I have been lying to you. And it is time for me to admit the truth.
I know that what I'm about to say will disappoint some of you. Others will undoubtedly take joy in my forced admission here. But either way, I can no longer live with this secret.
The last few years have been hard for many of us. These are strange times. In particular, these last years have increased pressure on me in difficult ways, emotionally and mentally, to the point that I could no longer continue working on my series of books as I always had before. As this pressure mounted, something had to give. I thought I could handle it like I always had before, but that proved optimistic. And so, the time has come for me to admit the truth.
I've been lying to you. Over the last two years, I've acted with extreme irresponsibility.
Because I accidentally wrote an extra novel in secret!
I apologize. I couldn't help myself. We all respond to pressure in different ways; I, it might be said, responded characteristically. So how did this irresponsible event occur? Well, to explain that, I'm going to need to go into professor mode.
You see, 2019 was one of those years where I overscheduled myself. What I told you earlier was true; over these last years, 2019 in particular, I really was beginning to feel overwhelmed by everything I had to do. However, it wasn't the stories doing this. It was all the non-writing work, particular the traveling. That is what is truly exhausting. You see, I keep notes on what I do day-by-day, and I've outlined for you my 2019. This largest block is writing time; and I also do make sure to keep a good, healthy amount of work/life balance and time for my family. These other non-writing days are essential, as they are the days I do interviews, I write introductions, and answer work emails. This section in red: that's the one that's really glaring. I was on the road a third of my year. Four months, spent traveling, mostly going to conventions.
Now, I love seeing the world; which is why it's so difficult to say no when people ask if I want to visit. When you look at it this way, with a third of my time spent on the road, you can see maybe why I felt so overwhelmed. I had dreams, plans, ideas; but I couldn't write them because I was touring so much.
This was too much. I knew it was too much. But I was trapped in this cycle where I'd say no to traveling, then read the requests from fans and feel guilty that I wasn't going to see them. And I really do enjoy seeing the world. At least I did, before I started to get overwhelmed.
Eventually, it started to feel like a chore. Then 2020 hit, and the whole world changed. Suddenly, I couldn't travel, not even a little. I'd been planning to scale back, but scaling back in this context meant traveling eighty or ninety days, instead of over a hundred. Fewer days, yes, but not by a significant margin. Except, with the pandemic, that need to travel, indeed the option to travel, went away. Suddenly, I had time again.
This [novel] is the result. I start writing it as a gift for my wife, telling only her, letting her read the pages as I wrote them. The experience of writing a book in secret reminded me of the early days of my career, before I published, when I could write whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The process rejuvenated me, which is important, because, like a lot of you, I was feeling stressed in 2020. When I finished this, I presented it to my wife as a gift: her own secret book. She read it and told me, "You need to share this." So after two years of keeping it just to her and me, I'm telling you. That's my big secret.
Well. Maybe not the entire secret.
You see, the pandemic wasn't over, and writing that secret novel had been a ton of fun. So let's just say that one thing led to another, and a second secret novel materialized in early 2021. Longtime followers of this channel might remember me talking about one regret I've begun to have as I grow older. When I was younger, any new, fresh idea that came to me could end up becoming a novel. But the more I write, the more I lock myeslf into series. Which is great; I love my big series. I'm working on Stormlight now, which is as exciting as ever. I want my legacy to be the massive, interconnected universe that is the Cosmere. At the same time, I always saw myself doing standalone novels now and then, exploring the reaches of the Cosmere or other strange worlds. For a while, I managed to do this with novellas. But in recent years, with travel demands, I hadn't even been able to do those. I can sometimes write when traveling, but the more that I do, the more exhausted I get, which makes it tougher and tougher to be productive.
If you compare this [pie chart] average of the last two years to 2019, you can see a lot has changed. I did still travel, and I've also had more non-writing work days, on average. This is mostly the time I've invested into YouTube and into our Dragonsteel convention, things my team and I see as replacements for me visiting you all in person. Even with this, the significant drop in travel time has added to both my writing time and my family time.
If you leave me alone too long, I will start telling stories. It's a mathematical constant, as irrevocable as pi. And... what would you expect to happen? The best part was, nobody expected me to do anything with this time. No editors were scheduling books because of it. No fans were wondering what I was doing with it. Because for most of my professional career, I'd been traveling eighty to ninety, and sometimes a hundred and twenty days a year. Suddenly, I had time for all those other ideas. The ones that weren't planned as big, core series. The ones that I always wanted to be the spice of my career. I've always loved the idea of surprising you all now and then with some random Brandon Sanderson novel. I wanted my fans to consistently have the opportunity to get lost in something completely new, something surprising, different from what you'd seen from me before. This is the mindset that created The Emperor's Soul and Warbreaker.
This extra writing time has become very precious to me. Before 2020, I'd begun to let all these ideas just wither away, as there wasn't time for them. I'd begun to think that, as much as I loved the big series, they would consume the rest of my life. So, call this the silver lining of 2020. Life has been tough lately, but it has also restored to me something very precious.
And I might have gone a little overboard, because I've written five extra novels in the last two years.
Look, I know. Don't roll your eyes at me. You deal with isolation and quarantine in your way; I'll deal with it in mine. We all handle stress differently, okay?
Four of these are full-length novels of adult-oriented science fiction or fantasy. One is a middle grade story, written as a gift to my children, which I'll probably make as a graphic novel. We'll put that one aside for now, as I don't yet know how I'm going to present it to you. But that leaves us with four full-length novels. I wrote three of these as gifts for Emily, and one purely for myself. Three are in the Cosmere; one is something completely different.
I kept all five of these secret from my team until late last year. Then, I just left them on a table at our offices with the words "Top Secret" on the top of each one. The team had no idea. I'm a bit of a showman, if you can't tell, and this experience was a blast. I wanted to replicate that feeling for you in this video, which is why you might have to excuse my somewhat dramatic opening. I do apologize for that, but it's technically all true. I have been keeping a secret, and I think it will make some of you very happy, while others are just likely rolling their eyes at me.