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Calamity Seattle signing ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

So I just finished The Bands of Mourning, which was my favorite out of that series.  Did you know when you were writing Alloy of Law how you were going to link this to the original, with the kandra, the bands of the Lord Ruler...

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah the kandra were seeded, MeLaan you can go and look back in the original three.  Like I’m going to use her in the next series, for sure.  Now what I usually do is when I’m starting a series, and I did this for this one, is I will write the first book in the series.  So I did this with Steelheart, I did this with the original Mistborn, I did this with Alloy of Law.  I write the first book, I sit down, and say “Okay, what worked about that, what can I expand upon” and then I outline the series with those characters and then go back and revise the first one to match and then I release the first one.  Does that make sense? So not everything do I know writing the first one but by the time I’m through the revisions I usually do.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#2 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.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#3 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.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

What does your writing desk look like?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't have a desk. I set in an easy chair. I sit, lean back, and relax.

Questioner

So maybe it's comfy when you're leaning back and relaxed.

Brandon Sanderson

Yep. And I do-- I go, like, walk on the treadmill or run on the elliptical-- I don't know what you call it on an elliptical, half-run or whatever-- and plan out my writing of the day. And then I go sit in my easy chair, and I-- it's by the hearth-- and I just work.

Google+ Hangout ()
#5 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.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

I asked you the Legion question, so I've been reading. I've been working my way through that series, so I'm excited to hear there's a third one coming up.

Brandon Sanderson

Yep. The goal is to write it for that anthology, so that I at least can start wrapping some things up.

Questioner

Well there's a lot to wrap up, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

Questioner

There's a pretty high demand, for sure, right? But it's cool, it was interesting to see, "Oh, maybe this is your break, a little bit, of trying to get away from it." A little bit.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, right. Most of those- the short fiction I write, is to take a break.

Questioner

Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

Just to do something different.

Questioner

And get the creative juices flowing in a little different area.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

Lucca Comics and Games Festival ()
#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

My favorite time period is when superstition was transitioning into science. I am very fascinated by that idea, superstition and science. Isaac Newton believed in Alchemy and tried to make it work, and many scientists did. This is really cool to me because this is both the dawn of enlightenment and understanding, but also it has mythology and lore to it. In my books I am usually trying to recreate this idea, we're sifting through the lore and pulling out the science. Magic is transitioning into science, but it is a world with a new branch of physics. This allows me to mix what we call a sense of wonder with a sense of reason. It makes me very exited when I have a good idea to connect mythology and science together.

Oathbringer London signing ()
#8 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

How do you write the <Shardblade> fighting, like the fencing aspect of it? I guess you do all the research for that, the way the Shards actually work?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

So, the fight scenes, right? The first drafts are usually pretty bad. I kind of just get down what's happening, who it's happening to, what I want the outcome to be. And then I do a lot of refining, and I try to find people who are actual fencers...

And I usually try to add something to my worlds that doesn't exist in our worlds, like Shardblades and things, just so I can have a little more suspension of disbelief for people like yourself, where you're like "Well, they have different positions."

...But I do try to get some primary sources who can tell me where I'm doing stuff really bad... Matt Easton's YouTube channel is really great for that. Schola Gladitoria, Matt Easton. When I have two people who are fighting with actual weapons, I go-- He usually has done some HEMA things where you see, like, ten bouts with that. And I can watch it, and be like "Alright, this is how it would go down."

Firefight release party ()
#9 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.

BookCon 2018 ()
#10 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Shadows of Self Lansing signing ()
#11 Copy

Questioner

Where does the concept for the broadsheets come from?

Brandon Sanderson

So I get together with my team: which is Ben McSweeney who does a lot of the artwork, Isaac who does all the symbols and maps, my editorial assistant, and myself. And then we brainstorm as many cool things as we can, and then Isaac lays it out, Ben does all the art, and then together we all just write different *inaudible* for the articles so it feels like a newspaper that a lot of different people are writing.

Questioner

That's awesome. Thank you very much this is very cool.

Brandon Sanderson

That's how we do it.

Isaac wrote the Allomancer Jak pieces in the next one so you should read that one. It's really fun, it's his debut of fiction.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#13 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.

Oathbringer release party ()
#14 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

How much do you plot books? How much do you plan out what happens before you start writing?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I am a plotter. I am very naturally-- I do a lot of extensive plotting. So, I would say I have, like, 90% of it before I start most books, thought I knock out like, 10% or 20% while I'm writing and change it if something better comes along. 

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Do you go chapter by chapter, or do you kinda just--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

It's more like an outline of, like, "Here's my goal. And here are ways to achieve it." I do a whole lecture on it in the BYU lectures, if you're interested,  that are on YouTube.

Lucca Comics and Games Festival ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I generally write on only one books at a time. This is different, some writers aren't like that, Ray Bradbury famously had a big filing cabinet of half finished stories and he would, every morning, get out one and get out the typewriter and type more lines on it until it didn't work for him anymore and then he put it back and grabbed another one and started typing on it, which blows my mind. I cant imagine that; I can only usually do new fiction for one at a time, though I'm often panning in my head or working on the outline for the next one while I am writing the prose for this one. It uses different parts of the brain usually.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#16 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Steris and Marasi. Did you plan the love interest to be [Steris] from the beginning?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I did. Very beginning is a weird thing as an author to explain. Because the very beginning of that story, Wax didn't exist, it was only Wayne. Then I built Wax in, then I started building Wax's back history. Then I started building Marasi. Then I started building [right?] By the time that the outline for the four books was done, but even before that when I was just writing the first one, I knew what I was doing, there.

Boskone 54 ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

How is it that you’re able to write such real and strong women characters that are feminist in their own way but in very different ways from book to book? Is your wife your inspiration? Can you do a workshop for other male writers?

Brandon Sanderson

This is a huge compliment, thank you. It is something that I’ve worked on a long time. I would blame the authors I read getting into fantasy, Barbara Hambly, Melanie Rawn, Anne McCaffrey. They were the first three authors I read. I internalized some of the things they were talking about. I also do have some good models. My mother graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in the accounting department. She’s currently the accountant for the city of Idaho Falls. So getting it wrong was a big deal to me, and I did get it wrong on my first few books. The unpublished ones, fortunately. What I realized was, it was a bigger problem than just doing the female characters wrong, though that was the biggest sign that I was doing something wrong. What was happening was I was writing people to roles in the story, rather than writing them as people having a role in the story. That sounds really simple, right? But once I realized people don’t see themselves as the plucky sidekick, usually, and people don’t see themselves as the romantic interest. People see themselves as a person who plays a part in someone else’s life, but plays a different part over here, and a different part over here. Those of us who are extraverts might be introverts in some situations where we don’t know very much. Those of us who are introverts might be extraverts when you put us in front of a room and tell us to do a reading, we’re like “Yeah! I can handle that!”. We all fulfill lots of different roles in different settings, in different people’s lives. Everybody has motivations and passions, and gender identity, racial factors, your upbringing, your culture, these are all parts of who you are, but when you let one of those things define you too much, you become a flat character, in fiction. [Talks for a minute about Lost, where the character who loses his son becomes a flat character because it comes to completely define the character. He’s talked about this before in his lectures so I’m not going to type it out]. When you’re writing people to just a role like that, you end up with these flat characters, you end up with people who don’t really live. And I think the first big revelation for me was that I was doing that. And this was particularly true of the female characters. When you start writing, it’s very normal to just write a protagonist who’s much like yourself and then writing people who aren’t like yourself like, this is this role, this is this role, and then boom. But there was something else I had to learn. There’s still lots of things for me to learn, but there was something else big that I had to learn. This was the problem that I’ve only recently begun reading essays about it, which is the natural inclination of someone is to first off write everyone as kind of a stereotype, and then you learn and you get better. But then the next inclination is to write the person who is different from ourselves as super super awesome. Just so that we’re not accidentally being sexist. And you’ll see this a lot too, this happens a lot with African Americans, in video games in particular. I was playing a video game once, and it’s a bunch of burly white guys who are awesome with guns and they’re killing stuff. And they talk about their friend, the black guy. You don’t know he’s black at the time. And then they get into trouble and they can’t save themselves. And the black guy bursts through the ceiling with guns blazing, mows down the enemies, says “Alright guys, go for it!”, and then runs off into the sunset. He’s like the coolest guy ever. He only stops short of doing a rap song for the end song, right? They don’t want to be racist, so he’s awesome, but he also doesn’t get a character arc. Everybody else has deep character arc and is messed up. They didn’t want to, and I understand this instinct, they didn’t want to make the black guy messed up because he’s the minority and they are so worried about screwing it up that instead they put him on a pedestal. You see guys do this with women, and you see women do this with the men characters. If you read a book, often the guy, by a female writer, the guy has very few faults, he’s just this guy, and the woman is this messed up, neurotic, interesting character. Same in reverse with the guys. The woman in the book ends up being the one who is very responsible, the one who’s like “We need to go do this”, the kick-ass “strong female character” [he literally says “quote-unquote” about strong female character] who just awesome, but doesn’t have a character arc and isn’t messed up in the ways that make people interesting. That’s another level, when you’re like, we have to make all the characters interesting, and all the characters messed up and individual, rather than even doing that level. And that one’s been even harder to internalize and figure out how to do.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#18 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.  

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#19 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.

Worldbuilders AMA ()
#20 Copy

Office_Zombie

Hey guys, how many drafts do you go through before you start showing to other people? What sort of workshopping do your books go through as you work on them? Do you have Alpha and Beta readers etc. or do you keep your groups smaller?

Brandon Sanderson

Drafting process: 1st draft: Rough Draft. (Written straight through, often ignoring big problems or changing characters mid-stride to get them down.)

2nd draft: Fix all the big problems from first draft.

3rd draft: First polish.

--Send book to Writing Group and Alpha Readers, including my Agent/Editor---

4th draft: Major revisions. Editorial comments.

5th draft: Medium revisions. Writing group comments.

--Send Book to Beta Reads.---

6th draft: Last chance at larger revisions.

7th draft: Copyedit (my assistant does this one.)

That's an ideal world. Sometimes it's condensed. Though on the Wheel of Time books, I ended up doing 12 or 13 drafts.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hello, reddit. I figured I'd pop back in and give you a new update on your book. (I can't believe it's been six months since the last one.)

I'll give a slight spoiler warning to everything below this paragraph. I'm obviously not going to say anything story-wise that would spoil the book. However, I'll be talking a little about the structure of it and what's going on with the draft. I can see some people, very sensitive to spoilers, being concerned about learning anything at all about the book. For you who fit this description, let me just say that I'm approaching the halfway point, but I'm not there yet. The book is going very well, and I'm pleased with it.

Now, on to a deeper discussion of the novel. The first thing I did for Stormlight 3 was work on the flashback sequences for Dalinar and Szeth, as I hadn't yet decided which one would match this book. Through this process, I decided on Dalinar--a decision contrary to my original outline from the start of the series. This didn't concern me; the decision was made based on how the series had developed, and it's always good to expect some things to change during the actual writing. (For example, much of Kaladin's plot from book two was originally slated for book three.) Being too slavish to an outline isn't ever a good thing.

This decision made, I sat down and wrote Dalinar's flashbacks in their entirety. By the end of them, I was completely convinced these were the best paring for this book. That meant, as this was "his" book, I wanted Dalinar viewpoints to show up in all five parts of Oathbringer. You see, Stormlight Books have a kind of strange format. I plot them in this bizarre fashion that likely makes sense only to me. But I'll try to explain.

I split each book into five parts, which group together to form three chunks plotted like individual volumes of a trilogy--with a large, over-arching plot that ties into the five-book arc of the initial sequence, which in turn is half of the complete ten book arc. Each volume, then, has a complete trilogy's worth of arcs and climaxes for the primary characters (Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar) while also having a self-contained flashback sequence, at least one secondary novelette about a character that hasn't had viewpoints so far, and a related short story collection. The "main character" for the book gets, beyond their flashback sequence, a role in each part of the story.

So this means a slightly larger plot for Dalinar, and a slight scaling back for Kaladin and Shallan. (Don't worry; both will be in the book around as much as Kaladin was in Words of Radiance.) Now, the plotting for Oathbringer--as I mentioned--is broken into five chunks, which combine into three chunks. (I call them books here for lack of a better word, as the novel--like each other in the series--is a trilogy bound in one volume. Don't be confused. This doesn't mean I'm splitting the book for publication, only that it is plotted in a way with divisions between the story arcs.)

"Book One" of Oathbringer is all of Part one, plus the interludes. "Book Two" is parts two and three, plus two sets of interludes. "Book Three" is parts four and five, plus interludes. Of these, part two is going to be the biggest oddball, as I'm putting another novelette (separated into six chapters) in here as I feel I need a glimpse at another character. So it's going to have the least focus on primary viewpoints.

I've finished all of the flashbacks, all of the viewpoints for part one, the novelette for part two, and part of the other novelette (the one that will take the place of Szeth from book one or Eshonai from book two.) This, so far, puts me at about 180k words written--with 130k of that being part one in its entirety, and the rest being scenes listed above.

If that sounds confusing, I apologize. These books are somewhat involved to write, and more complex stories demand some outlining that gets a little crazy. However, I did whip up a visualization of the viewpoint structure, which I've posted below.

Stormlight Three Visual Outline

This doesn't give an exact view of scale, as--for instance--part one will likely be the longest of the five. Part Two looks the most full, but it's likely to have only three or four chapters from each of the primary characters (well, one chapter from one of them) so it should actually be shorter than part one. Part Five isn't cut off; I know it will be short, as it was in the other two books.

Next up is to do a revision of part one. (I don't often do revisions in the middle of a book, but with books this long, it's helpful for me to keep the plot under control and maintain continuity through the parts.) From there, I'll write Dalinar for part two, interweave with the appropriate flashbacks and the already-finished novelette, then look at the detailed plotting of the other three viewpoints in the part. I hope to bring this part in at around 70k words, bringing the total book to 200k and getting us to roughly the halfway point.

If this makes your head spin, then don't worry, you can ignore it. It is important to me that these books, though epic in scope, retain a tight view of the primary characters through all volumes. You will see a lot of Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan. You will see a moderate amount of Szeth, Eshonai, Jasnah, Adolin, and Navani. There will be a few surprises regarding other characters who have slightly larger places in the plot, but in general, anyone not on one of the above lists isn't allowed more than a viewpoint here or there. (Until the second five books, where our primary characters will shuffle. So you Renarin fans will have to be patient.)

I'm determined to maintain momentum in this story without letting it veer too far away from the primary plot. I feel that a careful outline and a consistent structure are the methods by which I will achieve this.

Thanks for your patience.

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

Questioner

Do you have a set plotting strategy, or do you kind of adapt it to the way you formulate your idea?

Brandon Sanderson

My plotting, I have a set one, but it's a really flexible one. It's based off of my goals for a given subplot and what I think needs to happen to achieve those goals. So my outline is a list of goals and bullet points, which makes it a very flexible outline.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#24 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.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#25 Copy

Questioner

In that regard, you've been called like a million times a prolific writer, and you are, but many people tend to believe that you have some sort of superpower. You don't, you just said many times that your secret is persistent and consistent writing, and I was wondering if this ever lets you disconnect from your worlds, or even put them on standby, if it's easier having that sort of structure and saying, "Okay, now I'm going to write, and now I'm going to not write"?

Brandon Sanderson

This is a very astute question, because one thing that is very hard for writers is to write when we're supposed to. And this goes both ways, meaning, sometimes, for writers, when it's time to sit down and write, writing doesn't happen, but sometimes when we are supposed to be spending out time with our family then our brain is not there and we are somewhere else, and I would say that's the main source of conflict, often, in writers' interpersonal lives.

Though if I do have a superpower, I owe it to my mother. My mother is an accountant, and she is very, very logical, one of the most logical people that I know, and she trained me from childhood to do the things that I'm supposed to do--to do my homework, to do my chores, all of these things. I had a paper route, as a kid, delivering newspapers from age twelve, and I always remember whenever my money came in, my mother would sit me down, and she would hold the money, and say, "Okay, now how much do you put in this savings account?" And I would have to guess numbers until I got to what she thought was right, and she would put that in, and then the next savings account, and then the next savings account, and then I would get handed a dollar. But I was the one of my friends who had a Super Nintendo because of those savings accounts. She trained me very well, and I often say my biggest advantage, as a writer, is that I am an artist with the training of an accountant. And so, when it's time to do my writing, I'm very good, practiced. It took time, many years, but I am practiced, and I am able to be very productive on most days. It's art, so some days, it still doesn't work, but most days I am productive, and equally important, when it is time to spend time with my family, I can turn that off, go be a dad and a husband, and then turn it back on after they go to bed.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#26 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.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#27 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Why did you write Zane for the Mistborn series?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Zane was a character that I found fascinating. When I designed him, I felt that the setting and characters needed more nuance, and he provided it. I feel that Zane could've gone either way, and he made a bad decision at the end, but could've absolutely gone the other direction and I was really interested in the idea of someone who thought they were insane but actually weren't. So a bunch of things collected, making Zane.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
#28 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.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

We were kind of joking about it that in the original Mistborn trilogy Kelsier, you notice that he--we kind of had a little joke about it that every once in a while he’d raise his eyebrow, and we were like “How many eyebrow raises did you count this time?”  And in the Secret History, we were both kind of like “Did you notice any?” and there weren’t any.  And I was just a tiny bit disappointed that he didn’t get a--

Brandon Sanderson

So what happens is--

Questioner

We were just curious if you got some kind of feedback that told you to stop that...

Brandon Sanderson

No, writers start to notice what their tells are, and so your tells will shift.  If you go look through the Mistborn books another one is “maladroitly”, I use that one all the time.  And all that happens is the copyeditor notices them and starts bracketing them over the course of “Oh I use this too much” I don’t usually mean to cut them all, there should have been one or two.  And it just meant they got bracketed and I was “Oh this one isn’t appropriate” and I just took a bunch of them out.

Oathbringer San Diego signing ()
#30 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Going back to when you first started writing books, how did you go about figuring out how to revise them?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

...Through lots of pain. *laughter* I am not a natural reviser. I still don't like it. I spent six months of this year in revisions on Oathbringer, and every minute of it was pain! No, I'm joking. I mean, I still have the best job in the world, right? I get to sit in my chair and tell stories. And then, for some reason, people throw money at me. Revision was hard, and for me, part of the breakthrough was to treat a revision like I treat a first draft, in that I create an outline for the revision. I create a bunch of goals, I create a bunch of bullet points and things I want to work on. And I come up with a strategy, because I am naturally an outliner, for making the revision work. And when I started doing that, revision got a lot better for me, but it was also just a lot of practice.

Subterranean Press Interview ()
#31 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.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
#32 Copy

Questioner

Do you hear the-- when you write the Parshendi have such a musical language. Do you hear it when you're writing, like what the songs sound like?

Brandon Sanderson

To an extent, yes, but I am not as musically inclined as some, and so if we ever do it, I would probably have somebody else come up with something more... It's more of a cadence though, like the difference between iambic and things like that.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#33 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 meany 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 simpler 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.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#34 Copy

Questioner

When you write your stories, do you plot them by outline, or do you start with the first thing--

Brandon Sanderson

Good question. Do I plot with an outline or not? I am an outliner. I like start with a really good outline, though I outline backward. I start with the climax and what I want to have happen, and then I work forward, working out what's gonna work to lay the groundwork for the ending that I want to have happen. But then I write forward, I start with the first page and go.

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

Questioner

How do you become a beta reader?

Brandon Sanderson

People always want to know this! We have beta and gamma readers. Alpha reads are only my agent and my writing group. Beta readers are people from fandom who have proven that they know their stuff and are a part of the community. Peter picks these from people who are on my Facebook, who are interacting with him there, or who are on the 17th Shard. There's no promises you can get in on this. We do change it every book and get some new people, because sometimes we just want people to give fresh eyes on something.

Gamma reads, if you want to read things early, are bug hunters. They can spot a type form a hundred paces. If you are really good at finding typos, you can go to the thread on the 17th Shard, for every book there is a thread, a forum thread that talks about typos. And if you are consistently finding typos no one else has found, chances are good Peter will be like, "Hey, do you want to proofread for us?"

But don't feel like you have to do this because it actually diminishes the book a little bit, even though you get to do something cool, because it's not in its final form yet. I don't like beta reading when I don't have to, I'd prefer reading something with polish.

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

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#37 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.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#38 Copy

fortunefavorsthecold

What is the final page count? The first two books were monsters (in the best way). I think part of what sets you apart from some other authors is that you're very transparent with your writing progress. The progress bars on your site, your updates on twitter, et cetera. Anyway, long story short, I am really freaking excited to read what's in store for everyone, and I may just re-read WoK and WoR to get back in the mood.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, Words of Radiance was spring 2014, incredibly.

Oathbringer would have been out last year, instead of this year, but the story went long. First draft was 520k words, compared to 300k words for TWoK and 400k words for BoM. However, in revisions, I buckled down and did some serious pruning for the good of the book--so Oathbringer is somewhere around 450k words now, going into final proofreads. November 14th drop date in the US.

More and more, I'm certain I can't do these every two years, as I had originally hoped. They are to intricate, and I need to take a break from the world to let things simmer and brew between books. But we'll see.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#39 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 Edinburgh UK signing ()
#40 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.

Stormlight Three Update #7 ()
#41 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.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#42 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

When you do the big twist at the end of a book, do you always have that twist in your mind when you begin writing the book, or do you do the twist after?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Good question. So when I do the big twist in a book, do I have the twist generally ahead of time or do I do it after. I generally have it ahead of time. I am an outliner. I like—writers tend to fall into two camps with a lot of variety in between—they're not polar opposites—between what we call "gardeners" and what we call "architects." I'm more of an architect. I like to build a structure and then hang my story on it. That said, you need to be flexible and willing to take something better if it comes along. For instance, Secret Project, which I can't tell you anything about, had a different ending than the ending I just put into it, because the ending just didn't land, right? I'm like, "Alright, I need to go back to square one and I need a better twist for this story," and I dug into it and came up with one. That causes a lot more revision [to] have to be done, but at the end of the day, I think you need to be able to do it. Sometimes when you're writing you just come up with something better, you're like, "I need to try this instead 'cause it's stronger".

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#43 Copy

Questioner

Do you backstock on neat characters?

Brandon Sanderson

I do have some characters I haven't found places for yet.

Questioner

Is it just kind of like a mix/match? Do you find a world for them or...

Brandon Sanderson

So characters are the hardest one for me to define. Because I need to discover who they are by writing through their viewpoint for a while. And it's an exploration. Other things, I can plot, I can outline, I can plan ahead. Characters, I can't. I need to explore them. So, really, what I have are seeds, conflicts. They could grow into a character. And I'll sometimes try them out, and they won't work, and I'll send that seed back.

Shadows of Self San Diego signing ()
#44 Copy

Questioner

...How and when do you manage to sleep? *laughter* You read and write and have a family.

Brandon Sanderson

So, I'm not allowed to talk about the clones *laughter* writing my books.

I set a strict schedule, and what I do is, I get up at noon, because I'm a writer! And I'll write from noon until 5:00. 5:00 until 8:30 or 9:00 is family time, and that's just-- that's sacrosanct. I don't do anything else during that time except hang out with family, I play video games with the kids, if you've got a seven or eight year old, Terraria, great for kids, you can get it on tablets and sit next to them. It's like an easier Minecraft. We play games, I go out with my wife, we do stuff like that. And then, at about 9:00, the kids are in bed, we're usually back, and then I go back to work. And I work from about 9:00 until as long as I need to work to get my work done that night. And when I'm home, that schedule works very well. It can get me up to twelve hours of writing time in a day if I'm really crunching on something. Since I don't have a commute, it actually-- I get that extra time in my day. And when I don't have a time crunch, then I can be done by, like, 2:00 AM and play some video games or something. I have a very-- My mental health is good. You don't have to worry about me not sleeping, and things like that. On tour? All bets are off. These things usually get done about midnight or 1:00 AM, and I often have a flight the next morning at 8:00. So, on tours, I just don't sleep. And I usually don't eat, either...

Boskone 54 ()
#45 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.

Google+ Hangout ()
#46 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.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#47 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 Houston signing ()
#49 Copy

Questioner

When you started writing, especially Mistborn, did you know you were writing a series, or were you just kinda writing--

Brandon Sanderson

Did I know I was writing a series, or was I just kinda writing? I usually know I'm writing a series. I like to outline. The beginning, middle, and end; then what came before, and what came after before I start any project. That is different for some few; for instance, the Alcatraz books were more freeform. I didn't know how long they were going to be until I wrote the first one, but almost everything else I know the length of what I'm shooting for. It's just kind of a quirk in the way that I write.

Subterranean Press Interview ()
#50 Copy

Gwenda Bond

The mysterious Sandra plays a big part in this final story—did you know from the beginning what her role would turn out to be or was this ending a surprise to you? (Without spoiling anything, of course!)

Brandon Sanderson

With my shorter works like this, I tend to let the story evolve over time more than I do with longer stories. This means more discovery, as I'm not sitting down with a framework—the goal, often, is to practice other skills in my writing. (Things that my novel writing doesn't teach me.) In this case, I had ideas for Sandra, and some of those ended up going all the way through—but some I discarded over time. I'm not one who is "surprised" by my writing, however. I don't generally like that phrasing. Sometimes as you're working on a piece, you discover a thread or theme that intrigues you—so you dig into it further, then develop it. Sometimes this means the final piece of art doesn't match the outline. It's not really a surprise so much as a common side effect of the writing process.