Let's use a time machine and change the past. Let's say you aren't asked to finish the Wheel of Time, and instead fix Liar of Partinel. How do you think the Cosmere fan experience would have been different if mysteries like Hoid and the Shattering had been explored earlier?
Boy, this is an excellent question, and it's hypothetical enough that I can ignore my cheeky answer to time machine questions, [which] is always, "Don't go back in the past. I've seen that story too much."
In this case... Liar of Partinel. Liar of Partinel did not work. I had already abandoned it and started working on The Rithmatist. So, if I had not been asked to finish The Wheel of Time, most likely I would have thrown myself into The Rithmatist more. And then, the question becomes, would have I decided to do Way of Kings? Or would I have gone and taken another stab at Liar of Partinel? And for your hypothesis, I will say that I did that. I don't think I actually would have. I think that I was disappointed enough in Liar of Partinel and realizing that this wasn't the right time, that I would have gone a different direction.
But, for the hypothetical, let's say I did. What would it have changed? Certainly, I don't know that I would have gotten all the way through the Hoid series before starting Way of Kings. More likely, I would have done Liar of Partinel as a standalone, then done something else, and eventually released Book Two of that. Because, remember, back then, I had envisioned this as a seven-book series. I was looking for a big epic to do, and I thought, "Let's do the Dragonsteel series. And I'll do several books about Hoid. And then I'll do the full story of Bridge Four," which was then on Yolen, not on Roshar. So, you would have gotten that story on Yolen instead, and then, who knows where that would have gone. When I release Dragonsteel itself (which won't be too much longer), you guys will be able to read the earliest version of Bridge Four, back before Kaladin was involved, and it was on Yolen. So, I think, at that point, we would have learned more about Hoid, but we probably wouldn't have pushed all the way to the Shattering, I don't think.
But, hypothetically, let's say I do. I don't know how much of a change that makes, honestly, over Stormlight. Knowing the personalities of the three Shards involved and a little bit more on Hoid certainly would change your perspective on them, but Stormlight, assuming... I mean, it's so hard to go into these hypotheticals, because if I write Dragonsteel with Bridge Four, then Bridge Four isn't in Stormlight. It's very hard to imagine where Stormlight goes. It's possible that I make it completely Taln's story, and Stormlight becomes a five-book series, which focuses on what's going to be the back five. That would be my best guess of where that would go. So, instead of ten books, you get five books, and we focus on Taln as a main character. And Kaladin just vanishes. We don't have Kaladin as a character. He's replaced by whoever takes the lead in Dragonsteel. But, of course, the flip-flopping, what actually happened is, Dragonsteel shrunk to three books that focus on Hoid, 'cause I realized I was doing in Stormlight all the things that I intended to do in Dragonsteel, and they were working better in Stormlight, and I no longer needed that Bridge Four sequence in Dragonsteel because it worked so well in Stormlight.
So, it is hard to say what exactly would go on. You would know the personalities of the Shards, how about that? You would definitely know who they are. You would know a lot more about Hoid.