Secret Project Kickstarter Reveal and Livestream

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Name Secret Project Kickstarter Reveal and Livestream
Date
Date March 1, 2022
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#1 Copy

Daniel Green

Are the new [Secret Project] Cosmere books open to new readers, or more Cosmere-aware because they are special?

Brandon Sanderson

All of these books are pretty open to new readers. In fact, I would say Secret Projects One, Two, and Three in particular are among the most open to new readers of books I've written. There are slight Cosmere-aware things that you will get from them. You will get lots of references. In fact, I shouldn't say slight: more than early books of mine, because there's more of the Cosmere to reference, now, that you know about. So you will get lots of cool inside references through both of those.

But the way the core narratives are designed, they are very good entry points to the Cosmere, particularly Secret Project One and Three, I would say. Secret Project Four is the one that is more requiring of some Cosmere knowledge. It is, again, written in a way that you don't need any, but it is the one that's focused on a character you've seen before, and that character's backstory is relevant, and you will get more out of it by having read some things.

Basically, if you have never read any of my books before, this is a safe Kickstarter to back. But it's also me allowing myself more references than I used to put in, shall we say. And you'll see, on Thursday, some of what I mean by that. Because Thursday will make it clear that there is at least one very big reference that is relevant.

Chris Tobin

Will you let us know what Cosmere books to read before?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Really, again, only Secret Project Four would really benefit from that. The rest of them, they'll be, but I can let you know. The other two will reference worldbuilding elements pretty consistently from around the Cosmere, here and there, but not in ways (hopefully) that are distracting.

I will say that Lost Metal is a little more Cosmere-aware than any book I've done before. So that's the one that I would say: be up to date on some of your other Cosmere series before you read, particularly one of the novellas in particular, shall we say. It is hard to talk around those. When Lost Metal comes out, for those who want to be spoiled a little bit more, I can mention which that is. But let's just say that if you have read Arcanum Unbounded, you have read the main reference point that you would want to know for Lost Metal.

#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

We have not chosen audiobook narrators [for the Secret Projects]. I would absolutely love for there to be a Reddit thread; maybe we can make one on r/Sanderson that says "Hey, tell us audiobook narrators that you really like that we haven't used before, and also let us know if there are ones we have used before that you want us to use more of."

I assume we will ask Michael and Kate to do at least one of these. But because these are all four very different-feeling books, my goal would probably be to use them on one of the books, and then use three other narrators for the other books. That's kind of where I am right now.

But you guys can influence that. You can push me to do different things, if you want me to. You may want to reserve judgement until you've heard some of the stories. That might be helpful. We can do that thread for each book, maybe. When Book One launches on Thursday, we can be like, "All right, suggest us some audiobook narrators." If you don't want to be spoiled on it, you can just pop into that thread, and we'll just make it Secret Project One rather than naming of the thing, and you can just nominate your favorite audiobook narrators, and that will be useful to us. That's something we're always interested in hearing from you all.

#3 Copy

Caspian Buxton

Will this [Secret Projects] impact Stormight Five's release date?

Brandon Sanderson

It should not. Spending a little extra time on The Lost Metal might. We're gonna have to see. I knew I was gonna probably end up spending January not working much on Stormlight. I didn't anticipate that it would take my February, also. But so far, that has not been Secret Project sort of stuff. That has just been... I really want to get Lost Metal right. So I've been doing revisions on that. It's not a hard rewrite, like Skyward Three was. There's just a lot I still want to do with that book, so I've been adding a bunch. It's gonna be longer than anticipated. So, we'll see.

Like I've said many times before, Stormlight Five is the one that I'm going to let slide if it needs to slide. My goal is to do these revisions in time that I wouldn't have had except for not traveling so much. And the revisions on each of these Secret Projects should be fairly easy. More difficult revisions come for books, generally, later in a series when there are a lot of complicated pieces to keep moving and character arcs to make sure flow from book to book, and that's what makes something like Lost Metal a little trickier. I've been going more between five to seven thousand words a day of revisions on that, and these ones will probably go ten to fifteen thousand words a day, if I were writing full time on them (which I won't), but they should go fairly quickly.

#4 Copy

Jeffery Johnson Jr

Which of the four Secret Projects are you most anxious about announcing?

Brandon Sanderson

My favorite of the four is Secret Project Three. Anxious? I think that the first one is the one I'm the most anxious about, because it's going to kind of set the tone for the rest of them. I think it's the one that, once you hear what I'm doing with it, a light bulb will click on very quickly for what that book is. But Secret Project Three is my favorite of them.

Secret Project Three is also my wife's favorite, and it is also Peter's favorite. However, that's not universal. I think we had people liking each of them as their favorite among the staff reading them.

#5 Copy

James Van Lanjveld

Are the books being released in the order you wrote them?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they are. We talked about this, and I thought about it; in the end, I decided it's more fun for you to see my evolution of how I'm viewing these, 'cause I kind of view these... They aren't a series. There's not really connections between them other than the fact that three are in the Cosmere, so there are some similarities. There are some similarities between Books One and Three, for instance; one big similarity, in particular.

But the way I view doing these... Like, the first one, I really wrote on a lark. I just, like, "I need something different in my life." And what I realized is I need to reclaim some time. The world has given me some extra time; I don't know how much of it I will have, but I need to take that time and spend it on myself, working on just being a storyteller. And so that one was very... I feel they're each experimental in some way, but One was me testing out, and just kind of going and seeing what happens.

And then Two was kind of, as I often do, is like, "Wow; that worked. I can really do this. I have this time. What's the cool thing I want to write that I would not have been able to write otherwise?" And that's why Two is not in the Cosmere. This is the book that, if this time had not appeared, I just never would have had a chance to write.

And then Secret Project Three was kind of the, "I know what I'm doing. I know what this all is. Let's try something that..." Like, I'd had time in my head to plan for that one, if that makes sense.

And then Four is a book that I was planning to write years from now that I really wanted to write, but wasn't sure that I would have the time in my life. And then when I got to it, and I'm like "I probably should be done with these Secret Projects," but then a little voice said "If you're done with the Secret Projects, you may never get to write this one that you've wanted to write," and it is a... I wouldn't say "essential" part of the Cosmere, otherwise it'd be in one of the mainline series, but it is a key part of a character in the Cosmere, a side character, that I've wanted to do for years, and the seeds have been set up in a different series for doing this, and I'm like "You know, I need to do this." And that's why I wrote that one, kind of for me. If I don't write this book now, this book is not going to maybe get written, and I want this story told.

They each kind of have their different feel to them, and I think that reading them through in order will give you that same sort of... You'll be able to sense me evolving how I'm viewing this set of projects.

#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

These [Secret Projects] all have a different style of voice. One and Three are the most similar, but even they have... like, I did a different type of voice. To give you an example: one of them is in first person, and the other three in third person. But even the third persons are different from each other in the way I'm doing the third person. That's a little bit different: doing some things I haven't done before or I haven't done in a long while.

#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Not to give you too many spoilers: Secret Project One probably has some of the most bizarre worldbuilding I've done in a book. Actually, I would say One, Three, and Four all have pretty out-there worldbuilding. All three of the Cosmere novels have worldbuilding a step beyond; it's more Stormlight worldbuilding and less... Setting-wise is what I'm talking about here, not magic system-wise. More like Stormlight, less like some of the other Cosmere novels that are playing it just a little closer to normal worldbuilding. I experimented more with worldbuilding; these worlds are... Let's just say that my science people, I'm giving them some headaches trying to figure out how to make some of this cosmology actually work. It's really cool, but... How does this work, Brandon? Well, we'll figure it out.

Little more extreme in some of the worldbuilding. Not as weird as some of the weird ones I throw at Dan on the podcast; not quite as weird as, like, Apocalypse Guard, which had an ocean in the sky. I'll figure that out someday.

#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Secret Project Two does something very odd in that it includes extensive excerpts from something else that I wrote. (It's not like I'm taking James Joyce and being like "And now we're quoting from Finnegans Wake." There's this separate written thing that is interwoven into Secret Project Two, which is very fun. You'll see what I mean when you read it.

#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

[Secret Project] Four's narrative is unlike anything I've ever done before and is polarizing in the way I plotted it because it is me leaning into one type of storytelling very much, and if you like that style of storytelling you will probably love this book, and if you do not like that style of storytelling, then this book is just going to be a little much, maybe.

#10 Copy

Miles Stone

Will these [Secret Project] novels be published traditionally for people who can't afford the subscription service?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, we will eventually. The ebook and audio will be published very quickly next year, right around when the books come out. There will be traditional published editions for you eventually. We'll see how quickly we can get those to happen; again, the traditional published version of Dawnshard took about a year and change, about a year and three months. So going through traditional publishing is a lot slower. But that's just because they have to distribute these things to all the different bookstores, and whatnot. We will make that happen. But if you can't afford the Kickstarter, there will be ebooks and audiobooks of these, each, that you can kind of a la carte choose which ones you would want.

#11 Copy

Bradster

Any close calls in revealing your Secret [Projects] accidentally?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. There have been times where I've been on panels. I think there was one at the Mini-Con Dragonsteel Convention, several times where I caught myself almost mentioning a book. And on Intentionally Blank, that's the dangerous one, because Dan will say "Hey, you ever done something like this?" And I'll be like, in my head, "Yes I have; I did something like that very recently." And I'll have to talk around it. You'll be able to find places where I talked around, saying "There's this project that I want to write that is like this," which is one I've actually already written. Or "There's this project I've been thinking about, or working on. Outlining." Where actually I've written the book. Things like that.

Those were some close calls. And there is always the worry that when we send books out for early reads, that one of them will leak. And that would have spoiled this whole thing if one of the beta readers had accidentally allowed one of these to leak out into the wild. And it didn't happen, so good job.

#12 Copy

Flambo

How long did it take to write each book? Did they seem to be done faster than Rhythm of War and Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So, first books and standalones write faster. Particularly, they revise faster; that's the biggest part. They outline faster, and they revise faster. The longer and more complex a book gets, the more time it takes to make sure... Let me give you an example. Most of these... in fact, each of these is kind of just singular narrative. One of them has multiple viewpoints, but the other ones are single viewpoint books. Like a normal novel. When you write that way, you don't have to balance two perspectives' pacing. Balancing two perspectives' pacing actually increases the difficulty of a book quite a bit, because you don't wanna have lulls where three or four chapters of characters doing the same thing in their respective plotlines happens. You can do it with two, and you can contrast pretty well with two; but once you have three, if you have characters hitting the same kind of emotional beats, three chapters with three different characters, it gets tedious. You feel a monotony to that. And that's not an influence on how strong each of their individual stories are; each of their individual stories could be really strong. But suddenly, because they hit, a strange lull in conversation; everything becomes noticeable, and whatnot. So you have this added complexity of making sure that you are doing different things in different stories that create a pacing momentum, rather than a pacing speed bump. The more of that you do, the more complicated and difficult a book gets to write and revise.

So, these wrote more like Skyward One or Mistborn One. Even though Mistborn One had multiple viewpoints, the fact that I wasn't doing this and having to juggle taking a character arc from a previous book and expanding upon it in a way that felt nature... Like, expanding on a character arc is always harder than writing a new character with a character arc, because you don't want that character to, again, hit the same beats they hit before. You want them to grow, but you also don't want to ignore what's happened before with them.

So, these sorts of things are faster writes. And that, I don't think, has a dramatic influence on the quality comparison. I think single viewpoint books can be just as enjoyable. Some of the best books I've read recently are single viewpoint books. But it does mean that the complexity of interweaving viewpoints goes down, and the books just get faster to write. That's one of the reasons I could do these, rather than doing sequels to things that people are expecting and anticipating.

#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

My son Oliver, who was seven at the time (I believe; might have been eight), drew a picture of a robot frog and gave it to me. His name was Robog. And it was a really cute picture. And so I hung it up on my mirror in the bathroom and looked at it for months and months and months; as as I was brushing my teeth or shaving, I'm like, "There's Robog. What's Robog's story?"

And eventually, I sat down, and I wrote out a little bit of Robog's story. Actually, the kid who owned Robog as a toy. But, you know, Robog comes to life, because that's the type of story this is. And then I read it to Oliver and to Dallin, and they were just enamored with this idea that something they had drawn had inspired a story. And so they went, and they just did concept art, tons of concept art, and gave it to me, and they're like, "All right, incorporate this! Incorporate this! Use this!" And then other things that were in the story, they would read and be like, "I need to go draw that!" So they were illustrating this while I was writing chapters of it and reading to them at night. And it was a really fun experience.

The goal will be to give that concept art to a professional artist who will then use that as inspiration for doing the graphic novel of this. That's where that one came from. It's called Super Awesome Danger. The one that's not part of the Kickstarter is Super Awesome Danger.

#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Event details
Name
Name Secret Project Kickstarter Reveal and Livestream
Date
Date March 1, 2022
Entries
Entries 14
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