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Your search for the tag 'writing advice' yielded 125 results

  • 1

    Interview: Oct 21st, 1994

    AOL Chat 1 (Verbatim)

    Scarlet

    Hi, it's such a pleasure to meet you, I'm a BIG fan. Anyway, your books have so many richly developed characters and so many complex, interwoven plot threads, could you please comment on your preliminary processes such as outlining, character biographies, etc.?

    Robert Jordan

    I'm sorry, it just isn't that simple. I simply do it, and it would take me all night to explain how, if I could.

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  • 2

    Interview: Oct 20th, 1994

    Robert Jordan

    He encouraged young writers to write and send out things continuously not to be discouraged by rejections, and to change something only when three editors suggest it.

    Tags

  • 3

    Interview: Jun 26th, 1996

    Compuserve Chat (Verbatim)

    Ryssgarde

    You are an inspiration among fantasy writers. I am wondering how you started on this massive undertaking?

    Robert Jordan

    Well, I wrote! I had some ideas and I wrote them! I don't know how else to say it.

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  • 4

    Interview: Jun 26th, 1996

    Compuserve Chat (Verbatim)

    Brendan T. Lavin

    I have found the prophecies in your books very structured. Would you recommend a prospective author structuring any prophecy in this way? And, did you establish the main prophecies in the series early on and think to yourself, "Now how am I going to fulfill that one?"

    Robert Jordan

    Well, it is a matter of knowing what I wanted to happen in the story, and how I wanted the story to go, and placing prophecies that would foretell these events, sometimes in very shadowy ways. As far as structuring prophecies for your own work, I think you should do it however you want to do it; it's the only way you can!

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  • 5

    Interview: Oct 19th, 1998

    Matt from Chicago

    Mr. Jordan, how did you go about coming up with the story line of Wheel of Time? Did you think about it over several years or did you have a set time frame in which you had to develop it? Any advice for someone trying to write fantasy?

    Robert Jordan

    My advice to someone trying to write fantasy is, go see a psychiatrist. As far as how I developed it, I certainly didn't have a deadline set. Many years ago, more than 15, not as many as 20, certain ideas started poking around in my head, rubbing against one another, and this slowly became what is the Wheel of Time. I really don't know that I could explain it any better than that. At least not if I don't go on for hours. For that matter, if I go on for hours, I'm not sure I can explain it any better than that.

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  • 6

    Interview: Nov 1st, 1998

    SciFi.com Chat (Verbatim)

    Joni

    Mr. Jordan, what advice would you give to a young and aspiring writer? And are these just rumors I hear that you might come to Portland, Oregon soon for a signing?

    Robert Jordan

    I was in Portland Oregon several days ago for a signing. My advice to a writer is to write; write and send it to paying markets.

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  • 7

    Interview: Nov 11th, 2000

    Jeff Zervos from Long Island, NY

    Mr. Jordan, The Wheel Of Time series is an incredible piece of work. It is truthfully beyond anything I have ever read, including the works of Tolkien. Is there any advise you could give to an aspiring writer who is having a terrible time getting started with his story? I'm also an amateur actor and I look forward to auditioning for the part of Padan Fain one day.

    Robert Jordan

    The only advice I can give is to keep writing! But if you want to audition for the part of Padan Fain, maybe you ought to seek psychiatric help!

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  • 8

    Interview: Nov 14th, 2000

    SciFi.com Chat (Verbatim)

    Akira

    Mr. Jordan, do you have any advice for aspiring fantasy writers (such as myself)?

    Robert Jordan

    Write. When you've written something send it out. As soon as it's in the mail write more. Never stop writing and never stop sending material out. Write and keep writing. And keep trying to get published. If a story is on the shelf it isn't writing. Whatever you've written isn't complete without a reader.

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  • 9

    Interview: Oct 2nd, 2005

    Robert Jordan

    For Brent Ross, getting an agent isn't expensive. An agent makes his or her money from taking a commission on what your work is sold for and earns. Agents who want reading fees and the like are to be distrusted, in my book. You really need an agent, though, if you want to sell your work, short fiction aside. I don't know of a major publishing house that will even look at unagented submissions any more.

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  • 10

    Interview: Nov 8th, 2008

    Alex C. Telander

    Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, yeah, a couple things. First one is, read a lot. Read a lot in the genre you want to be published in. If you want to write short stories, read short stories. If you want to write novels, read novels. Read in the genre, but also read widely. But nothing is more frustrating than someone who says "I want to publish fantasy novels" who's never read any. Find out what other people are doing that's exciting and try and add something to it.

    The other thing is, just write. Know that you don't have to be perfect when you start. Nobody sits down and expects to be able to play the piano the first time. But a lot of writers, it seems, get frustrated when they try to write their first book that it's not capturing the vision in their head. So, don't be afraid to be bad at it long enough to get good at it. Just sit down and start writing. Turn off your internal editor. Understand that your first book's not going to be very good and that's just fine. Practice writing it 'cause that's how you learn to write. Do it consistently. Set a time every day or every week where you write. Consistently keep that goal. Work on your books. Don't let yourself write a first chapter, throw it away and write another one, and then throw it away and write another one. Force yourself to finish.

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  • 11

    Interview: Oct 21st, 1994

    AOL Chat 2 (Verbatim)

    Question

    I would like to become a writer in the future. How do you suggest I get started?

    Robert Jordan

    By writing.

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  • 12

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2009

    Patrick

    Who do you contact to PUBLISH a book?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I don't know if I can really cover that one in this particular response. It's a big topic. The short answer, however, is to follow these steps. 1) Write the book. 2) Research publishers based on those who publish books in that genre. Look for publishers who publish books with similar themes and tropes as your own. Then, research those publishers, find out their submission guidelines, and submit to them. Also, you may want to consider researching agents and submitting to them. Be careful; there are a lot of disreputable agents out there. Be looking for agents (and publishers) who do not charge a reading fee, and who represent authors you've heard of. A quick rule of thumb is that if an agent (or their umbrella agency) has not sold a book by a newer author to a major publisher in the last year or two, they probably aren't worth your time. If you want to learn more, head over to my podcast at WritingExcuses.com and listen to the several podcasts we've done with editors.

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  • 13

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2009

    Patrick

    How does an author eventually get paid for his work? Is it based upon a royalty fee? (Like . . . 50 cents/book sold?) Or is it a one-time payment, . . . just curious.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Usually, it's via an advance against royalties. In other words, you get a chunk of money up front, then earn a percentage off of each book sold. You don't see any of the royalty money until you've earned back the advance money. That can be a long time or a short time, depending on the advance size and the books sold. Once the money you earn off of each book sold adds up to the advance money, you start earning further royalties.

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  • 14

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2009

    Patrick

    If you were advising a budding writer about the career path . . . how would you tell them to start out?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Write and read. A lot. Don't worry about publishing at first—spend a few years just writing. Discover if this is something you enjoy spending long periods of time doing, and see if you have the ability to make good habits and write consistently.

    Writers have to be self-motivated, and you can't be in it for the money. If you want to make piles of cash, go into programming or web design. Writers should write because they absolutely love it, and are willing to work long hours for potentially no pay just for the experience of writing. That isn't to say you can't make money at this; but in most cases, the money will be slow coming, and you will spend years writing before you are able to make a living at it.

    Every person's experience is different, but I wrote 13 novels across nearly ten years before I sold one. The best thing you can do starting off, in my opinion, is give yourself two or three years to just WRITE and practice. Read good books on writing (Stephen King's is quite good) and read widely, looking for examples of good fiction that you admire within your genre, but also looking outside the genre to see what other writers are doing well. Try to incorporate that into your own writing, learning the craft and adapting what you learn to your own style. But mostly just write. A lot.

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  • 15

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2009

    Patrick

    How do you know if it is the write career path? (I'm nervous.)

    Brandon Sanderson

    If you spend two or three years writing, and at the end of it have produced a novel or two, that's a good clue. If you can't see yourself doing anything else, if you know you'd keep writing books no matter what happens—even if you never sell a single one—then you know this is the career for you.

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  • 16

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    Clippership14

    Also just some technical questions—did you get noticed from JABberwocky from a cold-query or did you have connections?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Originally, I queried. I got turned down. I then met Joshua at the Nebula awards and he told me to query again. That time, he liked the query and read sample chapters—then rejected those, but told me to submit to him what I wrote next. That happened a number of times, each book getting a rejection—but stronger encouragement that I was getting closer.

    Clippership14

    What was the journey like when you first sought publication?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Long, frustrating, and difficult. I wrote 13 novels before I sold Elantris, which was my sixth. The big change for me happened when I managed to figure out how to revise. I always had good ideas and got better and better at storytelling. But it was the power of revision that finally got me published.

    Clippership14

    How long did it take?

    Brandon Sanderson

    About eight years of dedicated writing and being rejected.

    Clippership14

    I'd wager not long, considering how well written Elantris is. =)

    Brandon Sanderson

    You're too kind. But remember that it was my sixth book. The first ones were dreadful.

    Clippership14

    Are you comfortable working with editors and marketing people by now?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, actually. I've always been very comfortable with that part of the job. I think that after working so long on my own, being ignored, I was just finally happy to HAVE editors and marketing people.

    Clippership14

    What is the best part about promoting your books? (in your opinion)

    Brandon Sanderson

    Easy. Meeting my readers and having the chance to thank them, in person, for supporting me in my writing addiction.

    Clippership14

    As a writer, what's your favorite part of the process?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The first few chapters of a new book. When the world is exciting and new, and I get to do something different and challenging.

    Clippership14

    Do you have a "drawer-full" of ideas waiting to be put to paper?

    Brandon Sanderson

    More like a brain-full, but yes. It's particularly bad now as I had to shelve a number of projects I was working on in order to do the WoT. I don't regret it at all, but those stories keep pounding on the inside of my skull, yelling and begging for me to let them out.

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  • 17

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    MarlonRand

    Finally, do you have any advice for people that would like to write for a living?

    Brandon Sanderson

    First and foremost, don't give up. It can take a while. It takes time to master anything—whether it be writing, playing the piano, or brain surgery. People are willing to dedicate eight years or more to becoming a doctor. If you really want to be a writer, you need to be willing to dedicate the same amount of time and effort. Practice. Practice some more. Write a book, then write another, then write another. (I didn't sell my first, or my second, or my fifth. Elantris was my sixth book.)

    Secondly, write what you love. Don't try and guess the market. Read the type of books you want to write, pay attention to what they do, and decide what it is you want to say and how you will add to the discussion. What makes your additions to the conversation unique? Write it because you feel it inside of you, not because it's what seems to be hot right now.

    Finally, if I may make a plug, hop over to writingexcuses.com and listen to me and the others on our writing podcast talk about this sort of thing. ;)

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  • 18

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    GypsyKylara

    My question is about writing, kind of.

    As an author, you have achieved moderate success. People like you and have heard of you within the genre and you have established a relationship with your publishing company that lets you get a lot of books published.

    This is the level of success I want as a writer and I am just wondering how financially viable this is. Like, can you write only or do you need a so-called day job? Are you able to support your family with your writing alone? That kind of thing.

    Sorry if that is kind of a personal question. I've just always wondered how much money a writer makes once they've "made it".

    Brandon Sanderson

    I had a lot of questions like this myself during my days trying to break in. Everyone told me it wasn't possible to make a living as a writer—that, like an actor or a musician, I'd spend my life poor and obscure.

    One of the big turning points came when I met and talked to a professional writer who had had modest success. Not a huge name, but a person who had done what you hope to do. Publish a book every year, never be a household name, but well-known enough in-genre that a large portion of the readers had seen his books on the shelves, though many still had no idea who he was. (The author was David Farland, by the way.)

    I wish I could give you that same experience, though it's going to be harder while not face to face. The main tone of the meeting and his encouragement was this: IT IS POSSIBLE and YOU CAN DO IT!

    Not everyone can make a living at writing. But it's very within reach, and for the dedicated author willing to practice and learn, it's not as difficult to make a living as many make it out to be.

    I do make a living full time at this, and have for several years now. In the early years, it wasn't what many would call a 'good' income, but it was enough for me. Now, it is an excellent income. Not "Fly to Europe every week" income, but certainly "Take your friends out to eat once in a while" income.

    A standard royalty for an author would be to 10-15% on a hardcover, and around 8% on a paperback. Usually, the percentage gets better the more copies you sell.

    Now, books don't sell the huge numbers that people usually think they do. If you sell 2k hardcover copies in your first week, you can get on the NYT list. (Though it's not certain—it depends on what week it is and what other books came out. 3k is a pretty sure bet, though.)

    Elantris—an obscure, but successful, book—sold about 10k copies in hardcover and around 14k copies its first year in paperback. I've actually sold increasing numbers each year in paperback, as I've become more well-known. But even if you pretend that I didn't, and this is what I'd earn on every book, you can see that for the dedicated writer, this could be viable as an income. About $3 per book hardcover and about $.60 paperback gets us around 39k income off the book. Minus agent fees and self-employment tax, that starts to look rather small. (Just under 30k). But you could live on that, if you had to. (Remember you can live anywhere you want as a writer, so you can pick someplace cheap.)

    I'd consider 30k a year to do what I love an extremely good trade-off. Yes, your friends in computers will be making far more. But you get to be a writer.

    The only caveat here is that I did indeed get very lucky with my placement at Tor. It's the successful hardcover release that makes the above scenario work. If you only had the paperback, and everyone who bought the hardcover bought that instead, you'd have to be selling around 60k copies to make it work. That's very possible, and I know a lot of midlist writers who do it.

    Anyway, numbers shouldn't be what gets you into this business. If you have to tell stories, tell them. To be a writer, I feel you need to have such a love of the process that you'd write those books even if you never sold one. It's not about the money, and really shouldn't be. (And sorry to go on so long. I just feel it important to give aspiring writers the same kinds of help that I got.)

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  • 19

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    Nelsmom

    Welcome and it is great to know that you live not too far from me. My question is this. I know that Orson Scott Card taught some Comparative Science Fiction class at BYU. Did you every take it and if so how much influence did it have on your wanting to write? I have enjoyed all of your books and at family gatherings they do get discussed.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I actually never got to take a class from Mr. Card, though I have enjoyed his books quite a bit. From what I hear, he has excellent advice for writers, but he wasn't teaching any classes at BYU when I was there. I did take a class from David Farland, which was extremely helpful. By then I was already a very dedicated writer (I had just finished Elantris) but didn't know much about the business at all. Mr. Farland's class taught me a lot about the nuts and bolts of getting published, and one could say that I owe my eventual publication—and a lot of my success—to what he taught and how helpful he was in how he taught it. Excellent person and writer.

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  • 20

    Interview: Oct 27th, 2009

    Katie

    Why did you choose to be so open with your writing process?

    Katie

    It's because when I was trying to break into this business and learn to be a writer, the whole process seemed opaque to me. And I think that's because I was doing it before the era of the Internet really hit and now that we have this opportunity I figure I'll throw it out there and maybe what I'm talking about will really help other writers who are aspiring. And also on the other end of it, it gets a little frustrating waiting for books to come out and you never know what's going to happen and you never know what's going on. I figure with the Internet we have such a great opportunity to keep people in the loop to let people know what's going on. We don't have to be so shadowed anymore, so I want to make as best use of it as I can.

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  • 21

    Interview: Nov 7th, 2009

    Brandon Sanderson

    Brandon's advice to writers:
    —Network. Go to where the editors are, learn names. He describes himself as gregarious.
    —Write compulsively. Be able to send things out constantly, not every editor will like everything you write.
    —His advice isn't a "silver bullet" of getting published, but he says to "keep at it."

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  • 22

    Interview: Feb 12th, 2010

    Brandon Sanderson

    Advice for writers: I would say, practice a lot. Remember that you're gonna to have to practice on this. And it's advice no one really told me when I was wanting to break in. I thought you just wrote a book and then you sold it. And sure, that happens to people sometimes. But for most of us, learning to write a book is like learning to play the piano. When you first start, you're not very good. And just like you wouldn't record your first piano sessions and sell them, your first attempts at stories are probably not going to be worth selling. That doesn't mean they aren't worth writing. They are worth writing. But just keep in your mind, it's all right to practice for a while and spend some time really turning yourself into a writer.

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  • 23

    Interview: Nov 2nd, 2010

    Brandon Sanderson

    Brandon's main piece of advice was to write, no matter what, just find something and write about it. If you're stuck in the middle of writing a scene and feel like you can't finish, have some ninjas attack. Write something, and don't be afraid to throw it out. The important thing is that you're writing. He also said not to look back. Don't keep rereading and changing what you've already written. That is the path that leads to never finishing anything. Finish first, then go back and polish. Even if you end up rewriting half your work, at least you finished. Interestingly enough this was actually a really popular question through the night.

    Yes we got Wheel of Time questions like the usual "Who killed Asmodean?" or "What happens if a person gets balefired in the World of Dreams?" However we also got a lot of aspiring writers there looking for advice on how to get going. Brandon was always happy to answer any question, even if it was with the dreaded RAFO card. But the questions about advice on how to get writing seemed to really resonate with him, as fans of his Writing Excuses podcast would probably tell you is not surprising.

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  • 24

    Interview: Nov 14th, 2008

    Question

    How do you find an agent?

    Brandon Sanderson

    One way is to go to awards ceremonies or writing conventions, such as WorldCon. Brandon stated he met his agent while he was attending the Nebula Awards in NY. He was at a bar, drinking sprite, and talked to someone nearby who happened to be Jim Mintz, an editor at Tor, and also met his agent, Moshe Feder (who was at the signing as well).

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  • 25

    Interview: Dec 23rd, 2010

    Scott Wilson

    What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A couple things. Start working on something new while you're submitting what you've finished. That would be my number one rule—always be working on something new. Don't depend too much on just one story. Secondly, do more research than just getting out the Writer's Market book, looking up what publishers publish, and submitting to them. Instead, actually take some time to learn about those publishers. If you can, find out the names of the editors who work there, read their blogs, find out who they are and what authors they've worked on. Try to really understand the vision of every publishing imprint, and figure out what it is that they like and try to match your books to their books. Make sure you're reading their books and finding the ones that are the best matches. But other than that, just keep on going.

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  • 26

    Interview: Sep, 2011

    Leigh Butler

    Are you still teaching creative writing at Brigham Young University?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, I am. I teach an upper division class on how to write fantasy and science fiction one night a week, one class a year. It's an evening class, and I do it partially for fun and partially to give something back to the community. I took this class when I was at BYU, and it was very helpful to me in getting published and coming to understand the industry. And so when it looked like the class might end up getting canceled, I said I would teach it.

    I think there's a lot of useful stuff you can learn in a class taught by someone who does the work professionally. You can't learn strictly from academics. Academics teach a lot of great things, I learned a lot of things in my creative writing classes, but someone who's in the real world as a writer can tell you things that an academic can't, so I think it's very useful for new writers to get both perspectives.

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  • 27

    Interview: Aug 4th, 2011

    Question

    I have a question for both of you: with your writing, what is the most difficult thing and has it evolved as you've grown?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Most difficult for me was to learn how to revise. I was not a natural reviser, and my books didn't start getting to publishable level until I learned actually how to do that. I didn't know how to take something good and make it better.

    Peter Orullian

    You know, I would say a lot the same. The other thing for me, early on was realizing that it's like any other thing that you do, that you have to practice. If you're a musician, you don't just sit down and play a concerto, and it's okay to do things badly. I like to tell people that you need to dare to fail spectacularly. I was told early on: don't try and write great big epic stuff. Don't try to write best— because bestsellers, when you get into the depths of publishing, 'bestseller' exists as its own genre. There are elements of what make a bestseller. And I've been told: don't try and write that kind of a book. And I ignored all of that. And what it meant was, I wrote a lot of stuff that I threw away. And that was the other thing that I learned: it's okay. You can write stuff and put it away. I think it's Heinlen that said, "The first million words don't count." It's all practice.

    Brandon Sanderson

    He just gave you very, very good advice.

    Peter Orullian

    So write a million words and then it's okay to feel like you should be publishing something. Till you hit a million words, it's okay.

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  • 28

    Interview: Aug 4th, 2011

    Question

    Your class that you teach at BYU, can you tell us more about it, like writing, when do you teach it...

    Brandon Sanderson

    I teach it Thursday nights, one night a week, for three hours. It is half-lecture, half-workshop, so, an hour and a half (supposedly) of lecture (it goes long sometimes) and an hour and a half of workshopping. It... you can get most everything I lecture by listening to Writing Excuses, which if you haven't listened to, is my podcast. I cover a lot of it on there, but it's just, you know. I do a lecture on magic systems. I do a lecture on sympathetic characters. I do a lecture on plotting and my goal is just to give you a bunch of tools that a bunch of different writers use, and to just say, "here is how they do it, you can try these different tools and see what works for you" because not every tool is going to work for every writer. In fact, a lot of writers have opposite processes from one another for accomplishing the same goals.

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  • 29

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    staircasewit ()

    I am in the same position you might have been ten-ish years ago. I have several fantasy novels under my belt. I don’t feel like I’m good enough to be published yet, though that is the dream. Do you have a recommendation as to when I should start sending stuff out? After I finish college? When I’ve written a million words (I’m chugging along at around 550,000 at the moment)? After I’ve written a book that’s at least a “7” on the scale of awesome that runs from zero to Knife of Dreams?

    Brandon Sanderson

    If you have finished several novels, then it's time to go ahead and start sending things out. Many artists never quite feel that we're ready--we feel that the next book will be better, and we should wait until that one is done.

    My suggestion: Take your most recent book, sit on it for six months while you work on something else. Then either workshop the book you set aside (if you like to workshop) or do one last draft. Then start sending it out. The worst that will happen is it will get rejected. Keep sending it out until you have gone to all of the major publishers, then decide if you want to go to the small presses.)

    (Note, this is advice to those who prefer to publish traditionally, which I still think is viable. However, self publishing is also quite viable these days. I'll probably talk about that in another reply.) Also, keep in mind doing research about publishers, not just sending blindly. (I'll probably talk about this elsewhere too.)

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  • 30

    Interview: Nov 30th, 2009

    David Lenberg

    Yeah, yeah, I got it. Brandon, thank you. So if someone is in high school or college, a person in their teens or twenties, and they think they might want to be a writer but they don't know how to begin or are concerned about the effort, you know, any of the concerns people have, what is your guidance?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Number one, and most important, is just to keep doing it. Make good habits. Set aside a time, at least once a week, where you can spend some time writing and working on your craft. And don't worry about publishing. In fact, don't be afraid of being bad at it. A lot of people who begin writing, they assume because they've been taught writing, how to write, the actual physical mechanics of it, that storytelling will come to them naturally. And it will over time, but it's as hard to learn as maybe learning to play the piano or something like this. And most people don't expect to sit down and play the piano beautifully their first try. And in the same way, most people who sit down to write books aren't great their first try. So just remember to learn to fall in love with the process. I do have a podcast about writing. It's called Writing Excuses. You can go there and listen in, I've got some advice there. You can find that also linked through my website, brandonsanderson.com.

    And Warbreaker, which we talked about, actually I released into the creative commons. When I published the hardcover, I released an electronic copy for free. So you can go to my website and actually download the PDF of Warbreaker completely for free to give a try if you want to try out my work and see what kind of writing I do.

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  • 31

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    Dreamer129

    Are there any useful exercises you could give to a writer who's trying to improve their technique? I've heard the one about four different people describing the same place, but I was wondering if you had any other good ones.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Try to describe an extended scene, with various things happening, four different times, once with a focus on visuals, once on scents, once using touch, once using sounds. See if you can evoke a different feel each time, using the same scene but different senses.

    Practice both discovery writing and outline writing. Meaning, practice writing stories where you just go off on whatever strikes you, and practice writing a story where you spend a lot of time on an outline. Try to figure out which method works best for you when trying a specific type of story, and perhaps try some hybrids. Anything that helps you write better stories more regularly is a tool to keep practicing.

    Try a dialogue scene, where you try to evoke character and setting using ONLY dialogue. No descriptions allowed. (This is best when you're focused on making the characters each distinct simply through how they talk.)

    Finally, listen to Writing Excuses. ;)

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  • 32

    Interview: Nov 21st, 2011

    Question

    Can you give any advice to fantasy writers on creating magic systems?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The most important thing about a magic system is what it can’t do, not what it can. The limitations of a magic system are commonly what drives the plot in a fantasy novel. One novel I’m working on involves a magic system where individually, people don’t have enough magic to do anything major. However, you can give your magic to someone else, and if you can get around 50 people’s magic, then you can do something interesting. But giving away your magic makes your world that bit darker. In such a world, it doesn’t actually matter then what the magic does; it’s more about whether you choose to sell yours or try and get someone else’s.

    The second point is to consider how the magic system interacts with the setting. How does it affect the economics, social structures, and religious make-up of the world? For example, in the Wheel of Time, the clear gender difference in the magic—men go mad and women don’t—has affected the whole pattern of gender relations in the world in ways that can seem very bizarre to us. It’s also important to give magic a visual or sensory component. It’s tempting to have all the magic played out in the minds of the mages, but this can be boring to read.

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  • 33

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    Manmark ()

    Do you feel any sort of writer's block while writing, and what do you do to rekindle your inspiration?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This post answers some of it. Basically, the best way for me to rekindle inspiration is to write a scene poorly and throw it away. That gets my mind working on how to actually fix the problem. Writer's block almost always goes away after I've tried a scene in a couple of different ways, sometimes from different perspectives, sometimes with wildly different 'takes' on the scene. I try to shake things up in a few of the takes.

    If that doesn't work, then I look back and see if there's a fundamental problem with one of the characters. That's often how it is, as I 'grow' my characters. (I plan in detail plots and worlds, but let my characters develop in a more natural way.)

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  • 34

    Interview: Jan 21st, 2003

    Sonne

    Naturally, many of Robert Jordan’s most loyal fans are writers. One such fan asked Jordan advice on writing and keeping up a pace.

    Robert Jordan

    The author suggested setting a daily goal. He said that even if you only write one page per day, you will have 365 pages in one year, and that could be a novel. (I was quick to realize that 365 pages by Robert Jordan, however, would hardly qualify as more than a teaser!)

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  • 35

    Interview: Jan 21st, 2003

    Sonne

    RJ also gave me some career advice. Careful not to offend him or imply that his wife is not an adequate editor, I asked if he had any advice for me, a wannabe Assistant Editor.

    Robert Jordan

    The Creator himself merely chuckled and admitted that he mostly tries avoiding New York City and those types, as he hates attending cocktail parties and other dreary social functions! However, he then encouraged me to keep writing, and submit manuscripts. He was pretty adamant about that.

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  • 36

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    douchebag karren ()

    What advice would you give to less successful, or unpublished writers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Write. I wrote thirteen books before I sold one. I'll bet you can do better than that. Just keep at it. The only way to improve is to practice. Treat your early writing like a pianist, learning to play scales. Don't think of it as work you have to sell, think of it as your practice jam sessions where you get your feet underneath you. Don't stress too much if it doesn't go as you want. You'll learn.

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  • 37

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    Thomas Dare ()

    As an aspiring writer I love picking the brain of published authors. My question to you is, how much do you outline before you begin writing? I've read some interviews where some authors, (Stephen King for example) does it all in his head and then writes from what he remembers, then others seem to outline almost every detail and then fill in the dialogue as they go. Do you lean one way or the other, or are you completely different in how you approach the pre-writing preparation? Thanks so much.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I've answered this several places. Here is one of them. If you search for "outline" and "discovery" you'll find some other things I've said. However, on a scale of Outline to No Outline my worlds are on the far left, my plots in the middle, and my characters on the right.

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  • 38

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    FallingSnowAngel ()

    How can a writer with a good book make connections with publishers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Easiest way in sf/f is to attend conventions—World Fantasy convention, which is professionally oriented, being the best. Worldcon is good too, as is the Nebula Weekend.

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  • 39

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    terron james ()

    I am a fellow local author and my first novel just debuted on July 31, 2011. Would you consider me as a candidate for your podcast? If so, how do I go about setting up the air-time?

    Also, what avenues have you found to be most successful for promoting your personal writings?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Send me an email. I'd be happy to consider you. We record in batches, these days, because we need to fly Mary out to join us. Next batch is in November.

    I found the best promotion was to visit bookstores, meet with their science fiction or fantasy reader on staff, and give them a free book. Other than that, writing great books, trying to have an active website, and avoiding the 'pushy' self-promotion methods such as thread hijacking or the like.

    terron james

    I suppose I should probably post a link to myself so you know who I am... TerronJames

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    The only self-published person we've had on was Larry Correia, and that was after he had a book deal (I think) so it might be good to have you on and talk about the self-publishing process. I'll have to run it by the others. Can you send me a digital copy to look over?

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  • 40

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    grumbaut ()

    You've mentioned how you spent years honing your craft, essentially writing dozens of books before getting published. During this time, did you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, how did you overcome your self-doubt?

    I'm an aspiring writer, and one of my biggest struggles is silencing my internal editor (who tends to be very loud).

    Brandon Sanderson

    My biggest crisis came when I felt that none of my books were ever going to sell because of several things.

    1) Editors were telling me I was too long. 2) Editors were telling me epic fantasy by new authors no longer sold well. (Early 2000's, after Newcomb failed.) 3) Editors were telling me to be more gritty and low magic, like GRRM.

    I tried a few books in an attempt to 'conform to the market' whatever that means. (For me, it was shorter books, without an epic feel, with dark, gritty, 'realistic' characters that were anti-heroes.) I failed big time. The books were very bad.

    That's when I almost gave up. Nobody wanted what I wrote, and I couldn't write what I wanted. That was when I decided, one night, that I was going to just stop caring. I decided to disobey everything editors were telling me and write the biggest, most epic, most awesome book after my own 'style' that I could.

    That turned out to be The Way of Kings. (Twice as long as the books editors were telling me were 'too long.') Right after finishing it, before sending it anywhere, I got a call from an editor wanting to buy Elantris (one of the books I'd written before trying to conform.)

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  • 41

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2011

    Reddit AMA 2011 (Verbatim)

    Trevor Moeller ()

    If you could give any advice to someone starting out in the writing world what would it be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Write, write, write. Keep practicing. There's advice like that sprinkled all thorough this AMA. Like here.

    Really, just keep at it. Practice, practice, practice. Second, learn the business. If you intend to self publish, learn the real ins and outs of it. Don't just do it. If you intend to traditionally publish, learn not just the publishers, but the names of the editors at the publishing houses and what they personally worked on. (Even better, authors they discovered.)

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  • 42

    Interview: Dec 5th, 2011

    Helen Lowe

    Well, in terms of doing what feels right, your creative output since Elantris was published in 2005 has been very high, including not only seven novels in your own right but also completing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, with a two further books published in that series. So I have to ask: how do you do it? (And can I bottle the formula?!)

    Brandon Sanderson

    One of the things that you have to remember is that I wrote Elantris back in 2000, so I have a much bigger head start than it looks like. I sold Elantris in 2003, and had all of 2003 up through a big part of 2006 to write the Mistborn trilogy before the first book of that came out. So what you're seeing is my big head start that I had by having that book already done, then launching right into the trilogy.

    I don't think I write faster than any other fantasy writers, but I do write a lot. I love to do it; I spend a lot of time doing it, and it's one of my favorite things to do, to tell these stories. So if you want to bottle it, all you really do is spend ten hours a day writing, and boom, you've got it.

    But it does look more impressive than it really is, because I have those extra years. A lot of the years where I had two books come out, I had written one much earlier and the other I wrote the year before. My popularity has made my publishers start increasing the publication schedule of some of my books, so you get overlap—a book I wrote long before and then a book I've recently turned in come out at the same time, because when I turn in the new book they want to publish it as soon as I can. So that's why this year, for instance, we only have one book—The Alloy of Law—and it's a very short book. That's because the publication schedule finally caught up to me.

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  • 43

    Interview: Nov, 2009

    Interviewer

    Do you have any advice for any young writers out there who are trying to follow in your footsteps?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. The reason I wrote so many books before I got published was not because I was a terrible writer, though at the beginning I was. It was because I loved writing, and I didn't want to stop writing to go do all this marketing stuff. And I think that actually helped me, because I got to spend a lot of time playing with my style and deciding what my impact on the genre would be. And it also taught me that even if I never got published, I would keep doing this for the rest of my life. I'd be writing a book every year. No matter what job I ended up in, that was just what I was going to do.

    And so, if you don't love writing to that extent, it's going to be much harder for you to break in. And so I say, build good habits, write what you love. And make sure that you enjoy the process. Enjoy the busy work parts of it. I went to school freshman year as a chemist. I only changed to English when my sophomore year began. And one of the reasons I made the change is that the busy work part of chemistry, I didn't enjoy. While the busy work part of writing, I loved. So, love it. And then keep at it. Don't give up, just keep going.

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  • 44

    Interview: Jun 11th, 2007

    Andris Parshall

    I'm intrigued by the description of online interactions with fans. Readers have to accept the premises of a particular novel's fantasy world in order to get inside the story. Yet it seems that some are just as willing to attach themselves to that world from the outside, judging by Brandon's investment in drafts and annotations and showing readers how it's done. I've attended a few conferences with publishing authors (fiction and nonfiction), and a standard audience question is "How do I get started?" For anyone who is genuinely, seriously interested in writing, not in merely being a writer, this online interaction must be a motherlode of insight.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I hope it's all useful, though I worry that people trying to break in can find TOO MUCH information and help. The thing is, there are lots of ways of doing things, and we writers have a habit of talking about our way as if it were the only way. I was allowed to discover what worked for me working mostly in seclusion for my first decade or so of writing (counting from Jr. High age.) I've met writers who think they have to do things one way, but who have never tried other methods that might have worked far better for them.

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  • 45

    Interview: Dec 17th, 2011

    Question

    Another person came and said that he often would write bits and pieces of writing, but then find that he can't write any more.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Brandon said that it probably came from one of three causes. One, That the story just doesn't have enough ideas in it. He suggested making three characters who are complex who all follow the same storyline. When you get tired of writing one, than switch POVs. Two, that he's just stopping when it gets hard, which is most common. He suggests that the cure for this is just writing. Three, (and he said this is usually the problem for older writers) they know that they are writing crappy stuff. Brandon said, that's just fine. He says that he wrote 13 books before he was published. It takes time to get good.

    He compared the last one to a pianist. Just like there are many levels of pianists, there are many levels of writers. He asked the writer-to-be how long it takes to tell how good a pianist is. The writer-to-be said usually withing a few seconds. Brandon then said that a publisher can tell almost as quickly. When they reject books while only reading the first few pages, they aren't saying no to the book, they're saying that the writer isn't good enough yet.

    The secret, he said, to publishing is practice. When you spend your time drilling, writing every day, just like doing piano exercices, you become better and better. Lots of books are being rejected every day. But once you become a master writer, your odds skyrocket.

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  • 46

    Interview: Dec 15th, 2011

    Question

    One thing I really liked on your books is that you’ve reinvented a lot of fantasy tropes in a lot of good ways. But you also are inspired by some literary works, you’ve mentioned Les Miserables, which is a fantastic novel. So I was just wondering if what advice would you have for people in terms of speculative fiction and literary works?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, advice for drawing. We did a writing excuses podcast on this, so you can go look up those, “How to be influenced consciously.” But boy. Read good stuff, and start to think about why it’s good. It’s going to help you. I don’t know if I can specifically tell you anything other than that, but read it, decide what ‘s working for you, and try to use that, try to feel. But remember to feel what they did, not what they did. Meaning, here’s a good example. You read Tolkein. You say “Wow”. What Tolkein did wasn’t creating Elves and Dwarves. What Tolkein did was create an interesting mythology that was well interconnected. And a lot of people will say well, I want to learn from Tolkein, so I will use what he did, and they don’t dig that level deeper. They say “Well, I’m going to use the elves and dwarves.” They don’t say “What is it that he did the level down that really made this work?” And that’s what you should be emulating. So when you read the classics, say “What’s making it work?” Try to dig the level deeper if that makes sense.

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  • 47

    Interview: Sep 7th, 2009

    Christian Lindke

    Well, I think that I'd like to start at the beginning and then come to more recent projects that you've been working on and that's to look a little bit at how you came to be a published science fiction/fantasy author. I did not mention this in your introduction, but you did initially study writing in college and worked long and hard to become a writer. If you could describe that process for us, the process of getting your first novel, Elantris, published.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Alright. It's funny because Elantris...it's my first published novel; it's not actually my first novel. The story starts quite a long time before that, and the longer I've been in this business, the more I've found that this seems to be the rule rather than the exception. A lot of writers spend years and years writing books before they get published. Elantris was my sixth novel, and my story starts like a lot of stories, with an ignorant kid who enjoyed telling stories and writing books and having no idea really what he was really doing.

    I went to college my freshman year as a biochemistry major, actually, partially at my parent's encouraging, because 'authors don't make money' was the conventional wisdom, which a lot of us hear, and so I was going to be a doctor, which was, you know, the wrong place for me. But, I was under the impression—I had no idea how to do this writing thing, and even taking a few creative writing classes...they don't really talk about the business side of things, the actual 'how do you do this; how do you break in'—and so I was completely ignorant.

    My sophomore year, I realized after one year of trying hard at the biochemistry that I loved the concepts and I was terrible at the busywork; in fact I dreaded the busywork, and if you dread the busywork—the day-to-day work that you are going to have to do in a career—that's probably not the right career for you, whereas with writing, I loved the busywork, the busywork of just working on new stories and plugging away at them, and so I changed to English cause I thought that's what you had to do. I didn't actually know what you had to do—I had no clue—but I figured that was a good place to start. So I changed my major to English and just started going.

    One of the things I did—which I think was actually the smartest thing I did at the time—was get a job where I could write while I was at work; it was a desk job at a hotel minding the desk overnight, with the boss telling me during the interview, "Yeah, as long as you stay awake we don't mind...we don't care what you do. Between about midnight and five all we really want is to have someone there in case the building burns down, or in case someone calls and wants towels." It was actually required by the Best Western rules that they have someone on desk, so it was actually perfect for me, and I spent five years working that job, going to school during day, then sleeping in the evenings, and then going to work overnight, and writing all night. It was a wonderful experience. It was kinda was like my own little writers' enclave where I was able to practice my art and try different things, and ignorantly I had the advantage of not knowing how bad I was when I began. This is something I've noticed with authors: When you get going when you're younger, you are don't how terrible you are as a writer, and that's a good thing. Older writers a lot of times will be very critical of themselves, because they've read so much and they have so much more experience with writing that when they start working on their works, it's sometimes very hard for them. They aren't willing to...or it's too hard for them to suck at it long enough to become good at it, so to speak. I didn't have that problem because I had no clue how bad I was.

    And I am...like I said, I did that for five years: writing books and slowly, very slowly, learning about the business, realizing how you have to submit manuscripts, realizing where to...how to go about creating a query letter, and these sorts of things. And the real breakthrough, it came my senior year—I took quite a number of years to get through college; I think it was five at the end—so I guess it would be after four years, during my fourth year of writing books at the graveyard shift, I took a class from a published author who had come in to just teach couple of classes for the fun of it—it was actually David Farland, who is a fantasy writer who is local to my area—and what he talked about was the business aspect of it, the real nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of this industry, which nobody tells you about. You never find out about, in most of your creative writing classes—which, you know, they're great classes; they'll talk to you a lot about the craft of writing, and maybe the art of writing, but they won't tell you about the business—and it was because of him that I realized, "Wow," you know, "if I want to get published, one of the things I'm gonna have to do is network," and I never realized that networking would be important for an author. But who you know, the editors you know, that sort of thing, can help you out a lot. And so I started attending the conventions—[?] the literary conventions. And so, WorldCon, World Fantasy Convention, NASFIC...some of these things that you can go to, and editors will attend, and you can hear advice from them, you can meet them, and that sort of thing.

    So I started doing that. It's not a silver bullet; it won't get everyone published, but what it does is it partially trained me to think like a professional, and partially allowed me to get advice from people who really knew what they were doing. I spent...oh, three years, four years doing that, eventually graduated with my bachelor's degree, having no idea what to do with it, because I wasn't really prepared for anything by it except for writing books, so I applied to a bunch of MFA programs, got turned down from all of them—they didn't really appreciate [?] fantasy novels—and the next year I applied to a whole bunch more, got into a master's degree—not an MFA—at BYU where I had attended my undergraduate, and got rejected from everywhere else, and so happily went to get that master's degree, partially as a stalling tactic, to be perfectly honest. My dad was dreadfully afraid that, you know, that their poor son was going to be a hobo, and "Oh, why didn't he go into being a doctor like we told him", and so I went back to school to appease them and to stall my life and, you know, to stall myself, give me a few more years to work on it.

    And about a year into it, Elantris—which had been my sixth book, as I said—I finally got a call back from an editor that I'd met at World Fantasy Convention, I think in 2003, that I got the call back. It was eighteen months after I'd submitted it. Actually, I had given up on the submission. It was the Tor, whom I love; it's a publisher I wanted to be with. I was a big fan of the Wheel of Time books; I wanted to be with that same publisher, but Tor is also notorious for having an enormous slush pile, and things get lost into that void fairly frequently. They are one of the few publishers out there who will take manuscripts from unknowns, which opens the floodgates to tons of manuscripts coming in, and they do their best with it, but they get easily overwhelmed. I had sent to them before, and I never heard back, and so this time I assumed I would never hear back, [?] in person. And then I got a voicemail one morning; got up, and checked my voicemail, and lo and behold, there was an editor in New York, Moshe Feder, who left me a voicemail that said something along these lines: "Hello; I hope this is the right Brandon Sanderson, because you submitted me a book eighteen months ago, and now it's been so long that your email address is bouncing, your snail-mail address isn't good any more, and your phone number's changed, so we're not sure how to get ahold of you, but we googled you, we got a grad student page at BYU. We assume this is the right person; if it is, call us back, because we want to buy your book." And that's how it happened. I guess the moral of this story is: leave a forwarding address, if you are sending manuscripts off to publishers in New York.

    But, it just happened from there, and the years that I spent as an unpublished writer really—just practicing my craft and not worrying about publishing—served me really well. Elantris is by no means the greatest fantasy book ever written, but I do think that I was able to hit the ground running, so to speak, because it wasn't my first novel. It doesn't, I hope, in many respects read like a first novel; I had five other books under my belt by that time, and I got a lot of my terrible ideas and terrible storytelling out of the way, and so I was very aware of what I wanted to do as an author, and where I wanted to make my statement and how I wanted to add to the genre. All of these things, I had...right then, I knew what I was doing as soon as I sold, so I was able to be focused a little more, I think.

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  • 48

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    starrylites

    When working with new characters, how do you keep their voices straight in the early writing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It can be hard. I often have to rewrite my first chapters after the book is finished. Practice by having four very different character ride through the same town, but see very different things.

    starrylites

    Thanks, Brandon! I think I"m going to have to do just that on my currently project; having character meshing problems.

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  • 49

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    ren833

    What is the most important part of writing that you have learned to be a successful author?

    Brandon Sanderson

    1) Persistence. 2) Revision. 3) Characters with distinct viewpoints. 4) Use of concrete detail.

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  • 50

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    mysterylover12

    Where do you get your inspiration? I always have trouble finding things to write about.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It’s different for everyone. From me, history books help a lot. Try a favorite movie, then at a pivotal point, ask what would happen if it had gone the opposite way.

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  • 51

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    bcpeterson

    What advice do you give students in your classes about writing? Opinions on 'elements of style'?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Whew. I don’t know if I can cover writing advice that extensive on a Twitter Q&A. Most of my classroom advice ends up in my writing podcast, Writing Excuses. http://www.writingexcuses.com/

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  • 52

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    chaunceymeade

    Any advice for a wannabe writer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Listen to Writing Excuses for more detail.

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  • 53

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    DigLazarusDig86

    How do you group different ideas into one solid story?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Look for conflict. Take the ideas, and try to make them intersect at points of conflict. Don’t let something happen that isn’t personal and important to at least one of the viewpoint characters.

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  • 54

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    Ryshon

    What kind of average pagecount were you able to put out daily when working as a part time writer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I was a special case, as I intentionally picked a job where I could write at work. I shot for 2000 words a day. I suggest to new writers that 2k a week be a minimum. That gives you a book in about a year.

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  • 55

    Interview: Nov 14th, 2011

    tritlo (14 November 2011)

    how is it that you've become so skilled? Lots of study and practice?

    Brandon Sanderson (14 November 2011)

    You've got it. Practice and study. I wrote 13 novels before publishing one (my sixth.) Practice, practice, practice.

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  • 56

    Interview: Apr 17th, 2012

    Google+ Hangout (Verbatim)

    Curt

    First off, I'm a former googler, I worked there for like five and a half years so hi guys. So I’m wondering which mistakes you made as a beginning novelist that stand out the most as ones you've corrected as you've learned the craft better.

    Brandon Sanderson

    That's an excellent question, I would say that my biggest mistake as a new writer was not being willing to revise. I'm a classic, what we call a one-drafter this is a type of author who likes to just imagine it, get it ready, plan a lot and then get in on the page and be done with it and that was a mistake, I do I've become a big believer in learning to take a book that's a good book and make it an excellent book and doing a lot of strong revisions and early on I wasn't willing to do that and that held me back quite a bit.

    CURT

    Do you think that maybe not having a writing group to back you up contributed to your lack of revisions?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Maybe... I actually did have a writing group, what I would do is I would get the feedback from my writing group and my opinion was "Oh, I made all these mistakes." Instead of fixing them, early on I would say "Oh well, I won't make those mistakes again for my next book," cause I was always so excited an eager to write the next book and I -I didn't slow down enough and really focus in on making books great.

    And that was a mistake that was very particular to me, I don't think- as a writer there are so many different ways to do this and so many different types of writers part of learning to be a writer is about learning what things hold you back and what mistakes you make and they can be very different. Depending on who you are and what type of problem you have.

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  • 57

    Interview: Sep 13th, 1993

    Jeffrey Daniel (2 May 2012)

    Today, while cleaning out our storage room, I stumbled upon a reply letter from Robert Jordan that I had thought was lost. I wrote to him in April of 1993 when I was 15 and it took until September of 1993 to receive a reply (thus why he apologizes for the delay in response). In the last paragraph he is responding to my letter where I asked about writing. I’d said that I had so many ideas for stories that I felt I couldn’t write or finish them all myself, and asked if it were possible to give the story ideas to another writer.

    Robert Jordan

    Dear Jeffrey R. Daniel,

    First off, let me apologize for the unconscionable lateness of my reply to your letter. Recently my publisher found a number of letters that had been filed instead of being sent on to me. There isn't even anyone left to berate, as the responsible party appears to be someone who has left the firm. I can only apologize and hope that this reaches you.

    That said, thank you very much for your letter. I always appreciate hearing from anyone who likes my work. There isn't much way for me to know how people really feel about my books except for letters such as yours. Receiving one is like getting a pat on the back.

    The fifth book in THE WHEEL OF TIME (The Fires of Heaven) should be in the bookstores in November of this year. I hope you will enjoy it. Again, thanks for your letter, and my apologies.

    You are going to have to wait for the rest of the series to get your questions answered; if I answered them now, it would certainly spoil the surprises. As for getting someone else to write your ideas, I have never heard of any writers who do that. Try writing them yourself. They probably won't be exactly the way you want them the first time you do it, so you call that a rough draft and do what you think is necessary to make it better. It doesn't matter how many times you rewrite it. That is the way that writing is done.

    With best wishes,

    I am,

    Sincerely,

    Robert Jordan

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  • 58

    Interview: Oct 20th, 2008

    Tor Forge

    What do you have to say to aspiring writers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    One question I get a lot from readers is “how do I write books myself?” So I started up a podcast called Writing Excuses in which two writing friends of mine and I get together and we just talk through various aspects of writing in a very fast-paced, enjoyable way. If people want to write books themselves, I suggest Writing Excuses to them. You just find it at writingexcuses.com or through my website.

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  • 59

    Interview: Oct 18th, 2004

    Brandon Sanderson

    EDITS

    I keep promising that I'll tell you about some of the other silly character revelations I had pop up in the book. This one is particularly embarrassing. To be honest, I have NO idea what I was thinking.

    In the original draft of the book, Hrathen turns out to have been from Duladel the entire time. It's revealed in this scene, when he and Sarene are running from the Dakhor. He was of Dula blood, having grown up there, then moved to Fjorden as a teenager.

    Yes, I know. I must have been tired when I wrote that chapter. Anyway, at one point it must have seemed like a good idea. It didn't make even the first cut, however—my first readers rose up in open rebellion, and I joined them.

    I figure I must have decided that it was more dramatic to discover that Hrathen had betrayed his own people by destroying Duladel. (Note, in the early draft of the book, I made more of a habit of pointing out that the Duladen republicans weren't generally dark-skinned.) In the first draft, I always had Hrathen wear black die in his hair and pretended to be from Fjorden.

    Yes, again, I know. It was stupid. We writers do stupid things sometimes. I didn't even pause to think that the drama of Hrathen betraying his own people and religion in the present is far more powerful than a betrayal that happened before the book even started. I denied his entire character by trying to rely on some whim that seemed like a clever, unexpected twist. Don't let yourselves do things like this, writers. Let the twists help develop the character, not exist simply to surprise.

    Anyway, I'll post this scene in the deleted scenes section. It'll keep me humble to know people can read it.

    Footnote

    I am quite glad that Hrathen wasn't from Duladel. That would've been weird.

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  • 60

    Interview: 2012

    DBSTEVENS (April 2012)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    One thing I've found is that writers really like to talk about writing, and I'm no exception. The problem is, the longer we write, the more most of us seem to move by instinct rather than intention. Perhaps that is a result of becoming increasingly comfortable with our own process.

    Regardless, it can sometimes become difficult to describe what we do and why. I sometimes feel like I act more like an expert than I truly am. I'm mostly trying to describe my process after-the-fact, and my analysis may or may not have any validity.

    For what it's worth, however, here is a video of me talking about some of these same concepts at JordanCon a few years back.

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  • 61

    Interview: Jul 9th, 2012

    Brandon Sanderson

    Scott Ashton uploaded my final creative writing class lecture of this year. This one mostly covers revision, plus touching on a few other topics.

    Tags

  • 62

    Interview: Apr 21st, 2013

    Inivisible Vanguard

    Lastly, what advice can you give to new and unknown authors with limitless ambition who want to write epic fantasy and/or sci-fi books? From my own personal research, it appears that agents and publishers do not want long word counts from new authors. Is it best to start simple with shorter stories and work your way up to your true love: the epic, or should you just go for it and write as much as you deem necessary and pitch your grand masterwork as a whole?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are so many questions in there that are going to be very situationally dependent. If you have not already written a few novels, I would say absolutely do not write your grand epic yet. You won't have the skill to do it, and it will disappoint you. I've run across a lot of new writers who this has happened to. They want to do their own Wheel of Time, but they don't yet have the skill to achieve it. I tried this myself and learned this the hard way.

    That's not to say that it's impossible to do, but I strongly recommend to most writers to try a few other books first. Standalones or something, to really get your head around the idea of characterization and plotting and narrative arcs before you say, okay, I'm going to tell a story across ten books instead.

    If you are confident of your skill, and find that you are just incapable of writing anything else? Writing is the most important thing. If something makes you not write, then it's usually going to be bad advice no matter who it comes from. So then I suggest just writing and loving what you're writing. If you can somehow style your book as "a standalone with sequel potential," then that's probably a better way to go.

    This is not just for publishers and agents. New readers have a built-in skepticism toward a new author who is trying something that massive. I've found that a lot of readers like to try the standalone to find out what kind of writer you are, before they then read your big series. Having a couple of standalones has been very useful for me for that reason.

    At the end of the day, just write what you love. Yes, editors and agents say they want shorter books. This is because historically it has been proven to them that authors trying to write books that are too long for them bite off more than they can chew and the book spirals out of control. But the draft of Elantris that was the first thing I sold was 250,000 words. That's a full 100,000 words longer than what everyone was telling me agents won't even look at. So by empirical proof: They will look at a longer book if it works for them. So write what you love—if you can get into your head that you're going to do this professionally, and that you have years to learn how to do this, then that's going to help you. Taking the time to practice with shorter works will help you get ready to write your epic. But if you just can't do that, then go for it.

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  • 63

    Interview: Jul 20th, 2012

    Casey Phillips

    You could argue your essays on writing are aimed at prospective writers. Do you see those posts as a forum similar to a classroom?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, when I do my podcast, I target it that direction. We actually put the lectures from my most recent class online for free. Why do I do this? Well, when I was breaking into this and figuring out writing, writing is a hard thing to figure out because it's so individual. Lots of people offer advice, but yet, for any person offering advice, myself included, a lot of the advice won't work for every writer. What really helped me was the fact that there were a number of authors talking about how their process works and talking about their process and demystifying it, to the point that I was able to get help from a lot of different places. I think it made my writing a lot better. My goal is to do some of the same and let people know how it worked for me. Hopefully, it will help them figure out how it works for them.

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  • 64

    Interview: Jul 20th, 2012

    Casey Phillips

    Do you think there is a "Brandon Sanderson's Guide to Fantasy Literature" in your future?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Umm...maybe. Honestly, if I were to do that, it would be a long way off. I still think there's a lot I need to learn about this whole process before I can put it down in words. There many people who have done a great job at that in the past. Stephen King's book is great. Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy is great. There are a lot of wonderful resources out there already, and it's one thing for me to get up and talk about my process, but I feel like it's different to write a "this is how you do it" book. I'd like to have a decade or two under my belt before I do that.

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  • 65

    Interview: Jul 20th, 2012

    Casey Phillips

    You refer, somewhat illusively, to your "dreadful" first attempts at writing. How old were you when you wrote your first story?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I was, oh, 15, but I don't count that. When I'm talking about my dreadful stuff, I'm talking about my first serious attempt when I started when I was 19. Those were still bad, but that's when I first considered myself a writer. I think anyone you go to is going to have a story they wrote when they were 15 in creative writing class. The point is, I was still bad when I decided, "I'm going to be a writer."

    It takes time to learn to do this right. I spent 10 years figuring it out before I sold anything. That's consistently true across the board. Writers spend a decade figuring this out before they really start to get good. Whether they do it like J.K. Rowling did where they pick one story and slave over it for 10 years, or if they do what I did and write book after book trying to improve with each one. You find people divided along that line doing different things. It's not something you figure out immediately, for most of us.

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  • 66

    Interview: Jul 20th, 2012

    Casey Phillips

    What changed about you or your approach to writing that helped you cross the threshold from "dreadful" to "passable?"

    Brandon Sanderson

    You know, I would say that there are hundreds of little eureka moments all along the way. Figuring out how to make characters work and not have them be just caricatures. Figuring out how to make a plot twist pop off the page at the end. Figuring out how to make the magic system work. Each of those is a little Eureka moment for me.

    Putting it all together over time and learning how to revise takes effort. Learning to write a book is a lot closer to learning to hit a baseball than people realize. I talk about the process a lot, but that's me analyzing it after the fact. When a batter gets up there to swing at a ball, they've practiced tons and tons and tons. They've gone over fundamentals and learned what those fundamentals need to be. They might think about that for a minute, but when they swing, it all just clicks and they swing at the ball.

    That's actually what writers do a lot of times when they're writing a story. Yes, they've practiced the fundamentals, and they've written a lot before, but when they sit down to write a story, they just let it flow and the muscle memory takes over. After the fact, you go back and look at it and revise it and try to figure out what you're doing wrong, but there's more instinct to this—instinct born of practice—than people assume.

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  • 67

    Interview: Jul 20th, 2012

    Casey Phillips

    How many attempts did you make to publish before you wrote Elantris?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Elantris was my sixth novel. I was working on my 13th when I sold Elantris. It was not publishable when I first wrote it; it took several revisions and drafts. It was probably somewhere around book nine that I was really figuring things out, I feel. I like to write and jump projects. Instead of finishing one and slaving over it to make it much better, which may have been better for me in the long run, I would always jump to something new.

    For new writers, I always advise balancing those two. When you finish a book, write another one, but then go back to your first one and work it over to see if you can make it better. Then, go write a third one and go back to the second one and see if you can make it better.

    Do that instead of doing what I did, where you finish a book and go, "Hmm...that one was good, but I can do better?" and then writing another book and ignoring the first one. Elantris was the first one that I really dug into revisions on, and it ended up paying off.

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  • 68

    Interview: Sep 22nd, 2012

    Question

    So you said that you recently threw away a sequence from Way of Kings 2. How do you know when to throw it out?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Practice. Lots of practice. It was much harder to do that early on, but I've had lots of practice, and so I know that when it's not working, I know why it's not working. Sometimes when it's not working it's because I'm just having a bad day. I need to try it the next day. Sometimes when it's not working, Something fundamental is wrong with the book. Sometimes, it's just the scene is in the wrong place or isn't active enough. And this one wasn't active enough. I set it in a way that people were just sitting around too much, and I had to scrap all that rework it so that there would be conflict and motion.

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  • 69

    Interview: Mar 15th, 2003

    M. L. Van Valkenburgh

    Finally, Jordan has some advice for aspiring writers.

    Robert Jordan

    "Write, submit, talk. Nothing counts unless you do it. Do your research."

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  • 70

    Interview: Jul 9th, 2012

    Phillip Carroll

    [Zach Ricks] says, he mentions that you teach a class at BYU...

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do; I teach a class.

    Phillip Carroll

    ...and, what are some of the typical mistakes you find writers in that class make?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, there's a whole host of things we can talk about in this realm. I teach the class because I actually took the class when I was an undergraduate, and they were looking for a teacher—the teacher who was teaching it moved on—and I took it on because I didn't want them to cancel it. It's how to write science fiction and fantasy. And I would say that one of the big early issues with fantasy and science fiction writers is the infodump. They don't know how to balance those early pages, those early chapters, in making it interesting and exciting without dumping a whole bunch of worldbuilding on us, which is a real challenge because...we just had a panel on this here at the con; worldbuilding is what we read science fiction and fantasy for; it's the cool stuff; it's the cream that drives us to read this; it's what we love, and yet, throwing too much on us at the beginning can really stifle a book, and I would say that's a big rookie mistake.

    Another big rookie mistake is assuming that all it takes is writing one book. Most authors, you know, you learn to write by writing. I like to use the metaphor lately of learning to hit a baseball with a baseball bat. You only learn to do that by practicing; you can't read about hitting a baseball and then go out and know how to do it. Certainly reading about it is going to help you with some things, and as you're swinging that baseball bat, the pros are not thinking about which muscles they're moving. They're not thinking about necessarily even their stance at that point; they've just done it so much and done it so well that they get to the point that they can do it, second nature. And that's what a writer wants to learn to do. And you do that by, at the beginning, you do think about your stance. You do think about your grip. You do work on these...you target certain things and you learn to extend the metaphor. You work on your prose or you work on your characters, or you specifically hone in on this, but at the end of the day, writing a lot and practicing is what's going to teach you to fix problems in your writing by instinct. And I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. I don't think everyone has to do that, but I certainly think that your first job to do is to finish one novel, and then you need to start writing a second one.

    Phillip Carroll

    Alright, thank you. The science fiction magazine at BYU: do you recommend your students participate in that?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do. I actually offer extra credit for anyone who goes to the magazine and reads slush. I feel for a new writer, reading slush on a magazine can be really helpful because you see what some of the rookie mistakes are, being made by other people kind of in your same mode, your same skill set, and sometimes, when I did it as an aspiring writer, it taught me so much about what newer writers were doing, and things that I could avoid. It also helps to spend a little time around editors and see what's going through the minds of editors. Certainly a magazine is different from a book publication, but they share a lot of things, and it can be very helpful in teaching, so I suggest if there's a local fanzine—or a local semi-prozine, which is what the BYU magazine is, kind of, what the terminology is for it—go be a part; read some slush, and be part of the community, and see what other writers are doing.

    Phillip Carroll

    Thank you. I think that's what Zach pictured in mind when he started Flying Island Press and Flagship was that very same...I think he was actually on that staff at BYU.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, good! Good.

    Phillip Carroll

    And I understand what you mean by reading a lot of slush, because we read a lot of slush.

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  • 71

    Interview: Jan 11th, 2013

    Question

    Does he have any advice for new writers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    He suggests listening to his podcast, Writing Excuses, published weekly. In addition to this, someone recorded Brandon's lectures in his writing Science Fiction and Fantasy class at BYU, and published them online at www.writeaboutdragons.com. It's like taking his class.

    Harriet McDougal

    Harriet's advice was to attend sci-fi conventions, which are quite frequent in this country. Editors and agents troll for talent, so attend often and collect as many business cards as you can.

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  • 72

    Interview: Jan 11th, 2013

    Question

    What is your writing regiment?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

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  • 73

    Interview: 2013

    Michael M Lane (23 January 2013)

    Afternoon. What sorts of marketing have you found most effective for your books, Brandon?

    Brandon Sanderson (23 January 2013)

    When I was newer, it was visiting bookstores, giving free copies to their SF readers on staff.

    Brandon Sanderson

    These days, I'm honestly not sure. The momentum of it all has pretty much overwhelmed my individual efforts. :)

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  • 74

    Interview: Nov 5th, 2009

    Matthew Peterson

    Now I did meet you a while back at a convention, I can't remember which one it was, maybe the World Science Fiction Convention and we were talking about the Wheel of Time and audiobooks and your podcasting.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh huh, okay.

    Brandon Sanderson

    But something interesting happened from that, and I just wanted to thank you, there's something that you did that you don't even know, you gave me some advice. At that time, I was in the middle of getting my rights back for my book, and I had an audiobook that was coming out. And you gave me some advice about how to get it onto Audible. [laughs] You probably don't even remember that.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, I hope it was good advice.

    Matthew Peterson

    It was good. It worked. [laughs]

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, if it was good advice, then I take credit for it. If it was bad advice then it was my evil doppelganger.

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  • 75

    Interview: Nov 5th, 2009

    Matthew Peterson

    Yep. Well, you do give a lot of advice, don't you? I mean you teach creative writing classes.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do.

    Matthew Peterson

    Do you still do that? Even with all this on your plate?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I still do it. But I only teach one class a year nowadays. So, it only lasts for about three months. But I feel a need to do that because it was in that class when I was an undergraduate, long ago, that I got the final bit of information I needed, it was the final kick in the pants, so to speak, to go get published.

    Matthew Peterson

    Oh.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It was taught by David Farland at the time who was just doing what I'm doing. He was a professional writer. He was just stepping in to teach the class for a few years. And he gave me real world publishing advice, gave the whole class real world publishing advice. A lot of creative writing classes are very touchy feely. That's a good thing; they'll talk about the feel of writing and how to grow a story and all of this stuff. But Dave was the first one that came in and said, "Look, you can do this for a living. I'm going to tell you how and we're going to talk about the nuts and bolts of creating a story." And that was wildly useful to me. And so I feel a need to go back, when I have the opportunity and explain to new writers, those same sorts of things.

    Matthew Peterson

    Dave knows what he’s talking about too. I mean, he did the Runelords.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yep, Mm hmm. Which is also a New York Times bestselling success now.

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  • 76

    Interview: Nov 5th, 2009

    Matthew Peterson

    Now for a bonus question: From your experience teaching creative writing, what is some advice you give your students?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The biggest piece of advice I would give them is: You just gotta finish stuff. A lot of people want to be writers. And a lot of people have really great ideas. And get their great ideas together and say, "Wow! I think this could be a book." Then they start on it and for various reasons, they stop. One of the main reasons is they get discouraged because it's not turning out as they want it to turn out, or they get distracted by another really great idea they've just had, or they want to go back and keep revising this initial stuff that they've written. And you've got to finish. You won't understand how to be a writer until you actually finish a book. And you've got to remember that nobody starts off being perfect. And it's that process of writing books that aren't so good that teaches you how to write books that are good. No one expects to sit down and play the piano perfectly the first time. Yet a lot of people sit down and try to write the perfect book the first time. So, my biggest piece of advice to them is: Sit down, write, finish a book. And that will teach you how to write a good book.

    Matthew Peterson

    Ah. That's some good advice.

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  • 77

    Interview: Feb 8th, 2013

    DJ Stipe

    Brandon was the embodiment of humility. For each thank you he got for finishing the series, he gave a thank you in return to the fan for reading—and it was genuine thanks. He told several people they were his boss, so if they didn't buy his books he wouldn't be able to write them. He fist bumped one long time WOT fan saying that he was right there with him as a long-time fan himself. He has an avid fan base outside the Wheel of Time series, many had gotten into those books because of Brandon's other works. There were also several writers given encouraging words (including at least one Memory Keeper)—he really does support those trying to learn the craft.

    Beyond that, he's just about as close as you can get to being a rock star and still play Magic the Gathering. He signed at least one deck box, one homemade Magic card and one of the Memory Keepers Fireball cards, making it a Bale-fireball. Memory Keeper Mat gave him a framed and signed “Hyrdroblast” #40 of 500 art print by the artist Kaja Foglio from the Magic the Gathering card game. Brandon was very excited that he knew artist but hadn't seen that specific piece.

    When Brandon left it felt to us Memory Keepers like saying goodbye to someone we'd known for some time, not a well-known author we'd just met a few hours before.

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  • 78

    Interview: Feb 8th, 2013

    Question

    An entire writer's group (besides Jason Denzel's group, who were also there) came through the line and talked to Brandon together.

    When he found out they were an unpublished writing group he told the story about how, shortly after having books published, he was at a friend of a friend's house and was introduced as a writer to the host. The host responded, "So you're unemployed." Brandon was excited to be able to tell him "No, I actually get paid for it now." He is very supportive of aspiring writers (if you don't know about it, check out his weekly writing podcast here: www.writingexcuses.com).

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  • 79

    Interview: Jan 24th, 2013

    Krista Holmes Hanby

    Although Sanderson has emerged as a powerhouse in the genre, he always speaks of his success as a gift.

    Brandon Sanderson

    "There are a lot of writers who are better than I am who are not successful," he says. "It's a measure of luck, perseverance, and providence."

    Krista Holmes Hanby

    Perseverance in particular is a virtue he teaches to aspiring writers—both in his BYU fantasy and sci-fi writing class and in Writing Excuses, the weekly writing-advice podcast he cohosts.

    Brandon Sanderson

    "Sit in a chair and write," Sanderson says. "Ignore this thing they call writer's block. Doctors don't get doctor's block; your mechanic doesn't get mechanic's block. If you want to write great stories, learn to write when you don't feel like it. You have to write it poorly before you can write it well. So just be willing to write bad stories in order to learn to become better."

    Krista Holmes Hanby

    One of Sanderson's first students, new author Janci Patterson Olds (BA ’05, MA ’08), took Sanderson's lessons of tenacity to heart. "Brandon really believes that anyone who's willing to work hard can succeed," she says, "which makes him a fantastic teacher and writing mentor."

    For Sanderson, creating worlds is all in a day's work.

    Brandon Sanderson

    "I love this job," says the father of three. "You get up and do something different every day: you become a different character, you work on a different problem, you create something new. There's nothing as supremely satisfying to me as looking at nothing . . . and at the end having something—a story, this thing that is almost alive."

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  • 80

    Interview: Feb 22nd, 2013

    Question

    Do you have any advice for up and coming authors?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I have a lot of it. The number one piece though is just to keep at it and practice. However, if you want a lot of advice, I've got two resources for you. I do a podcast called Writing Excuses. And I have all of my University lectures posted online at a website called Write about Dragons. One of my grad students recorded them and put them all up. If you've already seen those, then you already have all of my advice. Why are you asking? Keep at it, just keep at it. BICHOK: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

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  • 81

    Interview: Feb 22nd, 2013

    Question

    Mr. Sanderson, I noticed that Utah seems to be producing a lot of writers lately, You, Dan Wells, and Larry Correia come to mind offhand. Do you have any insight as to why Utah has been producing a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You know, a lot of people ask this. I think it has to do with the fact that once a community gets started, they lift each other up. For instance, I gave Dan the contact info for my editor. Larry Correia, when he was publishing, got some help from some people locally. And what happens is you see people kind of helping each other out. It started with Orson Scott Card, way back when. And that started a class at Brigham Young University, it was 'How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy', which I took. And it's not that there's any sort of inside club or thing, it's just that, you see people being successful. It becomes more possible for you. And, like for instance, I took this class, it was taught by Dave Farland, who writes the Runelords, which is a fantasy series. It's quite good. And I was able to say, How do you do this thing, how do you get published? He's like, oh, here’s some advice. Go forth and meet editors and things. So, I think it has to do with this idea. if you go back, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were in the same writing group. It just starts a sort of community thing, where it becomes a viable, possible thing. Like, I grew up in Nebraska. I didn't know any writers in Nebraska. I didn't know anyone who was a published science fiction/fantasy writer. There weren't conventions in Lincoln, and things like that. But when I moved to Utah suddenly there's a bunch of writing conventions. You've got a ton of them around here too. And things like that. That sort of community is just really helpful for helping writers along. I think that's got a lot to do with it.

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  • 82

    Interview: Feb 22nd, 2013

    Question

    What was the hardest thing for you to overcome as a starting writer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    As a starting writer I would say the hardest thing for me was learning to revise. I just hated revision. I had to learn to do it, and do it well.

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  • 83

    Interview: Feb 22nd, 2013

    Question

    How did you become a writer? What advice (can you give)?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Practice, just practice. And don't stress it too much.

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  • 84

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    LyndseyLuther ()

    Hey there Brandon, thanks for doing another AMA!

    Unpublished authors are often told that agents and publishers won't even look at a debut novel longer than 150k words. Your debut, Elantris, was considerably longer than that. How did you get your foot in the door? Was it just a query letter, or did you pitch the novel to someone at a convention/conference? If the former, would you mind sharing that query synopsis with us?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I pitched it at a convention. (World Fantasy Convention, which was in Montreal that year.) WFC does still tend to be one of the best places to meet editors/agents if you're interested in publishing with a mainstream publisher.

    Elantris was 250k words, and I had a real rough time getting my foot in the door with it. The editor I met there let me pitch to him after we had a nice long conversation about the authors he was working on at the moment. Dan Wells, who was with me, also pitched and sent his book. His got read far more quickly than mine did. (His was far shorter.)

    I waited eighteen months for a reply—so long, that I'd given up on the book. The editor said that every time he sat down to read slush, that enormous book intimidated him, so he picked something shorter to read. When he finally read Elantris, he only got two chapters in before he wanted to buy it—which is nice.

    Editors have a love/hate relationship with huge books like this. The big ones do tend to drive the epic fantasy market, but they're more expensive to produce than the short ones, and therefore more risky to take a chance on. I would never suggest writing your books shorter than you feel is the right length, but do realize that both readers and editors will cock an eyebrow at you if the length goes too long. They expect more payoff for the increased size.

    Digital formats, fortunately, are helping change this perception. Size (either direction) is no longer as limiting as it once was.

    LyndseyLuther

    Thanks for the reply! I was actually at WFC this past year and you gave me great advice about going to the room parties. It was definitely an experience.

    I waited eighteen months for a reply—so long, that I'd given up on the book.

    You have no idea how much a relief it is to hear you say that. Thank you. Currently playing the waiting game on a book I submitted, and I was getting worried. But knowing that it took so long for someone to get back to you and that the answer was in the positive put my mind at rest a little.

    Thanks again, look forward to seeing you in Connecticut in July!

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's perfectly acceptable to send a polite email to an editor if they've had your book for a long time. Just say that you're curious if it's still being considered, or if there's a chance it has been lost. (Usually, six months is the time to send this.)

    cosmando

    What does pitching a book look like? I'm familiar with how that would work in the movie business, but I'd never considered it in the publishing realm.

    P.S. love all of your books.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Usually, this is the two or three sentence explanation of a book you'd put in a query letter. It focuses on one idea in the book, kind of the 'concept." Not that different from a Hollywood pitch, only a little less...uh...Hollywood.

    For Elantris it was something like "The Prince of a kingdom catches a terrible magical disease, and is locked away in a prison city with everyone else who has the disease. He works to bring unity, hope, and perhaps a cure to the city."

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  • 85

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    elquesogrande ()

    How much of writing is based on 'nature' and an individual's innate abilities versus the 'nurture' part of honing your craft? There are those writers who seem to strike a brilliant tone with their first works while others spend a lifetime studying without much success.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I wish I could answer this first one in a specific way. I think both are certainly a factor. In my class, people come through with immediate talent—but, then, those also tend to be the ones who have practiced writing the most.

    I would say that the nurture part is the most important part for the vast majority of us. However, there are savants who just HIT it their first try.

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  • 86

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    rahmuss ()

    For an architect, should a book be written as a complete work, which you then break into chapters? Or should I be focusing on writing chapter by chapter from the start?

    Also, what order should revision be done in, what do you work on first? Punctuation and grammar, trimming, pacing, characters? What do you find usually gives the biggest pay-off first?

    Brandon Sanderson

    1) Both methods have worked for me in the past, so I don't know if there is a "Should" here. I think that early on, visualizing the book as a sequence of chapters which achieve certain goals is a useful way to finish your first few novels. It helps with the step-by-step method of getting it done. I use something more organic now, however.

    2) My method is this:

    Revision One: Fix continuity, big problems.

    Revision Two: Make the language more active, get rid of repetition.

    Revision Three: Fix problems mentioned by alpha readers (so long as I agree with them.)

    Revision Four: Cut 15%

    Revisions 5-7: Beta reader issues, more editorial fixes, more of all above.

    However, in those early chapters, the biggest payoff is going to come from making certain character voice is solid and that the language isn't dull. (Trim info-dumps, get rid of passive constructions, that sort of thing.)

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  • 87

    Interview: Sep, 2012

    Yamato

    Any advice for an aspiring fantasy writer? Besides the obligatory "Read a lot and write a a lot!!!" Characterization advice is especially appreciated.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, I do have my lectures on this topic. Go to writeaboutdragons.com and listen to the characterization lecture. I think you'll find it helpful.

    Do remember that your characters should have passions, goals, and flaws that are distinct from the plot of the story. They can sometimes align, but a character should have a life and passions outside of what happens TO them.

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  • 88

    Interview: Sep, 2012

    Yamato

    I am currently trying to write a book in which the world is drastically different from earth. Do you think it is too ambitious to start out with such a complex setting?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, not at all. Just don't try TOO hard to describe every aspect of it. It's good to be ambitious. However, be careful to keep you number of viewpoints down for your first few attempts--that will spiral out of control faster than worldbuilding will. Don't feel the need to explain too much, keep the focus on the characters, and you should be fine.

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  • 89

    Interview: Nov 6th, 2012

    Question

    How do you keep your characters straight, among all the characters that you have to write?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I don’t know, it just happens. Characters are just one of those things. Like I always have trouble describing how I write my characters, because characters just kind of happen. I plan my plots, I plan my worlds, and characters I write my way into to make them work. And I have a hard time explaining to people how I develop them. They just are who they are, if that makes sense.

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  • 90

    Interview: Nov 6th, 2012

    Question

    Do you have any advice for approaching agents?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Have you listened to my podcast or watched my-?

    QUESTION

    I’m familiar with it, Writing Excuses?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    We have a couple agents on, you can go look for those agent podcasts and we interview them about what should new authors do, that can be helpful. I have an entire university lecture on agents at writeaboutdragons, and it’s like an hour of me talking about approaching agents and what they do and things like that. The only piece I can give you right now is try and find a way that you can make a personal connection with them. Try and go to a con that they’re at, follow their blog, read books by their authors, have some sort of personal connection so you can know who they are rather than just submitting blind.

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  • 91

    Interview: Apr 4th, 2013

    Brandon Sanderson

    This week we received copies of the new German edition of Elantris. We also received copies of Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros. I wrote an essay in this book, about writing cinematic fight scenes. There are also contributions from other SF luminaries including Alex Bledsoe, Jennifer Brozek, Orson Scott Card, Glen Cook, Steven Erikson, Ian C. Esslemont, Cecelia Holland, Howard Andrew Jones, Paul Kearney, Ari Marmell, Janet and Chris Morris, Cat Rambo, and C.L. Werner.

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  • 92

    Interview: Apr 21st, 2013

    Invisible Vanguard

    Lastly, what advice can you give to new and unknown authors with limitless ambition who want to write epic fantasy and/or sci-fi books? From my own personal research, it appears that agents and publishers do not want long word counts from new authors. Is it best to start simple with shorter stories and work your way up to your true love: the epic, or should you just go for it and write as much as you deem necessary and pitch your grand masterwork as a whole?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are so many questions in there that are going to be very situationally dependent. If you have not already written a few novels, I would say absolutely do not write your grand epic yet. You won't have the skill to do it, and it will disappoint you. I've run across a lot of new writers who this has happened to. They want to do their own Wheel of Time, but they don't yet have the skill to achieve it. I tried this myself and learned this the hard way.

    That's not to say that it's impossible to do, but I strongly recommend to most writers to try a few other books first. Standalones or something, to really get your head around the idea of characterization and plotting and narrative arcs before you say, okay, I'm going to tell a story across ten books instead.

    If you are confident of your skill, and find that you are just incapable of writing anything else? Writing is the most important thing. If something makes you not write, then it's usually going to be bad advice no matter who it comes from. So then I suggest just writing and loving what you're writing. If you can somehow style your book as "a standalone with sequel potential," then that's probably a better way to go.

    This is not just for publishers and agents. New readers have a built-in skepticism toward a new author who is trying something that massive. I've found that a lot of readers like to try the standalone to find out what kind of writer you are, before they then read your big series. Having a couple of standalones has been very useful for me for that reason.

    At the end of the day, just write what you love. Yes, editors and agents say they want shorter books. This is because historically it has been proven to them that authors trying to write books that are too long for them bite off more than they can chew and the book spirals out of control. But the draft of Elantris that was the first thing I sold was 250,000 words. That's a full 100,000 words longer than what everyone was telling me agents won't even look at. So by empirical proof: They will look at a longer book if it works for them. So write what you love—if you can get into your head that you're going to do this professionally, and that you have years to learn how to do this, then that's going to help you. Taking the time to practice with shorter works will help you get ready to write your epic. But if you just can't do that, then go for it.

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  • 93

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    chrismansell ()

    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.

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

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  • 94

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    austenw ()

    Thank you for doing this AMA, Mr. Sanderson! You're a huge inspiration to me and, though you may not remember me, I met you in Portland on your AMOL tour a few months ago. I had mentioned that I had been working on my book and you told me to listen to your podcast and that there was no excuse not to write! I've taken that to heart and have been writing my fingers off ever since.

    But what I've found is that I've been written pages and pages of history about the world that I'm creating as a sort of encyclopedia for myself. My question is thus:

    When preparing to write a book, how do go about world building? Do you have everything in mind from the start and just work from there, or do you write everything out to use as a reference later?

    I feel like I'm doing too much work on building the history, and not enough time writing the actual story. Therefore my question. Thank you for any response you give!

    Brandon Sanderson

    I am the type that likes to do a lot of worldbuilding ahead of time, before writing. However, I feel it is easy to go too far in this regard. I usually give myself a set amount of time to spend planning a story, then I need to start writing. (At least a few chapters.) By writing some of the book, I can get a better idea of how much worldbuilding I'll need, and which areas need the most work.

    One thing to keep in mind is that great worldbuilding is usually that which intersects with character interests and conflicts. Having your history in line can help the world feel rich—but it can also distract if you spend too much time in the book giving dumps of information about historical events that don't have any bearing on the current characters or conflicts.

    You don't need to have everything in place before you start. You can always add more as you go. Focus your attention on those aspects of worldbuilding that will help the story be better. Worldbuild religions if those are important to the story; otherwise, spend a shorter amount of time planning them. Same for languages, history, governments, and all the other things you can do.

    At some point, you need to start writing. Err on the side of not enough worldbuilding. You can fill more in later.

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  • 95

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    Wulvaine ()

    In the Mistborn Trilogy was one of the coolest twists I've ever come across, and foreshadowing is kind of a tightrope walk. If you don't point out Chekhov's gun often enough, it won't have impact when it's fired, but if you belabor it, it'll be too obvious that it's important (almost like watching an old cartoon where you could see which objects were going to be animated before the fact because they stood out so much against the static background), and the payoff won't be as satisfying. How do you determine exactly how much to emphasize foreshadowing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    For me, I use beta readers to help with this. They give me a read on when I'm being too heavy handed, and when I'm not being heavy handed enough.

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  • 96

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    Faustyna ()

    In general as a writer how can one deal with their own self-doubt? I'm a fantasy writer, I've been writing for about 10 years. I think I'm not bad. But between depression and OCD I can't write more than a few sentences before stopping.

    I have the worlds, the stories, the characters—but I need constant reassurance. I know this is in a large part OCD, that's how OCD works, but it still grabs me. I'm terrified of failing. But at the same time it's all I've ever wanted to really do.

    I keep thinking if some famous author gave me the stamp of approval I'd be able to just write :P

    I understand this is imposing terribly, but it does say AMA up top, I have ~2K of something written, I know you teach writing classes occasionally (watched your Youtube videos <3 ) a glance would make my day.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Man, depression and OCD are a rough mix, my friend. Fist bump for pressing through it.

    This sample is good. You've got a distinct style and it practically drips from the page. The constant motion of the piece, the fluidity, was moving and engaging. Keep going.

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  • 97

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    AlmightyBean ()

    Hi, I'm a male writer writing fantasy at the moment with a female perspective character. I'm having trouble with the tone whenever my character bumps up against barriers women have to deal with in my universe. I don't want to beat my audience over the head with gender issues or come off as preachy, especially as I'm still new to writing a female character.

    My question is, when you were writing your female characters, especially Vin who jumped out at me as a natural but strong female protagonist in a male character dominated genre, did you find her voice came from your previous writing experience, or did you consult much with other authors and/or women you knew? I keep feeling like I should consult some female friends on how I'm writing her, but I don't want to lose my own voice in doing so.

    Also, I love your novels. I find fantasy is a genre filled with characters who feel like tropes or someone's DnD character, while your characters jump off the page and walk around. If you have any general tips for writing a realistic person, that would be great. If not, just thanks for writing such great people.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do consult with others. I think it's vital, particularly when writing 'the other' so to speak. Someone who is different from yourself in some fundamental way.

    At the same time, every character should be different from yourself in some fundamental way. And, beyond that, there's a trap in thinking "My character has to think like a woman." No, your character has to think like herself. That's an important distinction to make. For every generalization, grouping, or stereotype out there, you can find many, many people who break that mold.

    I actually focus on personality, wants, and needs first. Gender is a part of the character as a concept, and it informs how I write the person—but it is secondary to their passions, goals, and temperament.

    I'd say write the character first, then consult with your female friends. Let them read the character in the context of her story, and get a read on it. So long as the character is strong and individual, you should be fine. Some pointers will undoubtedly help, of course.

    The best way I've found to make someone realistic is to separate them from the plot and ask yourself who they are, and what they'd be doing, if the plot had never come along and swallowed them up.

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  • 98

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    l33tmachine ()

    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?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Congrats! Nice work.

    Family is a big part of it for me. Also, times just listening to music and not writing anything down.

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  • 99

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    Orang3dragon ()

    What do you suggest to be the best way to learn how to become a good writer? (Writing seven books?)

    Brandon Sanderson

    There is no substitute for writing. So yes, write a lot—but reading a lot and learning to think critically about story structure, prose, and character can help.

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  • 100

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    espais ()

    Hi Brandon,

    First of all, just wanted to say that I love your work. I got hooked with Elantris and have felt the need to purchase all your other books as a result. Also, fantastic job with handling the WoT series!

    I'm curious on your thoughts regarding the self-publishing market. I've always had an interest in writing fiction and have finally completed my first novella. As a person with a full-time job, I'm seriously considering self-publishing rather than finding an agent to represent me, and attempting to market through the internet.

    So, how do you feel about the self-publishing route, rather than the publisher-agent-writer trifecta?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I think self-publishing is a perfectly viable option these days, and has many things to recommend it. For a novella in particular, it can be one of the best ways to get your work out there.

    I cover some of the differences in depth, by my perspective, as one of the latter writing lectures at WriteAboutDragons. (Those are videos a grad student posted of my lectures for a class project he's working on.)

    The long and short is, however, that I think you are wise to consider both options. If I were breaking in right now, I'd probably try both methods.

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  • 101

    Interview: Apr 15th, 2013

    Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)

    shardfan ()

    I am a big fan and, being a wife to an aspiring author, I sometimes think about what your schedule must be like for your family. Sometimes you talk about twelve hour work days and I'm wondering do you get to spend a decent amount of time with your wife and children?

    Also, I am currently reading Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians and this book is sheer wit. Sadly, the cover has made me uninterested for years. I actually first saw the book at the 7th Harry Potter midnight opening party at the Border's in Provo. We've all heard not to judge a book by its cover but, seriously, do you have any say in the cover art or is it one of those things you just have to sign over?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Balancing this can be hard, but it's not so bad now that I'm published. I work long hours some days, but I always steal the extra time from leisure, not family. I finish work at 5:30 most days, hang with family until nine or ten, then go back to work. The lack of a commute makes it so that long hours don't really steal time from the family, which is very important.

    I would say that it's harder for an aspiring author. I'd suggest that your husband make specific writing goals, and section off time—and everyone agree to leave that time alone. (Whether it be four hours on a Saturday each week, or an hour at night when everyone else is watching TV.) It can be done in a way that doesn't leave the family lonely, but it requires careful management.

    As for the cover of Alcatraz...no, I'm not fond of it. I never have been. This was very early in my career, however, when I didn't have much influence over such things. We did complain as the covers to the series got worse and worse, but our complaints fell on deaf ears.

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  • 102

    Interview: 2011

    gruevy (January 2011)

    MFA in Creative Writing grad school—need recommendation

    I'm looking at getting my MFA in creative writing, and I write speculative fiction, which appears to be undervalued by the academy. Does anyone know of any good schools that have speculative fiction writers on the faculty, or somewhere that it might be appreciated? I know it's a bit late to be applying, but I've already sent out most of the applications I intended to—just wondering if there's somewhere else I should be looking.

    Also, anyone out there gotten this degree and loved/hated their university? I'd like to hear from you as well.

    PS—My goal is to teach writing at a university. I'm quite aware that having a degree won't necessarily make me a better writer (although I expect that the years of dedicated writing will have that effect.)

    PPS—I know that Brandon Sanderson teaches at BYU, but it looks like he teaches undergrads, and only one class every so often.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Best of luck to you. I submitted Elantris (about three years before I sold it) as my sample writing to a large number of university MFA programs. Some were top tier: Columbia, NYU, UC Irvine, University of Utah, Iowa, UVA. There was a smattering of second and third tier as well. Twelve to fifteen total, I recall. I got rejected from every single one.

    Now, part of this was my fault. I had a chip on my shoulder about fantasy, and still kind of do. I didn't manifest it in my letter of intent, however, so that wasn't the problem. However, I ALSO didn't do some of the things you're supposed to do for grad programs. (Which is find someone at the university you specifically want to work with, and explain in the application why.)

    The problem was, I couldn't find anyone at any of the programs that admitted to reading sf/f, let alone writing it. So...I'm not sure where that leaves us. I've heard stories now and then of an MFA program or two that do have a sf/f writer on staff. (Ursula, Gene Wolfe, and Cory Doctorow have all done guest lecturer stints, I think. Gene might teach full time.) I hear the UK is more friendly toward fantasy and sf among the literary community.

    I'm really hoping that someone here can post some better information for you about where to look, but I thought I'd let you know my story.

    gruevy

    Could you tell me anything about the program at BYU? I know it's new, but do you think it's any good? I'm sort of fond of my beard, but I have to be realistic about where I'm more likely to get in :)

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, it's easier to get into—but it's not terribly high ranked. Universities tend to specialize, particularly regionally, and the University of Utah has an excellent program and tends to draw the best applicants. So BYU, while fair, has a focus in other areas.

    I enjoyed my program, and I think it's kinder to fantasy/sf than others—however, with jobs teaching creative writing being so tight these days, I'd shoot for the top first and work down. The nice thing about BYU is that they did finally bump their degree up to the MFA from an MA. (They only had the MA when I went.) I think with a BYU MFA, though, you'd probably have to go on to get a PhD in creative writing to land a good job. (As opposed to getting one from Utah or Iowa, which alone could be enough.)

    The thing is, publications (particularly in top literary journals) trump any schooling when it comes to jobs in creative writing. That and networking.

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  • 103

    Interview: 2011

    gruevy (January 2011)

    Where do you people find writers' groups?

    I'm in Provo, UT, I write fantasy, and I need a good writers' group. I've looked on craigslist and tried google, but I really haven't found anything. Not meaning that I haven't found good ones; meaning, I haven't found any at all. I know that a number of you out there are writers, and I assume that most of those have some affiliation with a writers' group, so how did you find them? Did you grow them yourselves, or were they community things, or what?

    Also, do you shop around? What happens if I get there and I'm the only capable writer of the bunch? I enjoy helping others improve their writing (and in fact, I'd like to do that for a living) but I admit that I'm looking for a group with selfish reasons as well. I want help improving from people that I can trust.

    Do mixed genre groups work very well, or should I only be looking for a scifi/fantasy group?

    Has anyone found an online group to work? Do you use Skype or something, or just text to communicate?

    Finally, anyone in Provo/Orem area in a good one? Mind letting me audition? :)

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    Finding a good writer's group is a process, usually, not an event. It involves being a part of many writing groups, finding out what critique styles work for you, and discovering writers who have a dedication level similar to your own. If you write at a rate where you have something to submit every week, you want to be with writers who do the same. If you'd rather meet once a month, you want everyone to be on the same page.

    I've been a part of around a dozen different groups. Usually, after a year or so of attending, I have a good sense of which writers I click with and which I don't. At a later date, if another group has need of members, I know which people to invite.

    Right now, my group consists of mostly people I've known for years and years. I met many of them during my undergraduate days. Your best bet in Utah is to attend LTUE, Conduit, or Superstars. I guarantee I can get you a writing group if you come to Superstars, but it also is very expensive.

    Or try to take my class (I used to just let anyone in, but this year, the university has clamped down and only given me a room that seats 30.) There's a shot if you show up on Thursday (when I'm going to have to turn away a lot of people who want to add) that I can point you all in the same direction and you can try to set up a writing group then.

    gruevy

    What time of day does your class take place? On the off chance that you have fewer than 30 students, they wouldn't just let me come sit in, would they? I'd have to enroll and pay, I assume. Probably worth it, though. I wonder if they'd let me audit the class for no credit for cheaper. I know that at Weber, a single class for one semester was around $800, and I assume that's going to be a bit higher at BYU. Again, probably worth it, however.

    I don't think that I could pass as a student for long due to some significant shagginess, but I'd certainly be happy to show up when you're going to turn everyone away and help them form writer's groups. Other than that, I guess I'm going to have to wait for LTUE and Conduit. Superstars looks like it's for someone who's closer to being ready to publish than I am, but I may be mistaken about that, and if I move to the day shift at work I just might attend. I've only got about 5 chapters and a few stories, though, so publishing is a ways off. What I mostly need is a deadline, preferably weekly, and a few better minds to help me clear away the crap.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I honestly just used to let people sit in, without paying. But the university is troubled by this, hence the cap. I doubt that there will be room, but if you want to show up, look up the 318R class taught by me. It's thursday night, 5:10. I honestly don't know the room number—my assistant will point me in the right direction on Thursday, and I'll go.

    Superstars is indeed probably something beyond what you need right now, particularly for the price. I think it will be useful to anyone, but I think that you're right that right now, you need a deadline and a writing group far more.

    Kardlonoc

    As an aspiring fantasy writer do you really need a writers group? I mean certainly they seem like a nice thing but I am uncertain they are a necessity. Your thoughts?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, certainly they aren't needed. Stephen King warns people away from them, as a bad writing group can do far more harm than good.

    I didn't get one until I'd finished a few (unpublished) novels. At that point, it was extremely useful to have one for me—and has continued to be useful. They can be a great tool. But there are dangers. (Letting the group hijack your book being the biggest.)

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  • 104

    Interview: 2011

    wawayanda (January 2011)

    Do creative writing workshops actually deter students from writing novels?

    mushpuppy

    The bottom line is you don't learn how to write in a classroom. You learn how to think, how to critique, how to appreciate there. Maybe you gain some self-confidence. But self-confidence is useless without publication.

    Perhaps there you also will make a few friends who later will be able to help edit your work—though this is doubtful, as they'll either give up on their own writing and not want to see yours or not want to waste the precious few free hours they have to write by reading yours.

    Instead, you learn how to write by sitting by yourself in a room and writing, hour after hour, day after day, for years.

    That's how you learn to write.

    It is a solitary and almost entirely unrewarding experience. The only relevant difference between becoming a writer and going insane is that eventually, if you're lucky, you'll be rewarded with publication. And even then the reward in all likelihood will be minimal, as very few writers manage to make a living at it.

    This is why a person writes because he/she has to. Because otherwise a person wouldn't do it.

    Brandon Sanderson ()

    True, you don't learn to write in a classroom. That first paragraph you wrote is spot on. But I don't know about the rest.

    Unrewarding? The years I spent learning to write were indeed solitary, but also wonderful. Watching myself progress, learning how to express myself and get the ideas in my head onto the page in a way that conveyed emotion to people...that was extremely rewarding. Teaching myself something difficult was extremely rewarding.

    Publication isn't the reward. Publication is the way that you share, and if you are fortunate, find a means by which you can survive off of your art. You could call that a reward, I suppose, but it's not the primary one. You yourself mentioned that a person writes because they have to; publication is secondary.

    Writing can be painful, frustrating, and maddening. But if it's not rewarding at the same time, something is wrong.

    Also, the "only relevant difference between becoming a writer and going insane" is publication? I think that might be a tad on the side of hyperbole. You're right that few writers manage to make a living at it, but I think that you'd be surprised at how easy it is to improve your odds. The people who spend the years and years of practice that you speak of have a better shot than most realize, though genre, skill, and luck all play a part.

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  • 105

    Interview: Mar, 2009

    Nathan Morris

    You have many blog posts and podcasts about the writing process and getting published. Could you touch on a few of the core things would-be authors should do?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would say that the first and most important thing for an author is to learn to write consistently. It's just so important. A lot of people say they want to be writers but don't actually write, or they just write here and there. You can't expect to be a master at something when you first try it. Even if you're pretty good at it, you're still not a master. So just write something. Write a book, edit it, start sending it off, and then immediately start writing something else. Give yourself time to learn to love the process and learn to become a professional, because if you really want this, then you need to act like one. The way you do that is you learn to make yourself write. You need to learn how to deal with writer's block, too. It happens to all of us and we all deal with it in different ways, but you have to find what works for you and how to get yourself to produce.

    You don't need to be writing as fast as I did. I just absolutely love the process, and one of my big hang-ups early on was that I wouldn't edit my books. That's part of what took me so long. When I'd get done with a book, I'd say, "Yeah, I learned a lot from that; let me see what I can do now," then I was always excited about the next new idea. I always thought, "Oh the next one's going to be really good." But because of that mentality, I never gave the books that I did finish the credit or polish work that they deserved. It wasn't until I learned to start editing and revising that I got published. The first book I sold, Elantris, was actually the one that went through the largest number of revisions. Learn what works for you.

    Another big thing I want to mention is that you shouldn't try to write just toward the market—write toward yourself. Write something that you would love to read. It's good to be aware of what's happening in the market and what types of stories are out there and who else is writing books like that so that you can better explain what you're writing. What you don't want to do is say to yourself, "Teenage girl vampire romances are selling really well—I'm going to write one of those," unless you happen to really love writing teenage girl vampire romances. If you write a good book, someone out there will want to read it, and someone will want to buy it and produce it for those people. Not all genres are as viable marketwise as others. But again, you can't just say, "This sells well, so I'm going to write it," unless you happen to really like what happens to sell well.

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  • 106

    Interview: Nov 12th, 2013

    Sara

    What advice do you give to aspiring novelists?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Practice. Don't worry about anything other than finding time to write—then spend that time on your stories. Publishing shouldn't worry you; nothing should. Just practice.

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  • 107

    Interview: Nov 12th, 2013

    Sara

    Did you always want to be a writer, or did you have other career aspirations?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, I haven't always wanted to write. Unlike a lot of writers, I was not born as a novelist, and I wasn't writing as a kid. I actually didn't like books until I was a teenager. My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Reader, gave me a fantasy novel, and it was in fantasy novels in which I discovered myself and came to love the idea of storytelling. That's when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I was fifteen, but I had no idea how to write. I just jumped into it and started practicing. I think that's the best way for someone to become a writer—you're a writer if you write. If you sit down and say, "I'm going to be a writer!" and you start writing, working on your fiction, you're a writer! If you want to break into publishing, the best thing to do is to practice your craft

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  • 108

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2013

    WorldCon Flash AMA (Verbatim)

    Question

    Why are you at WorldCon?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, why am I at WorldCon? In the early days trying to break in, WorldCon was one of these wonderful resources, right? Where I would come here to meet editors, to meet other writers, and it was just a great community. It's very different from the media cons like Comic-con, where it's a spectacle. This isn't a spectacle. This is a bunch of fans hanging out, and so I just like it. So I come back to WorldCon—usually I come at least every other year—just to meet everybody. And also, you know, all the authors were coming when I was trying to break in and had such great advice. I feel like it's useful for me to appear on panels and talk about breaking in, in the era I did. Granted everything's changed since then, but it's changed even more since the older guard broke in, so hopefully I can be of some use to people.

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  • 109

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2013

    WorldCon Flash AMA (Verbatim)

    Question

    [What is your opinion on] outlining versus free-writing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I tend to . . . based on the project. Some projects, you need an intricate outline. Usually what an intricate outline will do for you is it'll allow for a more explosive ending. But the danger of an intricate outline is you risk not being able to discover as much of your story, so your story won't feel as alive sometimes. And so, trying to balance that, making sure your characters have this life to them. Because in the real world people make weird decisions all the time, and we don't follow this rigid path that's set out for us. And if you are too rigid with your outline, you'll have this stilted feel to your writing. But if you don't do any outlining, then your ending tends to kinda just be this thing . . . you're like, "Eh, now I've reached the ending."

    And often you can tell writers, whether they're discovery writers naturally or whether they're outline writers, based on those kind of things. If you go look at your favorite series and it seems like it meanders a lot, that's probably a discovery writer, but their characters are probably really strong. Both George R. R. Martin and Robert Jordan are discovery writers—Robert Jordan was, and George R. R. Martin is. And these are strengths of their writing, but also the ending thing is not something that works as well. A lot of authors, if they can hybridize—like I know Robert Jordan said all along he had the ending in mind, and his ending was very good. And having that one piece of ending that he's working to would help focus, and that's something that you can help do if you're a discovery writer.

    For me, I just try to use both tools, so that when I'm working on a book I use the tool that fits the book the best. If I want more spontaneity, I will outline less. If I want more of a powerful intersection of five different viewpoints coming together, I'll outline more.

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  • 110

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2013

    WorldCon Flash AMA (Verbatim)

    Myke Cole

    (Myke Cole, author of the Shadow Ops series): And so, you had this dream of being a writer, and you achieved it. You achieved it probably beyond your expectations. Is it what you expected? I mean, you're on tour all the time, you have deadlines barking at you. How do you like it?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Man, that's a good question. You know, I like meeting readers—that's fun. Being on tour, as much as I go, is not so much fun. And I think this is the first year where I said "yes" to too many things. I've just made too many appearances, and it's impacting the writing. Nobody tells you—that's why you make such an astute question. No one warns you that when you first break into this business—you know, you think, "Oh, I'm going to sell a book, and then I can go full time as a writer, and all my time will be writing."

    But then, you break in and realize the touring and stuff almost becomes like a second job to you. You become . . . I describe it like in Hollywood you have the writer who writes the script and sends it off, and then the director who directs the script, and then the actors who go out and do the publicity later on. And in writing you're all those people, plus the business person financing it all in the back end. And so you have to wear so many hats. It's bizarre, how many things you have to do.

    That said, I really love doing signings. I just wish that I could manage that a little bit better. So we're trying to, starting next year. Just a few fewer cons, making the tours a little bit shorter—make sure that I'm not stretched so thin. And it came about partially because we released three books this year, and last year released zero, which is a really stupid idea of us. Right? You really would rather be releasing a book or two a year, instead of three in one year and none the year before. But that's how things played out.

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  • 111

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2013

    WorldCon Flash AMA (Verbatim)

    Question

    What do you get out of doing your Writing Excuses podcasts?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So what do I get out of it? I get to be part of the community. I went to my very first convention when I was seventeen. It was held in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I was growing up. I'd never been to a sci-fi con before, and Katherine Kurtz was the guest. And I wanted so badly to be a writer, but I knew nothing about any of this. I chatted with her for a good 45 minutes about being a writer. She sat down with me and chatted with me, and it blew my mind. She's a best seller, she was top of her game. And it was so inspiring to me. And later on, Lee Modesitt did the same thing. Robin Hobb did the same thing. When I started coming to the conventions, I would say, "I want to be a writer. I have no idea what to do." And they'd say, "Sit down, kid." And they would start telling me stuff, and I try to regurgitate it on Writing Excuses. The thing to remember, guys, if you listen to the podcast, remember that everything we talk about is a tool you can try. It is not the method, because there is no method. Keep that in mind. But I'm trying to just be part of this. Writing is so solitary that when you can have a community and be part of one and chat with people, it's wonderful.

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  • 112

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2013

    WorldCon Flash AMA (Verbatim)

    Question

    A bit of a different question: I've been trying to write a fantasy story for a few months now, but I have a chronic procrastination tendency.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, so we kind of all do.

    Question

    I've tried to write, but I think I've written about five lines so far. It's pretty ridiculous, I know. It's just very hard for me to do.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Understood.

    Question

    Have you done something similar in the past, and/or do you know any writers that just have the utmost trouble with actually writing something? It's not about a writer's block, where you don't know what to write. It's more along the lines of a cringing feeling you get when you try to write. It just does not feel right even though you want to. Would love to hear from you.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay, this is perfect. This is a great question, okay? Here's the thing. You are in the unenviable position in that you know good writing, and you're trying to write right now. This is unenviable because when I started, I was stupid. I was a teenager, and I was not a very good reader or a very good writer. I had just discovered fantasy novels, and kind of found myself in them, and I started writing. And I had the sense of everything I did was awesome because I couldn't recognize good writing. I could, deep down, but I couldn't, you know . . . I thought everything I did was awesome. I didn't get embarrassed by my writing. A lot of people do, especially if they have a better eye for editing and a better eye for writing.

    What you've got to remember is writing is like any other art. You don't start off doing it the right way. It's more like playing the piano than you would think. And when you sit down to play the piano for the first few times, you're not going to be very good. You've got to push through, anyway. You've just got to write. Get a notebook, go outside, go away from the computer so you can't self edit, and sit down without any distractions and try writing longhand–that works for some people. But remember, you are not writing the perfect book, you are training yourself to write the perfect book. Just like an artist has to train himself to be an artist. Just like a baseball player has to train himself to hit the baseball. And in the future, you will get to the point that you will know how to swing at this baseball naturally. And you don't know that yet. Right now you're missing with every swing, and you recognize it. But you just have to put your dues in. You just have to work hard. You have to be willing to suck at this long enough to get good at it. All right? And you can do it, you gotta go for it. Okay?

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  • 113

    Interview: Jan 10th, 2013

    NutiketAiel

    One fan thanked Brandon for all the advice he offered to aspiring writers, to which Brandon replied in part:

    Brandon Sanderson

    "I got lots of good help when I was starting out, and I want to do something for others as well."

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  • 114

    Interview: Mar 21st, 2014

    Question

    You said that you had your lectures online, are they on your website?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. We link them on my blog, but they're at brandonsanderson.com/writing-advice. You can also look on YouTube, they're all on there.

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  • 115

    Interview: Mar 21st, 2014

    Question

    How do you come up with all your detail for your books, all the different sequences.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Just lots of practice. Practice a lot, and it starts coming to you.

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  • 116

    Interview: Mar 21st, 2014

    Question

    So, Joshua [Bilmes ha]s looked at two of my manuscripts, how many did he look at of yours before—?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I think he looked at four. [...] If you're continuing to get better and better feedbacks, that's a really good sign with Joshua. Now, you should also be sending other places. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. But as long as you're getting increasingly good feedback, then he's paying attention, and he doesn't read a lot of new authors' work anymore, he has his assistants do that, so if he is reading it himself (and if he says he is, he is) then you are in a good position.

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  • 117

    Interview: Feb 2nd, 2014

    Henry L. Herz

    What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Practice. Don't worry about anything other than finding time to write—then spend that time on your stories. Publishing shouldn't worry you; nothing should. Just practice.

    Henry L. Herz

    Indeed, I cannot underscore enough the value of belonging to a good critique group. I would also offer up Brandon's Laws (again from Wikipedia):

    "Sanderson's First Law is that "An author's ability to solve conflict satisfactorily with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic." While originally created as a rule for magic systems in fantasy novels, Sanderson has specified that this law need not apply just to fantasy, but is also applicable to science fiction. This Law was originally defined in Sanderson's online essay "Sanderson's First Law". In the essay he qualifies the two extremes of design as being:

    1. Magic/technology has well defined rules that the audience understands. As a result, one can use this to solve conflict more easily as the capabilities are cleanly defined. Sanderson classifies this as "Hard Magic". C.L. Wilson in her essay "Worldbuilding 101 — Making Magic" advocated this method of creation, stating, ". . . create your rules, then follow them."

    2. Magic/technology has unclear or vague rules, or none at all. This allows for a greater sense of wonder to be attained for the reader, but the ability to solve problems without resorting to deus ex machina decreases. Sanderson classifies this as "Soft Magic". Lawrence Watt-Evans specifically advised "The trick is to be a benevolent and consistent deity, not one who pulls miracles out of a hat as needed."

    Sanderson's Second Law is "Limitations > Powers", that a character's weaknesses are more interesting than his or her abilities. It was initially set down in Episode 14 of the podcast Writing Excuses. John Brown, likewise looked to Sanderson's work in his own essay involving magic systems, noting "What are the ramifications and conflicts of using it?" Patricia Wrede likewise noted several issues on this topic ranging from magic suppressing other technologies, to how a magic might affect farming. In explaining the second law, Sanderson references the magic system of Superman, claiming that Superman's powers are not what make him interesting, but his limits, specifically his vulnerability to kryptonite and the code of ethics he received from his parents.

    Sanderson's Third Law is that a writer should "Expand what you already have before you add something new."

    Sanderson's Last Law is that a good magic system should be interconnected with the world around it. Sanderson points out that magic does not take place in a vacuum. It is related to the ecology, religion, economics, warfare, and politics of the world it inhabits. The job of the author is to think farther than the reader about the ramifications of the magic system. If magic can turn mud into diamonds, that has an effect on the value of diamonds. Sanderson states that readers of genre fiction are interested not just in the magic system but how the world and characters will be different because of the magic."

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  • 118

    Interview: Aug 13th, 2014

    Question

    What advice would you give to someone who is trying to write an epic fantasy novel for the first time?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Turn off the internal editor. Write with passion, and don't spend a lot of time on revision. You will grow so quickly as a writer during your first book that you want to power through it, learn a lot about the process, THEN do your revisions. Otherwise, you might end up stuck in an endless loop of revising the first few chapters.

    Also, don't spend so long planning that you don't get around to writing. The goal is to train yourself to learn how to write—and you only do that by actually writing.

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  • 119

    Interview: Aug 13th, 2014

    Question

    I love stories in any medium, and I would love to tell one myself. But, I don't think I have anything in particular to say that hasn't been done a thousand times before. I invariably come across some story that already parallels my ideas. What makes a story worth telling even when its like has been done before?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The answer is simple: YOU are what makes your story worth telling. Harry Potter wasn't an original story, and yet told very well, it became an excellent series.

    My suggestion to you is to ask what unique passions or life experiences you have that aren't found in the average fantasy book. This genre still has a lot of room to grow. A person passionate about sports could write a very different fantasy novel from one passionate about lawn care—assuming they take what they know and love and make us, as readers, come to know and love it as well.

    Good luck!

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  • 120

    Interview: Aug 13th, 2014

    Question

    What kind of college classes (not English courses) would best prepare someone for writing fantasy?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Whatever you're fascinated by! You can incorporate basically anything into a story. If you love numbers, study economics. If you like history, pick an area and type and become an expert. Whether it be law or botany, you will find a way to use it in your books.

    I enjoyed my creative writing classes, but they don't tend to be as useful as gaining an expertise in an area, then letting that make your stories have a passion and weight to them.

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  • 121

    Interview: Aug 13th, 2014

    Question

    Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who are educated in a field other than literature and in a profession already that is not centered around writing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes! I'll tell you that you're in luck. Take what you've learned in your field of education, and in your profession, and apply it to your writing. RJ used his experience as a solider; Grisham made a career out of writing books related to his work. You have special experience and knowledge that will make your books distinctive. Make use of it!

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  • 122

    Interview: Sep 24th, 2014

    Jean Marie Ward

    Do the things you sketch out in advance generally come out as you plan them? You've mentioned that you are a person who outlines and plots and prepares very extensively. Do the things you see in that first flash of inspiration come out, or is it a rare and beautiful thing when it happens?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, I would say it comes out usually in a somewhat unexpected way. There's usually something about it that wasn't originally planned. This is the nature of writing. You have to be open and free to do what you're not expecting to do. Otherwise your writing's going to be wooden and lifeless. You have to be willing to explore ideas as they come to you in the writing process.

    That said, I am an outliner. My initial sketches, my outlines, calling them outlines is really a glorified version of a bunch of notes about how a scene is going to feel and what goals I want to achieve in it, but it is an outline. Often, it's very similar but with some distinctive and major differences.

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  • 123

    Interview: Sep 24th, 2014

    Jean Marie Ward

    Well, it’s good to put yourself in your own writing in ways people don’t quite expect. That, I’m sure, is not what they were thinking of you. We’ve touched on some of your series, and they’re big books. You’re writing novellas on top of that. You finished “The Wheel of Time”. You’re doing all of these things. Where do you find the time to teach?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I only teach one class, one semester a year, and it's one night a week. Teaching from 5 until 8, one night a week, one semester a year, is really not a big time commitment. It is something that I enjoy. It gets me out of the house. When someone else might go bowling or go watch the game, I go teach my class.

    Jean Marie Ward

    You're teaching writing.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I am, how to write science fiction fantasy, the lectures of which are posted online.

    Jean Marie Ward

    Oh, wonderful. What is the one thing that you hope your students will take away from your classes?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I hope that they will learn that being a writer is about training yourself to write great books. It is not about having written a great book. Too many people look at this not as the process of becoming a writer, but as an event of writing a single book. That's not how it works in the arts.

    You want to be a person who can write great books. You want to train yourself to do that. The way to do that is by writing bad books at first. You practice, you write, you experiment, you learn your style. At the end of doing that for years, you figure out what you're doing, to an extent.

    I don't think any of us actually believe we know completely what we're going. The writers really just need to practice. If they will practice and sit down and write, they will learn way more than I can teach them.

    Jean Marie Ward

    Do you find yourself still evolving, still learning?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, yes, of course. I don't think there is a writer who doesn't think that. That's what we do.

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