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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#1 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.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#2 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Will any of the unpublished books be available?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 Chicago signing ()
#3 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering when you first thought to put Nightblood in Words of Radiance?

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood in Words of Radiance happened because... So I wrote the original draft of Way of Kings in 2002 and Vasher was Kaladin's swordmaster and I thought "This guy has a really interesting past, he's not natively from Roshar". So I went and wrote his backstory and that became the book Warbreaker. So he predates-- And then I came back and I re-wrote Way of Kings and I cut him out of it to save him for the later books. So when did I first think of it? Well 2003 probably? Was where that was happening.

Questioner

Nightblood was our apartment's collective favorite character.

Brandon Sanderson

I have some other quote-unquote cons going on the fans so to speak that are going to be very cool when they happen.

/r/fantasy AMA 2013 ()
#4 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.)

Manchester signing ()
#5 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.

Oathbringer release party ()
#6 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

I read the earlier version of The Way of Kings. When did Kaladin get depressed?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

When you were planning for Zahel being Vasher, how long did you [plan] that?

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher was in the 2002 version of The Way of Kings by name, as Vasher. I only changed him to the new name after I finished this entire draft. Because I'm like "oh, he'd probably go under a pseudonym". So he's in Roshar for 12 years our time—I mean I had written him 12 years ago, in Roshar.

Questioner

And what's he doing there? Why? Is that a RAFO?

Brandon Sanderson

You'll have to read the Way of Kings Prime but he is in there by name, it blew my assistant's mind when he went back and found it.

He was doing much of the same thing that he did in this one. But in that book-- in Way of Kings Prime the big defining difference was that Kaladin took the Blade and Plate, and Zahel—or Vasher as he was named there—was his teacher then, and that was a much bigger part of the book because the book was about become-- you know. And it was the first book and him and his teacher, so yeah.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#8 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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

Shallan

I chose to use Shallan as my other main character in Part One, rather than Dalinar, because I felt her sequence better offset Kaladin's. He was going to some very dark places, and her sequence is a little lighter.

She is the only "new" main character in this book. Kaladin (under a different name) was in Way of Kings Prime, and Dalinar was there virtually unchanged from how he is now. The character in Shallan's place, however, never panned out. That left me with work to do in order to replace Jasnah's ward.

Shallan grew out of my desire to have an artist character to do the sketches in the book. Those were things I'd wanted to do forever, but hadn't had the means to accomplish when writing the first version of the book. I now had the contacts and resources to do these drawings, like from the sketchbook of a natural historian such as Darwin.

One of the things that interests me about scientists in earlier eras is how broad their knowledge base was. You really could just be a "scientist" and that would mean that you had studied everything. Now, we need to specialize more, and our foundations seem to be less and less generalized. A physicist may not pay attention to sociology at all.

Classical scholars were different. You were expected to know languages, natural science, physical science, and theology all as if they were really one study. Shallan is my stab at writing someone like this.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#11 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.)

Oathbringer release party ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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

FeatherWriter [PENDING REVIEW]

In [The Way of Kings] Prime.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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".

General Reddit 2015 ()
#13 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.

WorldCon 76 ()
#15 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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*.

SparkleHearts [PENDING REVIEW]

How did... Adolin die, then?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#16 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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#17 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.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#18 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.

JordanCon 2014 ()
#19 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 2017 ()
#20 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.

Daily Dragon interview ()
#21 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.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#22 Copy

Arbron

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.

Arbron

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.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Title Page - Part Two

Okay, so here we see the words Final Empire for the first time. Continuing the discussion I had in the last annotation, one of the books that I wrote after Mistborn Prime was called The Final Empire. (I now call it The Final Empire Prime.) It was the story of a young boy (yes, boy) named Vin who lived in an oppressive imperial dictatorship that he was destined to overthrow. It was my attempt at writing a shorter book that still had epic scope.

This book turned out to be okay, but it had some fairly big problems problems. While people reacted rather well to the characters, the setting was a little weak for one of my books. Also, once again, I wasn't that enthusiastic about the way the plot turned out.

After that, I gave up on the short books. I proved no good at it. I decided to do The Way of Kings next, a massive war epic. It turned out to be 350,000+ words–I kind of see it as me reacting in frustration against the short books I'd forced myself to write. About this time, I sold Elantris, and Moshe (my editor) wanted to see what else I was working on. I sent him Kings. He liked it, and put it in the contract.

I, however, wasn't certain if Kings was the book I wanted to use as a follow up for Elantris. They were very different novels, and I was worried that those who liked Elantris would be confused by such a sharp turn in the direction of my career. So, I decided to write a different book to be my "second" novel.

I had always liked Allomancy as a magic system, and I liked several of the character concepts Final Empire. I also liked a lot of the ideas from both books, as well as some ideas I'd had for a great plot. I put three all of these things together, and conceived the book you are now reading.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#25 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...

Manchester signing ()
#26 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.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#27 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Taln has what we'd call black skin pigmentation. So does Ash (the woman from the Baxil interlude.) Same for Sigzil.

Fun fact: in the original draft of The Way of Kings, Taln shared equal screen time with Kaladin. In the revised version, for a multitude of reasons, I moved Taln's story further back in the series. He'll eventually get a book of his own.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#28 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lashings

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.

Brandon's Blog 2014 ()
#29 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.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#30 Copy

Kythis

The Annotations is actually what got me started.  And I was wondering do we have any Stormlight ones in the pipeline?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I have finished Part I of The Way of Kings.  That's not a ton, but I eventually intend to do the entire book.  The problem I've run into is that I reference Way of Kings Prime a whole ton while writing them, because it's what is in my head. 

Kythis

And it's a lot a mixed content.  

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, and so it might be better when I can release Way of Kings Prime to accompany them, but I will be doing that.  

Oathbringer release party ()
#32 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I have!

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Awesome! How did that go?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Zantis [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

He was actually going to be a Lightweaver.

Zantis [PENDING REVIEW]

Interesting.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
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Questioner

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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two

Here we finally get to the book's main character, though I suspect that most readers won't catch that he is the one until we've come back to him at time or two.

Discounting Shallan, who was not in Way of Kings Prime, Kaladin is the one who went through the biggest evolution over the years. Dalinar has been Dalinar from day one. Adolin, Jasnah, Renarin, and Taln all solidified into themselves while I was writing Prime. Even Sadeas (under a different name) is basically the same person now as he was ten years ago.

Kaladin, though… Well, I had some growing to do as a writer before I could write him. He started in my concepts as a very generic fantasy "farmboy" protagonist. In Prime, there was nothing really original or interesting about him other than his situation. This is the danger for that style of protagonist; I feel that the best characters are interesting aside from their role.

For all my love of the Harry Potter books (and I do think they're quite excellent), Harry is a blank slate at the start. He's not interesting—the situations he's in are interesting. It isn't until later books, where he gets things to care about (like his godfather) that he starts to be defined as a character.

Kaladin was the same way. It's odd how writers are sometimes better at giving personalities to their side characters than they are at giving them to their main characters.

TWG Posts ()
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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.

A Memory of Light Chicago signing ()
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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.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Aurimus

As you (probably) know/remember, I'm really interested in the early parts of your creation process. The ideas basically. What was the first idea that created Zahel in WoK prime? What came first, Zahel or Nightblood and what were they like originally? Was it through them that you came up with the idea of worldhoppers or did you just want another worldhopper to appear to show that Hoid wasn't the only one?

Brandon Sanderson

The idea was actually writing Kaladin's swordmaster in TWOK Prime. By then, worldhoppers were already quite well established. (I'd written Elantris in 99, along with Dragonsteel to be a prequel to the entire cycle. That was followed by White Sand and Aether of Night in 2000 or so--and Aether has the first on-screen appearance of a Shard.)

Kings Prime was 2002-2003, and I wanted Kaladin's swordmaster Vasher to have an interesting backstory. That was the origin of the idea for a worldhopper who was very interested in Shardblades. From there, wanting to do a sympathetic magic, and (years later) my editor suggesting a world more "colorful" drove me to try out Warbreaker itself.

Here is his first appearance in TWOK Prime. Note, none of the names are changed in this, so you get Kaladin and Adolin's original names, among others.

After a few moments, one of the monks noticed him watching. The man paused, regarding Merin with the eyes of a warrior. "Shouldn't you be practicing with the other lords, traveler?"

Merin shrugged. "I don't really fit in with them, holy one."

"Your clothing says that you should," the monk said, nodding to Merin's fine seasilk outfit.

Merin grimaced.

The monk raised an eyebrow questioningly. He was an older man, perhaps the same age as Merin's father, and had a strong build beneath his monk's clothing. He was almost completely bald, save for a bit of hair on the sides of his head, and even that was beginning to gray.

"It's nothing, holy one," Merin said. "I'm just a little bit tired of hearing about clothing."

"Maybe this will take your mind off of it," the monk said, tossing him a practice sword. "And don't call me ‘holy one.'"

Merin caught the sword, looking down at it blankly. Then he yelped in surprise, dropping his Shardblade and raising the practice sword awkwardly as the monk stepped forward in a dueling stance. Merin wasn't certain how to respond--all of his training in the army had focused on working within his squad, using his shield to protect his companions and his spear to harry the opponent. He'd rarely been forced to fight solitarily.

The monk came in with a few testing swings, and Merin tried his best to mimic the man's stance. He knew enough not to engage the first few blows--they were meant to throw Merin off-balance and leave him open for a strike. He retreated across the cool sand, shuffling backward and trying not to fall for the monk's feints. Even still, the man's first serious strike took Merin completely by surprise. The blow took Merin on the shoulder--it was delivered lightly, but it stung anyway.

"Your instincts are good," the monk said, returning to his stance. "But your swordsmanship is atrocious."

"That's kind of why I'm here," Merin said, trying another stance. This time he managed to dodge the first blow, though the backhand caught him on the thigh. He grunted in pain.

"Your Blade is unbonded," the monk said. "And you resist moving to the sides, as if you expect there to be someone standing beside you. You were a spearman?"

"Yes," Merin said.

The monk stepped back, lowering his blade and resting the tip in the sand. "You must have done something incredibly brave to earn yourself a Blade, little spearman."

"Either that, or I was just lucky," Merin replied.

The monk smiled, then nodded toward the center of the courtyard. "Your friend is looking for you."

Merin turned to see Aredor waving for him. Merin nodded thankfully to the monk and returned the practice sword, then picked up his Shardblade and jogged across the sands toward Aredor. Standing with Dalenar's son was a group of elderly, important-looking monks.

"Merin," Aredor began, "these are the monastery masters. Each of them is an expert at several dueling forms, and they'll be able to train you in the one that fits you best. Masters Bendahkha and Lhanan are currently accepting new students. You can train with either one of them, though you'll need to pay the standard hundred-ishmark tribute to the monastery out of your monthly stipend."

Merin regarded the two monks Aredor had indicated. Both looked very distinguished, almost uncomfortably so. They regarded Merin with the lofty expressions of men who had spent their entire lives practicing their art, and who had risen to the highest of their talents. They stood like kings in their monasteries--not condescending, but daunting nonetheless.

Merin glanced to the side, a sudden impression taking him. "Holy ones, I am honored by your offer, but I feel a little overwhelmed. Could you tell me, is the monk I just sparred with accepting students at the moment?"

The masters frowned. "You mean Vasher?" one of them asked. "Why do you wish to train with him?"

"I. . .I'm not certain," Merin confessed.

ebilutionist

Is the payment to a devotary while training under an ardent still canonical? And given that Vasher had a reputation for being a bad duelist in Warbreaker, exactly how good is he with a blade? Is it just a case of Nalthian swordmasters being better or did Vasher learn from his experiences?

Brandon Sanderson

It's been a while.

And Vasher isn't as bad as the text implies.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

[Complements 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.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

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.

Skyward release party ()
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Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

So I have never read this to anyone before. In fact no one has seen it in ten years. It is not canon, but it is where Taln as a character started. If you're not familiar, Taln is the crazy guy that shows up at the end of Way of Kings. And here is how his first scene went in the original Way of Kings.

 

Taln awoke from a dream of agony and screams. Two things occurred to him immediately. First, as a Herald, he should not need to sleep. Second, as a Herald, he definitely shouldn't dream.

He frowned, sitting up. The last few days were a blur in his mind. He had come to the city, and he remembered his arrival and his bursting in on some sort of feast or party. Beyond that, the Sign hadn't worked.

Taln hissed in surprise, thrusting forward his hand, trying to manifest the Nahel bond within him. Nothing happened. What of his other powers?

He analyzed his surroundings with a quick glance. He was in a long rectangular chamber set with beds along both walls. The room was set with stone pillars and the windows were shaped with triangular peaks. In fact, the architecture had a great number of angles and lines. He was probably in the Alethi section of the city.

Many of the beds were occupied with the lame and the sick. And the men tending them wore undyed tan robes, some with the glyph Ele, the mark of the priesthood. There were two long doors leading out of the room and the windows provided an alternative exit. They looked wide enough to be broken with relative ease. A table would probably do it.

There was a small chair beside his bed, and a chest with amber knobs. He reached out, blessing his fortune. He had the sourcestone of Stonewarding. He touched the amber, seeking to draw upon its power, and again, nothing happened. Taln withdrew his fingers, frowning. Something was very, very wrong.

Why won't my Stonewarding work, he thought with frustration. And the Sign. I need information.

He scanned the room again. His mind was far less fuzzy than it had been. Images, places, and thoughts were all becoming more clear. There were only two monasteries in this section of the city, unless new ones had been constructed. Lighthome and Mercyhome, of which Lighthome was a female monastery.

One of the attendants noticed Taln was awake, and the man waved over an older monk. The elderly man regarded Taln with a displeased expression, whispering to his companion in a voice most men probably wouldn't have been able to overhear. But Taln was not most men.

"Where's Brother Lhan?" the elder monk hissed. "He should be here!"

"I'll fetch him," the other monk promised, bowing his head in deference, then rushing off.

The older man cleared his face of displeasure, smiling reassuringly toward Taln. He had a large nose and grizzled features and his hands were callused.

"I see you finally awoke from your slumber, traveler."

"Yes, holy one," Taln replied, still bothered by the fact that he had fallen asleep in the first place. "Thank you for caring for me." He flexed his arm, testing his muscles against their extended immobility. "It seems I've been out of sorts these last few days. How long was I asleep?"

"Four days, off and on," the senior monk explained. "You were awake for much of the time, but you seemed unable to focus."

Four days. Taln shook his head. Yet he could feel the weakness in his mind, the whispers at the edges of his sanity. It was getting worse each return. Perhaps that was the reason for his apparent slumber.

"I must say, traveler, you seem far more lucid than you were when we first brought you."

"I feel far more lucid, holy one," Taln said with a smile. He raised his sheet, noticing he was still naked. Hopefully the monks would loan him some clothing, though he doubted anyone was going to give him a weapon any time soon.

"Tell me, traveler, what do you remember of yourself?"

Taln raised an eyebrow. "Are you asking if I still think that I am a Herald?"

"In not so many words."

"My problems of the last few days were not related to my identity, holy one," Taln said. "I am a Herald. I will not lie to you. That would do us both a disservice."

"I see," the monk said, his disappointment apparent.

"However," Taln continued, "I don't expect you to believe me. The Sign did, after all, fail. I'll have to solve that problem before I can move on to other items. For now, let's suffice to say that I was a traveler in need of your assistance and you provided it. The Almighty bless you for that."

The monk smiled, glancing to the side as another brown robed form, looking a little disheveled, entered from the north hallway. "You're welcome to stay with us as long as you need, friend," the elderly monk said, gesturing toward the newcomer. "Brother Lhan has been assigned to care for you. He will travel with you and make certain you are acquainted with the city."

In other words, he'll make certain I don't get in trouble, Taln thought, smiling and nodding his head as the elder monk backed away to care for other patients. Taln was pleased to note that this Brother Lhan was carrying a folded pile of clothing for him. Lhan was a younger man, probably in his early twenties. A bit on the pudgy side, with an unconcerned oval of a face.

Lhan blinked tiredly as he approached, and his left cheek was still imprinted with the lines of whatever he had been lying on before they woke him. Lhan yawned as he pulled a stool up beside Taln's bed, resting the clothing on the floor in front of him.

"Greetings traveler. Welcome to the glorious Mercyhome monastery."

"Thank you," Taln said, reaching immediately for the clothing. "I assume these are for me?"

Lhan nodded, yawning again.

"I'm sorry they woke you," Taln said, picking through the clothing.

Lhan shrugged. "It's my own fault, I really should get a better place to hide."

Taln raised an eyebrow at the comment as he examined the clothing. The cut was unfamiliar to him, though fashion changes between returns were normal. The trousers were loose through the legs and ended in wide triangular cuffs halfway down the calf. The shirt was equally loose, probably intended to be worn tucked into the pants and tied with a sash. There were undergarments as well.

The most important article, however, was the thick brown cloak. A piece of Rosharan fashion that would never change. Cloaks were necessary even in the summer to ward off highstorm rains. All the clothing had been crafted from <shanaw>, a plant whose bark was stringy and fluffy enough to be spun. It made for rough fabric. Fortunately all of the cloak had been treated in such a way to make it soft to the touch. Taln nodded in satisfaction.

"Brother Lhan," Taln said, "Please run and fetch me some thread and a needle."

"Excuse me?" the monk asked.

"You and I are in a forced relationship,"Taln said. "Your superiors obviously expect you to keep me from causing serious trouble. If you want my cooperation in this, you'll want to make yourself useful."

Lhan raised an eyebrow. "How very economical of you."

Taln sighed, regarding the man. "I'm not trying to be difficult, Lhan, I'm just trying to save the world. A needle and some thread would be very helpful."

Lhan rolled his eyes, rising from his stool. "All right."

"Oh and bring me some rocks," Taln added. "Small ones, maybe half the size of your fist."

"Rocks?" Lhan asked.

"Yes, rocks. This is Roshar. Last time I checked, which admittedly was several centuries ago, they were fairly prevalent here."

"Rocks," Lhan mumbled again as he walked off.

Taln was dressed by the time Lhan returned. He accepted the thread, needle and rocks from the monk, and began sowing the flap of the hem of his cloak.

The monk sat down, regarding Taln with curiosity.

"The second thing I'll need from you, Brother Lhan, is information," Taln said, pulling the thread tight.

"Ask away."

"What year is it?"

"Tenth Epoch, 980," Lhan replied.

Taln paused, needle halfway through his stitch. "980?"

"Yeah," the monk said. "Not that I've seen the daylight for the last ten years or so, but at least that's what they tell me what year it is."

980. Nearly a thousand years since the last return. That's a long time. Something must have happened to the <cofen> That was the old name for the voidbringers]. They had never waited that long between returns before. "What happened to the epoch kingdoms?" Taln asked

Lhan didn't respond immediately. "You're kidding, right?"

"Pretend I'm not."

"They fell, right after the beginning of the tenth epoch."

Taln closed his eyes, sighing to himself. He hoped it wasn't true but.. "What about Alethkar," he said. "It obviously still exists."

"Well a lot of the kingdom is just a name," Lhan explained. "It's always a good idea to use one of the old names when you found a kingdom. Makes you seem more legitimate."

"Which ones still stand then, even if only in name?"

"Alethkar, of course." the monk said, "And as the king told you, we've expanded a bit over the last few years. Thaylenah still stands, by itself on that island over there. So its borders stay pretty stable. Vedenar is now called Jah Keved, though it's ruled by three Veden houses with a figurehead as its leader."

"That's it?"

"Well Shinovar is still there. But no one really pays much attention to them. The rest is gone. Kingdoms sometimes try to claim their names, but mostly they're uninhabited. Especially <Rianat>. There's enough bandits over there to form their own kingdom."

Taln nodded. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but... "Vorinism is still strong, I assume?" Taln noted, reaching for the rocks that Lhan had brought him.

"Always will be, Almighty willing," Lhan said in a beautiful monotone, his piousness weakened slightly by the extended yawn he made in the middle of the sentence.

"If the Vorin religion is still in power, " Taln said, "How is it that no one takes my claim to be a Herald seriously? Have you forgotten about the cycle of returns, the coming of the cofen? The religion was founded to prepare for such things."

"Well, we've kind of had to change our focus during the last epoch. You did, after all, promise that you weren't coming back any more."

"What?!" Taln froze, glancing up.

"At the end of the last return," Lhan explained. "The Heralds disappeared and said they weren't coming back. That the cycle of returns was through and the cofen had been defeated."

"That's not possible."

Lhan raised an eyebrow.

"I wouldn't be here if the cycle of returns were over." Taln explained. "Trust me. Which of the Heralds proclaimed this?"

"Well I'm not sure. It didn't become the official doctrine until about the fifth century, I think."

"Why so long?"

"You're kind of asking the wrong monk, actually. Actually, the wrong monastery. The order of Ishar contains all the history experts. This all happened a thousand years ago."

"But it's your theological heritage!" Taln said.

"So the senior monks are fond of telling me."

Taln stood, putting on the cloak.

"You sewed rocks into your hem. How very odd of you."

Taln spun, turning a few times to judge the motion of the cloak. Then he turned to the side in a quick motion, pulling the garment off with a smooth gesture. He nodded to himself, putting it back on. "For weight." Taln explained "A weighted cloak is more easy to position in battle and more easy to remove quickly." You could also use it as a surprise weapon, though he didn't offer that bit of explanation.

"Oh," Lhan said.

"What did you think I was doing?" Taln asked with amusement, sitting down on the bed without removing the cloak.

"I wasn't sure," Lhan replied. "I figured you were confused. You are, after all, crazy."

"You're not a very subtle one, are you, Brother Lhan?"

"I make up for it in sheer laziness," Lhan replied. "What are you doing now?"

"Pockets," Taln said, getting out of the cloak again. "Do you mind if I cut up this blanket?"

Lhan shrugged. "It's the kind of thing they expect crazy people to do, so I guess it's okay. But you'll have to tear it. I'm certainly not giving you a knife."

Taln frowned but did as requested. "You seem surprisingly flippant with regard to my supposed lunacy. Aren't you afraid I'll become violent?"

"You're not the violent type. I've seen your type come through the monastery a lot. I also know you can't be talked out of who you think you are. My job is simply to make certain you don't accidentally hurt yourself or anyone else, especially not me."

"You have experience with my type, then?" Taln asked.

"I tend to get the more undesirable assignments"

"I wonder why." He fell silent as he worked, turning his thoughts to a topic he'd been avoiding. What was he going to do? Normally he had the other Heralds to decide the plan. But he appeared to be the only one who'd reached the city. He needed to find the others and that required one thing. His sword. It had been taken from him. He remembered that night of the feast only vaguely.

"My sword..." he said.

"That was confiscated," Lhand said. "You didn't exactly make a good impression on the king. Enduring perhaps, but definitely not good."

"There was a woman," Taln said. "She saved my life."

"Lady Jasnah" Lhan agreed. "The king's sister. Don't assume she protected you out of fondness. Lady Jasnah is about as compassionate as a sleeping chull. Even her breathing is politically motivated. No one's certain why she pled for you, but most think it was some kind of stunt."

"Either way, I owe her my life," Taln said. The loss of his weapon was troubling. With it, he could sense the location of the other Heralds. It would be the easiest and fastest way to find them. Assuming, of course, he thought, that the Blade's power still worked.

Taln paused. A feeling of dread struck him. Stonewarding didn't work, and he couldn't manifest the bond. If he'd lost the sword as well...

The window light turned red. Taln gasped, feeling dizzy. An expression of concern actually crossed the monk's face.

"Are you all right?" Lhan asked.

The monk burst into flames. The windows melted. Bloodred fire ripped up the sides of the building, pooling at the top and bearing down on Taln with its heat. Smoke rose from the suddenly ignited beds, curling ominously, bringing with it screams, sudden, formless screams, that came from the far edge of the room.

Taln looked up. Fire roared and something moved within it, something dark. The screams mounted, pulsing in his ears, searing him, flaying him.

"What's wrong?" Lhan asked, still in flames, his flesh melting from his face.

Taln closed his eyes, grabbing the sides of his bed, pushing the screams away. He shivered, exhaling a long, demanding sigh. When he opened his eyes, the room had returned to normal. He sat for a few minutes, breathing deeply.

"I'm fine," Taln finally said, forcing himself to stand up and look at his new cloak. It had one large pocket and two smaller ones, and a small ribbon at the back to hold a hidden dagger, if he ever managed to get his hands on one.

"I assume I'm allowed to leave the monastery?"

"So long as you take me with you," Lhan said, "but.."

Taln raised an eyebrow.

"You're kind of expected to go work in the royal mines, "Lhan explained. "To help pay for your keep."

"No one is going to force me?" Taln clarified.

"Well, no."

"Good," Taln said. "We're leaving."

"Umm...Where are we going?"

"To get some information."

"Oh, you mean my wealth of accumulated wisdom isn't good enough for you?"

Taln turned, eyeing the monk with a suffering eye, then waved for him to follow.

Firefight release party ()
#45 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.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#47 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.

Brandon's Blog 2008 ()
#49 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.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#50 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Maybe. Maybe. You shall see.