Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
Logged In (0):
Newest Members:johnroserking, petermorris, johnadanbvv, AndrewHB, jofwu, Salemcat1, Dhakatimesnews, amazingz, Sasooner, Hasib123,
Peter first spoke in general terms about Brandon's writing routine. He said that Brandon typically gets up around noon, writes from about 1-4pm, spends time with family and stuff, then goes back to writing from about 8pm-4am, and finally sleeps from about 4am to noon. Rinse, cycle, repeat. Peter also said that Brandon has a treadmill desk, and he frequently works at that when he's home or by one of the fireplaces he has in his house. Harriet then noted that she loves fireplaces and wanted to know whether Brandon's were wood-burning or gas. Peter said they're gas fireplaces.
Then Harriet described the editing process for A Memory of Light. She said that Brandon has completed the first draft (as was previously reported). Team Jordan is currently working on reviewing the first draft and making suggestions for corrections and edits. They have divided the manuscript into 9 sections plus the epilogue for editing purposes; Team Jordan has sent the edits for parts 1-6 to Brandon and are currently working on edits for the later sections. [Brandon recently tweeted that he is about halfway done with the second draft, and it is going well so far.]
With regard to the editing duties, Harriet primarily oversees the characterizations and prose, Maria deals with continuity issues, and Alan deals with military stuff, geography, and the timeline. Harriet also said that she and Brandon have had some "animated" conversations about whether or not to cut some specific scenes.
After all the suggested edits for the first draft are sent to Brandon and he has made the revisions, then presumably Team Jordan will review the second draft and provide another round of suggestions for revisions. The beta reader phase has to be fit in there somewhere, too. Ultimately, Harriet said that the goal for getting a final draft to Tor is June 15, 2012. That should give Tor plenty of time to get the book out by January 2013.
180 days until A Memory of Light.
Just six months until this 20+ year journey is finished.
Gah! Don't remind me. (Gets back to editing.)
Are you working on it in San Diego? That's dedication!
Yes, he is. Brandon is not a party animal; his idea of relaxing after a hard afternoon at the con is to go back to his hotel room and write for 8 hours.
Well, the first thing is that Brandon writes, and...you could talk about that, Peter. I don't really know much about Brandon's writing process except that it tends to be at night. (laughter)
Well, for those who aren't aware, Brandon...(sigh)...Brandon tends to stay up until four o'clock in the morning writing, and then he gets up at noon. So he gets up at noon, and then he writes from about one to five, and then he is with the family until bedtime for the kids, and so from about...I guess he starts writing again at about eight, and then he keeps going until four. Some of you may be interested to know that he has a walking treadmill desk, so he does a lot of his writing standing up, walking on the treadmill (laughter) and when he's not at the treadmill, he's got multiple fireplaces around the house now, so he's usually in front of one of those.
Are they wood-burning, or gas, or what? (laughter) I love fireplaces!
Uh...they are gas fireplaces.
Yeah, those are fun. Then Brandon gives us the first draft, and some bits are rough, and some are polished. And we go through it with our three various combs. Mine is characters and prose. Maria is continuity. I am not. (laughter) And she's a wizard at that, and Alan is a military wizard. And notice it's...I guess sexist, to give him the boy's stuff. (laughter).
I get all the alcohol as well. (laughter).
That's just 'cause he's lucky.
And Alan does Old Tongue and geography as well, because I kinda stink at both of those.
And I just kind of lose my temper with the geography. (laughter) And then, we get this stuff, and with this book, we're doing a better...it is a better thing we are doing for our country this time. (laughter) We send our combined nit-picking to Brandon section by section, and right now he's had...what did I send you last week? Five?
Six! I'm in eight; so is Maria. (to Alan) Where are you?
Seven. And we'll wait until Alan has finished eight before it goes back to Brandon, so that he doesn't lose his mind, and nine is followed only by the epilogue, so we're almost through. And then Brandon will send it back and there will probably be more animated conversation (laughter), and this time it will include words from Brandon that sort of say, "But you said..." (laughter) And we'll work it out, and we hope to have it in New York June 15th, and that might seem like a long time for January 8th. Believe me, it's not. And it will...is Paul Stevens here? Yeah, hey Paul! This will save...if we can do it, it will save the coffee cart from adding Prozac and Gelusil in massive amounts, right?
But it might be...there is [?] [whispered conversation with Alan, something about June 15th]
Scary, isn't it? (laughter)
That's the goal.
It is in two months.
But, we don't think Brandon really needs to sleep. (laughter)
I work until about 4 a.m., and then I don't wake up until noon. The job I do lets me have the weirdest sleep schedule ever, because sometimes I sleep for like three hours, and then I get up and work and go back to bed. An average day for me is two four-to-six-hour writing blocks during this time. In each, I try to write at least 1,500 words, and I am somewhat goal based. I have a tread desk that I walk on while I type a lot of the time. It's not like I am getting any real exercise because it's moving like one mile per hour, but it is good for just moving and not just sitting there. I write in my bedroom. I have an easy chair that I also sit in.
I get done at about 5:30, and I go out and play with my kids and hang out with my family and do all the stuff that dads and husbands do, then I put my kids to bed, hang out with my wife for a bit, then usually go back to work at about 9 or 10 and get my second block.
What is your writing regiment?
His goal is to write 2,000 words, but there are days when he writes a half a page, and days when he gets 20 pages. His biggest piece of advice: If it's not flowing, work on it anyway. Do it wrong, commit it to the page poorly, and change it tomorrow.
Answering questions like this one is difficult; it's like "Pick your favorite food". If you eat that food every day you're going to eventually hate it...or slowly find the food less and less enjoyable. For me, that's how it is with writing.
Epic Fantasy is my favorite form, but if I'm only ever doing Epic Fantasy, I feel like I will get burned out on it, and I'll stop enjoying it as much and so I don't want to see that happen. So when I start to feel like it, I let myself, within certain bounds, write whatever I want to write so that when I get back to Epic Fantasy I'm feeling fresh. It's not a matter of what I like to write the most, it's a matter of what I'm feeling like at the time. Sometimes you may not want to eat your favorite food.
And when you're switching between these different types of stories, are there any major difficulties that you face?
If I do, then it means something's going wrong and I kind of need to look at why I'm trying to write it... Switching is not hard, usually. You get to know your writing style, you get comfortable with how you approach things.
When did you find time for sleep during all this?
It was a long, hard, 5 years. Fortunately, I work from home, and I'm able to stop work for the day, go see my family without a commute, visit with them for 3—4 hours, and then go back to work and still get in 12-hour days. That was a lot of my life, especially during the first 3 years. During the last 2, we slowed down a little bit, just because it was so hard. That's part of why the last book took 2 years—I just couldn't keep up the pace.
Hi, Brian. Good luck with the book launch!
I write about 2,500 words a day, writing at around 500 words an hour. My production is more about being consistent than about being fast. I do tend to write around ten hours a day. Don't know if I have any tips other than to perhaps turn off the internet or go outside and write for a while.
EDIT: Posted a little bit of clarity on the 2,500 words a day, and what I do with the rest of the time, below.
If you write about 500 words an hour and write for 10 hours a day? Isn't that 5000 words a day?
I see that doing good at math isn't very important as an author. ^ ^
Ha. I should have been clear. You're absolutely right to point this out.
I spend a large amount of time each day answering email, working on the wiki for my worlds, planning new books, and revising. Many days, I actually do around 3500 words, but the average tends to be closer to 2500 or even 2000 once editing and everything is factored in.
I thought he was writing Stormlight 2? AMOL just came out, as did Legion and The Emperor's Soul (both novellas, I know). When did he write this? I wish I had half the work ethic that Mr. Sanderson does.
It's one of his 'breather projects' between/during the writing of larger works.
It's also one of the books that he started/wrote before he got involved in WoT.
Mes09 is right. This is one of the projects I was developing before I got involved with he WoT. I've actually been reading the prologue at conventions for years. I had to put the book aside in order to do the Wheel of Time. Now that I've finished, I had time to do revisions of this justice (Doing that was a breather project for me between AMOL and Stormlight 2.)
The odd thing is, I still feel kind of bad about not having a book come out last year, only short fiction. It's been almost three years now since The Way of Kings, still with no sequel.
I did need to get this book out of my system, though. It had been brewing for way too long. Fortunately, I had the majority of it done years ago.
Another book?? I cannot wait to delve into it. I started on your books with The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. Then I picked up Emperor's Soul because the story looked intriguing and omg the cover art was so brilliant, and now am reading The Way of Kings. I have to say I became an instant fan, I cannot wait to read your other books. I love the way you portray your characters. I don't know if you will ever see this but thank you, your book, your writings they filled me with hope.
I did see it. Thank you for reading, and for the kind words.
Are you secretly a robot? Your rate of output is incredible, and what I've read has all been excellent quality. If you're not a robot, do you have a particular secret to it? I manage 500-1000 words a day, but it never feels like enough.
500-1000 words a day is perfectly reasonable. I do on average 2,500—and that is after twenty years of practice, not to mention being able to do this full time. If you can do 500 words a day five days a week, that's a novel every year. Don't feel this is a bad rate. Keep at it.
Hey Brandon! Big fan, and a regular listener to the very insightful Writing Excuses. I recently took all your talk about making time to write to heart and have since found a way to juggle my career, life, and MBA study in order to write. Over the past 6 weeks, I've done about 50k words and still managed to stay on top of everything. So, I guess I'm saying thanks to you, Mary, Howard, and Dan for the kick in the butt I needed to get to writing!
I do have some questions however: What do you do to refill the creative well?
Congrats! Nice work.
Family is a big part of it for me. Also, times just listening to music and not writing anything down.
Brandon has written 18 books in the last 8 years.
Robot jokes aside, there are three possible explanations for this:
- Brandon writes just over two books every year for 8 years. That's not impossible, but given the size of the work in question it's very difficult.
- Brandon had already written lots of these books in draft form prior to the publication of Elantris/Mistborn. These currently published titles were written in that time period. (He alludes to this in his writing of The Way of Kings.)
- (Tin foil hat time!) Brandon isn't just one person, but several people working under the Sanderson name with him having the final say/edit. This one is entirely unsubstantiated and given that it's 18 books and not 30 I'm not inclined to believe it.
You're pretty close on several of these points. I generally write two books a year—a big one and a small one. This is a habit I fell into during my early, unpublished years. I'd do one longer epic fantasy and one shorter "breather" novel to try something new or to keep myself fresh.
Off the cuff, here's how I think it breaks down. (Elantris was finished long before, in 2000.) There's one year of three shorter books instead of an epic. (That was the year I tried to write a book called the Liar of Partinel, and it just didn't work. Wrote The Rithmatist instead. This is also the year I got called and asked to work on the Wheel of Time.) Also, note that the year of Towers of Midnight and The Way of Kings just about killed me, and is the busiest I've ever been.
A Memory of Light—last book of the Wheel of Time—took by far the longest of these all, particularly with the revision demands during 2012 (which is why I had no epic fantasy that year, only the two novellas.)
2002: The Way of Kings (early draft)
2004: Mistborn 2, Alcatraz 1
2005: Mistborn 3, Alcatraz 2
2006: Warbreaker, Alcatraz 3
2007: Steelheart, The Rithmatist, Alcatraz 4 (Alcatraz was a 4-book contract.)
2008: The Gathering Storm, Part of Towers of Midnight
2009: Towers of Midnight, The Way of Kings (New Draft from scratch.)
2010: Alloy of Law, half of AMOL
2011: Half of AMOL
2012: Legion, Emperor's Soul
2013: Words of Radiance, Steelheart 2 (hopefully)
More recently I've noticed myself writing on something different than my main projects when I need a break. Wasn't sure it was the best thing to do, but after reading your post I'm convinced it may be! I have yet to have a chance to read one of your books, BUT I intend to as they sound awesome. They're on my list of "stuff I need to read when I have money to buy books again". :D
Cool! If you do the ebook thing, Warbreaker is free on my website.
There's an html version on there somewhere too. My assistant posted it.
Best of luck with your writing!
Confused: Steelheart—written in 2007, Amazon says it won't be released until September 2013. Are you re-writing an early project?
I finished a good chunk of it back then, but had to put it on the shelf and leave it alone. The Wheel of Time demanded all of my attention. Now that I'm finished with AMOL, I have time for side projects again, and have taken this one off and given it a solid polish to be released this year.
I'm pretty sure Brandon has Steelheart misplaced; he wrote it in very early 2010, before Alloy of Law, though he came up with the concept earlier than that. 2007 should have Liar of Partinel in it, which Brandon talked about above.
Wait wait, so it is a book [Steelheart] about a magical upper class and a lower class who rebels against them? But I already read Mistborn!
You know, I honestly worry about this a lot. Perhaps more than I should. I don't want to start repeating myself.
This was one of those "Write it by instinct" books. The idea was too awesome to ignore. Basically, it's the story of what happens if people in our world started getting superpowers, but only evil people got them. Story is about a group of people who fight back by assassinating people with superpowers by researching their weaknesses, then laying a trap and taking them out.
However, it DOES share similarities to Mistborn. Much as Warbreaker and Elantris share a worldbuilding premise. We shall see, after readers get it, if I'm repeating myself too much. It's hard when you've got an awesome story you want to tell, but also want each series to have its individual identity.
| what happens if people in our world started getting superpowers, but only evil people got them
Is that the case, or rather a more cynical approach to 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely'?
That very question is actually a plot point in the story.
Oh wow. The book's not even out, and I managed to spoil it...
Ha. No, you're not spoiling it. What I mean is, very early in the book, people ask the same question you did. Is the way they act caused by them having too much power, or is it because certain types of people got the powers in the first place. It's not a spoiler to ask the question.
The origin of this story has to do with me, driving along, and getting cut off in traffic. I thought to myself, "Buddy, you're glad I don't have superpowers, because I'd totally blow your car off the road right now."
My immediate reactions made me start thinking about what would actually happen if some people had those kinds of powers.
This sounds really cool and I look forward to reading it! One thing I wonder about though, is how you fit this into the shard multiverse? I'll be honest and admit I'm not totally up to speed on all your books and all the meta-lore, but as far as I knew you had a pre-set number of possible worlds, all created by some unique piece of shard from a larger whole, right?
So for this idea, did you happen to have a specific shard available that fit with the world, did you have an "undefined" shard you could use, or is this something separated entirely from the multiverse setting? Really curious about this as this whole concept as I know of it of the multiverse is really intriguing.
Anyway, thanks for being an awesome writer, from a fan!
So far, most of my deviation novels (Alcatraz, Steelheart, The Rithmatist) have not been part of the shared universe. Part of taking a 'breather' is letting my mind run free without continuity restrictions.
Often, good restrictions can make for a more impressive story, but sometimes you have to be able to do whatever occurs to you, even if it doesn't fit the shared cosmology. So, Steelheart is not a shard novel. I HAVE set apart plenty of places that are less defined that I can tell shard stories in, but this isn't one of them.
A career via e-books?
So I've been reading on the net about some indie authors who have self-published their novels online in e-book format, and they're making a decent living at it! I've also been reading that publishers are accepting less authors these days. So with these trends, would any of you go for the idea of publishing your own novel as an e-book, and trying to make money by selling it at low prices ($3-4 a pop or something)? I think this may be the way of the future for many authors. E-books are starting to revolutionize publishing!
Yes, things are changing. (Finally.) People have been predicting this as imminent for years. It's only now starting to happen. It looks like we might have our first batch of full-time writers publishing only in ebook form. We'll know more (such as exactly how many people are doing this) when Bookscan starts reporting ebook sales. They've said they plan to start doing so soon.
From what I know, it is a myth that publishers are accepting fewer authors. However, as I have no reference to back that up other than personal experience, take the statement with a grain of salt. Still, I see just as many new writers being published now as before. Publishers would be foolish to stop picking up new writers, as the nature of the beast is that people age, and new talent is always needed.
Also, remember that even with these statistics, 91% of books sold are still physical form. That number will shrink. How far it will shrink is anyone's guess right now. The farther they shrink, however, the more that the added money made from higher royalties at ebook only outweigh the larger distribution of a print/ebook split.
The revolution is coming. I'll stick with my publisher, personally, but I think a young writer who is good at self promotion and marketing could do worse than to try a few ebook-only self releases, though I'd still suggest (for now) continuing to submit to New York as well. Might as well cover all of your bases. If you get an offer from New York, but it turns out you've been doing well enough with your own ebook releases, you could turn down the offer.
Thanks for that. If you don't mind me asking how much money does a new author with one book out typically make per year from traditional publishing? Assuming low, to moderate sales numbers (whatever those may be).
This is a really, really hard question to answer because of the wide variety of genres and publishing models out there.
Some genres have what I like to call a larger amplitude. The pool of potential readers is much greater, but people in the genre are not voracious readers—and so, if a book takes off in that genre, you see HUGE numbers. But you also see a very large number of flops because so many in the genre gravitate only toward the popular books, and don't have time to read much more than that.
Other genres have a smaller amplitude, with a small base of potential readers (keeping the highs much lower.) However, these kinds of genres can have better averages because readers in them read a lot. So a lot of books can sell a medium number of copies.
Some genres thrive on hardcovers and early buying, while others thrive on tons of cheap paperbacks. Children's books have a readership that refreshes more quickly, but also a readership that reacts strongly to fads. Some genres have long shelf lives for individual titles, others have very short ones.
Toby Buckell did a survey for the sf/f genre on first book advances, which might answer some of your questions.
Restricting the genre to sf/f, we still have to deal with sub-genre and publication model. But let's say fantasy (as I know it best) from a major publisher with a hardcover initial, and a paperback to follow. Moderate to low sales would be...let's say 3,000 copies hardcover and 10k copies paperback in the first two years. That's high enough that some people are buying the book, but low enough that the publisher is going to want improvement over the next two books. (Often, you can sell three books to start in this genre, and are given until the third to prove you can sell.)
Royalty on the hardcover will be $2.50. Paperback, $.56. So, earnings are $13k. You'll probably have a few over-seas sales in translation, and maybe some book club money, and some sales in the third and forth years. (Though if the series doesn't grab some traction, those will have shrunk by the fourth year to very small numbers.) I'd guess 20k over the life of a book for a mid-to-poor seller.
A really poor seller would be under 5k, and that's when the publisher would enter panic mode. Good seller you're looking at $40k on a first book. Sf/f has a 'small amplitude' you might say, but has really good legs and a long shelf life. So the best gains in sales are made by converting paperback readers to hardcover readers, and by having an enduring book (often in a series) that continues to hang out on shelves for many, many years.
Thank you very much for the in-depth reply! I appreciate it. :)
10% @ 7500 copies. You do the math.
Compare that to 70% @ 7500 copies. Even if the book is $5 or, more realistically, $2.99, you'd make more money.
7500 copies is considered "doing ok," for a new author, just enough to cover an advance (most new authors don't sell enough copies to cover the advance). Of course, some do better, and more do worse.
EDIT: The author of this book has a blog about self publishing. Claims to make 6 fugues. Not bad at all.
Thanks for the blog suggestion. I guess the question is whether one is as likely to sell 7500 copies of e-books as one is if one went with a traditional publisher. The traditional market is bigger, but the royalties are much smaller, hmm...a quandary.
Depends. You'd likely sell more. It's far easier to sell something that costs 99 cents than it is to sell something that costs 11.99 etc. It rather depends on you. (Not to mention people can't return an ebook if they don't like it, and 40% of books usually end up being returned). Most of all, the assumption is not a stretch considering how many absolutely terrible self-published novels have done fantastically, precisely because of price.
And we want people to buy more books. Why buy one 10 dollar book if you can buy 10 ebooks? People are being less cautious about what they buy, more willing to give your book a chance. Just go to the Kindle store, to the self published stuff in any genre listed at 99 cents, or 1.99 and you'll see what I'm talking about. Crap selling @ 1000 copies a week no problemo. In the end, it'll depend on you getting a website, and telling people about your book, trying to create some buzz. No idea how you'd do that. Goodreads, Reddit, whatever you gotta do.
Well, to offer another side to yeahiknow, a few things to consider.
1) You don't get the 70% royalty on a $.99 book. You get 35%. 2) You get the higher royalty at the three buck mark, but here I believe Amazon still charges the author their "delivery fee" for sending your book to a kindle. For a small book, this is cheap. For one of my books, it is $1.20. 3) As I said, 90% of sales are still physical. A good publisher will have your book in every bookstore in the country. 4) Almost all of the people doing really well in ebook only have multiple books out. I think the guy linked has a dozen or so.
That said, there are indeed people out there making more in ebook indy than they could with a NYC contract. It should be noted that others who are doing well are actively seeking a print contract.
None of this is a reason not to try, and the numbers continue to move toward epub. I just think there is more to the discussion than it may first seem.
- J. A. Koranth's blog is a good read (even if his books aren't).
- A third of the Kindle Bestsellers are self-published through Amazon.
- Checking a small genre like fantasy shows that no fewer than half the best sellers are self-published (damn).
- Already many books are dropping in price on Kindle format to compete. Joe Abercombie's Best Served Cold is just 2.99. World War Z is 5 bucks, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—5 bucks. Not bad.
It certainly is interesting times out there, that's for sure. Thanks for the links.
Again, some things to consider: (also, note. It may seem I'm contradicting yeahiknow, but really, he/she makes excellent points and is directing you to good info. But there are some things to consider.)
Looking at the indy books on that list, I think you will find most of them are a certain type. First, they are really short. Like, 400k short. That's under 200 pages if conversions are the same with some of my books.
Some are $.99. These earn the small royalty %. But then, they are meant as a hook for the series. (Which is often working, mind you. But the .99 book would earn so much less that it shouldn't be looked at for earning potential.)
Finally, almost all the books selling really well right now from indy authors are the more pulp genres. Quick thrillers. Paranormal romance. Shor hack and slash fantasy. There is nothing at all wrong or inferior with these genres. But if you don't happen to be writing them, sales seem to indicate that epub will be tougher for you right now.
If you do happen to write them...strike now. It looks really good.
You're right. I doubt literature would be as successful, although, who knows. Genre fiction like fantasy and mystery are doing quite well.
Why are you up so late, btw? Kindred spirit.
Yeah. For years, I have been a late night worker. I just can't seem to function on an early morning schedule.
Eventually, even the litfic will sell best on ebook. But it is very interesting to me that we see this huge pulp explosion from indies on Amazon. Reminds me of some of the early genre fiction days, actually.
Given the trend in technology, and that paper books are slowly dying to ebook sales, I wouldn't be surprised [that ebooks are starting to revolutionize publishing].
Having a direct connection to authors, and knowing that more of your money goes to the artist, is pretty satisfying.
This is satisfying, though do please keep in mind that the publishing industry is NOT the music industry. The record labels have been gouging their artists (and their customers) for decades; it's now coming back to bite them.
New York publishing, for all of its faults, does tend to treat its authors well. When a book of mine sells, I see a very reasonable amount of the profit. I wouldn't mind more, but I've never felt cheated.
What book is easier to write: the first book, or the second book? Why?
Here's something about the way I work. New projects excite me. In fact, I'm often dangling the new project in front of myself as an incentive to finish my current project, saying, "When you get this book done, and it's done right and it's awesome, you get to go do something new." It's part of what I like about my job, always being able to do something new. It keeps me productive as a writer.
The hardest part about doing a sequel is this: yes, it's new, but it's also familiar, and there's a part of me that says, "I don't want to do that. I want to do something completely different." However, it's important to have the discipline to say, "No, you promised your readers that you were going to finish this!" Beyond that, there are certain themes, characters, and stories that you can only explore by doing something that's more long-form, like a series. As a reader, I prefer to read series, but as a writer sometimes it's hard to make myself do the familiar instead of something brand-new.
You're known as an epic fantasy guy. Why the change-up?
I like to do different things. It's what keeps me productive—switching projects. And usually after I've finished something big, I want to do something very different. And so I like to try different genres. Granted, the speculative aspect, the science fiction/fantasy aspect of things, is what really interests me. I basically have never written a book without some at least hint of the science fiction or fantasy element because that's what I love, so that'll show up in everything. But I also do like thrillers. And writing this book—it's been called dystopian now—I viewed it as action-adventure. Dystopian in the same way that some of the darker superhero films are dystopian.
Is it my first YA? I have another YA called The Rithmatist. This I wrote as an older middle grade novel, which is a very fine distinction that really only matters to literacy professionals, and to authors, and things like that. Middle grade ended up getting published as a young YA novel instead—the line there blurs very much. So, yes and no. I mean, Mistborn, which I'm best known for, stars a sixteen-year-old girl. That's shelved in 'adult' because there are adult characters as well, but the story's about her. So is it my first YA, is it not? I'm really honestly not sure. That's sort of a distinction I'll let the librarians and the booksellers argue over.
Talk about your writing routine—you're very prolific!
I, like I said, need to be jumping projects. It's just something about me. When I finish something, I feel the need to do something else very different from what I just finished. And given the chance to do so, I will jump and do something bizarre, for me. Bizarre, in a different line. And so, I'm often doing this. How do I juggle them? Well, it's more a matter of I would have more trouble not juggling them because then I would be locked into one thing, and I think it would be a lot harder for me to do my writing the way I do it. It's just my natural inclination.
When you are off in another world, how do you come down from it and relate to, say, your children, your wife and your students?
Writing is hard. You spend a day at work writing and at the end of it I feel tired. But stepping out of my room and transitioning out of that is not as difficult as it was once. Because it's time to be done and I've divided my life in such a way that when I pass out of the door, I'm transitioning out of the writing mind and into the family mind.
When I was younger, when I was just first married, these transitions were hard. But it was just a matter of practice. I feel that it's important to have my family ground me in real-life experiences, otherwise, I won't actually have anything to write about.
Fantasy is the genre of the imagination and it is only as imaginative as we have real-life experiences to explore. We take what we know and we expand upon it. People often say, "Write what you know." For fantasy, that applies to taking your real life experience and asking the "what ifs" about it.
Really, I think fantasy is a genre about the now, the things that we're worried about, the things we're concerned about, the things we wish could change in our world—these could become manifest in our fantasy stories. I don't think there's a fantasy book out there that isn't in some way an allegory for the author's own life experience.
What aspect of the creative process do you find most challenging?
I am not naturally inclined toward revision, but revision is vital. My first drafts, while fairly clean because I do a lot of planning and outlining, are still quite a distance from being fantastic. Sometimes they're good, but they're not really good. The first draft might get a book's quality to ninety percent of what it needs to be, but getting that last ten percent takes just as long as the first ninety. To this day, forcing myself to sit down and take something that I know is working pretty well, and instead try to make it really good, is hard for me. My mind always wants to be creating something new.
You have a lot of books potentially coming out in the next couple of years. Is there a particular order that you are writing the books in? As in Cosmere-only one year and then Rithmatist and Reckoners in another? Or do you write whatever suits your whim at a given time, aside from basic outlines?
It's more the latter. I've found that to be productive and creative, I have to be willing to let myself jump to the projects I'm most excited about at the moment.
One of my favorite things about being a Brandon Sanderson fan is how consistently you publish books, I always know you'll have a new book coming out without having to wait years. What do you do to help keep up the consistency and overcome the times when you sit down and the "creative juices" aren't there, or at least not easily accessible? Thanks for all your awesome books & doing the Q&A. :)
I throw away a fair amount of fiction. If it isn't flowing, I write anyway, then file that chapter away under junk. I also hop projects a lot. I've found this makes me much more creative and eager to write.