Hal-Con 2012

Event details
Name
Name Hal-Con 2012
Date
Date Oct. 30, 2012
Location
Location Halifax, NS
Entries
Entries 26
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#1 Copy

Lance Alvein

To get us started, Brandon, do you want to give everyone a quick idea of what the cosmere is?

Brandon Sanderson

*laughs* Okay. So, here's what's going on: When I first was trying to break in—this was over ten years ago now, like fifteen—someone told me that your first five books were generally unpublishable. That was fairly good advice; I found that for most people it's really just your first novel; your second novel tends to get really good. For me, I did end up writing five experimental books that I never published; Elantris was my sixth book. Another piece of advice I got while I was working on it, however, was: you don't want to start with a big epic, the reason for that being is that you want to give a chance for readers to read something, you know, a single volume, or maybe one or two books before—so they can see, so they can trust you to finish a story before you jump into a big epic. It actually seemed like pretty good advice to me; it also works very well with publishing because approaching editors and things like that, you want to be able to send them a book, and if they reject it, but say, "Hey, I'd like to see something else by you; this wasn't the right project for me, but I like your writing." You can't really send them book two of that series, right? Because, you know, they want to see something new, and so I sat down to write a sequence of three or four standalone epic fantasy novels that potentially could have sequels maybe, but the idea was to make them standalone. But, kind of in my heart, I've always loved the big epic. You don't grow up reading Robert Jordan and Tad Williams and Melanie Rawn and people like this, without saying, "I want to do that." And so, what I started doing was actually building a hidden epic behind the scenes with all of these books, the idea being that there were characters who were crossing between the worlds that would have a story that someday I would tell that wouldn't be directly important to the book itself, but would lay the groundwork and give foreshadowing to something very large coming.

And so I designed this thing—you know, I'm a worldbuilder—I designed this thing with a sequence of planets and a story behind the story, and people crossing between them. And so, when I wrote Elantris, I embedded all of this in there, and then my next books were in that sequence jumping around—some were before, some were after—and things like this, so there are these continuing characters. Well, years and years later, I decided I would finally start writing something big and epic; I was tired of not getting published; I was tired of all the advice people were giving me; I had written a couple of books that were not very good based on the advice that people had given me. I said, "I just want to write my big epic," and that's when I started Way of Kings, and wrote that. And I'm like "I'll the launch into the big epic, some of these things are going to be more important to the series" It was kind of me honestly giving figuratively the bird to all of publishing, saying, you know, "You've told me that my books are too long, that two hundred thousand words is too long; I'm gonna write one that's four hundred thousand," so, you know: "I don't care; it's gonna be big and awesome and it's the book for me." I spent eighteen months working on this book, and right after I finished it, I sold Elantris. It sat on an editor's desk for a year and a half. He finally picked it up and read it, and tried to get a hold of me the next day wanting to buy it.

And so, suddenly I sell Elantris which I had written like five years before, which had all these things embedded in it, and I sent that editor The Way of Kings, because you know he wanted to buy two books from me. He's like, "Alright, the standalone is great; what else do you have?" so I sent him Way of Kings, and he panicked. *laughter* He was like, "Ahhhhh, this is huge, and what are all these illustrations that you're talking about, and I don't know if we can-- can we break this into like four books?" And I'm like, "No no, it's gotta be one book." And he's like, "Ahhh...." But fortunately for him, I didn't feel the book was ready at that point, otherwise I might have forced him to publish it. I felt my skill wasn't up to the task of doing that since I'd practiced only doing standalones up to that point, and so I said, "I want to do a trilogy so I can practice the series format; I've got a pitch on this book called Mistborn that I want to write for you." And Mistborn was the first book that I ever wrote knowing it would get published. So when I sat down to write Mistborn, I had already sold Elantris, and Elantris was coming out, and it all of this stuff embedded in it, and I'm like, "Do I keep going with that or not? Do I just go all in?" And so I decided to go ahead and do it, and so Mistborn has all of this behind-the-scenes sort of story things built into it, and there's a character from Elantris—it's the beggar that Sarene meets near the end—who is also in Mistborn, who is the beggar that Kelsier talks to, that they wanted-- pretending to be blind, that he gets information from, and then this character keeps appearing in all of the books as kind of a little Easter egg that was not so Easter-eggery because the fans found it right away. *laughter*

And so the cosmere is my name for this big universe, which is actually, you know, just a play on "cosmos"—it's not the most original word—but it's something I had actually come up with when I was a teenager, so, it's one of those relics that's in there that if I were to do it now, I might name it something a little less obvious. I don't know; it does work, and it is a fun name, so that's there. The character's name is Hoid, and there are other characters moving between the planets, and so there is a buried, deeper story to all of my big fantasies. The thing that I want to tell people, though, is that you don't need to read them in order because these are just Easter eggs; there's not a story there that you can really piece together yet. I don't want people to feel they have to read Elantris before Mistborn, or they can't, you know-- If you read them all, at some point you will have some little extra tidbits of information, but there's not something there that's going on that's chronological that you need to know about right now, but that's in a nutshell what's going on there; there is an underlying theory of magic for all of the epic fantasies that they all follow. I love the concept in science of the unifying law, right? If you guys have studied physics, there's this belief that somewhere out there there's a unifying theory that will unite all of physics, and because right now, you know, the things that happen on the macro scale don't really match what happen on the quantum scale, and you kind of have to have two sets of equations, and people believe that someday we'll find that link that'll put them all together, and that's fascinating to me, science is, and so I have a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds that people in-world on various planets are figuring out with regards to theirs, but if they had all of the pieces they could kind of put it all together.

#2 Copy

Questioner

There is an overarching storyline between all the books... that we finally find out about in the last book, between two gods that are at war, and you were saying yesterday in your lecture how you tend to freestyle your characters but you tend to plan certain other events, and specifically to do with the ring in Vin's ear. Was that a planned event, or was that a part of the overarching plot?

Brandon Sanderson

That was a planned event that I worked out. What I'll do a lot of times when I'm building a series is, I will build an outline for the first one, and then I'll have just a few paragraphs on the rest of the series, and then I'll write the first one, and once I'm done with the first one, and I'm sure of the characters' personalities, that really allows me to expand the outline for the rest of the series; it's very hard to write—you know, to build a full, complete outline for everything until you know exactly who the characters are gonna be, and as I said yesterday, my characters I allow to grow very naturally. Characters do always get veto power over a plot, meaning if I get to a point where I'm like, the person this character's become would not do this thing that the plot requires for them, I either have to go back to the plot and rebuild it from scratch, or I have to go say, this is the wrong character for this role. Let's try a different character cast in this role. And I've done both before.

And so, with Mistborn I did plan that in from the beginning and then write the first book and then in the second two I expanded on it and said yes, this is going to work—this can be an important feature of the story—and so it was one of those things that came together that you always hope will come together, and it did. Being able to embed some of the things in book one that work for book three, and I was really using it as practice for the larger series and things like that, so the fact that it came together made me more confident I could do this sort of thing across bigger series. But I'm very pleased with how the Mistborn trilogy turned out. I did have the training wheels on for the Mistborn trilogy; when I sold Elantris, they said they were going to publish it in 2005, and that they needed my next book by then. Well, that was two years away. I had a good writing habit and work ethic at that point, and so I was able to write all three books of the Mistborn trilogy before I had to turn the first one in for publication which gave me a safety net in case I wasn't able to get all of this stuff in and whatnot—I could change the plot so that I can not have to fall face-first, so to speak—but it did all come out so I was very happy with that, but it did allow me to go back and tweak a few things, like for instance, there's a character who becomes a viewpoint character in book three who hadn't been one in the first two. That wasn't planned in the outline; that's something when I got to book three and was working on it, I felt, I really need to give this character more space, which meant that there was a location this character was in—Urteau, which was not built into the plot to be a major location—and so I had to go back and add some foreshadowing for this place, that it was important and these sorts of things; it allowed me to do some stuff like that.

#3 Copy

Questioner

I'm a huge fan of the Writing Excuses podcast.

Brandon Sanderson

Well thank you.

Questioner

I always say it's like a master class in genre writing, so I thought you should—for aspiring writers who are in the room—that you should take a few minutes and tell them about the podcast in case they don't know about it.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay. So, what happened is, my brother was taking this class in college. My brother's one of these people who take like ten years to get an associate's degree or whatever it is. *laughter* You know, he's got a good job in IT. It's like, he doesn't need the degree, but he feels like he should have one, so he's like taking a class here, and taking a class there. I see people nodding; you either have done this or have loved ones who have done this, but anyway--

Bystander

Like doing this ourselves--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, or doing this yourself. *laughter* So, he's taking this podcasting class for whatever reason. He's like, "Hey, you should do one of these, Brandon." "What? I'm not into podcasting; I'm not a radio personality." He's like, "No, no; you should do this." And he had this great idea—we wanted to do like this web serial that's adventures, like an old classic radio drama, and all of this... writing-intensive stuff, which is why he came to me. And I passed on it; I said, "No, I'm not gonna do that; it sounds fun but I just have too many things on my plate; there's no way I can write all of this for you."

But the idea for a podcast stuck in my brain, and I started listening to some podcasts—I really enjoyed a lot of them I listened to, but it seemed like there was this habitual problem in podcasting where it would be, friends sit around a table and chat, and then, you know, you turn on the podcast and it says one hour and thirty minutes, and you're like, "Ninety minutes, guys? Come on! Is there no editing going on? Can't you stick to a point?" Like, a lot of them are like, you know, the three-hour-long podcast where we're going to, I dunno, drive to Texas and talk about it. And they'll have this topic on, it will be like, "We're gonna discuss the new Batman movie," and I'm like, "Oh good, I want to hear what fellow geeks think about it." And then you see that it's a two-hour-long podcast, and you know they're gonna talk about Batman for like fifteen minutes of that, and then the rest is gonna be like what they had for dinner. *laughter* Because you know, you've been to lots of cons; you've been to lots of panels. You know how it goes; we get off topic. And every discussion of Star Trek turns into an argument of who's the best captain or whatever, and it's the same sort of thing over again.

So anyway, I was thinking about this, and thought, I really would like to do a writing advice podcast. So many people email me wanting advice; so many people would like to try to take my class but can't. Often my class has fifteen seats and I have seventy-five people showing up wanting to add, and we pack as many into the room as we can, but I wanted to do something that would let me give some of this writing advice. So I figured I wanted to do a podcast that was short and sweet. I wanted to organize it more like a little news program where you have one moderator throwing questions at people, and making sure that it stayed on topic, and did it in just a short period of time—I thought fifteen minutes was the right amount of time; just a quick, on-topic podcast—but I can get kind of dry. I've got this university background, right? I just kind of blab—you've been watching me; I do this—and so I'm like, it'll be better if I bring on people who are funny so that people can laugh—that are glib and all this other stuff—and so I went and got the two funniest people I know, which are Howard Tayler and Dan Wells—a horror writer and a comic book illustrator and writer—and I figured that would also give some diversity to the podcast.

And so we started doing this podcast, and it really took off—it was very popular—and so we eventually added a fourth member because we realized that we were not as diverse a cast as we could be, considering we were all three white dudes from the same town. *laughter* So, we called up Mary [Robinette Kowal], who has a very different perspective on life than us, and had been the best guest on the podcast that we'd ever had, and we figured at that point, the podcast now had a sponsor—Audible—so we could afford to fly Mary out, because we do it in person. We can't—this whole Skype thing, you just don't have the same chemistry. And so we started flying Mary out, and so for now, two seasons we've been doing with Mary, so it's the four of us doing writing advice, that we just tackle a topic every week and go at it, and we've had a lot of fun with it. We recorded a bunch of episodes before Dan moved to Germany for a little while, and we did cool things like, for instance, we each brainstormed a story—one episode was for each of us—and then we're all writing these stories which we will then post the rough drafts, and then we will workshop them on an episode, and see the evolution of the story, and then we'll do revisions. I actually, when I worked on my story, I grabbed one of the screen capture technologies—what's it called?—Camtasia, and I recorded myself typing the whole thing. It's like, wow, this is me at the computer going for six hours; maybe we can speed it up or something. But I had screen captures of me just typing the whole story, and then I will do screen captures of the revision process, and then post those so that people can watch a story being built, and watch it evolve, and watch all this sort of stuff. So, it's pretty cool, the podcast, so if you're interested in writing and reading, or if you just want to hear us sometimes be funny, feel free to listen; it's Writing Excuses.

#4 Copy

Questioner

I was just curious, as a writer, what you find the hardest in writing a book. Is it development of the characters, keeping them separate? Or plot--

Brandon Sanderson

For me, usually the hardest part is revision, because getting a book 90% of the way there is not easy, but easier for me. Getting that last 10% is the really hard part, and often requires knocking out walls, figuratively, or killing your darlings and all of these sorts fo things. It's really tough, so I find revision the most difficult part. If we're talking about the rough draft, usually the most difficult part of the book for me is about at, I would say, right around the middle. Right smack-dab-- sometimes it's the one-third part; sometimes it's about the two-thirds mark. There's a point in there where you're not quite to the ending yet where all the exciting things that you've planned are happening. But all the cool stuff you frontloaded on, you're really excited about the project, and it's new, and right in there is a point where you're like, I need to keep this exciting and interesting, and yet now it's my job, right? There are points in the writing where it's just, it's your job to get up every day and get a little bit more done, and you get all these other little projects dancing around in your head, like "ooh you could do this, hey? Here's a wacky magic system, write a screwy story about that, Brandon." *laughter* And you've gotta remain focused, and you've gotta keep on working on the book and not let yourself get distracted; that's also somewhat of a hard part.

#5 Copy

Questioner

Any more Mistborn stories in the works?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. For those who aren't aware, when I pitched the Mistborn series to my editor originally, way back when, I pitched it as a trilogy of trilogies—a past-present-future—where I would do an epic fantasy trilogy and then I would jump forward hundreds of years and explore what happens with the magic in a modern-day technology level setting, and then I would jump forward hundreds more years and allow the magic to then become the primary means by which FTL—faster-than-light space travel—is able to happen. And so, the three metallurgic magic systems actually have FTL built into them. And so there will be a space-opera series set in the future, because I was able to plan all this stuff out finally knowing what I would be publishing. One thing that I ran into doing that was, when I delved into The Way of Kings and The Stormlight Archive, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to get to that second Mistborn trilogy any time soon, so I didn't want to have two big epics going on at the same time—I wanted, you know, one epic, and then other things—and so what I did is I said, well I'm going to try writing a short story in the Mistborn world, and this will be something exciting for people that, you know-- I kind of sort of do some of these things to keep Mistborn going.

And, I tried writing a short story and it flopped horribly. It was a terrible story. Wayne was in it, but otherwise it was awful. It just didn't work...

Okay. Anyway, so back to your story. I tried to write this short story, and it was awful. And I said, well, it's just not working, but there's some ideas here that I want to expand on. Maybe I'll write something bigger. And I started working on it, and I got about three chapters in, and said, okay, this is a novel.

Fortunately, I'd built into—this was a time where I'd built in myself a couple of months between Wheel of Time books to just do whatever I wanted. You can go back to my blogs at the time, and I said, people, I need a couple months to do something else to refresh myself. And so, I went in my outline to a full short novel that became Alloy of Law, and this is an interim book meant to be kind of more fast-paced, only focused on a couple characters, to deal with, you know-- I describe it as, sometimes you want to go have a big steak dinner, but sometimes you really just want to have a hamburger, and Alloy of Law is a hamburger. *laughter* It's faster. It's fun. It's meant to be a cool character interaction story, and with a mystery, as opposed to something that big.

And so I plan to do some more of those; I actually got about halfway through a sequel during moments of free time that unfortunately I can't continue because the Wheel of Time project went-- I would do it when I'd like send a revision to Harriet, and it would be, she'd be like, "I'll get back to you in three days," and I'm like, alright, I'll work on this. And then when the revision comes back, I don't keep going on this; I have to work on The Wheel of Time. It's not something I can put off. And right now with Stormlight 2—I have to do Stormlight 2; deadlines are so tight—but I will eventually get back to Shadows of Self, the second Wax and Wayne book, and you will get some more of those, to have some things going on in the Mistborn world until I get to the second epic trilogy, which will happen eventually.

#8 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

You've said that "The Pits of Hathsin were crafted by Preservation as a place to hide the chunk of Ruin's body that he had stolen away". How does one Shard steal a portion of another Shard and create a Physical outlet for it, like the Pits were for Ruin's power?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It has to do with clash between the two Shards' power. When pressed, he then said that it was "kind of" like splintering

#10 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

The creatures on the inside cover of Way of Kings - we've had various discussion about what they actually are, and some people are calling them Crabwasps and other Dragonwasps. Can you tell me anything else about them, and can you pick one of the two for us to use?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The decision for that image was made near the last minute to have Isaac make the image. It is an important symbol, and will be mentioned in detail in later books. While neither name is correct, they both could work until the official name is revealed (Brandon wouldn't pick one over the other).

#11 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

Can you confirm if the scene with Taln at the end of Way of Kings is entirely in Hoid's perspective? There was some discussion that it might not be, since Taln's honorblade was called a shardblade.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

That entire scene is in Hoid's POV, and the reason for it being called a shardblade is because honorblades are shardblades.

#17 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

How was the Fjordell Empire not aware of the existence of the Rose Empire during the time of Elantris?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The connection between the two will be explained in future Elantris books, but a quick answer is this:

Fjorden was aware of the Rose Empire, but doesn't consider the location to be holy, so they didn't really care that much about it. There is also no easy natural way to travel between the two. If you remember, Shai did run into the Fjordell ambassador.

#21 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

You said to not travel to Shadesmar on Sel. Is this a consequence of Odium Splintering Aona and Skai?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It is indirectly related to the Splintering. There is a clue to why it is dangerous in Way of Kings.

Footnote: The reason it is dangerous to travel in the Cognitive Realm near Sel is that the Dor, the Splintered remains of Devotion and Dominion, resides there and is a storm of uncontrolled Investiture (as the seons and skaze are not numerous enough to act as release valves like the spren of Roshar do for Honor).
#24 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

You mentioned in the forum QA that Liar of Partinel was scrapped - does this mean that Hoid's backstory will no longer be told?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

There are still plans to do Hoid's backstory, all that the comment about the book being scrapped meant is that when it comes time to write it, the current draft will be tossed away and it will be written fresh - similar to how Way of Kings was done.

#26 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

How about the general number of years Warbreaker is from [The Hero of Ages] and [The Alloy of Law/The Way of Kings]?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

RAFO - the reason that timeline questions are being RAFOed right now is because the final times are still not 100% solid, and Brandon said that he doesn't want to give us a time and then have it change around again (like what happened to [The Alloy of Law] being moved to the same time as [The Way of Kings] instead of being a bit earlier), so he won't answer any timeline questions until after he has the final timeline correct in his own system.

Event details
Name
Name Hal-Con 2012
Date
Date Oct. 30, 2012
Location
Location Halifax, NS
Entries
Entries 26
Upload sources