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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#1 Copy

matgopack

About your characters - they're always a lot of fun to read about, and varied. Do you have a method while coming up with them and their personalities/motivations that you use?

Brandon Sanderson

Character is the most difficult for me to pinpoint my process on because I do a lot of experimenting, trying different things, and searching for the right voice. The most important thing for me tends to be finding a way this person sees the world that I want to explore more in depth.

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

Questioner

How do you decide what book you're gonna work on each day? Do you have, like, a schedule or something?

Brandon Sanderson

Good question. So, I can generally only be writing new prose on one book at a time. And so, I usually make the decision when I finish a book. I usually need something very different, once I finish a book, to try, to have a break from that world, rather than going right into it. So often, I have a lot of different projects floating, and I decide when I finish a book. A little bit of it is making sure, trying to keep myself from doing too many new things, when I still have things hanging. And that has been a constant struggle in my life. I taught myself how to write novellas, so that I could do some of these ideas-- Those are in Arcanum Unbounded. And most of those exist because I had ideas, and I'm like, "No no no. Don't start another series. Don't write another 300,000-word epic fantasy book that people are going to be asking for sequels to. Tell the actual story that you're excited about, but do it in 30,000 words, and then you can be done with it." And that's where Emperor's Soul came from, and that's where things like Edgedancer came from. Not having to balloon into their own huge series.

So, I decide. And once I get into the book, I need to keep momentum on it. I can't stop. If I stop, that's really bad for a book. You can see this with Rithmatist. Rithmatist was the series I was working on when The Wheel of Time came along. It was the one I was actively writing and working on the sequel to. And when Wheel of Time hit me like a freight train-- I actually wrote the first one in 2007, and it's been really hard to get back into that, because of that big interruption.

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

Questioner

How long did it take you to figure out how to kill your characters without really ticking off your readers?

Brandon Sanderson

Well. I think it still does tick them off. But my thing is, if I make sure that somebody has a satisfying resolution, even if they don't get to see it, usually people are satisfied then. So, if what the character wanted finds satisfying resolution eventually, that is where I go.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

So there's a certain very long chapter in A Memory of Light. There's also a certain very long chapter in Oathbringer. I'm assuming you used similar techniques; both are very effective. Did you come up with that when writing Memory of Light or were you inspired by someone else for doing that?

Brandon Sanderson

Nope, that was something I had wanted to do.

So the question is, there's a very long chapter in A Memory of Light that was done very deliberately. I've used this before and in other books. Oathbringer does one, not nearly to the extent, but there's a certain point in A Memory of Light—and this was me, this was just kind of my love of trying to make the form of a novel match what I'm trying to get across with the novel.

In A Memory of Light, there was a point where the characters could not set down their swords and take a break, and I wanted to make sure that part was not divided up, to encourage as many readers as possible to have to push through it, even if it was kind of late at night *crowd laughs*, to get to the chapter break, so that they would feel some of the same feeling that the characters were feeling. And that's just my writerly way to get that across. In Oathbringer, it was more like, "This is where the breaks fit most naturally." I wasn't trying to do the same thing, but it's a similar sort of thing, where I want the momentum to not have a break until a certain point in the story. I don't anticipate ever doing-- The one in A Memory of Light was like 90,000 words, which, if you're unaware, an average novel is 80,000 words. So there is a novel-length chapter in A Memory of Light. And so, yeah-- *playfully* eh.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

You are very famous for being a fast writer, we talked about that in the other conversation, and I'm not going to ask you the secret of your superpower, if you got bit by a spider or something, but I don't want to ask about the discipline of sitting and writing [unclear] straight, or the deadlines of the publishers, because if there's something that is strange about writing, it's that, in your worst moments, when you [unclear] pressure, [unclear] family conflict, you write better, you are more capable of understanding how others feel, how is the world that's around you. And when you're happy, when everything is okay, you have time to find inspiration or the strength to write, because, "The world is amazing, I have these great friends, this great girlfriend, this amazing family to be with. Why do I have to stay five hours closed in my room thinking about people having terrible problems to be happy?" So, how do you make this to keep writing, and having what a fantastic life, with fantastic friends and fantastic fans?

Brandon Sanderson

What a fascinating question, I've never been asked that before! I've been asked thousands, of questions, so that is very interesting. I would say, I am not a writer who writes from a place of pain. Every writer is different, and they find different inspiration. I am best at writing when I am in a place of comfort. And so, I think that most writers are very observant, and this is how we express things in fiction. We pay attention. We listen. For instance, I don't have depression, but Kaladin does. If I waited until I had depression to write Kaladin that would probably be bad, because people with depression, number one, don't want to do anything, and number two, it's just not going to work, right? You just can't sit around and wait to experience everything you want to write. So, for me, it's about research, and listening, and paying attention. I happen to have several people I love dearly who do have depression, and so I talk to them. I take notes. I listen to the things they have to say, and that becomes the foundation for a piece of a character's personality. I don't know, though, maybe I'm just a sadist and I like to do evil things.

Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

Was there any one character that-- I know you said all of your characters are your favorite, but was there ever one you were really excited to kill?

Brandon Sanderson

Any character that I was really excited to kill. Masema, from The Wheel of Time. Spoiler. I was so happy to kill that dude. He was hanging on forever, annoying me.

Questioner

Anyone from the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Anyone from the cosmere? I'm never eager to kill anyone specifically. I don't even really regard it as killing characters off. I build the outline, I let the character grow into who they are and let them kind of guide-- take the chances that I feel that character would take, and then deal with consequences of it. Does that make sense? So in a lot of ways, it's interesting to me-- Like I already generally know what's going to happen in my books before I write them. I'm an outliner. And so I'm very comfortable, if not happy, with the idea that certain characters aren't going to make it. Meaning, I'm usually sad that they aren't, but I know that they aren't from the beginning so I'm very well prepared for it. Unlike you guys.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

How do you envision Patter and Syl when they are in their Shardblade form.

Brandon Sanderson

We're going to do sketches eventually, mhmm.

Questioner

Ok, cause I'm getting a tattoo at some point and i want to make it relatively accurate.

Brandon Sanderson

Send to Peter and to... well Peter can be in touch with him. Ben, who does a lot of the... Ben is the one that we have canonize the Shardblades, and so after i write a book he does a bunch of sketches for us of what I've describes and we kinda pick one, and i know we've picked one already, but I don't know. I cant draw it for you or anything but if you go to them they can give it to you.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#9 Copy

kakarotoks

How much do you usually work? Do you do about 40 hours/week, and never work on weekends or do you spend most of your time working (work = research, outlining, writing, doing conferences/book tours, etc.. but doesn't include thoughts that pop in your mind at random times during the day/night). Do you consider this as a 'regular job' (one that you are obviously passionate about) and you take the time to have hobbies/family time, and vacations, or is it your passion, your life, and you spend as much time as you can doing it

Brandon Sanderson

It's sometimes hard to measure, because the touring aspect of my job is very different from the day-to-day. And there are years when I spent 1/3 of my time touring. But the day to day is about 40 hours a week right now. It used to be more, but with kids and a family, I've pulled back somewhat to get a better balance, and to make sure I'm reading other people's work so that I keep an eye on what they're doing.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#10 Copy

Questioner

Do you already know how The Stormlight Archive is going to end?

Brandon Sanderson

I do!

Questioner

Do you have all the details in mind, or do you just kind of have a general idea and you figure it out as you go?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I'm a planner. I tend to like having a pretty detailed plan. For something like The Stormlight Archive, that generally kind of boils down to: the next book has a five page plan, the book after that has a three page plan, the book after that a two page plan, one page, one page, and the last book we go back to a five page plan. So there is lots of wiggle room in one of these outlines, but at the same time, I've got touchstones and things I know I'm writing toward.

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

izyk

You mentioned in an earlier answer that learning to revise was one of the biggest factors in making your work publishable.

Would you give us an idea of the process you go through when you revise?

Thanks!

--Isaac

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks for the question, Isaac! (Isaac, by the way, is the person who introduced me to my wife and set us up on our first blind date.)

I view working on a book in the same way a sculptor might view working on a block of wood. The first draft is generally focused on getting things in place so I can work on them. In essence, I cut out the crude features of the sculpture—but when it's done, there is still a lot of work to be done. Readers who see the book in this stage can tell what the basic arcs and characters will be, but the emotional impact is lessened by the crude edges and unfinished lines.

Here's my process in a nutshell:

Draft one: Write the book in draft form.

Draft two: Read through the entire book, fixing the major problems. Often, I'll change character personalities halfway through the first draft as I search to figure out how I want the character to sound. I don't go back then and revise, as I need to try out this personality for a while before I decide to actually use it. Similarly, often I'll drop in new characters out of the blue, pretending that they've been there all along. In the second draft, I settle on how I want things to really look, feel, and work.

Draft three: Language draft. Here I'm seeking to cut the book down by 10%. I write with a lot of extra words, knowing I'll need a trim. This will make the prose more vibrant, and will make the pacing work better.

In a perfect world, this is where I writing group the piece and/or send it to my editor. (For lack of time, my writing group is getting Draft Two of The Way of Kings. Hopefully, I'll be able to do draft three by the end of the year.)

I let readers read the book, and I take some time off of it. I begin collecting things I want to change in the book in a separate file, called "Revision notes for ***", listing the name of the book. I organize these by character and by importance and/or pervasiveness. For instance, a need to rewrite a character's motivations will be at the top. Fixing one specific scene so that it has proper foreshadowing will be near the bottom.

Once this is all done, and I've gotten feedback and had time to think, I read through the book again with my revision notes file open beside the book file itself. I actively look for places to change, kind of like a sculptor looking over the statue and seeking places to knock off jagged chunks and smooth out the sculpture’s features.

I'll do this process several times, usually. In-between, I'll often do line-edit drafts, like the language draft above, where I'm focused on getting rid of the passive voice and adding more concrete details.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
#12 Copy

DrogaKrolow

The last one, a bit offtop, Me and Klaudia-- We dream about becoming a fantasy writer. I'm sure she's wondering too: how does it feel when your first book was published...

Brandon Sanderson

Man that's so hard to define. I'm a writer, I should be able to do this, but it was amazing. It's validation for having spent twenty years trying to learn how to do this. Maybe not twenty. Fifteen years trying to learn how to do this. At the same time, theoretically in some way it's also just a released breath. Okay it happened. It worked. But at the end, you write for yourself. I don't know if you guys have heard this story; I've told it before, but I had a really down point in my writing career before I got published. 

DrogaKrolow

Yes the four hundred-- uh, when you sold Elantris.

Brandon Sanderson

See, when I was trying to get published, everyone was telling me you need to be more like George RR Martin. They really did. They'd say that, and they would also say my books are too long. So they would tell me these two things. You need to be more like George Martin and your books are too long. They were all looking for Joe Abercrombie. That's who they wanted to find, right? They wanted short, brutal books. And Joe's a great writer, so there's nothing wrong with that, but that's not me. And I tried doing that. That's what Final Empire Prime and Mistborn Prime--unpublished novels--were. I took some of my ideas and I tried to write something more Joe Abercrombie-esque, even though Joe hadn't been published then. So it was just a short, sort of grimdark thing, and they were terrible. They were absolutely terrible. And so I sat back and I'm like, "Okay, nobody wants to read what I'm writing, but if I try to write what they say to write, it turns out to be a terrible book. Should I just give up?"

And I thought about that for a while and I eventually came to the decision: I'm not writing for them. I'm writing for me. That's the point. And if I die at age 90--let's say age 100 *laughter*--and I have 150 unpublished books in my closet, then I'm a success, because I kept writing, because that's what's important, was enjoying and loving that process. Even if I never got published, I wanted to be that person. And that's when I sat down and wrote The Way of Kings [Prime], which was my proverbial flipping the bird at the industry. I said, if you say my books are too long, I'm writing one twice as long. If you say my books are not George Martin enough, I'm going to go the complete opposite direction. High magic, high fantasy, all the awesome stuff. Knights in magical power armor. All of this stuff. And I wrote that book fully expecting no one would ever publish it. And that's when I got the call from an editor buying Elantris, which I'd written five years before at that point. It might have been four years, but you know. 

But when Elantris came out, I'd already made the decision that I'm a writer, no matter, I don't give up. I write for me. And so in some ways it was hugely relieving and thrilling. But in some ways the more important decision had already been made. I was a writer, and I didn't need that validation to be a writer. Because the only one that says whether or not I'm a writer is me. I get up every day and I do it.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#13 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever find you own stories, your own characters, coming back and influencing you?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.  More, it's like I have these things I'm really interested in.  And so I find myself rounding those things again and again.  And I've actually started a list of 'You've covered this thing, Brandon.  You can't do this one anymore'.  Just because I work in the cosmere where everything is connected, so the underlying physics of the books are sometimes very similar.  And so I just have to be very careful not to repeat myself too much.  

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

Nightfire

Hey Mr. Sanderson, I know that A Memory of Light should be finished in the next couple years (at the latest). I know that you tend to work on multiple projects. Unless you are planning to do another (totally) new project can we expect another WarbreakerElantris, or preferably Mistborn book as you release the ten Way of Kings books?

Brandon Sanderson

I do like to work on multiple projects. During those early unpublished years, I was always hopping from book to book, and it became habit for me. It really helps me keep fresh, allowing me to try new things and experiment with my style. One of the hardest thinks about working on the WoT has been the number of side projects I've had to set aside because of lack of time.

And so, with The Way of Kings series (aka The Stormlight Archive) I plan to do the books on a 2-to-1 ration. Meaning two Stormlight books, followed by one random side book. Generally, you should expect three books every two years from me, as that's been my speed. So there should still be a Stormlight book every year, though we'll see.

Some will be new things, others will be in current series. My current plans are to do an Elantris sequel in 2015, for instance, and I'd like to do the second (and final) Warbreaker book eventually.

Subterranean Press Interview ()
#15 Copy

Gwenda Bond

I'm curious how you develop Leeds' aspects. Do they come to you fully formed? Did you get attached to any of the aspects in particular as you write them? Do you have a favorite?

Brandon Sanderson

Generally, I don't play favorites with characters. If they all haven't been my favorite at some point in the writing process, then I'm doing something wrong. But creating characters, at the same time, is the most difficult part of the process for me to quantify. No character comes fully formed; it's always a struggle to find their voice. Yet I always know that voice is out there to find, and have an instinct for when it's wrong. So the process of finding it is more a search than it is a building project.

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

Questioner

I want to know how you get into the zone while writing. How do you go from normal Brandon Sanderson life to... how do you make the transition.

Brandon Sanderson

Usually, if I'm having trouble, going for a walk, turning on music, thinking about what I'm going to be doing for the day. Sitting down, turning on music and starting. If I'm having any trouble, reading what I wrote the day before helps. Usually there is not a difficulty for me but those help me if there is.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

How do you decide whether or not a story is part of the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

There's a couple dividing lines. If it mentions Earth, I'm not gonna put it in the cosmere, because I don't want any sort of relationship there. At that point, the dividing line becomes, does the magic fit the cosmere, and is the story one that fits the cosmere, right? I made the decision very early on, I wasn't gonna try and force everything in. So if it's a natural outgrowth of the stories I'm telling in the cosmere, then I will go that way. I'm usually more finicky about pulling them out than putting them in. There are very few stories I've put into the cosmere, and I've pulled a ton of them out.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#18 Copy

Questioner

Is there any character that you think you have learned something from while writing? Or--

Brandon Sanderson

Each character that I write is a mix of two things. It is a mix of some part of me, and something very different from myself. In order to write those characters, I usually do a lot of exploring and trying to find out about people who are like the character that I'm writing, and that teaches me a ton. You could say that the character has taught me a lot on that case. Doing, for instance, Kaladin, and trying to write a hero with depression whose story is not about having depression, and going to people I know and people I love and people I don't know, and asking them what it feels like, has taught me a whole ton. I don't know if that answers your question, but often the exploration of where a character goes is me exploring my own thoughts and feelings on an idea. And I would say that every character, to an extent, takes me on a journey as I write them, and kind of combine myself with something else. So yes, they all have, but also they all are partially me.

Shadows of Self Houston signing ()
#19 Copy

Questioner

The fight scenes in the Mistborn novels are incredibly visual. How do you write that, do you have to diagram it out?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, how do I write the visual fight scenes from something like Mistborn? Actually, you do a lot of research by watching Jackie Chan films, *laughter* but really what you're doing is actually, at least the way I approach it, you can do whatever works for you, but the way I do it is I actually approach what I want the emotional and mental beats to be in the scene and I build the scene around that. What is someone going to realize? What is someone going to feel? What is someone going to connect? How are they going to bring these things together? And then I use those to construct the scene so that even if someone is not following it, or is not as interested in the action, they'll get the emotional parts, and have these focuses for themselves. And I just construct the action around that. And often in the first draft, it's actually pretty rough. One of the biggest things I have to do in second drafts and third drafts is fix blocking for these battle sequences, which is where everyone's moving, because I'm working on the emotional beats first. And I feel like that's the way to go for me. I can construct a really awesome looking fight scene but the problem is you can't do a Jackie Chan thing in a book, like he punched him, he punched him really fast, this other person punched her twice as fast but then she kicked him twice. It's just boring right, and even the blow by blows, when they get exciting, kind of feel boring sometimes. But if you've got those emotional and mental things connecting, and pulling the reader through the story, then it's going to work better.

Google+ Hangout ()
#20 Copy

Curt Hoyt

Specifically, which mistakes you made as a beginning novelist that stand out the most as ones you've corrected as you've learned the craft better.

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question, I would say that my biggest mistake as a new writer was not being willing to revise. I'm a classic, what we call a one-drafter this is a type of author who likes to just imagine it, get it ready, plan a lot and then get in on the page and be done with it and that was a mistake, I've become a big believer in learning to take a book that's a good book and make it an excellent book and doing a lot of strong revisions and early on I wasn't willing to do that and I think it held me back quite a bit.

Curt Hoyt

Do you think that maybe not having a writing group to back you up contributed to your lack of revisions?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe... I actually did have a writing group, and what I would do is I would get the feedback from my writing group and my opinion was, "Oh, I did all these mistakes. I made all these mistakes." Instead of fixing them, early on I would say, "Well, I won't make those mistakes again for my next book," cause I was always so excited an eager to write the next book and I didn't slow down enough and really focus in on making books great.

And that was a mistake that was very particular to me, I don't think... as a writer there are so many different ways to do this and so many different types of writers. Part of learning to be a writer is about learning what things hold you back and what mistakes you make and they can be very different. Depending on who you are and what type of problem you have.

Google+ Hangout ()
#22 Copy

John

Although like stories and you know, plot characters, twists are all very important, for me a great story is made up of great moments and the question I wrote in the post there was about when Dalinar swaps his sword for the bridgemen and asks the question, "how much is a life worth?" and for me that was a moment where I had to put the book down because it was just so great, it brought the characters together and all these reasonings and all these visions, it all came to a head and I was thinking how many moments like these do you think a great book needs for example I mean other things I'd seen in that book was when Kaladin, he tells his men to come out after the storm and see him alive again or in The Gathering Storm when Rand is on Dragonmount and everything you know, he destroys the Choedan Kal. So how many moments like that do you think they need and can you give me an example of a great book that you love from another author's book where you think there is a great moment like those ones?

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, excellent, I'll start with the last one, one of my favorite books of all time is Les Miserables and it's full of moments like that and I'm going to have to pick the moment where Jean Valjean goes for Marius and brings him back through the sewers and things like that, moments like that are what makes books work for me.

What you're noticing is part of the way I design my plots. When I'm going to write a story I feel like I have to have moments like that prepared and planned that I can write towards. I will often go and turn on epic music of the right type--whatever I'm feeling is epic at the time--and go and walk or go on the treadmill, or do something active. And while doing that I will try to imagine what moments like that will be for this given book. What will be the really powerful character or plot moment that just make you want to put the book down and sit back for a minute and say "Whoa!"

I have to be able to imagine some of those for every book I write, otherwise I can't start the book. I write my books kind of... the points on the map philosophy, meaning I have to have something to write toward for me to get there. It's like having a map where you say, okay, I'm going to drive from one place to another and here are the places along the way I'm going to stop. I need to know where those places are and these places are usually these powerful moments and it's how I build stories.

Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

Do you find it difficult when you have to jump between the worlds when you write about like Mistborn and Stormlight do you find it difficult to transition like that?

Brandon Sanderson

Is it hard to transition? Is it hard to transition, the question is, between the different worlds that I write in. A little bit yes, but mostly no. The reason I jump so much is my writing style kind of requires me to do something new after I finish a big project. That's why I--  People ask me a lot how do I-- how am I so productive.  It is actually because that I found out if I jump to something new-- Like a lot of time a writer finishes a book it just wears them out for six months, right? Or if you're certain writers you're worn out before you finish it somehow. Naming no names. But really it happens, you get worn out after finishing a book. I found that if I jump into something very different I immediately get excited about that and get going on it. And it is a big part-- That is why you see those little novellas like Emperor's Soul and Legion and things like that, because I finished a project and jumped into something new. And it makes me really, like I said, excited. So yes it is a little hard to switch gears, but more so it is exciting to switch gears and it just keeps me excited and enthralled through this whole process. Which is why you see me jumping around so much. I tell people "Oh can't you just write on my favorite series", I tell them if I did that they actually wouldn't come out any faster, because I would hit that kind of lull that happens after a book where it's hard to write and you get slowed down by any little thing and if I switch to something else you just kind of get books squished in-between.

Firefight release party ()
#24 Copy

Questioner

I know that with creation you start to lose-- honestly, your confidence in it, with creation. I was wondering if you experience that loss of worth in it, and if so, what do you do to counteract it?

Brandon Sanderson

It happens mostly when I'm working on a book. Once it's done I'm usually proud of it, but about the three-quarter point--

Questioner

I've heard that a lot. Just what do you-- How do you convince yourself it's still worth, y'know--

Brandon Sanderson

...When it starts to happen to me, I sit down and say "How can I make this scene awesome? This one that I'm writing right now?" because I can use my tools, my skills, and my practices as a writer to make that scene really awesome. And usually I'll shake things up a little bit, I'll write a different viewpoint or I'll do something I wasn't expecting to do according to the outline, just to make that scene really great. And that restores a lot of my confidence.

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hey, all! Back again to talk about the progress of your book. I promised you updates through the year, and I'll do my best to pop in here now and then and let you know how things are going.

Oathbringer, if you somehow missed the update last month, is done. But it's not DONE done. I turned in the rough draft, but immediately jumped into the third draft. (Because I did the second draft at the same time as the first--basically, after finishing each section of the book, I jumped back and revised it before sending to my editor. The goal being to get him a second draft to begin editing so he could work at the same time I did.)

I've finished Part One and Part Two of the third draft as of today. This included adding in two interludes, which I hadn't finished in the rough draft. Later today, Part Two should be going to the beta readers.

(To answer the inevitable question, the beta readers are chosen by Peter--my assistant and editorial director--from among those who have been very active on the fan websites, or who know us personally.)

I'll jump into the Part Three revision soon, then will do Parts Four and Five together. That will get us through the 3.0 draft.

4.0 and 5.0 drafts will be done together, hopefully in March/April. 4.0 will input beta reader comments and writing group comments, and 5.0 will be the polish where I try to trim words and perfect the language.

We're still in the early stages of the art, as Isaac was busy last fall with the Mistborn Leatherbound and doing maps for Tad William's new series. So we'll need to work hard getting artwork done. Plan is to have a new set of colored endpages for the hardcover of the US edition, as we've done in the past, though I can't announce what those are yet.

Book is looking great so far. Part One needed a heavy revision at the intro, but nothing more than that. Part Two (the slowest of the parts) remains a bit of a questionable area. The only way to speed it up is to cut some fun, but ultimately flabby, chapters. I think they are chapters people will love, as they have some unusual viewpoint characters, but the have a bit of an interlude feel to them. If Tor puts its foot down on length limits for the book, I'll have to cut these out.

Part Three has some larger revisions I've been planning with Peter these last few weeks, so the 3.0 draft on that might take a little longer than the other two did.

Anyway, it's exciting to see the book coming along! November release date is looking very good, and I doubt we'll miss it. Also, my Spanish publisher contacted us with the hopes of trying to do a translation and get their edition out at the same time as the US/UK editions, which would be a first for any of my books in translation. So a big thumbs up for them.

Thank you again for your patience. Hope to see some of you in Boston next month, where I'm guest of honor at a convention. Otherwise, I should be mostly nose-to-the-grindstone, as my travel schedule is very light until I head off to Germany (and maybe Poland and Bulgaria) in March.

MisCon 2018 ()
#27 Copy

Questioner

So, when you were plotting out Mistborn, did you do the whole trilogy, kind of thing?

Brandon Sanderson

I did nine books when I did the plot for Mistborn. Normally how I approach plotting is: first book, I do with minimal outlining for the rest of the series. So there's-- I'll do a pretty good outline for the first book. And then I will write that first book (and of course everything changes from the outline as you're writing it) and then I sit down and I outline the series, whatever the series is going to be, with about a page on each book. And then when it's time to write that one, I sit down and I kind of attack that outline. Usually, I'm looking for about-- roughly, outline is 10,000 words for every 100,000 words of book. So, a lot of my YA outlines are 10,000 to 20,000. 15,000 words, something like that. For something big like Stormlight, we're looking at a lot more.

With Mistborn, I finished the first book, and I went to my outline and I created the spine of the three eras. (Which became four! Because I'm an epic fantasy writer.) And then I called my editor, I'm like, "Hey, this is what I want to do." And he's like, "Wow, you're ambitious."

Questioner

Are you going to complete 'em eventually?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I will. We're getting really close to doing the next era. So, Mistborn, if you haven't read them, there's an era of epic fantasy, there's an era of urban fantasy. (It's more like steampunk, there's a steampunk era). Then we're gonna go to a true urban fantasy, kind of 1980s level of technology. Which is gonna be really fun.

The fun thing (have I told people this before)? In the second era books, we did these newspapers, these broadsheets that we put in as art. And I always like to have some art in my books. It's gotten more and more over the years, as I've had the resources to do more and more. What I want to do for Era 3, as our art things, are comics of Wax and Wayne from the-- *crowd laughs* Like, they've become characters-- So, you might wanna do a Golden Age (you comic book fans will love this), a Silver Age, and then a new dark gritty reboot. You'll have, like, a Golden Age classic-Superman sort of thing. And you'll have Silver Age, where it's just bizarre. The giant monkeys attack the city. Silver Age comics, they liked monkeys for some reason, they always put them on the covers. Then we'll do this, like, Frank Miller sort of, "Here's the reboot of the Wax and Wayne comics that happened." It's gonna be a blast, 'cause it'll be three books.

Questioner

Sure it won't be four books?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't know...

Boskone 54 ()
#28 Copy

Questioner

How do you do it? (after saying he likes the characters and societies that Brandon writes)

Brandon Sanderson

Lots of practice. Lots of reading in the genre and loving the genre. A little bit of talent, a lot of loving the genre, and a lot of practice for a long time.

Questioner

I haven’t read Mistborn, but I’ve read this one [Stormlight]. How do you come up with the culture, the society?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on the book. Stormlight is my best series. If you haven’t tried Emperor’s Soul, it’s the other thing that I think is on Stormlight’s level, but it’s a short. What I’m looking to do with something like Stormlight is to say that the fantasy genre should be the most magical genre, right? Classically, science fiction has done a better job with the worldbuilding, and fantasy has tended to do a better job with things like characters and story. Not that there’s not science fiction that has great, you know, but usually science fiction’s been about the ideas and the interesting settings, but in fantasy we play it safe with the settings and try to do interesting characters. Which I’ve always thought, “Why do we do that? Why do we play it safe with our settings? Why don’t we have really bizarre, fantastical settings?”. So for years, even before I became a published author, I was searching for ones that would have one foot in science fiction. I want to do something magical as an origin, like the highstorm, you know, the physics of the highstorm don’t actually work, but we take it for assumed and then we try to extrapolate a realistic extrapolation of the world from that. That’s just what I’m doing, I’m trying to set up some sort fantastical setting or environment and then let science fiction take over and try and build how it would grow. On the cultures, usually I’m taking things I’ve learned about our culture and I am just trying to [...] a fantastical version. Sometimes when you do that you can say something interesting about human society, removed from the baggage of human society. There was a brief time in the pre-Victorian era where, for women, showing your ankle was more taboo than showing your chest. In fact, they would have pictures painted of them, noblewomen, in a state of what you’d call topless. Not a problem; a little risque, like what wearing a low-cut shirt is now, but no big deal. That’s bizarre to us, because, our society that’s not how it is. But if I put that in, in a fantasy book as a safehand, I can say, look, human beings do bizarre things as far as gender roles, socialization of gender, and what we find attractive. This should be very bizarre to you, but the reactions are normal. That disconnect is what helps build a fantastical society and lets me say a few things about our society, I hope in interesting ways.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

How do you come up with the David analogies and the metaphors?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, man, this is so much harder than you think it is. For those who haven't read them, the main character is really, really bad at similes. And where it came from is, there's actually a contest every year, where people intentionally try to write bad similes, and submit them. And every year it comes out and makes me laugh. Just-- I love it. And I started writing Reckoners, and-- Normally, you read this things as an author, to watch out for things to not accidentally do. If you read the bad metaphors, you can be like, "Oh, this is why you don't want to do this. You don't want people laughing." You get aware of this sort of thing. It's very good for you as a writer to watch. And, lo and behold, I'm writing a book series, and I wrote a metaphor, and I looked at it, and I'm like "That is really bad." And you do this as an author sometimes, and sometimes they slip in the books, you just write it and they're really bad. And I went to delete it and I'm like, "What if I ran with that?" This is because I tend to discovery-write my characters. So, I outline a lot for my settings, and I outline a lot of my plots, and then I go freewrite who these characters are, and then usually I have to do a lot of rebuilding of my plot after I figure out who's who. And in the Reckoners, I just ran with that, I did the whole sequence, I did the whole first chapter like that, and I'm like, "This is really fun." And then I locked myself into it, and it got so hard. Being bad on purpose is, like, ridiculously difficult. But it was also part of the fun. I would save them up, I'd be walking on the street, I'd think of something, and I'd be like "Ooh, how do I make that bad?" And I'd spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes writing a really bad metaphor. And sticking it in my pocket, because they all have to be bad in different ways. If they're all bad in the same way, then that's not any fun, you get used to it. So they all have to be bad in different ways, too. So, yeah, it was harder than I thought, but it was a blast.

MisCon 2018 ()
#30 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever find yourself writing so much of your own work that you actually go back and look and realize you've forgotten pieces?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, I have to reread, particularly in Stormlight. Yeah, absolutely. It's hardest when I get hit with questions like this, there are sometimes I get hit with a question, I'm just like, "What?" I usually just RAFO it. But it is particularly bad-- If you wanna read bad answers by me, go get any of the ones where I first start answering questions in London after an 8-hour time jump. Like, I get off a plane, they set me in front of a crowd, they say "Go." Imagine signing and writing things in books while people ask you questions about complicated fiscal policy. And you have to keep writing and answer them. And those questions just-- Every time I'm in London, I get back and people are like, "You said this!" I'm like, "What?" Any time I'm in Europe. The first signing, particularly, in Europe, you can find delightful questions... It took me a few hours, the last one. I did get, eventually, into the zone, and start answering questions. But that was a miserable signing all around because it was the winter in London, and it was a particularly cold winter, and they decided to put the line outside. And they'd never done this to me before at this bookstore, but the line was so big that they're like, "We're gonna run them around the block." It was a very long line, but I'm sitting here trying to answer these questions, while at the same time I'm worried, I'm like, "These fans are outside in the cold. This is not right!" And so I was stressed and jet-lagged, so some of my questions were just off the walls.

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

Bradinator1

My question for Brandon would be:What kind of mental "retooling" does it take for him to work on an already established world/storyline like Wheel of Time since this is someone else's work?

Also, were there there a lot of notes or material left by Mr. Jordan to work from?

Brandon Sanderson

I thought about this quite a lot during the months when I was reading the Wheel of Time again straight through, trying to figure out how I would approach writing the final book. Obviously, this project wasn't going to be like anything I'd done before. I couldn't just approach it as I did one of my solo novels. And yet, it felt like trying to match Robert Jordan's style exactly would have made me lapse into parody.

A lot of the mental 'retooling' I did focused on getting inside the characters' heads. I decided that if I could make the characters sound right, the book would FEEL right, even if some of the writing itself was different. I also decided that I would adapt my style to fit the project. I became more descriptive, for one, and wrote viewpoint with the more intimate, in-head narrative style that Mr. Jordan used. Neither of these were attempts to match how he wrote exactly, but more me trying to match my style to The Wheel of Time, if that makes any sense.

In answer to the second question, he left LOTS of notes behind. He wrote complete scenes in places, dictated other scenes, left piles of notes and materials. The prologue was almost all completed by him (that will be split half in this book, half in the next.) The ending scenes were written by him as well. In the middle, there are a lot of scene outlines as well.

That's not to say there wasn't A LOT of work to do. The actual number of completed scenes was low, and in some places, there was no direction at all what to do. But his fingerprints are all over this novel. My goal was not to write a Brandon Sanderson book, but a Wheel of Time book. I want this novel (well, these three novels, now) to be his, not mine.

Shadows of Self San Diego signing ()
#32 Copy

Questioner

Of all the characters that you've written, which one do you think is the most like you, and is there one you want to be like?

Brandon Sanderson

Understand that there are none that are specifically "most like me." There's a piece of me in every one of them, it's been very hard for me to determine. If I had one that I think the best of is probably Sazed, maybe Dalinar. But I sure wouldn't mind being as clever as some of them are. You laugh, because, like, "You wrote them, Brandon." *laughter* The thing about being clever-- and I have some clever friends, I lived with a a guy named Ken Jennings for many years in college, and his brother's just as smart as him, and our mutual friend Earl, they were all on Quiz Bowl in college together, and he [Ken] won the Jeopardy thing, like 80 in a row. And Ken, and people like this, what really makes them smart is the speed of thought. They just snap off a retort, just like that, and you get them together, it's this weird thing, where, like, spacetime seems to warp around them and they start one-upping each other with references and cultural jokes and things like that, and you just step back, and, like, they're their own power source. Of random 80's inside jokes just going at each other. And that's what really makes someone witty, is the ability to pop it off. That's not smart, that's witty, in a book. Now they're also very smart. But in a book, you can emulate that, by giving yourself three hours to think of what the perfect comeback, and then writing it in the book. And they just came up with it, and everyone thinks you're brilliant, when you're just habitually that person who's like, "That would have been smart! That's what I should have said!"

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#33 Copy

Questioner

How do you approach creating scenes? Do you create how you want the scene to play out, and then make the magic system? Or do you make the magic system work first?

Brandon Sanderson

Usually, I do magic system first. The way scenes, I construct, is usually I have big goals in my story. For instance, in Mistborn, Vin is going to learn to train all the powers of a Mistborn. By the end, I want her to be fairly competent. So then I have that goal, and I write down, "What are scenes that can move me toward that goal?" In that outline, it would be: she trains with Ham in one scene, she trains with Marsh in another scene, she trains with Breeze in another scene. What else can I make those scenes do to move character and stuff, to try to pack more into those scenes. But I'll construct those scenes as goals towards the ending.

Stormlight Three Update #7 ()
#34 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Back with another update. It's been a few months, and I have worked through the third draft of Oathbringer. Original draft didn't have a few of the interludes, so I added those in this revision, as well as incorporating feedback from my team and the team at Tor Books. Earlier today, I wrote the epigraphs and the Wit monologue, then polished off the ketek.

The current length is 514,000 words--so around 100k longer than Words of Radiance. Whew! That's big enough that we're not sure if we can bind it in paperback. (We can manage it in hardcover without too much trouble, though we might have to do some old term paper tricks such as expanding the margins.) The book won't be split in the hardcover US release, or in the ebook, but there's a possibility the US paperback might be split into two volumes released at the same time. (As has been common in the UK for all the books in the series.)

We'll see what happens. Next revision, 4.0, is to incorporate Beta Reader comments and to make some tweaks I've been thinking about. This should be the fastest of the drafts, as I don't need to make any big structural changes or write many new scenes.

5.0 (the final draft) will be a polish and trim. Publication date is still scheduled for this November. The US cover came in just recently, so expect a reveal on that soon. Michael did a fantastic job.

As a warning: I'm not going to be able to monitor this thread very well, as I'm off to Europe. (I'll be in Poland, Germany, and Bulgaria--details on the events section of my website.) So be warned in advance that I probably can't post many replies to your questions here.

I'm still making my way through my recent AMA on /r/fantasy, though, so you can pop over to that and read what I've had to say recently.

As always, thanks for your patience. Beta read responses to the book are strong, so I think you'll be pleased with the result come this fall.

Stormlight Three Update #8 ()
#35 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This might be our final Oathbringer update--as today, I finished the fifth and final draft of the book, and am ready to send it off to Tor. From here, the book is in /u/peterahlstrom's hands as he handles the copyedits, the gamma read, and the proofreads. It's possible I'll make a few small tweaks to the text, but the book is mainly his burden now.

I'm extremely pleased with the final draft, which I managed to cut to 450k words. That meant trimming about 64k off of it--roughly 12.5%. These are mostly line edits, with only a few small scenes being cut out. I improved pacing, and even added a few small sections to smooth out certain plot lines.

Fans tend to hate the idea of cutting--but trust me, this version reads far better. I did make sure to keep anything substantive I cut so you can see it later as deleted scenes.

We're still planning a November 14th release in the US. (I think UK releases on Thursdays instead of Tuesdays, so it would be a few days later over there.) Simultaneous audio and--if we can swing it--simultaneous Spanish.

For now, I'm at Supanova in Sydney and Perth--which unfortunately means I won't be monitoring these comments (or my direct messages.) Be forewarned, you might not get a reply to questions posted here. (I will try to do a proper AMA about the book once it's out.)

My next project will be The Apocalypse Guard, a book with loose connections to the Reckoners. I'm chomping at the bit to do some actual writing again, as I've been working on revisions of Oathbringer nonstop for almost exactly six months now. I think the last time I wrote anything non-Stormlight was Snapshot, fourteen months ago. Whew!

By the files in my folders, the first chapter I wrote for Stormlight Thee was started on June 24, 2014. The last scene I added was written today, in my hotel in Sydney. The bulk of the writing happened June 2015-December 2016, with revisions lasting until just now.

It clocks in at 122 chapters, with 14 interludes, plus a prologue, epilogue, and ketek.

Looking forward to you all being able to read it, come November. Thanks, as always, for your support--and your patience.

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

carmen22

 How did you ever keep the unique power systems all straight and use them so well for your readers to understand?

The powers, to me, were just so fascinating, well developed, and unique on so many levels! I think with a lesser artist than yourself the powers might have been too much to take in, but I found them quite easy to follow and understand. Just amazing! You seriously are one of my favorite authors. I'll be in line for all of your books!

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks! It took a lot of practice. Keeping them straight for myself isn't so difficult—it's like keeping characters straight. The more I've written, the easier it's become.

What is more difficult is keeping it all straight for the readers. This can be tough. One of the challenges with fantasy is what we call the Learning Curve. It can be very daunting to pick up a book and find not only new characters, but an entirely new world, new physics, and a lot of new words and names.

I generally try to introduce this all at a gentle curve. In some books, like Warbreaker, starting with the magic system worked. But in Mistborn, I felt that it was complex enough—and the setting complex enough—that I needed to ease into the magic, and so I did it bit by bit, with Vin.

In all things, practice makes perfect. I have a whole pile of unpublished novels where I didn't do nearly as good a job of this. Even still, I think I have much to learn. In the end of Mistborn One and Warbreaker both I think I leave a little too much confusion about the capabilities of the magic.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#37 Copy

Questioner

I have been telling people you're my favorite writer for two reasons: ...your quality of writing is fantastic, and your quantity is high. That's very rare to get both of them in the same author.

Brandon Sanderson

You know, it's this weird thing where I have found that the more I keep up my momentum, the better I write. The worst things I write are the things where I take a long break in between. And it's sort of this thing like, if you stop playing baseball or a while, you're gonna start missing the ball. And I found, just for me, that if I do stuff that keeps me going, so I use a lot of these novellas and things to make sure I'm keeping momentum. And it's hard sometimes, because books take a lot of revision, and you can't just write them and send them out. So you have to do, like, six or seven drafts sometimes. Just keep that momentum.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#38 Copy

Questioner

How many hours a week do you spend writing? You write more than anybody--

Brandon Sanderson

I do it in normal person's job, I'm... Eight hours a day probably. Two four-hour sessions usually. I'm not that fast, I'm just very consistent. It's just my personality. It's served me really well in writing, just because I can consistently write everyday. I don't go through mood swings and things.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#39 Copy

Questioner

When you're developing magic systems do you have it all planned out before you start writing the scenes?

Brandon Sanderson

I usually do, but I let myself have some wiggle room to change things as I go. Usually by the end of the first book I have it all locked down. Before the first book I have an outline for my magic system. I write the book and see how it works and see if there are things I need to tweak, and then I go back and make sure that it's locked down, and then I can write the other two to be consistent with the first one.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#40 Copy

Questioner

You're writing so many stories at once with so many different characters. Does it ever get confusing?

Brandon Sanderson

Once in a while. But the way my brain chemistry works, it's good for me to be always thinking about something new and jumping around a little bit, it helps me a ton. Different writers are very different. They don't want to do that at all, and it's just fine. There's no one right way to do it. I don't usually have trouble. It's the excitement of keeping track of it all that's fun for me.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#41 Copy

Daz925

Where were you in your writing process for Elantris-- I know it was your sixth book and you were on your nineteenth when you got it published or--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, good question.So, where was I in my process when I wrote Elantris and when I got published, which was my sixth novel. So what happened with my career, it's kind of a very weird thing. You find that everybody has a different path to success as a writer. I heard early on that your first five books are generally terrible and this was really relieving to me, because I--a part of my brain-- this would not-- someone else, this might've been the worst thing to tell them. But for me it was the best thing because my brain said, "Okay, good, you don't have to be any good at this for your first five books".

And so my first five books I experimented quite a bit in story and tone. I did a gritty cyberpunkish thing. I did a comedy. I did an epic fantasy. I tried a lot of-- I did a space opera. I did a lot of different things. And once I had done all that, I came back and said, "You know, my first love is epic fantasy, and it's what I really want to do." So I sat down to write book number 6, which was Elantris.

And at that point, I had gotten a few books underneath me. I kind of knew what I was doing, though I was not-- I hadn't figured out my process quite as well as I would have liked. Elantris and a lot of the books during that era I did a lot more discovery writing, and I naturally am better when I have a stronger outline. But that's where I was.

My biggest weakness as a writer at that point was revision. I had spent those five early books just trying different things, and that permission for me to not be good yet also kind of gave me the psychological ability to be like, "Well, I don't have to revise this one, because I don't have to be good yet." But what that meant is I didn't practice revision. So once I finished Elantris, I was not good enough yet to know how to take a good book and make it great. So it went the rounds in New York and got rejected; rightly so, because it was very flabby and had not been focused. And I know, from a guy who writes thousand-page books, focus is a weird thing to say. *laughter*

And so, when I actually sold Elantris to Tor, it was after it had gone through four or five drafts and I had finally sat down and kind of buckled down and said "I need to learn revision and learn how to make my books better". So I sold it right after-- right while I was working on Way of Kings in 2002, 2003, somewhere around there.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#42 Copy

Questioner

When you do your outline, all the revelations and twists, do you always stick to your outline?

Brandon Sanderson

I do not. Now the difference between me and someone who's more of a discovery writer is I will rebuild my outline when I start going off of it. So what I'll usually do is I'll try-- if I think I'm gonna break the outline, I'll try a chapter that direction, see if I like it. If I do I'll then rebuild the outline and then go forward on it.

Questioner

Do you ever refer back to your previous book?

Brandon Sanderson

Definitely. Usually what I'll do is I make an outline for the first book, I'll write the first book, and then I will outline the series. That's very common for me.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#43 Copy

Questioner

You're a lot faster at getting your books out, getting these really awesome books out, then many other writers. And I think you know who I'm thinking about. What’s the secret?

Brandon Sanderson

The secret is my work ethic. It's beaten into me by my parents I think. I write every day. It's like that classic pioneer work ethic. I just, I write my stories every day, I do this compulsively. I think the other thing is, we talk about someone like Pat Rothfuss. He is a perfectionist, to a level beyond me. I am okay getting my prose pretty good and then handing it to the editor, and letting them work on it, you know what I mean. He has to be perfect before he hands it on, if that makes sense. And I think that as a result, his biggest strength over me as a writer is his prose is more lyrical because he works so hard on it. So it shows. It's like he takes that extra one percent, but that extra one percent takes him like two extra years to get. Some other writers, as you get older, they just, the grind of it gets to them and they slow down. I just love what I do and I write every day.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#44 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Vin stands out to us at the Pixel Project because she went through a lot of abuse in her young life, physical and psychological, at the hands of family and people that she should have been able to trust. She is a survivor, and with the help of her new friends she eventually finds self-worth, she realizes she can overcome her past trauma, she grows as a person. The question is, why did you decide to write a character with this kind of background, and what kind of research did you do to write the character who is an abuse survivor?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. So, two part question. First up: How and why did I decide. There are two main parts to this. One is, I knew I was writing in the world of Mistborn, a very less than perfect society. Let's just put it at that. The pitch for myself was, what if Sauron had won? What if you had to grow up in Mordor? I felt that if I had a character who was untouched by that, that the story would lack sincerity. If the only main character was someone who had somehow avoided that, there would be a certain-- like I said, lack of sincerity. There would be a certain, sort of-- I feel that, when you're writing stories, one of the things you should be looking to is to let characters who are part of a problem, solve the problem, rather than people outside the problem coming in to fix the problem. It's generally stronger storytelling, and generally more respectful of people who have had these life experiences themselves. So, I knew I needed someone who had been through a lot of trauma, because of the things we needed to change in this society.

The other part about it was planning-- I am an outliner, with my plots and my worlds and my characters, I discovery write. And oftentimes, what I'll do when I start a book is I'll start with multiple attempts at writing a person into that world. It's almost like I have a bunch of actors come in and try out for the part. I wrote three very different first chapters for that book, and the one that worked was the Vin you ended up with. What drew me to her as a character was the mix of strength and vulnerability at the same time, that she has. It's hard to explain why I came up with that, because really, as a writer, you're just kind of searching for someone whose voice works and whose soul matches that of the story. And it gets very mystical, for me, when you talk about characters, which I don't like, I like to be able to break things down, and talk about how it works and why I made the choice I did. But I made the choice of Vin because Vin was right. Part of that was, she was solving a problem that she had been directly-- that had directly affected her life.

How did I go about doing it right? This is where the best research that I get is reading the stories of people who are willing to share them with the rest of us. Reading firsthand accounts from people who are willing, because that takes a lot of bravery. It takes a lot of-- it's not something I could ever ask anyone to do, but it is something that people offer. On their blogs, and on forums, and spending your time listening to what people say, and trying to get the characters to express the way that these people would express it if they could write that character in their story, is one of my main goals. In fact, I think that's my prime mandate as a writer, is, try to write the characters like the people who have their life experience or beliefs would write them if they had my skill as a writer. And, so I spent a lot of time on blogs, I spent a lot of time on forums, and I wasn't ever posting on these, I was just listening. And then I made sure I had some good readers. Shallan has gone the same way. I can directly credit some very helpful beta readers who have had life experience similar to Shallan's, which have made sure, at least I hope I do this right, and always do better, that I'm walking a line between not sensationalizing, and not glorifying, but using this person's life experience to help them become the person that they want to become.

Anushia Kandasivam

And is that why we don't learn about the characters abuse on screen-- it's never on screen, it's always in their thoughts-- did you purposely write it like this because you didn't want...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. This was very, very conscious. I feel like one of the biggest traps that writers in fantasy fall into, is using abuse of women, specifically, but all people who are in positions of lacking power, as a means of proving how bad your villains are, or how heroic your heroes are. I think that there are certain authors who are really good at doing this without making it a sense that this is how the world is. So it's not me pointing fingers and saying you shouldn't do that, but I felt that if I was to put it on screen, I don't think I could handle it without sensationalizing it. And by making it there, but never explicit, I think everyone knows it was there, I think everyone knows that Vin suffered abuse, but I could write a story that can deal with overcoming these things without having to sensationalize the thing itself.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#45 Copy

Questioner

How do you fool your writer's block?

Brandon Sanderson

I write a bad chapter. Usually, writer's block, what's stopping me is I that know the chapter's not gonna work, or something's wrong. I write it anyway. And then I think about it for a few days, and then rewrite it over. It works almost every time. Once in a while, it's a bigger problem that's stopping me. And those cases, often it takes, like, a big extensive rewrite to get the book going in a different direction. But nine times out of ten, I'm just having a funk on one chapter; changing the perspective or writing it poorly in a sitting and letting myself think about it works very well.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#46 Copy

Questioner

What's your ideal work environment?

Brandon Sanderson

Sitting by the fire, feet up, easy chair--recliner, laptop, music. It's not very complicated. I can write almost anywhere if at least the laptop and music are there. 

Questioner

What do you listen to?

Brandon Sanderson

It really depends on my mood and what I'm into at the moment. Right now I've just got a playlist on Spotify that someone has made. It's called epic soundtracks and there's like 800 songs on it. I put that on shuffle. But I guess it just depends on my mood.

BookCon 2018 ()
#47 Copy

Questioner

I'm in <a MFA and> one of the things I'm interested in is writing multiple perspectives. So how do you go about that and make the characters sound distinctive?

Brandon Sanderson

I think really distinctive viewpoints is a big part of it, particularly in the third-limited. It's much easier in the first to distinguish them in some ways, though it's harder to keep track. But in third limited you want to make sure your viewpoints are really distinctive. I always ask myself the question, "How would they describe a cup of water?" Would they see that as if they are thirsty, or how would they describe that thing...

Third limited gets away with a sort of more general voice of the narrator a little bit, to kind of lean on that as long as the focus on descriptions and voice and thoughts of the characters.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#48 Copy

Questioner

How do you start a new book?

Brandon Sanderson

I start with an outline.  I like very detailed outlines, and I like to know where I'm going before I start.  If I don't have an ending in mind I'm in trouble.  So, I will often spend a lot of time imagining that I'm *inaudible*, you know, walking on the treadmill or going for a walk or something, and getting through my head just what I would imagine being the cool scenes from this book.  What are the scenes that people are going to want to read, that are going to make it all come together.  And then I build those into my outline.  And I usually outline backward, start with those cool scenes, and then I write my book forward.  

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#49 Copy

Questioner

What has been the craziest, most off-the-wall, unexpected kind of feedback you've ever gotten--

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh. *crowd laughs*

Questioner

...you know kind of how it sent you in the right direction.

Brandon Sanderson

Wow, craziest off-the-wall feedback I've ever gotten and what direction did it send me. I have so much trouble with these things. Some people ask me the line "what's the weirdest thing a fan has had you write in a book". And I know, if I took the time, I could think of it, but off the top of my head it's kind of hard. I'm not sure what the craziest, most off-the-wall sort of feedback I've gotten. I've given a lot of crazy, off-the-wall feedback. Legion... came about because I was trying to convince my friend Dan Wells to write this book. *crowd laughs* "Oh, you could do this thing, and it could be like schizophrenia but not really, it could be a superpower," and he's like, "Brandon, that's not a Dan Wells book. That is a Sanderson book". And so I ended up writing the book, but that has happened. I've given weird feedback. I'd have to think about that one a little more.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#50 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Five

Treledees Almost Tells Siri How to Pass On the God King's Breath

We get to see more of Siri taking charge here. In this tense situation, a lot of others would have been reduced to hysterics, but she's come into her own, taking command, trying to get the information she needs.

Treledees lies to her here about two things. First off, he does know how a God King can have a child, but he knows that the secret is also held by a secure group of priests on the islands. He doesn't think letting Siri in on that one for now is a good idea. But he does want to pass on how to get Susebron's Breaths away from him, should it become necessary. He knows that those need to be passed on, even if the God King does have a child. That's the greater secret, but the one that needs to be known to Siri. Those Breaths cannot die with Susebron.

So, anyway, he's lying about the God King not being able to have a child. (Or at least he sidesteps it. He says that the God King can't sire a child, which is true unless certain steps are taken. He also says that he doesn't know how the First Returned bore a child, which is true—he doesn't know for certain if the First Returned used the same method that Treledees knows. He's also sidestepping the fact that he does believe that the blood of the First Returned flows in the veins of the royal Idrian line.)

So why not bring this up in the book? Well, I learned in Elantris that it's easy to overtwist an ending by having too many reveals. This is a very small point, and there is good rationalization for why Treledees doesn't let on what he knows. So I felt it was better to let the story stand as is, without delving into this.

Of course, there is a hint in the text about it—or at least a question. If they depended only on a Returned child taking Susebron's place, then why were they worried about Siri having sex with Susebron? They didn't need her to sleep with him unless they expected that sex to do something.

I'm sorry to leave this issue a mystery, and I'm even more sorry to not explain how Susebron can give away his Breaths. It's not important to this book, and so I felt that having Treledees give the explanation here would just bog things down. I'd rather wait until a sequel, where I detail the magic system in a more complete form, to give you these explanations.

That leaves us with the cliché of someone who almost passes on information, then dies. As I said, I am sorry to do this. I nearly didn't put it in, but I felt it very important to include something that let you know that the priests did have a way to get those Breaths.

Note that Treledees is not lying about letting Susebron live out his life with Siri in peace. They have allowed previous God Kings to do that, once they had a successor in place.