So when you are doing a kind of in-depth and very long story-- like The Stormlight Archive... Can you-- Do you tackle that, like, in short-- For like an outline?
Oh good question.
Do you outline the entire thing? Do you outline one at a time, or two at a time?
…So outlining. You picked the hardest one to outline, by far. Normally the outlining process for me is-- it goes like this, I sit down and I write Plot, Setting, Character in a new sheet. I put them in outline level one. And then I put all the things that I have been thinking in my head for a while, that I've been brainstorming with friends or-- Every book that I write I spent a long time planning it out, it's when ideas connect together that you know you have a great book. One idea is not a book, multiple ideas that influence each other in cool ways is a book, to me. So I write all this down and then I start looking for the structure and what are people's plots. The way I outline is I outline goal-based. Say I want to have an interesting relationship dynamic between these two characters, how can I achieve that? What's my goal at the end and what are my steps to get there? That is part of my outline. And I don't like-- And then I do another one. Okay, someone's got to learn to use the magic, what's my end goal, what are my steps to get there, what are cool scenes out of this? Those are all separate in my outline, it's not like in my outline there's "Chapter one: this, this, this, and this". It's Goal, with how to achieve. Goal, how to achieve it. Goal, how to achieve it. That's my normal outline process.
Now The Stormlight Archive is a strange beast, because it is plotted as ten books, each focusing around a character. And for that what I did was I sat down and wrote out my outline more in prose form, my vision for the whole series and then I wrote a paragraph about each book. Then what I just told you, I did for the first book, then I wrote the first book. Then I went back and created a much bigger and more detailed outline for the rest of the series. So it's kind of this process. The really weird thing about the Stormlight books is that I actually plot each one like I plot a trilogy. So for instance, Words of Radiance you can find-- people have noticed them-- breakpoints between quote-unquote books, that this volume is actually written as three books with a short story collection as the interludes woven between. That's how I approach those books.
My publisher has a love/hate relationship with The Stormlight Archive because they feel they could publish them as four volumes and make four times as much money but I won't let them. But they don't want me to write other things because they really want more Stormlight because Stormlight is the one that sells the best out of everything. So they are like "Write more Stormlight, but can we split it please?" and I say "No, you can't split it" and they're like "arghhh" So they release them as these big volumes, as I told them to, even though they know they are each like these three volumes-- And anyway...
That's kind of the shorter version of it. If you guys are... writers, and you want some help, I have two resources. Ask when you come through the line. I have a podcast, with a bookmark that says where it is. Fifteen minutes of writing advice every week. It's called Writing Excuses. I also lecture at Brigham Young University, and part of my requirement for lecturing for them-- I don't take salary-- is that they have to let me put my lectures online for people to see. So my lectures, for the last few years, of my university course, are posted online.