New York Signing

Event details
Name
Name New York Signing
Date
Date Nov. 16, 2013
Location
Location New York
Bookstore
Bookstore 92nd Street Y
Entries
Entries 18
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#1 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Would a conventional science fiction society be able to travel between worlds via FTL?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, they definitely could. In fact, built into the system is...you will see space travel. In fact I have several of them plotted, I just can't write them yet. It is going to be really fun. One of my very first ideas for the cosmere was this spaceship going between, and actually, Sixth of the Dusk, which is coming out, the Writing Excuses Anthology one, is cosmere and they mention space travel in it, so...

#2 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Are we going to see any other compounders like Miles Dagouter, but with other abilities?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, I plan to do more, just to show off what different compounding can achieve, so you will see some more like that. you will some other really interesting interactions with the magic system.

#3 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Are you ever going to do a big story about Adonalsium and take it out of the shadows?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, um, the series called Dragonsteel itself is that, and then at then end of all of this, there will be kind of a climactic one. So eventually yes, it is just a little ways off.

#4 Copy

askthepaperclip (paraphrased)

If Adonalsium were to shatter in a parallel universe, would it divide into the same 16 intents?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Um...it...Adonalsium could have been shattered in other ways.

askthepaperclip (paraphrased)

Was there a force determining which way it shattered?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes!

#5 Copy

Darnam (paraphrased)

Would you please draw Aon Aon with the chasm line, so we know where the calamity the chasm lines are?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

I always imagined it right there. Um, and so if you finished it... but the strictures of the first book, I didn't quite know what I was doing yet, and I was trying to match a map that didn't quite match what I had in my head. I could do it so much better now. But, the problem is, it is kinda down here at the bottom of this, but where I described it....if you don't mind me putting in this... I described it right there in the book, and it needs to be up more.

#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

When I was a teenager, I volunteered at a library. And I remember... We didn't have the YA section back then. At least it hadn't hit Nebraska yet. Maybe the fancy places like New York had one, but we didn't. And I remember working there, and when they got the Anne McCaffrey books, they had me go shelve them in the children's section. I'm like, "Anne McCaffrey is not a children's author. Anne McCaffrey is real science fiction! Not even fantasy, it's science fiction!" And I was all uppity about it. The reason the librarian said was, "This is what the teenagers want to read. And this is where they go."

And I love, despite kind of sounding maybe down on it a little bit earlier, I love the idea of the YA section. The whole idea for the YA section is to create a safe haven for the teen readers, or those who didn't want to go in the children's section, but at the same time might be intimidated by the big, thick books in the adult fantasy and epic section or some of the other adult sections. You've got this kind of nice safe haven where, I think if I would have had that as a teen reader, it would have been a bit easier for me to get into reading.

Someone handed me Tolkien when I was very young. And Tolkien... I was a reluctant reader. I didn't read a lot when I was a kid, unlike a lot of writers. And Tolkien just scared me. I started reading him, and I just couldn't do it. It was too above me. It's fantastic, I've since read it, but it just scared me off. And a lot of writing scared me off. And if I'd had this sort of thing, where people could have instead said, "Here is the Maze Runner. Here is Eragon. Here is something that is exciting and fun, but also a little bit challenging" to get me reading, I think it would have worked a lot better for me.

#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In some cases, you pitch it one way, some cases you pitch it the other way. Like, I've written middle grade, YA, and adult. And the process for that is not much different from one another. Now, I do consider audience when I'm writing a book, but at the end of the day, I'm writing something that I think is awesome. And then I'll be to the editor and say, "You probably want to sell this YA."

#9 Copy

Alex Zalben

Do you have anybody you constantly reread to remind yourself of the basics?

Brandon Sanderson

I read a lot (now this is gonna sound like the obvious answer) of Robert Jordan. When I was growing up, the Wheel of Time was kind of my idol. This was the thing I wanted to be. And when I decided I wanted to be a writer, no one could really tell me how to be a writer. Like, the writing classes, particularly in high school, are not very useful for being a writer. And even in college... I mean, they're great for teaching you the basics, but the problem is, if you want the master-level writing course, you have to go to people who are themselves master-level writers. And English teachers, who are fantastic, they're good at teaching, but if they don't know the writing, they can get you excited about it, but they can't teach you to write. In fact, even in college, it's really hard. I teach a college course. You can't really teach people to write. You just can't. You can teach people the tools that some writers use, but it's a little like handing them... you know, "Try this screwdriver. See if this works in the thing you're trying to build. Okay, that doesn't? Try this wrench." And if you really want to learn how to write, you've got to practice, and you've got to read great writers and try and learn from what they're doing. And I would go back time and time again to the Wheel of Time and say, "How is this guy doing viewpoint?" Because Robert Jordan's use of viewpoint is my favorite part of his books. I would say he was the biggest influence on me, growing up as a writer. Not even now, which is pretty obvious, but growing up as a writer.

#10 Copy

Alex Zalben

How do you craft protagonists? Do you start with them, or do you start with a plot first and then figure out the characters from there?

Brandon Sanderson

I wear one hat as an academic. I teach at the university, I have a master's degree in English. And then I wear another hat as the writer. And the academic and the writer don't interact as much as you would think they do. Because writing is an art, and part of it is so instinctive, that you have to... it's more like you train yourself with these "muscles" to use. And when you go into it, writing a book is almost like a performance art. In that I go and I perform for several hours. And then I get done, and then I can hand it over to the academic and say, "What do you think of this? What am I doing right, what am I doing wrong?" The academic has a lot more to do with editing. And the academic also observes my process and then learns to talk about it.

And I've learned that, for me, character is one of these things that I can't plan out too much ahead of time. Writers tend to fall into two camps. They tend to be, as George R.R. Martin calls them, architects or gardeners. Gardeners nurture a story. Stephen King is a gardener. Start with just some sort of idea, and see where it goes. And architects build an outline.

And I architect my plots. I build an outline, I build a world. My framework for my worlds, my worldbuilding... in something like Steelheart, I'll spend a lot of time saying, "What's the visual sense of this world? What's the underlying mechanics of what is making people become these Epics? Where does this all come from?" And build this all into a document, what the world feels like, what different cities feel like, and things like this.

But then, the person I place in this world, I found that if I put too much structure for that personality, the entire book feels wooden. It feels like this thing that I have created that the character just has to mechanically move through, and therefore can't be alive. And I found that, in order to add a sense of spontaneity and life to my fiction, I have to let the character develop naturally. I have to say, "All right, here is all of this stuff." And put the character into it. And then see if they follow the plot. And if they don't, I will rebuild my outline to fit what this character is doing.

So, yes and no. I often will have a conflict for a character that I'm putting them in, but I don't know who they are until I write the first scene. And that usually requires me to write three or four different scenes and throw each of them until I capture the right voice, like I'm casting different people in the role.

Alex Zalben

To use a very specific example, there was the annotated version of Steelheart, you talked about the main character, one of the main facets is that he has terrible metaphors. But I believe you didn't even discover that until you made a terrible metaphor in the first chapter.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I don't even think it was the first chapter. Might have been the second, I might have re-added in them earlier on. But I'm writing along, I'm like, "Who is this guy? This feels bland. Who is he? What is he passionate about? What goofy things does he do?" And then I was trying to come up with a metaphor, and I wrote one, and it was bad. Like, it was just terrible. And I'm like, "Oh, I can't use that." And usually, I have to go through, like, six or seven. But I'm like, "This is a majestically bad metaphor." And for the rest of the book, I'm like, "This is him. He wants so hard to do things the right way that he goes too far and tries too hard, and they come out wrong." And I'll tell you guys, writing bad metaphors that are good bad metaphors is really hard. Because to make them work... it was a real challenge. It became the hardest aspect of the book, in some ways, coming up with his metaphors. Which are supposed to be bad.

#11 Copy

Alex Zalben

Why series? Why not standalone? Why have it go over multiple books? What's appealing about that to you?

Christopher Paolini

If you spend all the time building an imaginary world, it's a lot of work. To do that for only one book? I mean, you can do that, but it almost seems like a waste of effort to do it just for one novel.

Brandon Sanderson

I've done that twice. I like standalones. Things like Guy Gavriel's Kay work, in epic fantasy as a standalone is really a strength of the genre that you can do that sometimes. But, at the same time, I grew up reading Robert Jordan. I grew up reading Melanie Rawn's books, which I love. And things like this. I have this theory. (The academic coming out.) Talks about the idea of science fiction and fantasy having what we call a steep learning curve. When you as a reader go to these books and start reading them, there is a certain level of... you just have to work to understand it. You have to memorize all these names. It's a big effort. And by the time you get done with that book, you've become an expert in this. And you want to use your expertise. I feel like in fantasy and science fiction, this is one of the reasons why we see so many series. Is because the fans really like them, because when you work your way through one of these, and by the end you know all this stuff, the sequel then, you can use that expertise and enjoy reading the book without having to work quite so hard. I mean, we like working hard; it's why we read these genres. But we also like using what we know. If you've known any nerdier people, they like to talk about the things that they've become experts in. And we enjoy that. It's a natural human expression.

#12 Copy

James Dashner

It always boggles my mind. The way of Kings, which is one book, is longer than my entire Maze Runner series.

Brandon Sanderson

I like what big epic fantasy can do. And I like to show off what the genre is capable of doing. And that is what I'm doing with Way of Kings, is me  trying to say, "Look, this is what epic fantasy can possibly be."

#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Writing short books is actually a lot harder than you would think. When you look at length... Length is not a way to judge quality. The Emperor's Soul, which won a Hugo, that was one of the hardest... It was short, and it was hard to write that short. It was hard to be that compact. It's hard to write short books.

#14 Copy

Alex Zalben

Is there a different genre or style you'd like to try?

Brandon Sanderson

I like epic fantasy. I like fantasy and science fiction. You may see me doing more SF, but I don't think I see myself trying anything too far afield. I like the idea of speculative fiction.

#15 Copy

Questioner

Was there a teacher who inspired any of you?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. The teacher who handed me my first fantasy novel was a fantastic teacher. And she is part of why I'm writing right now. The thing is, teaching writing, it's hard to do. And I don't know... you can motivate people. But teaching people how to write? You've gotta get them writing yourself. And I think the best teachers motivate you to do it yourself. That was what I was trying to say, when I said "High school teachers can't teach writing." What I'm trying to say is, you need to be reading and writing yourself. The teacher can only do so much. They can inspire you, but they can't teach you to do it. You've gotta do it yourself.

#16 Copy

Questioner

How do you feel about being labelled "inferior" to vitriolic readers on Reddit? How do you feel about internet reactions to your books?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that, when you encounter responses like that, you just gotta let it bounce off you. I usually go read one-star reviews of books I love. I'll go and see what the one-star reviews of Terry Prachett novels are (which I think are brilliant). I'm like, "If people are disliking Terry Prachett novels, there's no way I can please everybody, right?" But it's weird that we get so passionate about it, people on the internet do. It's like that xkcd, "Someone's wrong on the internet!" But the thing about it is, when it comes to a case like this, we get very passionate about it. Where in some ways, we aren't. And art is a taste. You are not gonna like a piece of art. No one likes every piece of art. And there are some things that just don't speak to you. A lot of poetry doesn't speak to me. It's a form that just doesn't work. Some does.

#17 Copy

Questioner

Does time flow the same speed in all of your Shardworlds?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, the cosmere, time flows unless it's being manipulated by an external force. It moves at the same speed.

#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I think the self-publishing you can do nowadays is really helping the genre, just books along in general. But I would add the caveat: the most important thing you can do right now is write book two. Finish book one; choose whether to self-publish or not, either way is really valid. Get it edited. Once you finish the book, put it aside for at least six months and let other people read it. Come back and do a revision six months later, when you've had some distance, while you've been writing something else. Then release it, or send it off, whatever you decide. Both ways are valid. But write another book.

James Dashner

You don't mean book two in the series? You mean, "A different book"?

Brandon Sanderson

It can be book two if you want it to. I suggest skipping to something else, just to cleanse your palate and try something new. But whatever it is, you need to train yourself to become a writer. Not write one book; you need to train yourself to be someone who can write things.

Event details
Name
Name New York Signing
Date
Date Nov. 16, 2013
Location
Location New York
Bookstore
Bookstore 92nd Street Y
Entries
Entries 18
Upload sources