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TWG Posts ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

ELANTRIS and WHITE SAND have what I would call 'flawless' heroes. DRAGONSTEEL and AETHER OF NIGHT have mostly flawless heroes, with their internal issues being only minor parts of the plot. These four have, from what people have told me, are generally their favorite books of mine.

WAY OF KINGS, MISTBORN (version 1), and FINAL EMPIRE all have heroes with serious emotional or psychological issues that they're dealing with. KINGS is the most daunting of these, with each of the major characters having their own personal 'thing' that they are working through in the book. MISTBORN (version 2) is similar to this (though none of you have read it yet.)

These three books have received mixed reactions. While many people claim to like them, I'm not sure that they enjoyed them as much as the previous set.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#2 Copy

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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter 11

And now comes the redemption chapter.

This is the sort of thing that I write books to do. It's the sort of chapter that I really hope to be able to pull off. That may seem strange to some of you, as it's not the climatic ending or the like—but it's the turning point of the story. Probably the most important one in the book.

I've said before that I feel Epic Fantasy is about return on investment. We often demand a lot of readers in terms of worldbuilding. There's a lot to catch up on and follow in a book like this. The goal, then, is to be able to deliver powerful scenes that make use of the investment.

The reward for the early chapters is this chapter. It lays a foundation for the entire book. I've brought Kaladin as low as I could bring him, and now we get to experience the scramble upward.

Perhaps I think about these things too much. However, this was exactly what was missing from Prime when I wrote it. I was baffled, at the time, as to why the book just didn't work. It had all of the elements of a good epicw, and yet the book felt hollow somehow. There were fun adventures to be had, but no real impact. What it needed was this sequence, which has a lot of motion (and hopefully heart) to it.

This chapter makes the book for me.

Oathbringer release party ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

I have!

Questioner

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.

BookCon 2018 ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

This book seemed a little sadder, I thought Kaladin would reach the next level.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, he's still got some things to work out. 

Questioner

I was surprised that Elhokar getting killed *inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

At least, in this draft, it wasn't Dalinar that that killed him like in the original version... That didn't work.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

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.

Manchester signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

You said you had thirteen books that you wrote before you got published. Did you ever go back to any of them, or are they all just totally trunkable?

Brandon Sanderson

So, number thirteen was Way of Kings--that first version I talked about. Elantris was number six. So those two got published. I ripped apart number nine and built it into Warbreaker--some of the ideas. White Sand was one of them but became a graphic novel. Some of them, ideas are still waiting to get used. Because some of them got ripped up and turned into Mistborn. I have reused some of the ideas, but some of them just--

Questioner

Yeah, but like-- but you did reuse some of the full book?

Brandon Sanderson

I didn't ever--I didn't take any of the actual words, but yeah.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five

One of the problems with The Way of Kings Prime was it had too many characters competing for the limelight. It lacked focus. One could argue that the published The Way of Kings is kind of all over the place itself—indeed, a lot of the plot threads don't connect until the end. (And then only in some limited ways.)

In the published book, I feel it works. Yes, the book is expansive, but we really only have two locations for our plot: the Shattered Plains and Kharbranth. In Prime, Jasnah and Taln both had major sections of the plot, in addition to Kaladin, Dalinar, Szeth, and the character Shallan replaced. It was just too much, and the thing never pulled together.

Fixing this was one of my main goals for revising the book. I started The Way of Kings over from scratch during 2009, between writing The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. I knew I needed a tighter narrative.

At the end, I moved Jasnah and Taln out of the book for the most part. They will have stories later in the series, but for this book, Jasnah isn't a viewpoint character.

I'll dig into Soulcasting at another time.

Brandon's Blog 2004 ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The next segment from my Tor proposal talks about a book some of you may have heard of: THE WAY OF KINGS. Originally, this was going to be the second book I published, but I’ve decided to put it off in favor of MISTBORN. The reasons are explained below.

This decision was met with a great deal of disappointment by some of the manuscript’s fans, but I really think it’s best for my career right now to delay KINGS. It’s a magnificent story, but it needs some more time before it’s ready for the general public.

—————

THE WAY OF KINGS (Book one of the Oathshards Series.)

KINGS was the book I was working on when Moshe first called me to buy ELANTRIS. While we were in contract negotiations, he asked to read a bit of my current work. I sent him KINGS, and he decided he wanted to purchase it as well. I don’t think, however, that he knew what he was getting into.

The OATHSHARDS is a massive war epic centering around ten angelic beings who have been driven insane—each in a slightly different way—by millennia spent protecting, fighting for, and dying for mankind. The first book, THE WAY OF KINGS, follows six separate viewpoint characters (one of them an immortal) during a time when the three peninsulas are thrown into a massive war. It is an intensive character piece coming in at over 300,000 words, and can be quite brutal with its characters.

It still does the things I do well—it has several original magic systems (though magic isn’t a focus in the first book.) It has a very interesting setting (which is one of its strong points) and has an array of interesting characters from all walks of life. (One a young peasant soldier, one a middle-aged sister to the king, one a battle-hardened nobleman general, one an honor-bound assassin serving an evil master, one a young lady-in-waiting, and the final one being an immortal protector of mankind who is slowly breaking beneath the pressure of his station.) The central theme of the book is that of leadership, and each of the six viewpoint characters are defined in one way or another by how they lead others.

KINGS has a lot going for it. It’s the kind of story that people remember—it has a grand scope, meaningful characters, and an expansive plot that would have to cover at least five books. However, I don’t know that it’s the best thing for my career right now. The book needs a lot of work before it could be published—at its current length, it would have to be cut into two pieces or slashed by a third in order to work. I also have to do some serious revisions to the plot. I like how all of the characters work, but I worry that the book is too slow (even for me) at the beginning as I establish six viewpoints and six separate plots. I need to find a way to combine some of the plotting so that several viewpoints can work on the same problems.

I think this series could really make an impact on the genre. However, it would take far more work than MISTBORN to get to a publishable level. Perhaps it would be best for me to publish a few books like MISTBORN or ELANTRIS before I do something this ambitious.

Daily Dragon interview ()
#13 Copy

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 Fantasy-Faction.com, 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.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#14 Copy

LoneWarmonger

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.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

How do the Heralds come back? As Cognitive Shadows, how do they a physical body?

Brandon Sanderson

That system will be explained in the coming books, so that is a RAFO. I'm gonna dig into it pretty deeply. It's relevant for multiple reasons...

In the original version, Taln ended up in someone else, like they would get a body from someone else, which was part of fueling the "Is he crazy, is he not," because people were like, "I recognize this guy!" I don't use that system anymore.

Questioner

That's what I was wondering, because the Fused--

Brandon Sanderson

They use something kind of more like the Fused in the original draft, it's not that process anymore.

Questioner

Is that gonna give us lead-ins to how it worked with Kelsier?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe. Maybe. You shall see.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

What made you decide to split Stormlight into two arcs?

Brandon Sanderson

A bunch of things. I'd say the primary one is that when I tried to write the Way of Kings in 2002, the first version of it, the book failed. I finished the whole book, but it failed and the primary reason for that was because I had too many viewpoints doing too man things in too many places and the reader wasn't able to follow it and it didn't give a satisfying arc to anybody because there was like a little piece of a story instead of a complete story, so I spent many years trying to figure out why it wasn't working and one of the things i came up with that i should take some of the characters and tell their stories and then take some of the others and tell their stories later.

That natural division became very obvious to me when I was re-outlining the series using this idea. That I could do a Dalinar, Kaladin, Shallan type thing and then save the Herald's viewpoints for the second half, does that makes sense. So that will... it should feel very natural. It should be some changes that indicate separate series but same... anyways, I'm please with how the outline looks.

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
#18 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.

Firefight release party ()
#19 Copy

Questioner

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.

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

Maru Nui

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

Brandon's Blog 2008 ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

MY HISTORY AS A WRITER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firefight Houston signing ()
#22 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Footnote: Brandon has since changed the method for obtaining the prose draft of White Sand. It is now automatically sent out to anyone who signs up for the newsletter on his website.
Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

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...

Wetlander

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.

Wetlander

(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.)

Skyward Denver signing ()
#24 Copy

Questioner

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.

Questioner

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.

Questioner

Are we ever going to get to read that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, once it's no longer spoilery.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#25 Copy

Questioner

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.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#26 Copy

333Fred

  1. In the part 2 epigraphs of Oathbringer, Michael reads Harmony's letter in Sazed's accent. Is that something you specifically told him to do, or did he figure that out on his own?

  2. By that same token, have there been other instances of you telling Michael and Kate "Read this with a specific accent" or "Make something memorable for this momentarily-appearing side character" (Jezrien the beggar comes to mind).

  3. In TWoK interlude 1, Michael doesn't read Demoux with the same accent as he did in Mistborn. That leads me to believe that Connection also emulates accent. When Dalinar used Connection to speak with the Azish, did he sound like an Azish speaking Azish, or an Alethi speaking Azish?

  4. Finally, this occurred to me as I was typing the previous question: How is Taln understandable to the modern characters of SA? He's been in Damnation for the past 4500 years, and there's been dramatic changes in the writing system. I assume that means similarly dramatic shifts in the spoken language too. I mean, today we can't really understand Old English, and that wasn't even 1 millennium ago. Has the spoken word really not changed that much, or is he using Connection? If he is, do all the heralds use it?

Brandon Sanderson

1.) I believe we warned him.

2.) Yes, though Peter usually makes these calls (he checks with me on a few.) We do need to do this for translations sometimes too (gender an ambiguous-in-English voice, for example.)

3.) We're better at this than we used to be. He probably should have had the same voice there. However, it can vary, depending on how the magic works. For example, Hoid--who is generally using Connection, rather than using languages--sounds like a native speaker. How you use the magic, how you view yourself, and things like that do influence this.

4.) I'm on this one, and will have answers for you eventually. In original drafts of TWOK, back when it was supposed to be a mystery if Taln were a Herald or not, I believe Jasnah used this as evidence that he WASN'T one, actually. Suffice it to say that the Heralds have had to deal with this a lot, over thousands of years...

JordanCon 2014 ()
#28 Copy

Questioner

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 ()
#29 Copy

Phantine

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.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#30 Copy

Zantis

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.

Zantis

Interesting.

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.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#31 Copy

Questioner

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.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#32 Copy

Questioner

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.

Brandon's Blog 2014 ()
#33 Copy

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.

Oathbringer release party ()
#34 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

*reading* So did Renarin have an antagonist organization like--

FeatherWriter

In [The Way of Kings] Prime.

Brandon Sanderson

Right, 'cause Renarin created the Diagram in Prime... Taravangian was in Prime but under a different name, but yes, Taravangian was there but he was a different-- he was similar. So we'll write that: "Taravangian".

A Memory of Light Chicago signing ()
#36 Copy

Questioner

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.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#37 Copy

Kabsal

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.

MisCon 2018 ()
#39 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.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#40 Copy

Will_Try_N_Sell_Junk

What's the biggest change you've made between drafts that would surprise readers?

Brandon Sanderson

Hm. Well, the biggest ones would probably all be Stormlight, since the first proper draft of that (in 2002) was far from the second version I did in 2009. Seven years of thinking about where the story went wrong led to some huge changes. (For example, in the 2002 version, Dalinar kills Elhokar.)

NightWillReign

in the 2002 version, Dalinar kills Elhokar

WTF WAT

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. Adolin dies as well... And there are no spren. And Kaladin gets Shardplate/Blade in the prologue and trains to be a knight, though not a Knight Radiant, as that term is one I developed later...

Oathbringer release party ()
#41 Copy

Questioner

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.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#42 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Someday... once I'm sure everything that it would spoil has been released, I will release [Way of Kings Prime] so you can read it. You can probably see that, if you read Stormlight, a chunk of the book belonging to Taln moved to Szeth, instead, who was a character in the first book but had a slightly different plot. Eventually, we will get to the whole story, though.

/r/fantasy AMA 2013 ()
#43 Copy

p0staldave

I believe I've heard you mention more than once that you weren't happy with WoK, could you explain a bit exactly what you would change or love to do-over with it or expand on your comments?

Brandon Sanderson

The original draft of The Way of Kings had some big issues. One of the largest ones was that I was trying to do too many characters with too many separate plots. (Jasnah and Taln both had full sequences with as much complexity as the three main characters in the current draft.) Beyond that, Kaladin's character (he had a different name there) was bland and never worked. I needed to rebuild him from the start.

I'll post more explanations of this in the KINGS annotations, which I'm working on right now. As for teasers for the second book, one of the interludes is from Taln's viewpoint. (He's the guy who shows up in the epilogue of the previous book.)

General Reddit 2015 ()
#45 Copy

Phantine

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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#46 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

World Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester signing ()
#49 Copy

BlackYeti

In Words of Radiance, we have Vasher showing up... One of his aliases on Nalthis is Kalad, which is very similar to the name of one of the Heralds on Roshar. So I was wondering how far back this connection between him and Roshar goes.

Brandon Sanderson

It goes pretty far back, in fact when I wrote Way of Kings, the 2002 version; he was a main character and was Kaladin's swordmaster. I wrote Warbreaker to jump back and write out his backstory, Vasher's. So to me Warbreaker actually came after Way of Kings. But the connection goes back pretty far, further than you would first guess.

BlackYeti

Did he actually come from Nalthis and not Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not going to actually answer that one-- Well I can answer that: yes he does come from Nalthis. It's pretty obvious that the way that the Breath's working, the reason he moved is because it's easier to get Stormlight than Breaths, and Stormlight can fuel being a Returned like him. And so yes, he was born on Nalthis. Becoming Returned without being born on Nalthis would be really hard.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#50 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One

This was a controversial chapter for my writing group and my editor, and was wrapped up in the whole learning curve argument. It was suggested several times that if this chapter were from Kaladin's viewpoint, the book wouldn't feel quite so overwhelming at the start. After all, Chapters One and Two would then be from the same viewpoint and would give a stronger clue to readers.

I resisted. I had already accepted that this was going to be a challenging book for readers. That's not an excuse to ignore advice, but at the same time, I decided I was committed to the long-term with this book. That meant doing things at the start that might seem unusual for the purpose of later payoff.

This is an excellent example of that. If I'd done this scene through Kaladin's eyes, I don't think it would have been as powerful. Kaladin is on top of things here, in control. I didn't want the first chapter to feel that in control. I wanted the sense of chaos worry and uncertainty.

Beyond that, I wanted to introduce Kaladin as a contrast to all of that. A solid force for order, a natural leader, and an all-around awesome guy. Doing that from within someone's viewpoint is tough unless they're on the arrogant side, like Kelsier. It can work in that kind of viewpoint, but not in Kaladin's.

Finally, I am always looking to play with the tropes of fantasy where I can. I feel that if I'd been writing this as a youth, I'd have made someone like Cenn the hero. (Indeed, in the original draft of The Way of Kings from 2002, Kaladin was much more like Cenn is now.) Opening with a young man thrust into war, then having him get killed seemed like a good way to sweep the pieces off the table and say, "No, what you expect to happen isn't going to happen in this book."

This also let me set up for a future chapter, where I could flashback to Kaladin's view of these events. As narrative structure was something I wanted to play with in this book, that appealed to me.