Google+ Hangout

Event details
Name
Name Google+ Hangout
Date
Date April 17, 2012
Entries
Entries 16
Upload sources
#1 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.

#2 Copy

Gabriel Rumbaut

A lot of your characters seem to go through crises of faith, particularly Sazed in The Hero of Ages where he essentially questions all his... everything he's come to believe. Have you ever experienced any conflicts with your own religious faith about including such characters in your books?

Brandon Sanderson

That's also a good question. Conflicts is perhaps the wrong way to put it. I believe strongly in the precepts of people like Socrates, that the unexamined life is not worth living and I find that if I'm interested in something I should question it, I should examine it from as many directions as I can.

I tend to do that in my fiction. It's the way I express myself. Rather than actually writing a journal, I don't actually do that. I write stories that explore what I'm working on, myself, what I'm interested in and I find it vital that I attack them from lots of different directions, not just the way I am, but the way I see other people exploring the same problems, the same questions.

It's just--it's valuable to me as a writer and as a person to explore these things in depth, so I've never seen conflict but I certainly have expressed my own questions and examinations through characters as they have reached similar moments in their lives.

#3 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.

#4 Copy

Kim Mainord

I was wondering, when you're recording Writing Excuses, how often do you ahve to stop and take a break because of how hard you're laughing when Mary pulls out her puppet voices?

Brandon Sanderson

Usually, we don't ever want to stop. There have been a few times where we descend to laughter to the point that we end up having to cut things. But usually if we're descending into laughter, we feel that's a good thing because part of what makes Writing Excuses work is we try to be really genuine, we try to be ourselves. Hopefully an entertaining and snappy version of ourselves, but really just us.

And you know we try to make it quick and fast but also genuine and so we're laughing like that, those moments are ones we love and as long as it's genuine laughter, we can't replicate it. There's some times where something goes wrong technically and we don't end up catching on the audio something that was just awesome and we can never replicate it if it happens, if we try to, so we like to trying capture those moments live. We don't usually stop to do that. What we'll usually get together to record three or four episodes and then we we'll take a break and we'll try to do something to help with the creativity. Meaning, maybe sometimes we'll go out to write, often times we'll go out to lunch and just start chatting and throwing things back at each other, helping each other with stories and then we'll come back and do four more and then do that again and we find that helps us keep the rhythm and the energy for the podcast.

#5 Copy

Luke Monahan

I was wondering if you could only write in one universe from now on, assuming it was any one you wanted, what would you pick?

Brandon Sanderson

Well you gave me an out, since so many of my books are in the same universe.

Luke Monahan

You know, I thought you might say that.

Brandon Sanderson

So that, I could cheat and just say the cosmere, but I think the soul of the question is which series would I write on.

And I would probably have to... boy it would probably be a toss up between Mistborn and the Stormlight Archive, Mistborn because I've invested so much into it already. If I can only pick one, I would probably pick Stormlight because there is so much left to tell there and I've got a lot of places to explore, but I would cheat and say they're all in the same universe.

#6 Copy

Rick

1. Are there any other sentient spren like Syl, if not are there any spren capable of becoming sentient, or is she purposefully unique?

2. If so, what are the conditions that must be met for a spren to become sentient?

Brandon Sanderson

1. There are other sentient spren.

2. There are many more who could become sentient. There were choices that were made that we will get into that were made by some spren that, that involved... what is happening. There were certain choices that were made that influenced this, so yes, that was a very detailed and specific question, you did a good job and so I will give you your answer that there are others like Syl that could become, and there are some that are sentient already

Rick

Would that also mean that certain spren would have an alignment, or would some spren be tailored toward good and evil or not?

Brandon Sanderson

They're creatures of nature and so good and evil aren't as, as big a deal to them. Though there are some that may be put in that sort of alignment. Certainly honorspren are going to be of a certain type, but there are many spren of many different temperaments and they are kind of aligned to their temperament, having to do with who they are and what they are.

#7 Copy

Tristan Brand

You're planning the Stormlight Archive as this big long ten book series and I imagine that obviously look at your work with the Wheel of Time the other big long epic series, one of the issues that at least some fans perceive is that these series are at least perceived to sag or at least slow down at some point in the middle. People start to get very bogged down and it takes years for the next one's out, is that something you're considering for your structuring of the Stormlight Archive and what are you trying to do to address that?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question, it is actually something that I've very consciously thought about when designing this story. One of the reasons that I didn't release The Way of Kings when I wrote it back in 2002 is that I hadn't figured out this problem yet. And it's one of the reasons that I shelved the book and re-wrote it from scratch back a couple of years ago.

I really was conscious of it because I have an advantage over authors like George Martin and Robert Jordan, who have had these kinds of accusations levelled at them, in that I've read them! I've read Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan didn't get to read Robert Jordan in the same way, and I can see he's kind of pushed his way through the snow for some of us to fall behind and see some of the things that he did, even after he said "Boy, I think I might have done that differently." We can learn from that.

What I'm trying to do is... first off The Stormlight Archive is divided in my head into two five book series, it is a ten booker but it is two big five book sequences, which I do think that will give me more of a vision of a beginning, middle, and end for each of the sequences.

The other thing I'm doing is I consciously did some little thing in the books. For instance, one of the reasons we end up with sprawl in epic fantasy series is I think writers start writing side characters and getting really interested in them. The side characters are awesome, they let you see the breadth of the world and dabble in different places. What I did is I let myself have the interludes in The Way of Kings, and I will continue to do those in the future books, and I told myself I can write these interludes but those characters can't become main characters. Those characters have to be just glimpses.

The other main thing that I'm doing is that each book in The Stormlight Archive is focused on a character. That character gets flashbacks and we get into the backstory and that gives me a beginning, middle, and end and a thematic way to tie that book together, specifically to that character, which I hope will make each character, each book feel more individual.

Which is part of also the problem I feel with the big long series, that they start to blend. And then, if the author starts to view some of them as blending then you stop having big climaxes at the ends of some of them and view them too blended together. This isn't a problem when the series is finished. I think that when the Wheel of Time can be read beginning to end straight-through, a lot of this worry about middle-meandering is going to go away, because you can see it as a whole. But certainly while you're releasing it, you get just these little glimpses that feel so short to us.

I feel that if I can take each book and apply it to one character, give a deep flashback for each one and thematically tie it to them, each book will have its own identity and hopefully will avoid some of that. That's my goal, who knows if I'll be able to pull it off but it is my intention.

Google Moderator

You seem to be pulling it off so far Brandon.

Brandon Sanderson

Well I only have one book yet! I mean none of these, none of these series... they all started with great first books, in fact I feel that a lot of them are great all the way through, but the sprawl issue doesn't usually start to hit til around book four is really where the, where the problems show up.

#8 Copy

Will

Who would win in a fight? Vin, or Vasher, or the Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson

And who would win in a fight between Vin and Vasher? It would probably depend on who got the jump on who. Vin's a bit more sneaky, so I have the feeling that Vasher would be in trouble if it involved sneaking, but Vasher is... he only has to get one little cut on you and you're gone so it, it would probably... my money would be on Vin.

#9 Copy

John

Going back to The Way of Kings, as you said you wrote that in 2002 then you shelved it. So that's, like, even in your introduction you say it's over ten years of planning and through that, a lot of the planning on a series like that is also worldbuilding and so on, but the next book you said you want to get through as quick as possible, do you think it'll have an impact on the, not on the quality of the book, but on the type of book? In the sense, The Way of Kings took ten years and the new one, less. What do you think?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm hoping it won't. I will have to see when I write it. I'm certainly hoping that I don't have to write it and then shelve it for ten years. I think people would be very angry with me. If it's the right move to do, I'll do it, but I think I would have major outcries. My instincts... you know, over the years I've developed pretty good instincts for when a book is going to work and when it is going to be a rougher write, and I'll know very quickly once I start it if it's working or not. I'll be upfront with people as I write it about that. My instincts right now are very good for it, I'm kind of chomping at the bit. The original Way of Kings from 2002, there are many parts of that that I didn't end up getting to in the new one, because it wasn't time for them yet. So there's still stuff floating from that book that is still going to be part of the future books.

#10 Copy

Gabriel Rumbaut

In a lot of your books the internal struggle is just as important as the external conflict. How do you keep that internal struggle from devolving into just, into whining essentially?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, no, that's a real danger. We call it "navel gazing" a lot in writing where if you delve too much into that, you just have scenes with characters sitting and pondering and nothing happens. I have to walk that line. In fact some of mine probably turns into navel-gazing because I probably err on that side a little too much. I would say that the way I try to work on this is to mirror internal conflict with external conflict, meaning what the character is working on inside is, is enhanced, is conflicted, is in some ways changed by what's happening externally which then allows some very powerful ways of showing them working through their problems in the real world, not just sitting and thinking about them.

That has worked with me so far, it is certainly a danger that I'm aware of and something that I think writers need to be aware of. At the same time, you know, what fiction can do is show internal conflict, emotions, thoughts, feelings in a way that other mediums can't. It's one of our specialties and I think that avoiding it completely is the wrong move because, yes, any time you delve into that you risk just getting boring, but when you don't delve into that you're basically just trying to imitate what a film can do, do everything external and a film can do that much better. I like taking what we can do as writers and really playing to our strengths and exploring what the medium is capable of and so that's why I do it.

#11 Copy

Alex Stephens

I loved the character reversal that took place with [Vivenna] and Siri [Moderator: and actually I'm enjoying that at the moment]. Did you come up with that idea--was that an early idea in your planning or did it emerge as a result of the story writing itself?"

Brandon Sanderson

That's a good question, for most of those they were early ideas. I had two main themes for myself when writing Warbreaker, one was character reversals. I wanted to play with the idea of reversed roles, you see it from the very beginning when the two sisters are forced to reverse roles and also the role reversal between Vasher and Denth.

The other big thing was I wanted to work on my humor and try and approach new ways of being, of having humor in a book and seeing what different types of character humor I could use. It was really actually me delving into a lot of Shakespeare at the time and seeing the way he pulled reversals and the way he used multiple levels of humor and I wanted to play with that concept in fantasy novels, so a lot of those were planned. Some of them were not, some of them came spontaneously, as you're writing the book, you always come up with great ideas for books while you're working on them so you kind of see the evolution of a few of them.

Warbreaker is posted for free on my website, the complete draft of it and I actually posted the first draft all the way through to the last draft and so you can actually take and compare the published draft to the very first draft and even the chapters as I wrote them, you can see how some things were evolving and coming to be and I was realizing certain things while I was doing it and other things just were very well foreshadowed from the beginning.

Footnote: Many early ideas from Warbreaker, such as Vivenna and Siri and the role-reversal, came from an unfinished novel named Mythwalker.
#12 Copy

CrazyRioter

Was Honor Splintered?

Brandon Sanderson

Was Honor Splintered? Ooh someone's been paying attention, very much. I would say that yes, Honor was Splintered. That is a very important question to be asking, someone knows their stuff.

#13 Copy

Lauren Newberg

If you could have the abilities of one of your characters, what abilities would you want and why?

Brandon Sanderson

Any one of my characters? Well I would love to be able to, if I were to pick one superpower it would probably be flying and so I would totally go with, probably Steelpushing just because I think it would be so much fun. The ideas of the, of the Lashings from Way of Kings would be a nice second but the Steelpushing just sounds like fun, so I would totally be a Mistborn. I would get them all.

#14 Copy

Luke Monahan

Brandon you do a lot of interesting stuff with publishing formats like Warbreaker being free. I know you talked recently about bundling the last, the last book with an ebook and a hardcover. So what kind of stuff do you see happening in the future and what do you like as far as formats?

Brandon Sanderson

I think a lot of exciting things are happening. One thing that's happening, I think the digital revolution is changing things a lot, and I think this is gonna let people like me get away with more things. For one thing, digitally our lengths don't matter as much. Theoretically, I doubt we'd be able to pull this off, but theoretically, we could do something like re-release Gathering Storms, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light reordered with their chapters in the original order as before they were split, I had originally put them, which i think would be awesome. You could release that as one book which in print you never could do, so length sort of shenanigans are things we can do.

I also like the idea of bundling. I think eventually I'm going to be able to convince people to do this. I would love to do something more like what we've seen in movies and in records, where we release a really nice special edition of a book with a hardcover and with an included ebook copy, and with included audio book copy and like something like a book-end or a medallion and like an art book. You know, something that we release for just uh--you know, make it expensive. It'd be like a two hundred and fifty dollar product that comes signed and numbered and all this stuff. We can do that, and at the same time release a very cheap ebook for those who don't have the cash for that, or don't have the interest. And I think that by doing that we can allow the people who want a really nice collectors thing to pay what they want, and people who want a few dollar ebook to pay that and we actually end up at the same amount of money that we're making, except everybody’s happier.

And so I don't see why we wouldn't be choosing these sorts of things, there are just so many questions. The big one is we don't want to disenfranchise retailers. A lot of particularly independent bookstores have stuck with us over the years and you know a lot of these stores are wonderful in that they will grab new authors like me when I was brand new and really promote them and get behind them and do these wonderful things for them, and we don't want to do anything where we are cutting them out of the loop. I really want there to be strong independent bookstores in the coming years, because I think it's really important for the genre, so we have to find a way to work all of this with them at the same time.

#15 Copy

Gabriel Rumbaut

How did the whole cosmere come about?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh that's a good question. The cosmere came about because- there's really two genesises of it. First off I'm a big fan of Asimov's work and if you know Asimov's work, he tied his two universes together later in his life and I thought he did a brilliant job of it, though patching it together later in his life as he did there were certain continuity problems in doing it and I always thought, "Boy, I bet he wished he'd done it from the beginning".

So, as I started to work on things, I thought, "Well why don't I try something like that from the beginning." Once again I got to see what one of the masters did and learn from them, stand on their shoulders.

The other thing is, early in my career I realized that if I were writing mini-books, writing them all in the same series would be a bad for getting published. Let's say I wrote five, I'm gonna write five books and a publisher rejects the first one. If the other four are in the same series, it's going to be very hard to convince that publisher to read book two if they've already said no to book one. However, if they are five standalone books, set in different worlds, then I can say if someone says, "I liked this book but not enough to publish it," I could send them another one and say, "Hey this one is different but similar, maybe you'll like that." It just increased my chances.

The problem with that is I grew up reading the big epics and I love big epics and they are the books of my heart, are things like the Wheel of Time. I wanted to write big epics and so I started writing a secret big epic. It started with Elantris, which is the first one that I wrote in the cosmere and right after it Dragonsteel, which is actually a prequel but in a different universe [world]. I started putting characters from each of these books in the other books to have what I call a hidden epic, mostly for myself, because I had all these books I was going to be selling and marketing separately. But when Elantris sold, all of that stuff was buried in there, and I said, "Well, I love it, I'm not gonna cut it, I'm just gonna put it in there to see if people notice." I'm going to keep telling my hidden epic because eventually I will be telling the greater story with Dragonsteel and the third Mistborn trilogy dealing with these things and so that's where the idea for the cosmere came from, those two pieces.

#16 Copy

Google Moderator

Before we wrap up, Brandon have you got any news about movies or a Mistborn game?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, the Mistborn video game is very much a go. The guys at Little Orbit have just been awesome. We are working together to make an excellent game, I hope. I'm working on the story. I've turned in to them an overarching story for the whole, for the game and they are taking that and building the game and level design around that and then I will come back after they've done that and actually write the dialogue for the characters that moves the story along. So the video game is a completely go, cross-platform PS3, Xbox 360 and Steam for 2013.

The movie we are pitching to studios this month, so hopefully we can get something rolling on that, I have no news other than what I posted on my blog which is we've now got a good screenplay, it's quite good and now we're trying to pitch to studios and trying to convince somebody to pick this thing up and run with it. We're really hoping that, you know, fantasy has a really good reputation right now because of the excellent Game of Thrones adaptation, and so we're hoping that people will take a look at some good fantasy properties and that we can get a film made.

Event details
Name
Name Google+ Hangout
Date
Date April 17, 2012
Entries
Entries 16
Upload sources