive to print, really expensive to edit. And he called and he was like, "Uhhh can we cut this? This is enormous!"

And I'm like, "No we can't cut it but it's not right yet." So we did a contract for Elantris and Mistborn. We never had a contract for Way of Kings. I don't know how anyone found out about it, but Amazon put up a listing for it anyway...

So the fandom started putting up fake reviews for this book. And they also devised fake pictures of it. Amazon has this Show Your Version. So they printed off fake covers and put them around books and took pictures and sent them in. So eventually, Amazon just put one of their covers up as the cover. And it had a picture of Elvis on the front. It was called The Way of Kings. And it had a quote from Terry Goodkind that said "A hunka hunka burning good book!"

This is what happens when you give fans a blank space on the internet and say "Fill this!" I didn't ask them to do this by the way. They just did this. I just started looking and people were like, "This book cured my dog's cancer!" Stuff like that! You know how they are.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#15 Copy


You talked about creativity earlier, and if you look back on your career until this point as a writer, how have you changed over that time? What has writing done for you as a point of self-improvement?

Brandon Sanderson

What has writing done for me as a point of self-improvement over the course of my career. That's excellent. I discovered writing when I was 15, that was when I was this young, gangly boy who is trying to figure out what to do with his life and I found solace in books and writing, which I had not done when I was younger. It was a teacher who handed me, it was a book called Dragonsbane, when I was 8th grade that changed my life. What it did, right off the bat was give me purpose, and that is so important. Knowing there is something you want to do. All through college, you know I had friends who "I'm taking this degree because it's what was expected of me but I don't know if this is what I want to do". I knew what I wanted to do, and knowing that-- that alone has been worth it's weight in gold.

Spending the time writing and practicing gave me confidence, that's been very important. Like when I finished that first book, it took me three years to write it. I said "You know what, I can do this. I can create this thing." Then being able to see myself get better and better and better, the confidence from that was great.

The big decision I also made late in my career, before I got published, I had to decide who I was doing this for. Because once you've got a dozen unpublished books, you start asking yourself the questions everyone is asking you. At the end I just decided this idea of "I'm just going to keep doing this. If I am 70 and I have a hundred unpublished manuscripts on my dresser. I love doing this, it is very fulfilling. I'm getting these stories out of my head, I can see myself getting better. I'm not going to be a failure if I have a hundred unpublished manuscripts, I'm going to be more of a success than if I never wrote them." And that decision is what drove me to write The Way of Kings, because before I'd been really hunting how to get published and trying to write things like I saw getting published and people kept telling me "Your books are too long" so I've been writing these shorter ones. And I just said "I don't care what you people are saying, I'm going to write the most awesome epic of the style I would love to read, that I don't feel enough people are doing. It's going to have this crazy world and all these characters and all this stuff and I know no one is ever going to want to publish it, but I'm going to write it" And that's when I wrote The Way of Kings, it was right after that decision.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


I'll be referencing the original draft of The Way of Kings (AKA Way of Kings Prime), written in 2002, as I feel it will probably be fun for readers to see how the book evolved over time. Every other book of mine you've read was conceived and executed over a relatively short period. The Way of Kings is different—it had a lot of evolving to do before hitting the state it's in now.

One of those evolutions was the magic. Mistborn had one of my best magic systems to date. In Way of Kings Prime (written before Mistborn) we only had two types of magic: Shardblades and Soulcasting. Shardblades were great, but not really magic. Soulcasting didn't work so well. [Assistant Peter's note: There was also something called Windrunning, but it was completely different from the version we know now.]

Mistborn really upped the ante in terms of magic in my books, and I wanted The Way of Kings to have a more dynamic, interesting magic system. That is one factor in why I waited so long to release it.

I finally worked out Lashings while on tour for The Well of Ascension. (That was the tour I went on following the call from Harriet, asking if I was interested in finishing The Wheel of Time.) What I liked about the Lashings system was the visual power and the means of manipulating gravity and pressure in interesting visual and creative ways. I had already built into the sensibilities of the world the idea that there were ten fundamental forces I had based on the idea of fundamental forces in our world's physics. It all fit together nicely.

Anyway, Szeth (named Jek in the first version of the book) was a more ordinary assassin in the original. He didn't have powers beyond being a really, really good killer.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
#17 Copy


[Compliments artwork in The Way of Kings, asks how working with illustrators has changed the way Brandon sees the world]

Brandon Sanderson

One of my initial visions for The Way of Kings was one of these cross-genre books. I wanted to bring illustrations and-- you know there's this sense for whatever reason in contemporary fiction that illustrations are for kids, not for adults. That's not the way it always was. If you go back to the 1800's every book was illustrated, to an extent. And you'd get these beautiful bookplates and things like this that would be in the novels. I wanted to go back to something like that. Though I did want to be aware of the idea that you as a reader are participating, and I wanted to be careful not to define too much what people look like, particularly characters, because I wanted that to be through you.

So I wanted to be doing artwork in the books, but I didn't want to do artwork that was too specific to the characters—other than the cover art. This meant I wanted to do in-world stories, which is how Shallan started to develop as a character. She was based off of Pliny the Elder, as a character and my research about him and some of the people like him; and a little bit about Darwin and his travels and things like this. So I wanted-- I started to build her. She replaced a character in the original Way of Kings, what I call Way of Kings Prime, that I wasn't pleased with.

So I really want to do a lot of artwork for the books, and it's been a lot of fun. One of the first things I did when I went to pitch Way of Kings to Tor was I commissioned artwork of all the characters. Because it was going to be such a visual book, I wanted to have in hand for me reference material on characters, races, things like this. I wanted to have this like world book that you sometimes get in a book afterward, I wanted that in the before. So that I had it all in hand. Because there's a lot of screwy stuff going on in this world.

It really helped me to envision, to visualize how this book was supposed to go. Beyond that it's just awesome. Who here has read Watchmen? Have you guys read Watchmen? If you haven't read Watchmen it's amazing, particularly if you're a comic book geek like me. When I first read Watchmen-- what Watchmen does, it adds all sorts of ephemera. Like one of the characters is creating action figures of all the other characters and trying to market and sell them, and they include his pitch for the action figures and things like that. And it was part of what brought that book to life for me: not just the excellent writing, but it was the idea that this is not just a comic book, this is a comic book plus a world. And I wanted to write books that were not just a book, they were a book plus a world.

It's been a blast. I am in a position where I can hire the artists myself, which allows me to have a lot of control, and so the artwork inside the book is all stuff that I've commissioned. I've gone to the artists and I've talked to them myself, and I've picked my favorite artists and we do this awesome work just as part of it.

Hopefully it's something that people enjoy, it's something that I intend to keep doing and it's been a blast.

YouTube Livestream 12 ()
#19 Copy

17th Shard

Originally, it was said Way of Kings Prime had spoilers for later Stormlight. But we've released it now. Why is that? Do you still feel it has spoilers, or do you think it's safe or fine?

Brandon Sanderson

I think it is fine, though it still has minor spoilers. The whole thread with Dalinar and Elhokar, I felt, was a pretty big spoiler. Because a very similar relationship played out in the published books, just with different results. I thought that one's a spoiler.

I felt that some of the Taln stuff is slight spoilers. But one of the things that worked passably well in Way of Kings Prime is the question of, "Is this guy a Herald, or is he crazy?" That was a central theme for him. And that whole arc got transposed to Dalinar. "Am I seeing visions, or am I crazy?" Whole thing got transposed, and I knew by the time I was into the actual published versions of the Stormlight Archive, I knew by then that I couldn't do the same thing with Taln. We'd already had a plot cycle like that, plus I was going to be introducing the Heralds, and it was going to be very clear that the Heralds are back and that the Voidbringers are here. And so the question of "Are the Voidbringers actually coming back? Were the Heralds real?" Thats, like, a major theme of Way of Kings Prime. And that cannot be a theme of the published version. And so, for a while, I was still holding onto the hope that maybe I can do something like this with Taln. And eventually, I said, "No, I just can't." It would be too repetitive and what-not, and that's part of what made me realize it's okay to release Way of Kings Prime. The stuff that happens to Taln is going to be so different from where I'm going to be taking him moving forward that it's okay.

There's still some minor, slight things that are still gonna show up, but it would be hard to pick out what those are. And when they happen in the actual series, you'd be like, "Oh, I can see the resonance of this to the original." Just like the Elhokar/Dalinar thing (which is more overt) resonates through that one into this one.

General Reddit 2015 ()
#20 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

It was Meridas [dual-wielding Shardblades in Way of Kings Prime], but this never actually came up in the book itself. It was just Brandon's headcanon. Would have happened in a sequel or something. Though, something about this is implied, if you read the chapters in Altered Perceptions, because of the way Shardblade bonding worked in that draft.

Meridas was kind of part-Amaram, part-Sadeas, part-...I dunno, Vstim? His personality was most like Sadeas, but he was a trumped-up merchant who wanted to marry Jasnah.

Firefight release party ()
#21 Copy


Where did the idea to split The Way of Kings and to make it take place in multiple places come from?

Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings taking place with the different timelines? So Way of Kings I wrote, the very first version of it--in its contemporary form, I wrote the first book about Dalinar when I was a teenager--but the very first book called The Way of Kings I wrote in 2002 and I tried to cram way too much into that book. The big failing of that book was I tried to do everyone's story at once. And so when I re-wrote it in 2009, or whenever it was, I decided I would take the characters and spread them out across the 10 book series and I would focus on a certain set of them early on and then transition into other ones. But in order to maintain some of the complexity I like in my books, particularly big epic fantasies, I added in the flashback sequence, one per character per book as a means to adding some depth and complexity but using it to build up a character you already knew, rather than doing someone completely different. And so this kind of allowed me to tell the story the way I wanted to, by doing-- That did mean I still had to have two separate timelines because I needed to do Shallan and I needed to do Kaladin, 'cause I knew they were going to be important, interacting together for the next few books. Which did put me in two different places but that was much better than the six different places the original had. And it's just because I like complexity, I like a book that everything comes together at once.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#22 Copy


Huh. It seems a proto-Shallan did already exist as of this version [Way of Kings Prime]. I thought with the prologue's discussions of House Davar that Shallan would have been a more recent development.

Peter Ahlstrom

Brandon sees Shinri and Shallan as entirely different people who have the same last name and are both Jasnah's ward. However, most of the other characters are the same people as they are in the published novel.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
#23 Copy


Why didn't Dalinar get the powers of a Stoneward when he bonded Taln's [Honorblade]?

Brandon Sanderson

Some readers have already figured this out, so I don't think I'm engaging in too large a spoiler to dig into this one here.

There are several oddities going on here. The most important one relevant to this question is the Blade in question. If you compare the descriptions of the sword described in the epilogue of The Way of Kings to the one that traveled with the madman (allegedly Taln, the Herald) to the Shattered Plains, you'll find they are different.

The one that the characters obtained in Words of Radiance is NOT an Honorblade. It's an ordinary Shardblade (as ordinary as one of those can be called.) I'm not going to say specifically what happened to the Blade Taln arrived with at Kholinar, but I will say that it IS a different weapon from the one in Words of Radiance.

The other issue here is the somewhat lesser question of whether this character is actually Taln, the Herald, or not. Some characters in-world don't believe that it is, though his viewpoint in Words of Radiance strongly implies otherwise. This isn't specifically relevant to the conversation for reasons I'll talk about below--but it is tangentially related. Because in the cosmere, Intent is important to many of the types of magic. It's theoretically possible to hold an Honorblade and not realize what its powers are, and therefore be unable to access them.

As an aside, this character was actually the primary protagonist of the version of The Way of Kings I wrote in 2002. A man who woke up, with lingering memories of madness, and claimed to be a Herald when nobody believed him--as he couldn't manifest any powers, seemed to have lost his sword, and lore said the Heralds weren't coming back anyway.

When I wrote the new version of The Way of Kings in 2009 or so, one goal was to focus the storyline. I'd included so many characters in the 2002 version that none of them progressed very far in their arcs, creating a strong setting and interesting characters--but a bad book. During the new version, I decided that this character would be moved to the later books, and I'd explore him there.

In the 2002 version, the text was very dodgy on whether or not Taln was a Herald. Confronting the fact that he might be crazy was a major arc and theme of the book--however, as I've worked on the new version, I've realized that it would be dangerous to be too vague on this. Stringing people along with the question for a book or two is one thing, waiting until book six or eight to do a character's arc, and leaving the question of whether they're a Herald or not all that time, seemed unfair.

So the text is going to be making manifest fairly quickly who this person is. You'll have confirmations long before we dig into his viewpoint in the later books.

So, a recap:

1) The swords WERE swapped somehow.

2) Someone could hold an Honorblade and not realize they had access to powers.

3) This character may or may not actually be a Herald--but the text is going to make the answer clear, and I'm not trying to trick you.

Brandon's Blog 2008 ()
#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Syl Leaves

I hated sending Syl away from Kaladin here, but it had to happen—in part because of how much it hurt to send her away. She's basically the only light left in these scenes with Kaladin in Bridge Four.

Syl wasn't in the original draft of Kings. I developed her over the years between 2003 and 2009; there was a time when the four winds from mythology would be active and alive on Roshar, and she was one of those. Eventually, the spren developed as a concept. They grew out of the greater worldbuilding and magic system rules for the cosmere. (The connected universe of my epic books.)

At that point, she became a sentient spren—one of many that would be in the books. Still, she was very special. I do worry about the Tinkerbell vibe that she gives off to some people. I tried hard to distance her from that. No wings, the constant shape changing, that sort of thing.

Her innocence and childlike nature is an important foil and balance to the darkness in Kaladin's life. Then she leaves, and all innocence is gone from him.

A Memory of Light Chicago signing ()
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How did this [Wheel of Time] help prepare you to write Stormlight Archive?

Brandon Sanderson

There's actually a good story there because Way of Kings, the first Stormlight Archive, is the book I was writing when I first sold Elantris. Elantris was my first published but it wasn't my first written, it was my sixth novel. It was the first one that was actually somewhat decent, but I was writing number thirteen when I got the offer on it. You'll find that's very common among authors. It doesn't happen to all of us, but a lot of us, we write for a long time before we get it done. And I just finished Way of Kings and it was not right yet. In fact when I sold Elantris, Tor wanted to buy two books from me, and my editor asked, "send me what I was working on right now". And I sent him Way of Kings and he said, "wow this is awesome, but number one, it's enormous. I'm not sure if we can publish this, at least in one volume, from a new author." Later on I was able to convince them it should be one volume, but that's when I had a little more clout and they could print more copies, which drives prices down for printing them. But also it just wasn't right yet. The book was not right. And I said to my editor, "I'm okay not publishing it now, because I don't know what's wrong with it." As a writer, I think it was just too ambitious for me at the time. I just couldn't do it yet.

It wasn't until I had written Gathering Storm in its entirety that I started to figure out what I'd been doing wrong. It was actually managing viewpoints was one of the things. During the reread of Robert Jordan's entire series, I noticed how he gathered the viewpoints together. You start writing a big epic fantasy series, and you feel like, they have so many characters and I want to start with that. In the original draft of Way of Kings I started them all over the world. I had all these viewpoints and things like this and the book was kind of a trainwreck because of it. Where if you read Eye of the World, Robert Jordan starts with them all together and then slowly builds complexity. Even in the later books, he's grouping the characters together. Even though they have individual storylines going on, they are in the same place and they can interact with each other, and there's clusters of them in different places. That was one thing. Working on Gathering Storm, I've learnt how to make my characters, also how to use viewpoints the way he did, how to manage subtlety--he was so subtle with a lot of his writing. Just some of these things, it all started to click in my head.

And I actually called my agent and said, "I need to do Way of Kings right now." And he's like, "Are you sure? Because you kind of have a lot on your plate." "I need to do it, it's going be fast, because I know how to do it now." So I actually took time off between Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight and rewrote Way of Kings from scratch. It took me about six months, which is amazingly fast for a book that length. And then showed it to my editor and it was right this time. It's hard to explain many of the specifics. It's like, how do you know you can lift this weight after you've been lifting these other weights? It's when you've worked hard enough that you've gained the muscle mass to do it. And writing The Wheel of Time was heavy lifting. That's how it happened. I do apologize the sequel is taking so long. But after that deviation to do the first one which I could do very quickly, I couldn't stop to write the second one after Towers of Midnight because the second one would take too long and delay the last book too long. I am getting back to Stormlight now, and I am working on the second book, but I had other obligations first that were very important.

Daily Dragon interview ()
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Daily Dragon

Your new epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive, has been in the works forquite some time. In an interview earlier this year with, you said that you set the project aside in 2003 because you needed to "get better as a writer." During the interim, as you worked on other projects such as the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and your middle-grade Alcatraz series, which skills did you improve the most?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that I learned to juggle multiple characters a lot better. That's one of the places where I needed to grow, and it's one of the aspects where the original Way of Kings that I wrote in 2002 flopped. I wasn't good at juggling all these viewpoints. Working on The Wheel of Time really forced me to learn that, and I think I've gotten much better at it. I've also learned to be more subtle with my writing; Robert Jordan was incredibly subtle in his foreshadowing. Going through his notes and rereading the books and seeing how he set up things for many books later, it impressed me quite a bit that he was able to do that. I think I've been able to learn from that.

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Yup. Most of what you see him doing, Renarin did in the original outline, much more awkwardly.


Did you keep him in for longer because he has an important part to play?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. remember, this is the draft I did in 2002, things were very different. Like in that draft Kaladin took the Shardblade and became a Shardbearer and stuff like this, and so it was a very different book, very different themes. I beefed up Adolin's part when I was doing this and eventually he developed into a stronger character. I need Adolin because Adolin is the guy who is not gaining all the magical powers and flying in the air and stuff. I need the guy who is more normal. As normal as the prince of Alethkar can be. I needed him and I really liked where he went after doing that, so.

Brandon's Blog 2014 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

What Is Altered Perceptions?

This anthology will collect "altered" versions of published stories—deleted scenes, alternate endings, original concept chapters, and that sort of thing.

For it, I'm letting people see—for the first time—a large chunk of the original version of The Way of Kings, which I wrote in 2002–2003. This version is very different, and involves a different course in life for Kaladin as a character—all due to a simple decision he makes one way in this book, but a completely different way in the published novel.

These chapters are quite fun, as I consider what happened in The Way of Kings Prime (as I now call it) to be an "alternate reality" version of the events in the published books. The characters are almost all exactly the same people, but their backstories are different, and that has transformed who they are and how they react to the world around them. Roshar is similar, yet wildly different, as this was before I brought in the spren as a major world element.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Is Lhan from the [Way of Kings Prime] reading the same one from Book 2?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that is the same Brother Lhan. I knew he wasn't going to get to have a big part in the books once I moved Taln so far off. So I gave him a nice cameo with his own interlude so that at least he would be in the books. Because in that version, he basically wandered around, following Taln, complaining for the entire book.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#33 Copy


Is the sword at the end of Words of Radiance, is it the actual Nightblood from Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, actually. It's fun because when I first wrote Way of Kings in 2002, Vasher was one of the main characters. And then when I wrote Warbreaker in 2006, I wrote a book about him to do his past. And then when I re-wrote Way of Kings it's like, "Well, time for Vasher to come back." So he's been in Roshar, in my head, since the beginning, for some 20 years. But he wasn't-- He didn't originate there, but... He was one of the worldhoppers that I hid in the very first version. Which was a lot of fun to then be able to go write a book about him and come back.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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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.

General Reddit 2016 ()
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What is the biggest change you've made based on alpha/beta reader feedback? (This goes for any of your books)

Brandon Sanderson

Probably adding Adolin as a main viewpoint character in the first book, which was done because I had trouble striking the balance between Dalinar worrying he was mad, and being a proactive, confident character. Worried better to externalize some of the, "Am I mad" into his son worrying "My dad has gone crazy" while letting Dalinar be more confident that his visions were something important. (I still let him worry a little, of course, but in the original draft, he felt temperamental from vacillation between these two extremes.)

Bringing Adolin to the forefront in the books has had a huge ripple effect through them, as I've been very fond of how his character has been playing out.


May I ask why you choose to use Adolin as the viewpoint character to supplement Dalinar as opposed to Renarin? My understanding is Renarin has always been the "most important brother" within SA, which made me wonder why, based on the beta readers comments, you ultimately decided to use Adolin and not your established character to bring forward the dilemma.

I am, obviously, extremely fond of how Adolin has been played out so far and while I have no idea where he is going (but zillions of theories), I am curious to know what his initial purpose in the story was. Did you draft the character's personality just for WoK's needs or did you have an idea of what to do with him when you made the change?

Brandon Sanderson

I was well aware that I needed certain things about Renarin to remain off-screen until later books, and him being a viewpoint character early would undermine these later books.

Adolin is a happy surprise and works exactly because he doesn't need to be at the forefront, even after I boosted his role. With Adolin, what you see is really what you get, which is refreshing in the books--but it also means I don't need huge numbers of pages to characterize him, delve into his backstory, etc. He works as a side character who gives more to the story than he demands pages to fullfill that giving, if that makes sense. Renarin is more like a pandora's box. Open him up, and we're committed to a LOT of pages. (Good pages, but that was the problem with TWOK Prime--everyone was demanding so many pages, from Renarn, to Jasnah, to Kaladin, to Taln, that none of their stories could progress.)

Adolin has basically always had the same personality, from TWOK Prime, through the original draft of the published TWOK, to the revision. The changes to making him more strong a viewpoint character were very natural, and he has remained basically the same person all along--just with an increased role in the story, and more development because of it.

I do discovery write character, usually, as a method of keeping the books from becoming slaves to their outlines. This means that Adolin has gone some new directions, but it's been a growth from the person he was in TWOK Prime. (Which you'll be able to see when I release it, sometime in the hopefully not distant future.)

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter 10

Kal helps his father work on a young girl's hand

For years I had been wanting to do a full-blown flashback-sequence book. Flashbacks (or non-linear storytelling) can be a powerful narrative device, but they're also dangerous. They can make a book harder to get into (nothing new for this book) and can create frustration in readers who want to be progressing the story and not dwelling in the past.

The payoff, in my estimation, is a stronger piece of art. For example, as Kaladin is slowly being destroyed in the bridges we can show a flashback for contrast. The juxtaposition between the naive Kal wanting to go to war and the harsh realities of the Kaladin from years later suffering in war might be a little heavy-handed, but I feel that if the reader is on board with the character, this will be powerful instead of boring.

I often talk about how books grow out of separate ideas that buzz around in my head. One of those ideas was to create a character who was a surgeon in a fantasy world. A person who believed in science during an era where it was slowly seeping through the educated, but who had to fight against the ignorance around him.

Back when Kaladin was called Merin, he didn't work well as a character. He was too much the standard "farmboy who becomes a nobleman" from fantasy genre cliché. I struggled for years with different concepts for him, and it was when I combined him with the idea for this surgeon that things really started rolling. It's interesting, then, that he didn't actually become that surgeon character. In the final draft of the book, that character became his father—not a main character as I'd always intended—and Kaladin became the son of the character I'd developed in my head to take a lead role.

TWG Posts ()
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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

Mistborn was my fourteenth book, Elantris my sixth.  One, named Dragonsteel, was my seventh and a number of the people on my forums knew me when I started writing it.  It was, in a way, the book that 'made me famous' among my group of friends.  So, many of them are excited to hear that I'm reworking the setting and planning to do the book for the big leagues. Dragonsteel Prime, the original, just isn't publishable as is.  There were some great ideas, but I didn't have the skill at the time to make them work.  So, I'm stealing some of the best ideas--and characters--and planning a new series around them.  Hence Ookla calling me a cannibal, since I'm 'Cannibalizing' my old ideas to make new books. 

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.

Oathbringer release party ()
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I read the earlier version of The Way of Kings. When did Kaladin get depressed?

Brandon Sanderson

That was when I realized he was the main character and the least-- the least a character, right? And so, it was when I sat down and asked myself, what went wrong with it? And the main thing of the things I came up was that Kaladin wasn't real. And so I started looking at what would make him real. And depression doesn't make more real, but it's an outgrowth of him making the other decision, what happened with his brother, he had PTSD, and all of this stuff. It grew out of that.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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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.

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
#42 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In fact, in the origin of The Stormlight Archive, the first Surgebinding things I did, every order of the Knights Radiant was going to be able to Soulcast. Be able to change things from one to another. It was just, you would be locked into the element that was associated with your order of Knight Radiant, you could turn that into anything else you wanted to. That was one of my original pitches. I eventually moved away from that, a lot of the Orders were just feeling too similar in what they did, but that core concept is still there in Stormlight, and Soulcasting as a concept is there because the series is about change.

YouTube Livestream 13 ()
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King of Herdaz

In the Stormlight books, the number ten is thematically and culturally very important. In The Way of Kings Prime, the word "tenset" is commonly used to refer to ten of something. So, when Rosharans in the published Stormlight books talk about "a dozen" of something, do they mean twelve? Or do they mean ten?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a great question. I've been using "tens" more often in Stormlight, because I've found that people will go with it. One of the problems I felt with Way of Kings Prime was that the worldbuilding, the learning curve was too steep. So when I wrote Way of Kings the new version, I scaled back a little on that. We mentioned weeks, but we don't talk about about the fact that on Roshar, a week is five days, right? We talk about hours, but we don't go into the length of time a day is. It gets all wibbly-wobbly, shall we say.

And my explanation of this is: these are all in translation. The translator (who is me) who is interpreting it, most of the time, when they say "tens," I will write "a dozen," or something like that. But not always.

Now, I am edging toward more "tens," because in-world they would use "tens." Peter is okay with this. Karen's like, "Eh, it makes continuity a little wonky." But I feel like, having gone as long as we have, people are okay dealing with more of that, so I'm leaning that direction. But understand, I am the translator presenting this to you. Pretend that, when Wit says something that's a pun in their language, I am finding a pun in English that is similar and writing it out, because he's not actually saying what the book is having him say.

But this is all just something you have to put in to imagine to keep that sense of immersion for you. And whichever one works to help you. But, yeah, they would be using "tens." They'd say "tens of" this, instead of "dozens," more often.

General Reddit 2020 ()
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Anyone know if WoK Prime is more or less a complete/conclusive story? I’m just wondering if it’s like a stand-alone or if it gives the sense of “this is part 1 of X more books to come.” I’m actually nervous about cliffhangers and such never being resolved—alternative storyline or not.

Brandon Sanderson

I'm afraid there are some. It's worse than the published Way of Kings in that regard, I'd say. It IS a complete story; it doesn't just end in the middle. But it also is obviously part of something larger that I will never now write.


Will you be releasing a general over view of what you intended with the cliff hangers?

Also was Taln going to remain dead?

Brandon Sanderson

It's been a LONG time, so remembering exactly what I was going to do will be tough. But Taln was going to be proven a Herald, so he wasn't DEAD dead.


I was left with three implied backstory questions with no equivalent in the published SA, dunno if either can be answered without spoiling published SA:

What happened "17 years ago" around the end of the conquest war, around the time Merin/Shinri/Renarin were born, that reawakened the ancient powers?

Who killed Nolhanarin (sp?) and why. Was it Ishar? (who we know lied about it)

What's the deal with Meridas' mysterious past?

As for other stuff (such as what the hell are the Shin leaders up to, who is in cahoots with Odium and who's just a bastard, what's the endgame, etc), they're somewhat similar to published SA so I'm guessing RAFO.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, I'm stretching here because it's been a LONG time.

But I believe what happened is that the other Heralds did something that caused the return to begin, and the powers to reawaken. This was related to Taln being abandoned, which he didn't realize had happened.

Meridas was involved in something very similar to the Sons of Honor, and much of his mysterious past relates to that.

I don't remember who performed the murder.


Was it also related to Jarnah's/the Shin Invasion, which also happened 17 years prior?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. The Shin had a much stronger cavalry in this edition, and had a little more of an Aiel feel to them. I eventually started to go a different direction, because I realized I was subconsciously leaning on Wheel of Time with the Aiel invasion.


So sorry to bug to you, but I just finished Prime and I had one burning question at the end. And I don't think it will ever be answered in the current iteration of the Stormlight Series.

What was the real drawback of Merin using his Windrunner powers? Your book kept on hinting that pain was just merely a side effect and not the real danger.

Brandon Sanderson

Real danger was, I believe, drawing the attention of the enemy. (Book two was going to start with his home being attacked because the voidbringers--can't remember what they were originally called--had picked out a budding Radiant and as soon as they Returned, sent everything they had to kill him.)


Was Vasher supposed to be Jarnah the Conqueror in disguise? Is this why one of Vasher's friends said that Dalenar was a liar? That maybe Dalenar didn't win the duel at all, but Jarnah decided that he was wrong about the Return and gave up?

Brandon Sanderson

I'll be honest...I don't remember. (Sorry.)

JordanCon 2014 ()
#45 Copy


From the moment you begin worldbuilding Roshar how long did it take you before it really resembled what we read in The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance?

Brandon Sanderson

Resembled? I would say about a year. But I started worldbuilding it in 2001, if you read the version I wrote in 2002 you would say, "This feels like Roshar" but the spren weren't in it yet.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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By the way, the chapters from Way of Kings Prime were pretty interesting when I read them in the [Altered Perceptions] anthology. I assume the rest of the book at the moment is still pretty spoilery... about where in The Stormlight Archive series would you consider it 'caught up' enough to do something with the rest of WoK'?

Brandon Sanderson

Unfortunately, one of the ways I made the series work was by splitting the character into two groupings, and doing half in the first five and half in the second. This means that WoK Prime doesn't spoil anything for Dalinar/Kaladin/Shallan. But it has huge spoilers for books six and seven, with Jasnah and Taln. So it will be a while.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#47 Copy


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.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Can you write me something about Dalinar, who's my favorite character, that'll make me happy?:)

Seriously, I'm very sensitive and Dalinar has to deal with some rough stuff in this book. My heart aches for him constantly, and I need a few words for comfort.:)

Brandon Sanderson

Dalinar has indeed dealt with some rough stuff, but most of that comes from the fact that he is willing to turn and face it down--which is sometimes, the only way to deal with it long-term. So while you can let your heart ache for him, also let it be the ache of someone who was willing to pull the thorn from their foot instead of continuing to walk upon it.

And if you want something that might make you happy, in the original version of the book I forced Dalinar to have to kill Elhokar. I backed off from this when I rewrote the book for publication, realizing (I think rightfully) that I didn't need to push him into that, and the story worked better if he could help Elhokar instead of destroy him.

General Reddit 2023 ()
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I was just wondering if Sando [Brandon] has ever said what was behind the very ornate door under The First Capital [in The Way of Kings Prime]?

Brandon Sanderson

An Unmade was behind that door, spiked with crystal spikes to the wall, holding it and preventing it from going anywhere. I believe I talked about it on a stream somewhere.

This was very, very early Hemalurgy--and some of the things I was planning there are no longer canon. You probably could still spike an Unmade to bind it to the Physical Realm, though, so that part remains viable.

TWG Posts ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Now, I would like to point out that I have been miss-represented. While I have a penchant for characters who avoid marriage, I have some (not as many, I admit) who look forward to it. Let's look at viewpoint characters in my current novel:

Jasnah: Female. Doesn't want to get married.

Taln: Male. Doesn't want to get married.

Shinri: Female. Eager to get married, and engaged.

Merin: Male. Never really thought about it (only 17) but not really opposed to it.

Jek: Male. Neutral.

Dalenar: Male. Has been married twice, and is currently married. Wanted to the first time, was forced into it the second time.

So, while I wouldn't argue that I tend to have a lot of characters who (perhaps) share my philosophy, I try to represent the other side as well.