Recent entries

    Skyward Houston signing ()
    #2601 Copy

    Questioner

    I read on your website that, to come to your class, you have to submit a manuscript or something, that you read. Has anybody in your classes published works that you would recommend?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The way my class works-- By the way, if you can't take the class, which is kind of hard to do since it's in Provo, Utah. I do record my lectures periodically. There's three years of them online. I don't record it every year, but every three years or so I record the lectures and just post them on YouTube. A lot of my students have gone on to write books I would recommend.

    Let's see if I can name a few. Jed and the Junkyard War. Which is a really cool middle grade about a kid who goes to a world that's completely a junkyard, and everyone scavenges out of that. It has some really good worldbuilding. That's a good book. Like I said, middle grade targeted, so if you know someone who's, like, eleven or twelve and they want a good one book, that one's great. Charlie [Holmberg] writes great books. I just read Chris Husberg's new book. If you like the epic fantasy stuff, he does a very good job with epic fantasy that deals with religion and politics and things like that. I'm sure I'm forgetting somebody. There are a lot of students who go on to publish things. Janci [Patterson] ...writes teen books with a lot of emotion and problems and messed up lives, trying to sort out messed up lives, short books, and they are fantastic.

    Skyward Houston signing ()
    #2602 Copy

    Questioner

    A question in general with your writing process. Do you learn a lot from your students that have gone on to become authors in their own right? Do you come back looking at their works and maybe saying "I can incorporate this kind of style into my writing?"

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would say I tend to learn more from the writers who were with me when I was breaking in who are around my age, 'cause we're all kind of going through the same things. So people like Dan Wells or Mary Robinette Kowal that are kind of my group that broke in around the same time, I try to talk to them a lot about writing. This is where my writing podcast came from, Writing Excuses. It was me just wanting to ask them how they fix thing, how they deal with this thing, how they deal with that. Certainly, some of my students have gone on to do really great stuff that is inspiring. Brian McClellan's Powder Mage books are great. Charlie Holmberg, who writes the Paper Magician, the Glass Magician books are great. Lot of really great writers. I don't know how much credit I can take from them. But I am inspired a lot by a lot of the books that I read. But I wouldn't say that group specifically. Though working with new writers is kind of inspiring in its own way. Less about the things they're writing, and more just remembering what it was like, and the passion you have when you're a brand new writer. That kind of fresh-faced innocence is handy for someone, the longer you go.

    Skyward Houston signing ()
    #2603 Copy

    Questioner

    You were saying you were a professor? So it sounds like your writing process, that's a full-time job. Is it your full-time job, or has--

    Brandon Sanderson

    How do I balance all of these things? I am the least amount a professor a person can be and still claim the title. I teach one class one semester a year that is an evening class for three hours. I gave up all the other classes that I taught, once the writing took off. And it's really quite helpful for me to have that one night a week where I just go out and work with new writers. Because I think if you don't do that, if you don't see what new writers are doing, and things like this, then it's too easy to get crusted over in your little sanctuary and not pay attention to the outside world. But the professor part of Professor Sanderson has become very much less professorial over the years. Writing is my full-time job, and has been since I went full-time in, like, 2006 or so. So I really only had two years or so being a real professor before I became a fake one. But they still call me one, they claim me.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2607 Copy

    Jofwu

    Who or what is Vorinism named after?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I can't remember. I named it twenty years ago, now. In-world, it is named for somebody. The early influential writer who put the whole thing together. But that's the new continuity, because the old continuity, it was kind of put together by the Heralds.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2610 Copy

    Questioner

    Is it cold enough on Roshar for snow?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Only in the mountains.

    Questioner

    Do you get a highsnowstorm?

    Brandon Sanderson

    In the mountains, yes, it's very weird. And it's only in the tops of the mountains. There is. But you will see this when and if we visit the Horneater Peaks, which are covered in snow, except for the hot springs.

    Questioner

    Are there snowspren?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2611 Copy

    Questioner

    For Jerkface... Was he supposed to stay a jerk, or did you want him to...

    Brandon Sanderson

    I planned out his arc. I tried very hard to evoke Malfoy, Crabbe, and... Goyle. I tried very hard to evoke that, and then try to pull the rug out from underneath that. Whether I was successful or not, depends on your interpretation, but he was always supposed to be.

    And the real fun and twist to this book is, Spensa's kind of the bully, but she presents him as the bully. And hopefully, as you read, you're like, "Wait a minute..."

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2612 Copy

    Questioner

    Have your ever thought about how your magic systems would affect a pregnant woman?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I have given thought to it.

    Questioner

    ...Which system would you say would be safest as a pregnant woman?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I think Stormlight-- being Invested with Stormlight would be very safe. You would probably be better off than not. Hemalurgy would be very bad.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2613 Copy

    Questioner

    I'm writing a fantasy book that's like D&D. Do you have any advice for me? I'm about 6000 words.

    Brandon Sanderson

    A lot of great science fiction and fantasy have come from roleplaying campaigns. Not just Dragonlance, but also the Malazan Book of the Fallen started as a roleplaying campaign. And you will find this happens time and time again. Do understand that the things that you guys experience in your roleplaying session that are really funny are probably not going to be funny on the page, because they're funny in the situation, so you have to work on making the characters all work on the page, not as they work in your-- together. Make sure everyone's on board for you lifting and borrowing the stuff for your story. And make sure you don't use any of the Wizards of the Coast trademark things. For instance, you can't use Beholder. That's a trademark thing. But you can use zombies, because zombies are in everything. So learn the difference there.

    But just have fun with it. Your job right now, as a newer writer, is just to write and practice. And that practice will teach you how you want to approach your stories as you move forward. And the more you you do it, the better you'll get at it. And the more you'll know what you need in order to make it better. And that can start from anywhere. That can start from a D&D campaign. That can start from a silly song lyric you hear. It can start from fanfic. It doesn't matter where it starts. The chore you have is to practice it and learn what works on the page, as opposed to what works in person.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2614 Copy

    Questioner

    When you started writing for Wheel of Time, did you find that any of your opinions changed when you wrote the characters, versus--

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, Mat was way harder than I expected him to be to write. I thought Mat would just zip out and be super easy, and I was taken by surprise by how difficult Mat was to write.

    Cadsuane had always been my least favorite character, and I was surprised by how much I understood her when I had to stand in her shoes.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2615 Copy

    Questioner

    Is there any connection or coincidence to the Krell in Skyward, versus the Krell from Forbidden Planet?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes... Forbidden Planet is one of my favorite movies. Perhaps my favorite classic science fiction movie. I really dig any sort of Shakespearean interpretation in another medium. So I named the Krell after the Krell from Forbidden Planet.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2616 Copy

    Questioner

    What do you wish that you could have asked your favorite writers about writing when you first became a writer? And what do you think they would have said?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This one is easy. I would have said, "How do you finish your book, Mr. Jordan? Specifically: X, Y, and Z that you didn't put in the notes."

    Otherwise-- You know, a lot of the things that you do as a writer aren't about what you ask other writers. And a lot of the advice you'll get as a writer won't work for you until you have written. So I wouldn't have known the right questions to ask them until I was struggling through that myself.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2617 Copy

    Questioner

    Previously, you told me that Hoid loves bacon. Is there any other thing that you can tell me about Hoid that we won't be able to RAFO?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh man, I'm running out of stuff to tell you about Hoid that I can't RAFO because I get asked this enough that I forget what I've told people and what I haven't. I'm particularly fond of his monologue for the fourth book. So, be looking forward to that. It's a little different than the others.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2618 Copy

    Questioner

    In Skyward, what is your callsign? And what was the process for creating so many callsigns?

    Brandon Sanderson

    My callsign is Mr. Prolific. That probably wouldn't work as a good callsign, but it was my callsign way back when I was in my writing group, my first writing group with my friends.

    The process was, actually, I wanted to pick a callsign that used the same sound as their real name, to help people keep them straight. Because you basically have a double number of names in the book. So same letter or same sound, creating it. And I just started with that letter or sound. And then I wanted them each to feel distinctive. If they're all, like, initials. Or they're all one-syllable names, it can be really easy to mix them up. So I wanted some that were two or three syllables. Some that, they wanted to reinforce who the character was sometimes, things like that. That's where I went on that.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2619 Copy

    Questioner

    In Alcatraz, he mentions a souvenir about a bullet that can pierce steel. Was that nod to Reckoners?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, that's a nod to Reckoners. There's lots of them. If you read the Alcatraz books, there's an Asomedean joke, there's a Spook's street slang joke. The Alcatraz books, if you haven't read them, are kind of me practicing my improv skills as a writer. Every writer, I think, needs to have some measure of ability to outline, and some measure of ability to just "pants it," as we say. And the Alcatraz books, I write completely pantsed. I give myself a list of things that need to be in the book, and I try to work those in as I go. And that ends up with a lot of me making jokes about myself and my process.

    Skyward Atlanta signing ()
    #2620 Copy

    Questioner

    Which character arc has been your favorite to write?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I usually don't pick favorites. Because all characters in all the books are like my children. But I will say it was extraordinarily satisfying to write Rand's arc, that I did in Gathering Storm. That was a true delight as a long-time fan of the series. So probably that one.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2622 Copy

    Questioner

    What is your philosophy on prologues? You do a lot of them.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do a lot of them. I don't think they're necessary. I'm fond of them. Usually, if you can find a way to not do one, your story will probably be stronger. But they do let you do something like, for instance, if you know that the later tone of your story is not going to match the early tone of your story, you can hint what the tone is actually going to be in the prologue, which is really handy. And there are other things you can do. You can start with a bang with a prologue in a way that maybe sometimes you wouldn't be able to do if you were going right into the main story. There's things that I like about them. But I do think that they become a crutch to some writers, and that might include me.

    Questioner

    Do you have a recommended length in terms of how long it should be? ...Or maybe how long it should not be? What would be the max for a prologue?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, Robert Jordan's kind of became books unto themselves, and that worked for him. But when you're getting that long, you might be-- Short and sweet is probably your best. One of the best prologues ever written is the prologue to Eye of the World, Robert Jordan. But there's no real-- Just try to avoid the classic '80s one where it's like, "Prologue is all the worldbuilding dump that I couldn't fit in to the first chapters."

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2624 Copy

    Questioner

    A question about Jasnah and your relation to Jasnah. She's a Veristitalian... Is that a part of Jasnah that is you, or is that a part of Jasnah that's somebody else?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The fascination with history and trying to use it to change the present is me. And that is the part of Jasnah that I-- Also, by nature, I'm kind of a Slytherin. And so would Jasnah. That part of me is there. The "do-gooder Slytherin," if that's not an oxymoron.

    Questioner

    And does the word Veristitalian come from "veritas"?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. So, in their language, it would not actually be Veristitalian. What I do is, my books, I pretend they're in translation. So when Wit makes a pun, or when you see something that echoes Latin or Greek, the idea is that they are echoing in-world ancient languages that we have chosen, instead of transliterating, to actually translate so it gives the right feeling in English.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2627 Copy

    Questioner

    I've been thinking about Idealism as a philosophy and how the concept of the... Cognitive Realm is sort of like a very realistic version of Idealism. Is there any influence there at all?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, definitely. I was a closet philosophy major in college. I didn't actually do that, but I attended a lot of philosophy classes. And I'll tell you this, philosophers don't know to write. That's the most annoying part. You read their essays, and they're full of brilliant ideas, with these enormous run-on sentences that make no sense. You have to like-- So I got really frustrated by that. But I really loved the classes and reading and things like that, and the touch of it is all over my books. If you look for it, you'll find a lot of the different philosophies, you'll find all those guys in different places on different philosophers and different religions and stuff like that.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2628 Copy

    Questioner

    Do you ever feel like, as the author of these stories, you are basically the God of these books?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. It feels-- Honestly, I would look at it more-- The better way I feel is more like the historian. I've constructed the story in the outline, and now as the historian I'm writing it out and recording it. Because it's already kind of happened to me as the outline doing it. So I feel more like that. Like, I'm gonna do what the story demands. I'm not sitting there playing God, like, "I'm doing this to you!" I'm like, "This is what the right story is, and I'm going to write it."

    Questioner

    When you have to make changes, do you ever feel like you're betraying something in your story, when you have to make a change that maybe you weren't planning on?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, it's the other way around. I never have made a change I haven't been comfortable with. It's only if I feel a story's gonna be stronger and it's better for the characters. A revision is more like an exploration of "Something was wrong in this, I did it wrong the first way. I'm gonna try to nudge it toward the way it should be." And when I can't do that, that's when I have to pull the book, because I can't figure out what it should be, if that makes any sense. It's kind of nebulous. But I'm trying to get it closer and closer to the perfect version of the story I'm trying to tell.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2630 Copy

    Questioner

    Is Vasher Zahel or is Zahel Vasher?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So Vasher is the name he had in Way of Kings Prime, the one I just read from, before I wrote Warbreaker.

    Questioner

    That's my question. What's the real chronology?

    Brandon Sanderson

    ...Yeah, Warbreaker's first.

    Questioner

    Because he named him, did he not?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, the name, Vasher. Of course, he had a different name before that.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2631 Copy

    Questioner

    If a thing that is Invested under one Shard, you transfer it to another. Does the method of continuing empowerment of  the Investiture change to the source of that other Shard?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Naturally, no. It may do so.

    Questioner

    The only reason I ask is because Nightblood doesn't seem to behave different.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, Nightblood does not require, but will instead accept gleefully anything you give it. But for instance, if you took a Soulstamp to another planet and somehow made it work, it wouldn't necessarily draw on the power of that Shard to work. Granted, it's really hard to make a Soulstamp work. Here's another example. You go on another planet. Hoid is using Allomancy on Roshar. That is not using the power of Honor or Cultivation. It is still drawing on the power of, in that case, Harmony.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2632 Copy

    Questioner

    When Jasnah takes Shallan on as a ward, she teaches her a strategy for research. Is that strategy you use when you are doing research?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No. It's a strategy like the one they tried to teach me in college, and I was never good at.

    Questioner

    So you used it as a-- You used it intentionally because of?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Not that I don't like it. My brain doesn't work the way that note-taking methodology worked. I know it worked for some people, and probably if I had spent more time on it, then I would have. But I work in a different way.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2633 Copy

    Questioner

    In terms of redemption arcs. In terms of Moash. Will he be able to redeem himself?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I won't say no, because I think you have to go really, really far in order to not be redeemed. But at the same time-- Let's just say if Dalinar got redeemed, Moash has gotta go further than Dalinar. At the same time, he is certainly not looking for that.

    Questioner

    But neither did Dalinar?

    Brandon Sanderson

    But neither did Dalinar.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2638 Copy

    Questioner

    I'm a new teacher; my students are really quick to jump on me when I make mistakes. I was wondering if there's any inconsistencies or characters or any of the aspects of the magic systems you made that you could go back--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Absolutely. Every book. Every book, there are things that I would want to change. And it ranges-- there's a huge gamut of different things.

    For instance, in the White Sand books, my first book that I wrote, that we eventually turned into graphic novels. I had a really cool magic system that was about manipulating sand with your mind, and things like this. And then I added in a weird thing where you could transform sand into water for no good reason whatsoever. It doesn't match the rest of the magic system. Because I wanted to write myself out of a hole. And as a newer writer, I did that a lot more. It ended up kind of getting canonized, and when we went back, I didn't fix it that fast, and so it ended up in the first graphic novel, and I'm like, "We need to fix this." So, the third graphic novel-- we've given ourselves enough wiggle room, fortunately, that I can be like, "And that's not what people thought it was." Because I want it to be more consistent. So you get that third graphic novel, and you're like, "Wow, they can't do this anymore?" No one ever did it onscreen, so they were just wrong. 'Cause that totally just does not belong in that magic system.

    The Mistborn books, the original trilogy, I worked very hard to make sure I had an interesting, tough, but also compelling female protagonist. But then I defaulted to guys for the rest of the crew. And this is-- If you want to write a story about that, doing it intentionally, that's a different conversation entirely. But when you just kind of do it accidentally, like, I did, I look back and I'm like, "Mmm, I didn't really want to do that". But I did anyway, because of just the way that every story I'd seen I was defaulting to (like Ocean's Eleven, and things like this), where my models were, and I didn't take enough time to think about it, where I think it would have actually been a better story if I would have thought a little bit more about that. Like, there are things like that all across the board.

    I did get into a little-- trouble's the wrong term. But in Words of Radiance, I reverted it-- from the paperback, when it came out, I reverted to a previous version that I had written for part of the ending. And that caused all kinds of confusion among the fans, what is canon? And so I'm like, "Oh, I can't do that anymore." But I had gone back and forth on how a part of the ending was to play out. A pretty small element, but a part of the ending. And I had settled on one. And then immediately, as soon as we pushed print, felt that it was the wrong one. But you just gotta go with it.

    I don't know. I don't think there's a strict answer on how much you can change, and how much you can't. Grandpa Tolkien went back and changed The Hobbit so it would match Lord of the Rings. And I think I'm glad he did. Even if I would have been annoyed if I'd had the first version that doesn't have the connection. When I read it, it had the connection, and it was so much cooler. I don't know if I have answers on that. But every book, there is something I would want to change.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2639 Copy

    Questioner

    I wanna write books, too... One thing that really drags me down is that I'm afraid that my book is gonna be too short. Do you have any tips for beefing up your story?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, if you add paragraphs about the architecture, *laughter* and where the clothing comes from--

    Number one way to add length to a book without making it feel irrelevant is to start adding viewpoints form other characters who have a different take on what's happening in the story, and by naturally adding in some of those viewpoints and giving them their own arcs, you will lengthen the story in a way that feels natural. It will start to edge it into a different genre. The more of those you add, the more it's going to feel like a different style of story, either a historical epic or an epic fantasy or things like that, so you do want to be careful with it. But if you get done and your story's 50,000 words, and you want it to be 80,000 words, that can be a really good way to do it.

    But honestly, I wouldn't stress about this too much. There are fantastic books that are 50,000 or 60,000 words long that get published. I don't know how long the new Stephen King one is, but it's like 180 pages. So it's probably, like, 40,000 or 50,000 words. Like, A Christmas Carol is what, 30,000, or something like that? Write the book; practice at the length you are comfortable in. And if it's consistently a problem that things actually end up too short, then start asking about, "Can I add subplots? Can I add other characters to give a different perspective on this?" But I wouldn't stress it too much at the beginning.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2640 Copy

    Questioner

    Will we ever see that thousand page Way of Kings Prime?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Way of Kings Prime is the book that I wrote that-- (I will actually read to you a little bit from it today. That's my reading, is from this book.) Eventually, I will just release the whole thing. Warning! It falls apart, and I actually did a little trim of the scene I'm gonna read to you today, because I was really into describing worldbuilding elements back then. You can watch the video from yesterday, where I read it before editing it, and there's like two paragraphs about the architecture. And then there's another two paragraphs about where they got the cloth for the clothing, and things like this.

    I will eventually release it. Right now, it still has spoilers for things that happen in the series, and so I don't want to release it quite yet. But we're getting close to the place where I can release it, where all the spoilery things have happened in the main series, that are going to happen.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2641 Copy

    Questioner

    Do you find it more difficult to write a story that includes or excludes magic? Or--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Every story I've tried to write that didn't have magic, ended up having it. *laughter* And so, I'm gonna say, so far it's proven virtually impossible for me to write something without magic. Even my science fiction basically has magic systems, right? Legion, which is supposedly set in this world, has a magic system. And so I would say, much harder to write something without magic.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2642 Copy

    Questioner

    Is there any character that you think you have learned something from while writing? Or--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Each character that I write is a mix of two things. It is a mix of some part of me, and something very different from myself. In order to write those characters, I usually do a lot of exploring and trying to find out about people who are like the character that I'm writing, and that teaches me a ton. You could say that the character has taught me a lot on that case. Doing, for instance, Kaladin, and trying to write a hero with depression whose story is not about having depression, and going to people I know and people I love and people I don't know, and asking them what it feels like, has taught me a whole ton. I don't know if that answers your question, but often the exploration of where a character goes is me exploring my own thoughts and feelings on an idea. And I would say that every character, to an extent, takes me on a journey as I write them, and kind of combine myself with something else. So yes, they all have, but also they all are partially me.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2643 Copy

    Questioner

    I want to write books... Do you have any trouble with trying to figure out what you want your main character's name to be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Names... I will tell you this. You're probably stressing too hard about the name, because usually if you just pick one and start writing, you will grow to see that character by that name, and they'll be come entwined, and you won't stress about it anymore. That happens most of the time, if you just settle on one.

    If you're writing Sci Fi/Fantasy, there are a couple of things you can do. If you want a really easy sort of Sci Fi/Fantasy hack, assign sort of a linguistic structure to a bunch of different countries in your world, and be like, "All of these are going to have Ancient Babylonian sounding names." And then you can go kind of look at that language and build some names out of that. That's an easy way to do it.

    But really, I would not stress this. Just name the characters, start writing. If it feels wrong to you after you've written for a while, swap something else in, see if that works, and write for a while. Usually the person will grow to match the name, and then name will become synonymous with them in your head, to the point that it can be really hard to change their names later on when you decide, as I've sometimes decided, "Wow, this name doesn't fit the naming paradigm for this culture; I'll change their name." And then I just keep calling them the wrong name when I talk about them.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2644 Copy

    Questioner

    I'm actually a big YA reader, and I became a fan of yours through your YA books; I read The Reckoners first. And I actually found-- to put it in a nice way, some resistance from some of your fans because I like your YA stuff better. But I guess my question would be, what would you say to your readers that are really stuck on Stormlight or your older books that are reluctant to read either yours or other teen books?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's really weird to say "adult fantasy" in this context. I once had a panel where they introduced me as the "adult fantasy guy," and I'm like, "Well, yes?"

    ...I would say, number one kind of most important thing in this is, "Don't feel bad for liking something and not liking something else." This is a big thing to me. It is okay that I hate fish sticks, and some people in this room love fish sticks. And if we acknowledge that writing is an art, and stories are an art, then I think we have to acknowledge that like or dislike of them must kind of have an inherent subjectiveness to it. Because if we all liked the same sort of art, that would not really be a world I want to live in. So it is okay to try things out and say, "This isn't for me." Whether it's written by me or anyone else, that is perfectly all right.

    Though I would also say, if you haven't given a try to a genre just because of-- there's a lot of snobbishness to art, at the same time. Like, I was reading an essay recently about how fiction has existed in this state of feeling snubbed by nonfiction, which was the "true" writing, ever since the novel was invented. But of course, once the novel was invented, we started subsetting into different genres where you could be snobbish against other people in that. And then in the subgenres, you're like, "Science fiction is better than furry fanfic," or whatever. So suddenly, all we do is, we spend time being snobbish about somebody else's art that they love. And you see this a lot in science fiction with-- Someone enters reading Eragon, and they love Eragon, and they go somewhere and say, "Eragon's my favorite book ever." And they're like, "Oh, that's just a bad ripoff of Star Wars and Anne McCaffrey." Instead of being like, "Wow, I'm glad you loved something. Welcome to our community." They're like, "Oh, you don't like the right thing." So, if you kind of let this get to you, and you haven't tried any genre, whether it be one of the YA, or a lot of people in Sci Fi/Fantasy (I won't state the specific genres) like to point and say, "Well, at least we're not as tropey as them." I think you will find, in a lot of variety of places, things that you love and you can learn from. And YA in particular, particularly when I was trying to break in, YA had started doing all the really exciting things in Sci Fi/Fantasy. So if you haven't read some Garth Nix from that era, or if you haven't been reading some of the really cool YA. (I just read the Star Touched Queen, which is amazing.) If you haven't been reading some of this stuff, YA has been doing a lot of really cool explorations of setting and genre and stuff like that, then you are doing yourself a disservice not trying it out. You don't have to like it, but I would suggest that you try it out. So that's what I would say.

    Skyward San Diego signing ()
    #2645 Copy

    Questioner

    I've been following the head writer of the Wheel of Time series for Amazon Prime. He was doing a Q&A on Twitter last month, and in it, he did not confirm Perrin in the series. How do you feel about that? And how do you think it'll affect the series?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I think, knowing Rafe [Judkins] a little bit (I've had a couple calls with him), he's not confirming things because they haven't settled on approving any of his outlines and things yet for the series. So he's not going to confirm a lot of things until he gets this outline together, and things like that. And The Wheel of Time is a really tough beast, because of how many characters there are, and how many introductions you have to give, and things like this. I would not imagine that they would leave Perrin out, but it's possible, I can see a world where you'd leave Perrin out of the first season, or at least have him as a background character, and then delve into him later on. Because you kind of need Mat and the dagger in the first season. And you definitely need Rand in the first season. But the Perrin stuff could easily be moved to another season, because it doesn't have payoffs until, like, Book Four, or something like this. That would be my guess, but I haven't talked to him specifically about this.

    I do know earlier, different people working it, they had tried to take Mat out of the first season, because he kind of comes to his own in Book Three. And that turned out to be kind of a disaster. It's just them trying a difficult thing, and not taking anything off the table, I think, is a smart way to approach it. I would be very surprised if Perrin got pulled out completely. But I don't know, I haven't seen any outlines or things yet. And they're definitely not required to show them to me, or anything like that.

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    Questioner

    Lopen, from the end of The Wheel of Time; and Lopen, from Stormlight Archive. Do they have anything in common?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Lopen, is there a character in Wheel of Time called Lopen? ...Must just be a coincidence, then. *laughter* I didn't write any intentional Wheel of Time references to my books, or anything like that. The only cameo sort of thing there is in there for me is, the sword that Robert Jordan's cousin gave to me out of Robert Jordan's collection, I wrote into the book. Kind of in the same way Robert Jordan wrote himself into the books as a ter'angreal that had lots of stories in it, that they discovered was his cameo for himself. I wrote in my sword. So my sword, that they gave me, which has painted dragons on the scabbard that look a lot (in my mind) like the ones on Rand's arms. And I don't know if he got that from that katana that he was given, but it was the one they gave my out of the collection, so I wrote it in. But any other connections you think you run into are going to be just coincidences. I do have a fondness for certain types of names.

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    Questioner

    You obviously treat your writing career pretty much like a business. On your blog, you talked about staff, and stuff like that. So I'm wondering if you have advice for emerging writers to build their careers with an eye towards business? Business stuff?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A couple thoughts here. One is, nobody warns you that becoming a novelist is starting a small business, and it hits almost all of us like a ton of bricks when we realize, "Wait a minute. I have to do-- I have to get insurance. I am an independent contractor; I'm not working for the publisher, so I have to pay taxes in installments during the year." (What do you call those... estimated taxes. You have to do estimates, and things like this.) And you have to do all of this weird stuff that can be really hard. That no one-- The writing problems don't generally talk about this. And they don't talk about getting an LLC, or things like this. I had to stumble through all this. And so, I would say to you, do know that becoming a writer, you are starting a small business. So any kind of classes you can take, or things you can read online on starting a small business, are gonna be a huge help to you in that.

    The other thing is, I often-- and this, I figured out pretty early on. I figured out that trying to write toward the market was an exercise in futility. I had a speech about that a couple years ago. Trying to always look at writing from a business perspective is going to drive you insane, for multiple reasons, like I just talked about, I just failed at writing a book last year, and I still don't know why. That's not something that really flies in the world of "everything adds up," because it doesn't. That should have added up to a book that works, and it didn't. Because writing is an art. There's an artistic side to it, there's a thing we can't explain. I can't explain very well how I get characters. Like, I outline my plots and my world; my characters come more organically, and it's really hard for me to talk about character for that reason, because putting it into words is difficult.

    But one thing you can learn to do is that you can, when you're writing, try to throw all of that aside. Try to focus only on, "What are you passionate about? What does this story need?" And try not to think about the business side. When you finish that story, lock the artist in the closet, take the manuscript, run away cackling, and try to find a way to exploit it in any way you possibly can. *laughter* That is my suggestion on balancing the businessperson and the artist. Let the artist write whatever they're passionate about. And then the businessperson's job should be separate, but same person different hat, and learn how to turn that into food on your table. Try to learn how to make that balance work. And I think that will take you pretty far.

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    Questioner

    Where did the idea of spren come from?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Comes from two primary inspirations. One is my perhaps too-much fondness for things classical philosophy. Specifically some of the ideas that Plato talked about with certain Ideals, and the ideal picture of something, the theory of the Forms, and all this stuff. Mixed with the idea of, in the Eastern religions and mythology, you have the idea of the kami, or things like thsi, in which everything has a soul. A rock that you pass has a soul to it. And these two ideas kind of mashing together is where the spren were birthed out of.

    I can also point a little bit at The Wheel of Time. One of the things I always liked about The Wheel of Time is, there's a character named Perrin who can smell people's emotions. And as a writer, when I was working on The Wheel of Time, I'm like, "This is so convenient!" Super convenient as a writer. Because it gets really cliched to use the same sort of phrases to indicate emotion. If you're always having somebody smirk as they talk, it starts to really stand out. But since, when I get to Perrin scenes, he can describe emotion in a completely different way, because he was using different senses, almost a synesthesia sort of thing where he would catch scents and know someone's emotion, it was a really cool writing tool. And I think the spren popped a little bit out of that, the ability to show emotion in a different way in my narrative, and that would change society in some (I thought) very interesting ways, made for a really interesting narrative tool for me as a writer.

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    Questioner

    What's the most important thing to do when writing to ensure that the story has the tone you want it to have?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Boy, I'm not sure if there's a one catch-all most important thing. The answer, unfortunately, to most writing questions is: practice a lot, and then show your work to people and get feedback, and then learn how to target it better. With tone, one thing I've noticed that is really tough to pull off is switching very frequently between something that's supposed to be humorous and something that's supposed to be serious. And this is not a bad instinct, because some of the great filmmakers and writers we know are able to do this. This is like a Joss Whedon hallmark, right? We're gonna go from witty comeback to sudden gravitas in the matter of, like, whiplash. So we're like, "Wow, I like movies like that, I like books like that. Terry Prachett can make me laugh and then make me cry in the space of a page. I want to learn to do that." But it is really easy to have your tone go completely off the wall when you're trying to do something like that. And whenever I fail on that thing, on tone, it's almost always because I'm trying to inject something funny into the middle of something with a lot of gravitas.

    This actually happened-- "Funny" is maybe the wrong term for it, but in the last Wheel of Time book, a scene we cut. The beginning of the Wheel of Time book, to not give spoilers, start with a really dramatic fight scene where some people are struggling to survive under terrible situations, and they are getting picked off and dying, and things are burning. And I alternated that with a different scene I had written separately of several characters getting engaged. Which were both scenes I wanted in the book; but when I finally came to fold the stories together, these different threads, this one went opposite this one, and wow, it did not work. It was so bad. You would be reading these scenes about people dying, you'd be like, "I'm not interested in the people getting engaged." Even though it's something that maybe you've waited for the entire series to read because of the tone mismatch of where you're jumping back and forth. So that was one where we actually cut out the scene of the engagement, and just let the scene that was the more powerful scene stand on its own.