Stormlight Book Four Updates

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Name Stormlight Book Four Updates
Date
Date Jan. 2, 2019
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#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Happy New Year, everyone! Brandon here, with my first in a series of updates about your next book.

As mentioned in my State of the Sanderson post last month, my 2019 is dedicated to writing the fourth Stormlight book. It's a long process, likely to take around eighteen months or longer (depending on how big it gets this time...) As always, one of my goals is to be up front and forward with you about how it's going. The writing process can be a tangled one, even for simple books. And these books are anything but simple.

So, where do we stand? Well, right now, the outline is a bit of a mess. While I started with outlines for all five Stormlight books in this sequence (and some notes for each of the back five books as well) even a heavy outliner like myself changes a lot about a book during the drafting process. Each change has a ripple effect through the later outlines, which I commonly don't fix other than to note sections that will need to be change or be tweaked.

In the case of Stormlight, sequences were frequently moved between books as I decided on better places for them. (Like Dalinar and Szeth's flashback sequences in book three and five being swapped--or like Kaladin's sequence from the outline of Book Three being moved to Book Two instead.)

The further I get, then, the more messy the remaining outlines become. So the first thing I need to do is spend some time digging into the outlines of Books Four and Five, sharpening them and making them work. I need to do this now, because I don't want to get to Book Five and find it in serious trouble.

Imagine I have a big pile of legos, and I'm building five cool castles from them. I have to be careful as I use more and more of the pieces that the ones left over make a cool fifth castle--rather than just a jumble of leftovers. There are some very important and powerful sequences still to come (you all know how I like endings) but the outlines need extra special attention this time around.

My goal starting tomorrow (well, today once I wake up) is to get those outlines into shape. I anticipate this taking a month or maybe event two. I need to dig back into books one and two and make sure there aren't plot threads I'm ignoring, examine the themes of this book's flashback sequence (from Eshonai's viewpoint) and map them alongside the main themes of the major plots, then choose break points for the five parts of the story. (Along with decide who the viewpoint characters for each part will be.)

For those who don't know, I plot each Stormlight book as a trilogy written as a single novel (though in five parts) with a short story collection spliced into it. That "trilogy" then connects to the five book mini arc (in this case, the first five books) which in turn ties into ten book mega arc of the series. So, I've got a great deal of work ahead of me. Fortunately, we have an entire year for me to do it! (Though I will need to spend some of that time the next few weeks signing four thousand copies of the Hero of Ages Leatherbound, which FINALLY arrived.)

So, off I go! I'll be back here sometime February or March with another update, perhaps including a (spoiler free) visual representation of the outline like I did last time. Until then, thanks for the support! The Way of Kings passed a million copies sold in the US last year, which isn't even mentioning its significant sales around the world. I'm humbled and pleased to see so many people embracing this series, the one I started assuming it would be too long and too strange to ever sell.

I'll leave you with a random tidbit to theorize about. I'm pretty sure that at my signing last week in Idaho Falls, I was unintentionally misleading about some of the things I said about Dalinar's powers (regarding infusing of spheres.) I was trying to talk around spoilers for book four...

#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hey, all. Brandon here, back for another update on your book.

January went well, and the outlining process is moving along. I've set the percentage bar perhaps a little higher than it deserves to be, considering that I plan to get the outline for Book Five done as well y the time that hits 100%, but I haven't started it yet. That said, I'm feeling very good at what I've accomplished so far. I've cracked a few tricky problems in the plotting, ones I anticipate being the toughest parts of the outline--which makes me optimistic that I'm further along than the wordcount might indicate.

I did have to stop to do a quick 3.0 revision on Starsight, the sequel to Skyward, which is coming out in November. That's finished as of around 1:00am this morning. I'll be diving back into Stormlight now, though I'm in LA this week doing pitch meetings for Dark One as a television show. (So far so good, but these are very preliminary-type meetings, so don't expect any big announcements anytime soon.)

Plan is to be finished with the outline of Book Four by March 1st. (Tentative title: The Rhythm of War, but I'm not 100% on that yet.) Then I'll dive into the book.

Writing a Stormlight book is not an easy or quick process. To finish on time, I'll need to do 40k words a month every month this year--which is a tall order. (My average is around 30k a month, though, so it's not impossible.) That would have the first draft done by January 1st, then give me six months of grueling revisions to finish the final draft by July, which would allow a Christmastime release. This isn't set in stone, though, and if I don't meet this schedule the book could slip into the beginning of 2021.

For now, I'm going to solicit a little help from you. While writing Stormlight 3, I built a specific playlist of some of my favorite epic-fantasy-feeling songs. I've posted it before, but if you missed that, find it here.

You can click on my profile to find the similar playlist I made for Skyward. I have been searching through other playlists people have made on Spotify with the right kind of music so I can build a similar playlist for Stormlight 4, but I thought I'd kick the question to you folks as well.

Do you have any suggestions? What songs in specific (songs are better than artists, as I try to keep my playlists varied with only a couple of songs from any one given artist) do you listen to while reading the Stormlight books? What songs would you suggest to me that I listen to while writing the book? (Other than the Kaladin album, of course.)

Generally, I prefer things that have an epic instrumental feel to them--though I don't mind words here and there. And I get tired of things that sound TOO trailer-esque. (Inception sound. Inception sound. Inception sound.

For reference, my favorite song on the Oathbringer playlist--and the one I play in my head at the climax--is Alive by Phil Lober. Anyway, please suggest things for me to put on my playlist. Songs that are on theme, or even songs you just think are epic for whatever reason. (Though do look through the other two playlists I've made first, to double check the song isn't on one of them. I probably won't put any repeats on this playlist.)

And as a final note, I won't be having replies from this thread sent to my inbox, and I don't know if I'll have time for many specific replies to questions. But I do plan a more involved AMA sometime in the near future, where I can answer questions. I will also hop back on the thread at some point and grab the suggested songs.

Anyway, I'll give you another update when the outline is finished. Until then, Journey before Destination.

#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Time for another update on your book, everyone! If you missed the previous update, it can be found right here. This update will get into some nitty-gritty outlining and wordcount details, which some of you might find boring. (Just a fair warning.)

Since the second update, I've indeed started into the book full-time. However, you might have noticed a little delay in the progress bar ticking up. This is because at the end of February (just before going to Hawaii) I decided that Starsight (Skyward Two) needed some more work.

I requested that the publisher push that book back a couple of months (it's now scheduled for first week in December) as I did a medium-sized overhaul based on some decisions I'd made after reading the beta reader comments. I'm pleased to say that revision went really well, and Starsight is in excellent shape. It did put me a little behind on Stormlight Four, I'm afraid. Looking at my tracking spreadsheet (which I used to gauge how I'm moving along) when I started into Stormlight four first part of April, I was about 45k words behind. I'm moving at a good speed, and am about 42k words behind now, with about 15k words finished.

This is merely a way of marking guideposts; I don't intend rush the story in order to meet arbitrary deadlines. This is partially me just trying to give you, and my publishers, an idea of when to expect the book. If I finish it by January 1st, the book can come out Christmas 2020. If I don't, we will probably have to nudge it back.

For reference, one percent on my progress bar is 4k words, and I anticipate the final book being 400k words long. A lot could happen during the next year of writing--the book could go super long, like happened with Oathbringer. Or I could run into some serious plot problems, which require time to work out. (For example, I've already thrown away chapter one after doing a short reading of it at an earlier convention--trying again with a slightly different tone.)

That said, I really like the new first chapter, and am now well into the fourth chapter. I promised you an update on the outline this time, and I'm looking at this book in a different way from the last two. As you may remember, I tend to plot each Stormlight book as if it were three volumes, combined together. (Along with a short story collection in the form of the interludes.)

With books two and three, the outline divided the novels into "books" by section. Part one of Oathbringer, for example, was "book one" of my three-part outline. Rhythm of War, however, is plotted more like The Way of Kings--meaning the separate books in it are divided by viewpoints.

In TwoK, Kaladin's complete arc was "book one" of my outline. Dalinar's was "book two" and Shallan's was "book three" with all of them being interwoven into the final product, and with Part Five being a capstone epilogue to them all. This novel is similar, though with more viewpoints.

We have what I'm calling the Primary Arc, which focuses on four characters who are all together in one place, their plots interweaving. The Secondary Arc is three different characters, their arcs interweaving, but in a separate location from the primary arc. The Tertiary arc is the last two characters, in a third location.

There will be ties between the three arcs, but the book will read a little more like TWoK than Oathbringer--with several separate stories that imply interesting things for one another, but which generally focus on their own goals. Book Five should, then, be an interweaving like Book Two or Book Three.

That's the plan, anyway! I'm not 100% done with the outline yet, as I want to explore some viewpoints first to make sure everything is lining up the way I want.

The next update probably won't be until mid summer, as I want to take a nice chunk of writing time to determine how things are progressing before I come back to talk here.

Until then, please enjoy listening to the community playlist of favorite epic tracks that remind them of Stormlight. This is what came of the previous thread, where I asked for suggested music to listen to while I work on Book Four. I've been doing so, and am slowly cultivating a shorter list of my favorite tracks that I'll release at a later date. Thanks to /u/DevilsAndDust- and my assistant Adam for putting this together.

#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Back in update #3, I promised to check back with you mid summer. I'm here a little early, as this felt like a good point to let you know how your book is going. Yesterday, I finished Part One of the novel, which (at 111k words) puts us at just under the 28% mark, assuming the book is 400k words total. (The first book was around that; the next two were longer, so fair warning, the % may not be entirely accurate.)

The short, TLDR version, is this: Part One is done, the book is looking good, and I'm modestly confident in a 2020 release.

Read below for a more fiddly, numbers oriented analysis of how things are going.

I gave myself 10 months to do the rough draft as a hypothetical deadline. That is a little on the quick side, but doable. That translates to about 1300 words a day, if I were writing seven days a week. (Which I don't do--I usually manage to write new fiction four days a week, with one day dedicated to email, meetings, newsletters, grading student finals, that sort of thing.) Once in a while, I sneak in a little work on Saturday, but I don't count on it.

What this really means is during those four days writing time, I need to do about 9k total words to keep pace. This wordcount number, I should warn you, is more a way for me to judge my progress rather than it is an absolute requirement. The writing process needs to remain flexible, even for someone who likes a strong outline like myself, and while guidelines for wordcounts are helpful, I'm careful not to treat them like a factory quota, to be achieved regardless of quality.

They are helpful for pace, though. In an average week, I commonly do between 8k and 15k of writing, so this is a manageable goal. With that in mind, how is it going?

Well, as talked about in the last post, I started Stormlight about a month late because of some work I decided needed to be done on Starsight. That meant I started the book at about 44k words behind in April. Steady writing through April up until May saw me making up ground. When I flew to Germany for the tour there, I was 31k behind instead, and was feeling good about the progress.

Germany was, of course, a disaster for new writing. (Tours almost always are.) I got some work done on a sequel novella to Sixth of the Dusk, but no Stormlight writing. (Really complex narrative is difficult for me to do when traveling a lot, as it requires more focus than I can often give.)

When I got back, I had slipped to 52k words behind. I dove back in, and restored the writing grove for Roshar, and have made back most of that time. As of yesterday, I'm 33k words behind, assuming I want to have the rough draft done by January 1st. (Which is pretty much a must if I want to release the book in 2020.)

As before, I do need to give the warning that if the book needs more time, I WILL take it. I recognize that is what most of you would like anyway, so we'll see what happens. Part One, however, turned out very close to my plan--and I'm pleased with it. As I said, this book follows more of a Book One style plot than a Book Two or Three style plot. The characters will be mostly isolated doing their own thing in three separate plot lines, interwoven in the narrative, but with little interaction between them. In fact, the three different arcs should (if I work it out right) hit their climaxes at three different points, giving a more sequential hit of more intimate plot moments rather than one big enormous finale, like happened in Books Two/Three. (Not that there's anything wrong with that; I just prefer some variety. Book Five, as you should be able to guess, will be more like Books Two/Three than Books One/Four.)

So my next step is to dive into a revision of Part One. This will put us a little more behind, as it will take about a week--but it will let me get the first chunk (which is book length on its own) to Moshe for editing over the next few months. That way, we can use his time in parallel to mine, as well as let Karen do continuity edits and Peter (eventually) do an editorial pass.

If that works as it should, and if I do this with each part as I finish them, I'll have 3/4 of the book waiting with editorial work done on it come January 1st. That will let me dive into a third draft immediately.

My goal after the revision of Part One is to pick one of the character clusters mentioned in the previous updates, and work on it straight through to the end. (I'll probably pick the second arc, which should be around 80k words long and follow three viewpoint characters in their distinct plot sequence.)

As always, thanks for reading and for putting up with my eccentricities as a writer. As a note, like in the other posts, I will not be sending replies to my inbox--so apologies if I miss something you say in this thread.

#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hello, all. Time for another update on your book. (See the last update HERE, if you are interested.)

This post WILL have Oathbringer spoilers, and slight spoilers for Book Four. So if you are concerned about those things, here is the no spoiler update: I just passed the 50% mark! The book is looking good so far. Moshe had some very enthusiastic and positive things to say about the first chunk I sent him. I'm still hoping for a Christmas 2020 release.

Now, for slight spoilers. At this point, I've finished the second chunk of the book. This means I've finished viewpoint cluster two, for those who are following along. If you aren't, or if this confuses you, I whipped up a little visualization.

This book, as I've said before, starts with all the characters together--then splits into three groups of viewpoints. The first group is the largest, and the most involved, with five viewpoints characters. Two of these, however, will have only a few viewpoints (and one might just appear in other viewpoints, save for an interlude.) Really, this is the story of three characters, and forms the core arc of the book.

The second viewpoint cluster, which is the one I've now finished, follows two characters on a very involved--but more narrowly focused--plot. The final cluster takes two remaining viewpoint characters, and touches lightly upon what they are doing, without going into quite as much depth as the other two groups.

Now that group two is finished, I have turned my attention to group one--the most difficult of the sequences to write. This should take me a few more months. After that, I'll write group three and the interludes.

One issue I've been having with the book is the flashbacks. I'm not 100% sure they'll work the way I planned them to. In that case, it's possible I will toss them and doing them from Venli's viewpoint instead. I'm excited to write more Eshonai, but there's a real chance that the viewpoints will feel like fluff, as Venli is the one who knew the secrets happening behind the scenes among the Listeners at the time.

This might be a place where I have to kill my darlings and just do what makes the most sense for the narrative, even though the other way (with Eshonai having the flashbacks) always appealed to me from a "this is less expected" angle.

I can't say for certain, and my gut says that--in abstract--more people would enjoy reading about Eshonai as a character, but would find the chapters a little boring and out of place. Venli flashbacks would, instead, be filled with cosmere mysteries and answers that will be more interesting.

We'll see how it goes. I haven't written the flashbacks yet, so we'll need to see about them as I write.

Otherwise, how do we look? Well, my trip to France and Spain really took a bite out of my writing time. We're hovering right at about 30k words behind (with 200k finished of a projected 400k.) 30k behind is roughly one month behind. (We've been about this far behind since I started on the book, as touring delays continue to eat up any progress I make catching up.) Hopefully, September will involve a lot of good writing time, as I don't have any trips planned except for Dragon*Con this weekend.

Of course, come October, it's back on tour. (France and Israel this time.) The goal is still to try to finish by January. Getting halfway took basically five months, however, and there are only four months left in the year. If I don't hit January for finishing, we're likely looking at a spring 2021 release.

As always, thank you for your patience and enthusiasm. Also, as always, I promise that I do consider these goals of when to finish only to be goals--not hardfast rules. I will take the time I need to make the book great, and if it comes down to delaying the book or releasing a novel that isn't ready, we WILL delay.

I will not be sending replies to this thread to my inbox, so there's a good chance I'll miss your comments. If I do, just let me say thank you again!

Brandon

Event details
Name
Name Stormlight Book Four Updates
Date
Date Jan. 2, 2019
Entries
Entries 5
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