Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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I got home late last night from Worldcon, where Howard Tayler was beaten to the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award by the much-deserving Phil and Kaja Foglio with Girl Genius. Congratulations!
In this week's Writing Excuses episode Howard, Dan, and I talk about trimming—tightening your prose and reducing word count without changing your story. And while at Worldcon we recorded three episodes with the puppeteer and Campbell-winning writer Mary Robinette Kowal, so that's something to look forward to in upcoming podcasts.
And since it's Tuesday, a new Mistborn 3 annotation has gone up and I have three links to give you: Part One Wrap-Up, Chapter Fourteen, and Chapter Fifteen. The beginning of Part Two is when Spook shows up, so these are chapters I particularly like. It's more setup, but with a more epic scope like Hero of Ages has, more setup is necessary.
In this week's Writing Excuses podcast, debut author John Brown (whose book Servant of a Dark God comes out from Tor two weeks before The Gathering Storm—need an epic fantasy to tide you over?) joins us to discuss how to avoid making your characters sound just like you. We also put up an acceptance speech for the Parsec Award we won at Dragon*Con, but it's probably better to pretend I didn't just link it. . . .
Finally, in the most recent Mistborn 3 annotation, I discuss Clubs' backstory. Give it a look.
I haven't really mentioned it on the blog here, but I am going to be the toastmaster at MileHiCon in Denver next weekend, October 23rd through 25th. I'll post a specific schedule next week of where you'll find me at the con. I'll also be doing a signing on the 22nd at the Koelbel Library in Centennial that's open to all (convention registration not required). This is all before the release of The Gathering Storm, though, so Denver residents should also keep in mind that I'll be back in town on November 1st during the book tour. For details please see my Events page.
I'm going to be signing and personalizing Sam Weller's Bookstore's copies of The Gathering Storm on October 19th starting at 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time, so if you want to order a copy from them, that is the last moment you can request a personalization. They'll still accept orders after that for the remainder of the signed stock, but you'll be limited to a signature and a number unless you call them before 5:00 on the 19th. For details please see Item #4 on the Release Events page.
The limited-edition Mistborn Table of Allomantic Metals art prints have been delivered here to Dragonsteel Entertainment headquarters, and artist Isaac Stewart and I will be signing them tonight. We'll start taking orders probably tomorrow; expect a big announcement here on the blog.
The most recentMistborn 3 annotations involve the trilogy's first ball scene in quite a while. Chapter 30 was a lot of fun for me to write; I hope it gave many readers fond memories of Mistborn 1. Part 1, Part 2.
In the most recent Writing Excuses podcast, Dan, Howard, and I talk about how to write without plot twists. Give it a listen to see what I mean by that.
This week's Writing Excuses podcast covers the business of writing comics, again with Jake Black filling in for Brandon (whose we-don't-ever-discuss-it stint writing the webcomic "American Bachelors with Mecha(s)" is not nearly as relevant as Jake Black's professional experience in the industry).
In the most recent Mistborn 3 annotations, Brandon talks about Preservation's power and the working mechanism of Hemalurgy. He specifically does not say anything about Adonalsium. Writers can be so cruel.
This week's episode of Writing Excuses . . . wait, now that I think about it, Writing Excuses should also be eligible for a Best Related Work Hugo nomination. Huh . . . that would be an even more unlikely coup than our Parsec Award win last year. Well anyway, this week's podcast episode discusses collaboration.
I'm working on the final draft of The Way of Kings in order to meet its April 8th deadline, and over the past few days I've posted on Twitter and Facebook breakdowns of how many words I'm cutting from each chapter. This has confused some readers who have asked me not to cut anything out or to save them for an eventual "writer's cut" edition. Trust me on this one—the book you'll get on the shelf is the writer's cut, and you wouldn't like the writing as much if I didn't go through and do the trimming on this draft. Sort of like a director shoots a lot of film and then edits it into a coherent narrative later, I tend to overwrite on my first drafts—the language is more wordy than it needs to be, sometimes a character will come to the same realization multiple times as I'm working out where best to fit it in, that sort of thing. In my final draft I go in and trim out all the fat. We talked about this in an episode of Writing Excuses last year; if you're curious about the process, give it a listen.
So the words I'm cutting in this draft aren't anything you're going to miss as a reader. Now, sometimes I will cut an entire scene or heavily rework a section, but that usually happens in earlier drafts than this. I do save the cut scenes in case they contain something I want to use somewhere else or just for posterity. In the Library section of the website I've included some deleted scenes from Elantris, Mistborn 1, and Mistborn 2—check those out if you want to understand why it's a good reason those scenes are gone. Long after The Way of Kings is out, some of its cut scenes or early draft sections may end up on that page. We'll see.
Speaking of audiobooks, over at Fantasy Literature they've posted reviews of both audio versions of Warbreaker. There are also reviews of my other titles on that page, and many other reviews throughout the site.
In the most recent podcast episode of Writing Excuses, Dan, Howard, and I brainstorm story concepts using ideas from science. We started out by using a New Scientist article called "13 More Things We Don't Understand". Check it out.
In the most recent Mistborn 3 annotations I talk about the beginning of Vin's climax and her fight with the Inquisitors, Marsh and the earring, and cinematic writing. We're getting close to the end . . . I guess I should start putting up the Warbreaker annotations soon.
Finally, my good friend Janci Patterson just got her first fiction sale: her YA novel Skipped was bought by Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt. I couldn't be more pleased for her; I gave her some comments on the book (I basically thought it was brilliant). Janci also gave me some comments on The Way of Kings that proved invaluable in writing the final draft; if you're following me on Twitter or Facebook you heard a little more about that. You may also recognize Janci from the Mistborn 3 chapter 30 annotations. Anyway, I assume Janci's book will be out in 2011 or 2012, after which you can all buy it and find out for yourself how great it is.
Brandon's assistant Peter here. He's hard at work on Towers of Midnight, which you know if you've been following on Twitter or Facebook. And I've been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work for The Way of Kings release (the book is being composited as we speak and is due back from proofreading on Friday). So we're a bit behind on updates.
The most recent Mistborn 3 annotations cover Allomantic secrets including atium Mistings and the kandra coup and Sazed's decision. I've got the next four annotations queued, which should tide you over until we've got the KINGS proofs approved and I can line up the rest.
There are three new episodes of the writing advice podcast Brandon does with Howard Tayler and Dan Wells that haven't been mentioned on the blog. First up is a talk with Isaac Stewart, interior artist for the Mistborn books and one of the artists for The Way of Kings, about the visual elements of storytelling. Next up is breaking the fourth wall, again with Isaac (who is also half of the team behind the webcomic Rocket Road Trip with Warbreaker map artist Shawn Boyles). And finally is Living with the Artist which features Sandra Tayler, Dawn Wells, and Kenny Pike talking about what roles they play in their spouses' careers, among other things. (Kenny is a former student of Brandon's whose wife Aprilynne's book Wings hit #1 on the New York Times list. Who Sandra and Dawn are should be obvious.)
A couple of weeks ago on Writing Excuses, Dan, Howard, and I did some example line editing on the beginning of the first novel I wrote. It went over very well, so in this week's episode we return to White Sand and line edit the dialogue. You want to listen to it, right?
Common advice to writers is to write what you know. But in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, things happen that no writer has experienced or ever could experience. So in this week's episode of the Writing Excuses podcast Dan, Howard, and I talk about writing what you don't know.
In the most recent Warbreaker annotation, I cover Siri's requirement to produce an heir, and viewpoint characters interacting for the first time. I also discuss whether Warbreaker is an antiwar novel. Check it out.
We've got two new things up for you on the Writing Excuses podcast site. First is the newest episode on creating suspense. Next Dan, Howard, and I recorded an acceptance speech for our Parsec Award. Once again we missed the awards ceremony, though Dan and I were both there at Dragon*Con . . . (And don't worry about the way I sound; my voice has since recovered.)
In other news, the most recent Warbreaker annotations cover Lightsong hearing petitions, Denth talking to Vivenna about Breath, the relationship between Lightsong and Blushweaver, and converging viewpoints in the Court of Gods.
Two more episodes of the Writing Excuses podcast with Dan Wells and Howard Tayler have gone up. In the first one we're joined by Bree Despain to talk about character quirks. In the second, we again talk with Bree about writing in first person. Check it out.
First some updates. In the most recent Writing Excuses episode we cover the excuses that keep you from writing. And recent Warbreaker annotations talk about Vasher infiltrating the palace, Lightsong playing Terachin, and Clod's identity.
Last year I was an instructor at the first Superstars Writing Seminar with David Farland, Kevin J. Anderson, Eric Flint, and Rebecca Moesta. Well, it's happening again this January in Salt Lake City, with additional special guest instructor Sherrilyn Kenyon. I mention it now because the tuition rates go up at the end of October. This conference focuses on the business of writing, and I had a blast at last year's event in Pasadena. Here's how I described it last year:
So many people ask me for writing advice and help with their work that I decided to say yes to this invitation because it will give people the chance they've been asking for. I realize the seminar is expensive—which means it's not for everyone—but as busy as I'm getting nowadays, something like this seems the only way.
The other writers participating could all still teach even me a thing or two. In fact, Dave specifically did teach me a lot about the writing business—it was while taking a writing class from him close to ten years ago that I finally began to understand what it takes to make it in publishing. And Kevin gave me invaluable advice that has made my life as a writer much easier over the past year. If you read the testimonials in the sidebar on the site you'll see names of pro writers whose work I've mentioned before or who we've had as guests on Writing Excuses, including Eric James Stone, Brandon Mull, John Brown, and Bob Defendi—all of them have benefited extremely from classes taught by Dave and/or Kevin & Rebecca. The instructor talent lineup for this seminar is daunting even to me, and I'm one of them!
This year's conference will cover topics such as:
* Economics of Commercial Publishing
* How Editors Look at Manuscripts, Novels, and Short Fiction
* Dissecting a Book Contract
* How to Read and Understand a Royalty Statement
* Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Being a Professional Author
* How to Leverage Your Intellectual Property
* Balancing Acts: Writing World and Real World
* Networking and Self-Promotion for Authors
* Understanding E-Books
* Pitching the Big Proposal
* Two Heads Are Better than One: Collaborations
* How to Get an Edge with New Media
* Movies, TV, and Authors
* How to Increase Your Writing Productivity
* and more, including open Q&A sessions, a special limited-seating VIP banquet to get to know the instructors, and plenty of networking opportunities among the teachers, other writers, and fellow students.
If this is the sort of thing you're interested in, now's the best time to register.
He spoke about magic system creation and that he had a science background that inspired him in creating Allomancy which has a scientific basis, and elements of chemistry, biology and physics. He also mentioned a podcast he is a part of, Writing Excuses, and that one episode was about creating magic systems.
Want your name to appear as a character in the Stormlight Archive? There's going to be an auction for just that starting on Wednesday to benefit the Life, the Universe, & Everything (LTUE) symposium. I'll post more details when the auction begins.
This year's LTUE hosted the recording of a number of episodes of the Writing Excuses podcast, one of which aired this week. In it, Dan and Howard are joined by Robison Wells and Sarah Eden to talk about writing romance.
There are also a couple of other updates. Towers of Midnight has made it to the semifinals of Audible's Tournament of Audiobooks, but it is currently behind in votes to Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. If you liked the Towers of Midnight audiobook, consider giving it your vote. (Of course you can vote for Matterhorn instead, if you think that was a better audiobook.)
I haven't linked this week's Writing Excuses podcast episode yet. Recent episodes were recorded at LTUE when I was at ConDFW, so I haven't been appearing, but this episode marks my return. Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, and I talk about urban fantasy.
The Dragons & Fairy Tales bookstore has a 30% off sale on all Brandon Sanderson books through December 17th. They have copies of almost all of my books (they sold out of Alcatraz 4, but they do have a bunch of the first three Alcatraz books), and some of them are signed. They will ship. Call them at (801) 789-5014 or stop by the store.
I'll be signing in Murray this weekend and in Bountiful the weekend after that. Details are on my events page. Unfortunately, it looks like the Murray Borders will not get any copies of Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens, but the Bountiful Barnes & Noble already received at least 35 copies. If you plan to come to the Bountiful signing but want to buy the book now, stop by the store and pick it up, then bring it back to the signing. They also have a large number of the previous Alcatraz books and my other titles.
This week on the Writing Excuses podcast, Howard Tayler and I are once again joined by Scott Westerfeld to discuss steampunk. And recent Warbreaker annotations talk about Lightsong trying pottery and Vivenna meeting with the slumlords.
There are a couple episodes of Writing Excuses up that I have not yet mentioned. First Dan, Howard, and I did another brainstorming episode covering urban fantasy. Then at Penguicon, Howard and I sat down to record an episode with Nebula and Campbell nominee Saladin Ahmed to talk about non-traditional settings. Check them out.
Things are mostly working on my website after its recent server move—the library, annotation, and store pages are all accessible and functioning—but there's still some work to be done in the site's backend. The upshot is that I can't yet add new annotations or library items. So the Warbreaker annotations are on hiatus until that gets fixed, as are the Warbreaker html chapters, and the expanded "I Hate Dragons" short will also have a delayed posting in the library.
This week's Warbreaker annotation covers the biggest climax chapter. It's chock-full of spoilers, of course.
In this week's episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, Dan, Mary, Howard, and I cover pitching. This is something we get a lot of questions about, and it's an important skill for a writer to learn.
There's a new Mythwalker chapter up, which features a lot of Siri and Vvenna.
Cuthbert gave Brandon packs of Magic cards in Italian and Brandon had him sign one of the cards, which was neat.
Other things we discussed included the Mistborn movie (Brandon has seen a screenplay and it was pretty good, but the project is not for sure going to be made). Dreamworks Animation has the rights to Alcatraz and Red Eagle has the rights to Wheel of Time.
There was an April Fools joke at one point that Lindsay Lohan was going to play Vin in the movie by Brandon's friend Dan Wells who does the Writing Excuses podcast for aspiring writers with Brandon. If you haven't listened to their podcast yet you should, its quite entertaining even for people who have no desire to become writers. Brandon mentioned that maybe about 50% of the audience is listening just for fun and may not have an actual desire to become professional authors.
Finally, Brandon told us that he is likely coming back to Europe next year. He wants to get to the UK very much and will likely go to the Imaginales d'epinal convention which is in March. He said that he generally has more time at conventions to do things like play Magic than at signings as there are events over multiple days, parties, etc...
This week's Writing Excuses podcast has another of our microcasting episodes. Mary, Howard, Dan, and I fielded questions from people on Twitter and answered them briefly. We discussed the following topics:
* How do you hold the whole story in your head when it's a thousand pages long?
* What steps do you use when creating a character?
* As an outliner, when do you start putting in the details?
* How do you patch plot holes?
* How do you come up with names?
* Is there one writing skill you'd like to get better at?
* Writing groups: what do you look for?
Hey, Erik. How's California?
It's not too bad, just been going to the beach (a LOT—my wifes a surfergirl) and trying to get my flippin book done. Brandon/Howard, do you guys try to get all of the local authors on Writing Excuses? The published ones that is.
Local authors are like Pokemon. We have to catch them all.
Honestly, we don't have much trouble. Authors like to talk. (See: This conversation.) Give them a platform, and most will talk. Particularly on a podcast with a lot of listeners.
My buddy lives in Linden and just signed a big deal with S&S for a YA speculative fiction book. But the guy's a hermit and doesn't know any of the local people.
Get him out to LTUE. We don't bite very hard.
Yeah I've been telling him that he should go. His series is supposed to fill the slot left by the Spiderwick Chronicles.
We'd love to have him on.
This week's Writing Excuses episode features Andrew P. Mayer joining Howard, Mary, and Dan at Dragon*Con to discuss taking ridiculous-seeming over-the-top concepts and using them to create brilliant literature.
In the newest chapter of Mythwalker, my abandoned novel from 2001, the switch is on. You knew it was coming.
First some updates. The naming rights auction for a Stormlight (or other) character that I talked about last week ends in 38 hours, as do most of Orion's other auctions benefiting the UK charity Samaritans.
This week's Writing Excuses podcast episode features Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman talking with Mary and Dan at the recent World Fantasy convention. Interstitial Art is the topic—books that don't fit well in any particular genre category.
How do you get the different personalities for all your characters?
With the characterization for me is a very organic thing. I acutally plot my plot in detail, do my worldbuilding in detail, before I start on my characters though, if I plan them out too much, they don’t have enough life to them. It’s a very weird thing to explain, but for me, what I have to do is I have to try writing through this character’s eyes, and if it doesn’t work, than I actually have to toss that chapter and try again, and often times you’ll see me start a book try a character a couple of times to get them right. And then they just grow into what they are as the plot goes along. And in fact, the characters have veto power over the plot, and so if I get to a point that I feel like a character would not do this, I have to either go back and cast a different person in this role, or —interruption—
If you are very interested in how I write, I do a podcast called Writing Excuses. And what it is is it’s through your browser, so you don’t do anything special, you just go there and press play, and it’s me and Mary Robinette Kowal who writes these books, they’re like Jane Austen with magic. (laughter) Yeah, she’s good. And it’s Dan Wells, who writes these really scary creepy books, but they’re really good, and it’s Howard Tayler. So anyways, Writing Excuses, all you aspiring writers, it’s Hugo-nominated, it's very well received, I think you’ll really enjoy it. You can look by topic, and find where I talk about writing characters, and we’ll give you a ton of advice. There’s two hours of advice on characters you can listen to.
Have you ever thought about making your writing class open?
Yes I have. There are some back and forths here. One thing, about the classes, I really do like teaching at BYU. I like being a BYU teacher, I like being involved a little bit in our Alma Mater, I like coming here, and if I were to make the class open, basically, what I would have to do, I would have to stop teaching at BYU and go to a library or something like that, and just do it in an Auditorium, and I like the class as it is. BYU has policies that say “You have to be a BYU student to go to the class” and that’s not something I can influence or change. So as long as I have it at BYU, it kind of has to be that way. Does that make sense?
Though I’ve tried to let them get me to record it and like Webcast it, but they have requirements and rules that so far we haven’t been able to make that work. But Writing Excuses is basically the way that I do my class without doing my class, if that makes sense.
This week's Writing Excuses podcast episode features Mary, Dan, Howard, and I talking about character foils. Give it a listen.
This week's Writing Excuses episode is titled "Help, I Can't End My Book!" This is the final podcast of this season for Howard, Mary, Dan, and me. Check it out.
There's a new chapter of my abandoned 2001 novel Mythwalker up.
In this week's Writing Excuses podcast episode, Dan, Mary, Howard, and I talk about brevity.
Since all the chapters of my abandoned novel Mythwalker have now been uploaded, it's time to start dishing out something else for your weekly bonus content. So my assistant has put up the first annotation for Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. This one talks about the process of coming up with the title for the book, with the various (and often ridiculously long) options that were considered.
If you're not familiar with my book annotations, think of them as the director's commentary on a special edition DVD. On your second read-through of a book, you may be interested to hear what I have to say about each chapter. Currently I have completed annotations for Elantris, the Mistborn trilogy, and Warbreaker. Check them all out. (Spoilers from later in the book than the current chapter are hidden.)
My assistant also uploaded another Twitter posts archive.
The most recent Writing Excuses episode draws back the curtain and talks about how Writing Excuses got started. It's horribly indulgent, but you may enjoy it anyway.
My assistant Peter sent out a newsletter late last week, mostly covering my 2012 convention appearances (including Australia in April), and you can see it here. If you want to be on the mailing list, or want reminders when I'm going to be appearing near you, sign up here and tell me your city and state.
The newest Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians annotation covers chapter two and talks about how The Simpsons already did everything.
In this week's Writing Excuses podcast episode, Dan, Howard, Mary, and I cover these questions from Twitter in a rapid-fire fashion:
* What do you do if you don't like your characters?
* How do you keep your plot on track?
* Is it better to use real locations in an Urban Fantasy?
* What do you do about plot holes?
* How do you know if you should abandon a story and move on to something else?
* How do you ensure the answers to mysteries are satisfying?
* What are some language-level mistakes that mark writing as amateurish?
* What should a scene consist of?
* What kind of bacon is best?
* Why is Schlock, who looks like a pile of poo, lovable instead of disgusting?
The most recent Writing Excuses episode features David Brin talking with Dan and Mary at the World Fantasy convention about the importance of criticism.
The Hugo Awards nomination deadline is the end of this week. If you're already a member of the 2011, 2012, or 2013 Worldcons, be sure to get your nomination form submitted. I talked about this two months ago, but I and my Writing Excuses partners have various works that are eligible, particularly Writing Excuses Season Six in the Best Related Work category.
There's a new Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians annotation up. This one covers chapter three.
In the most recent Writing Excuses podcast episode, Howard, Mary, and I talk about writing the omniscient viewpoint. (Dan wasn't there; he was off saving his son from ninjas or something like that.)
The newest Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians annotation discusses my use of prison names, the setting, and Bastille. And I'm very pleased to announce that the audiobook for Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones is finally available. The other two audiobooks will follow within a few months. Rutabaga.
This week's episode of Writing Excuses features Mary, Howard, and I talking about Man vs. Nature. If you're as confused about that as Howard was, it's one of the basic narrative conflict archetypes (along with Man vs. Man and Man vs. Self). Check it out.
There's also a new Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians annotation up. This one covers chapter six.
Samuel Montgomery-Blinn of Bull Spec interviewed me for Audible SF/F about audiobooks.
This is the last week to vote on the long list for the David Gemmell Legend Award (the poll closes March 31st). The Alloy of Law has been nominated, but you should vote for the book you want to win, of course.
I was wondering, when you're recording writing excuses, how often do you ahve to stop and take a break because of how hard you're laughing when Mary pulls out her puupet-voices *laughter*
Usually, we don't ever want to stop, there have been a few times where we descend to laughter to the point that, that we have to cut things. But usually if we're descending into laughter, that's a good thing because part of what makes writing excuses work is we try to be really genuine, we try to be ourselves. Hopefully an entertaining and snappy version of ourselves, but really just us.
And you know we try to make it quick and fast but also genuine and so we're laughing at that, those moments are ones we love and as long as it's genuine laughter, we can't replicate it. There's some times where something goes wrong technically and we don't end up catching on the audio something that was really awesome and we can never replicate it if it happened, so we like to try to capture those moments live. We don't usually stop to do that so we'll usually get together to record three or four episodes and then we take a break and we'll try to do something to help with the creativity.
Maybe sometimes we'll go out to write, often times we'll go out to lunch and just start chatting and throwing things back at each other, helping each other with stories and then we'll come back and do four more and then do that again and we find that that helps us keep the rhythm and the energy for the podcast.
What do you have to say to aspiring writers?
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.
Today marks the release of Writing Excuses cohost Mary Robinette Kowal's novel Glamour in Glass, which you should read. On this week's podcast episode, Mary offers up an outline from 2003 (of a middle-grade fantasy Mary was planning) for us to dissect, and it's an educational process.
My good friend and Writing Excuses cohost Dan Wells' new book THE HOLLOW CITY is out today. The release party is tonight at Weller Book Works (the bookstore formerly known as Sam Weller's, at their new location, which has parking!) in Trolley Square.
Mary, Howard, and I are going to be there, and Dan hopes to see many of you there as well to get the new book (or any other book of his) signed. This is also one of the last chances to see Dan before he and his family move to Germany for a year. Details are below.
Location: Weller Book Works
607 Trolley Square
Salt Lake City, UT
7:00 p.m. July 3, 2012
Two more Writing Excuses podcast episodes are up. The first covers what we call the problem of originality: Is it possible to be too original? Do we overvalue originality? Then the second episode is another one of our "project in depth" episodes; this time we cover Mary Robinette Kowal's latest novel, Glamour in Glass. (Earlier we did the same thing with my novel The Way of Kings and Howard's graphic novel volume Force Multiplication.)
This week's Writing Excuses podcast episode with Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, and me talks about the villain problem. By that we mean when the hero is less active than the villain and spends most of the book reacting to the cool things the villain does. We discuss what a writer can do about this issue.
You could argue your essays on writing are aimed at prospective writers. Do you see those posts as a forum similar to a classroom?
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.
This week's Writing Excuses episode was recorded live at Gen Con and features Monte Cook talking with Mary, Howard, and me about writing gaming fiction. On a related topic, this weekend we will learn the fate of the two awards Writing Excuses has been nominated for: the Hugo Award in the Best Related Work category, and the Parsec Award in the Best Podcast about Speculative Fiction Content Creation category. Mary and Howard will be at the Hugo Awards ceremony at Worldcon in Chicago, and I will attend the Parsec Awards ceremony at Dragon*Con in Atlanta.
In the most recent Writing Excuses podcast episode, Mary, Howard, and I help Dan brainstorm ideas for a military thriller short story. The working title is "I.E.Demon" and you can hear us hash it out.
This past weekend, at the Parsec Awards ceremony at Dragon*Con, Writing Excuses was awarded the Parsec for Best Podcast about Speculative Fiction Content Creation. We're honored! And at Worldcon we came up short in the Hugo voting for Best Related Work for the second year in a row, losing to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, a very worthy winner.
Two new Writing Excuses podcast episodes have been released. First up is a live episode recorded at Gen Con Indy that features Shanna Germain talking with Mary, Howard, and me about writing love scenes. Next comes an episode on killing characters.
The episodes that we recorded in February at Life, the Universe & Everything have already aired on the podcast, but they were also filmed by a good friend of mine, Earl Cahill. If you've wondered what our live episodes look like, you can see them here:
My pal Larry Correia, author of the Monster Hunter International series, is running a kickstarter for a MHI world book/tabletop roleplaying game. The kickstarter is actually already funded, but it looks cool. If you like shooting monsters with accurately described guns, this might be for you.
The most recent Writing Excuses episode is another live episode recorded at GenCon Indy. We spoke with James L Sutter about writing tie-in fantasy fiction. He's the co-creator of the Pathfinder RPG system and is the editor of all Pathfinder fiction, so if you've ever been interested in writing in a universe like that, check it out!
Writing Excuses has a couple more episodes: one on the Pixar rules for writing a compelling story, and one on beginnings. There are also two more bonus episodes we recorded for NaNoWriMo, which ended a couple days ago. I hope many of you reached your writing goals for November!
Writing Excuses has three new episodes, finishing off our seventh season. Episode 52 is another microcasting episode, talking about embarrassing early projects of ours, how to tell if an idea is too big for a particular story, how to avoid discouragement, and how to handle multiple magic systems in one book. Episode 53 talks about Secret History, which is a type of alternate history where historical events are given fantastical explanations (such as with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). And the final episode, Episode 54, talks about four ways the publishing industry is changing. Next week marks the beginning of season eight!
On Friday I posted about Hugo Nominations and offered to send The Emperor's Soul to any Hugo voters. Writing Excuses has a list up of all the award-eligible works of the Writing Excuses team. And our first episode of the year is a microcasting episode on these topics:
Why do some authors only ever come out with one or two books?
What's your process for writing fast under artificial deadlines (NaNoWriMo)?
How do you avoid getting bogged down in explanation?
What happened to your Hero of a Thousand Faces episode? (Whoops! See below.)
Are there concerns or pitfalls regarding the use of metaphors and similes in genre fiction?
What are some pitfalls to writing short stories?
How do you write sex scenes? (Note: This particular question resulted in an entire episode back in Season 7. Shanna Germain to the rescue!)
Have any of you included original poems in your work?
Does he have any advice for new writers?
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.
On this week's episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, Mary, Howard, Dan, and I discuss the Hero's Journey. This is an episode that we've talked about doing for years and have finally gotten around to. Enjoy!
In this week's Writing Excuses podcast episode, Dan, Mary, Howard, and I talk about how to give your story's animals a personality. Give it a listen.
In the most recent Writing Excuses podcast episode, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and I talk about breaking the rules. We've said that you've got to learn the rules before you break them, so now it's time to talk about why to break them.
I donated a signed first edition of Mistborn for an auction at Con or Bust, which helps fans of color attend SFF conventions. Check it out.
Although Sanderson has emerged as a powerhouse in the genre, he always speaks of his success as a gift.
"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."
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.
"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."
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.
"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."
The most recent podcast episode of Writing Excuses features Dan's brother Robison Wells talking with us about cliffhangers and icebergs—when it's a good idea to leave people in the dark, and when it's a bad idea. Check it out.
And I basically accosted Brandon in the hallway as we were leaving the JordanCon party and said, "Do you have ten minutes?" I've used four of them already.
You know, I've accosted my share of people for the podcast idea. So I'm used to this. We sometimes tie people up and tow them over.
"You podcast with us, or we won't let you go."
And I do have Scott W. Baker from episode two times ago in the room. And Scott's another big dude, so between us we could probably have manhandled him. It's not like a James Tuck, or anything, but . . . Anyway, so Brandon what project am I currently keeping you from?
The Wheel of Time–the last book of The Wheel of Time. A Memory of Light comes out January 8. I am going to go to my hotel room and work on it some more because the deadlines are pretty crazy.
How well I know, 'cause my deadlines are two weeks ago for revisions on book two of my series.
Yeah, yeah. And here we are sitting and chatting instead.
In your novellas Legion and The Emperor's Soul, there was a common theme of a creation of character. Were you making a comment on that as a writer?
The Emperor's Soul was much more so, specifically dealing with the artistic process. That was part of the theme for me. Legion was more "Wow, this idea's awesome." I originally told Dan (from Writing Excuses) that he should write this, it's really quirky. He said, "I got my own ideas—go write it yourself!"
Do you have any advice for up and coming authors?
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.
Do you have any advice for approaching agents?
Have you listened to my podcast or watched my-?
I’m familiar with it, Writing Excuses?
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.
This week's Writing Excuses podcast episode is called "Fake It Till You Make It" and in it Mary, Dan, Howard, and I talk about the things we do or have done to feel professional.
Also, as I mentioned earlier this week, Writing Excuses has been nominated once again for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work! Our announcement on that is here. And if you missed my announcement of The Emperor's Soul being nominated for Best Novella, it is here. Howard's Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia is also nominated for Best Graphic Story. If you want to be able vote for the Hugo Awards, I talk about that in my previous post.
Mary's new book Without A Summer is also out this week. The first two books in the series were excellent, so you're sure to enjoy this one too!
This week the Writing Excuses podcast has another brainstorming episode, where I come up with a concept for a short story and Mary, Howard, and Dan help me toss ideas around for it.
The latest Writing Excuses podcast is another brainstorming episode, where Mary, Howard, and Dan help me come up with ideas for a story about psychic birds. Enjoy. And yes, I did end up writing this story (a novelette) after doing the podcast. More on that in the future.
This week's Writing Excuses podcast episode is another microcasting episode where we cover a bunch of questions:
- How do you prepare to write?
- How do you write stories that are important without being heavy-handed?
- Magical realism vs. Fantasy—what's the difference?
- Do you have recommendations or techniques for serving as a beta reader?
- Is it possible to do a serial with short stories and novellas all in the same setting?
- Why do publishers say they want crossed-genre books, but they're not publishing crossed-genre books?
- Picture books and books for beginning readers: can you 'cast on this for us?
- Can you do a 'cast on reading aloud?
- What is the primary thing you've learned from reading Literary Fiction that has informed your Genre Fiction writing?
The ebook for Unfettered, which contains the A Memory of Light deleted sequence "River of Souls," has now been released. Details below.
Tor.com's reread of The Way of Kings reached chapters 16 and 17, the first flashback with Laral and Tien, and Kaladin leading Bridge Four from the front. Also, Writing Excuses' latest podcast episode features us talking about middle grade fiction with E.J. Patten, author of Return to Exile and The Legend Thief.
How would you say doing Writing Excuses for all these years has impacted you as a writer? The content has impacted those who listen, but I'm curious what it's done for you going through all those discussions w/the rest of the crew.
It certainly has helped me work on the theory of the craft. Having to think through what I do and explain it, along with listening to people who do things differently, has helped me a great deal. Also, the brainstorming sessions we do are pure gold. Some of the most purely creative sessions in my life.
Hey Brandon! Big fan, and a regular listener to the very insightful Writing Excuses. I recently took all your talk about making time to write to heart and have since found a way to juggle my career, life, and MBA study in order to write. Over the past 6 weeks, I've done about 50k words and still managed to stay on top of everything. So, I guess I'm saying thanks to you, Mary, Howard, and Dan for the kick in the butt I needed to get to writing!
I do have some questions however: What do you do to refill the creative well?
Congrats! Nice work.
Family is a big part of it for me. Also, times just listening to music and not writing anything down.
I wonder which of the BSBs (Brandon Sanderson Bots) wrote this one? I'd guess it was BSB_04, since I'm pretty sure the current situation is:
BSB_01 is focused on Words Of Radiance
BSB_02 is working on Firefight (Steelheart sequel)
BSB_03 is prepping the Rithmatist sequel
BSB_04 is prepping Shadows of Self (next Mistborn)
BSB_05 is handling the promotional events
BSB_06 handles the Writing Excuses stuff
BSB_07 does M:TG/fathering
Seriously, how the hell does he do all of this?!
You forgot BSB-8: The Reddit bot.
Actually, this was my breather short piece between Words of Radiance (rough draft) and diving into Firefight and the WoR 2nd draft. I'm really feeling like I could use a few more bots, these days. The promotional events side of things has been killer.
I do have to say that these two Infinity Blade shorts have been quite fun to do. They've been my first chance to dive into something video game related, which is another entire world of writing. I plan to write the Mistborn video game when we finally get around to doing the thing, and getting some first-hand experience with the backend of video gaming has been wonderful.
So much awesomeness at once. Please don't burn out though! We want you to keep making books in the years to come too.
Also, we'll keep bying your books, so you don't need all that promoting ;)
Well, promotion for someone like me is more about going out and saying "Thank you" than it is about going out to encourage people to buy my books. Most of that promotion involves doing booksignings or conventions, which I do explicitly to meet with readers. (Without whom, I'd never have been able to do what I've done.)
The problem comes in saying yes to a full slate of conventions, then having two publishers decide to release three of my books this year. (When I had no book releases last year.) That added a heap of publicity onto my slate. Next year should go back to a more normal schedule.
Well, I can't pretend to be sorry for getting several books out of you this year, but it does sound like a monumental task.
Some of us really appreciate you interacting with your fans here, so thank you. That being said, I really prefer reading works that came completely from your own imagination than that of someone else.
I understand this, and don't worry—I don't plan to do a lot of this. At the same time, working within confines like these offer me a chance to flex different kinds of writing muscles, ones which I'd like to practice using. I plan to take these kinds of projects sparingly. However, if I'm going to dabble in video games, I figure I should gain some experience with the medium before I tackle something like Mistborn.
Are you tempted to write some content for an RPG like Patrick Rothfuss is doing for Torment? Love the books by the way.
The thing that would most tempt me would be doing Magic: The Gathering content, as that is my nerd obsession. I could foresee doing some kind of RPG content, however. Depends on the project and how behind on things I'm feeling.
Ha my respect for you just went up a notch. Nothing more fun then playing Magic: The Gathering with a big group of friends.
To be honest there must be versions BSB-9 and BSB-10 because you're also in those writing lectures on youtube.
I'm loving them by the way. At the start of the last years session where you started asking if anyone read Honor Harrington I literally raised my hand in front of the screen (couldn't believe more people didn't). You should assign it as a mandatory reading!
Glad you're enjoying them. Keep writing.
Fun fact: winning two Hugos in one night can leave a guy sitting in bed unable to sleep until 5:40 in the morning. Whew. That was quite an experience. Winning for Writing Excuses was unexpected enough, but getting to take home a Hugo in a fiction category...wow. It's something I've dreamed of for a good twenty years.
Thank you all for the kind words. This was an incredible night.
Howard slept with his that night, by the way. (Not even kidding.)
What do you get out of doing your Writing Excuses podcasts?
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.
Generosity and fame
Sanderson doesn't just create worlds in fiction; he also helps others create their own fictional worlds. With his friends Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler, Sanderson puts out the weekly (and Hugo Award-winning) Writing Excuses podcast. He also teaches one creative writing class at Brigham Young University each year.
In 1994, when Sanderson was a senior in High School in Nebraska, he went to a local science fiction fan convention called Andromeda One.
"The guest of honor was Katherine Kurtz, a great writer," he said. "She sat down with me when she heard I wanted to be a writer and she talked with me for about an hour on what to do."
Later, after Sanderson served a mission in Korea for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he took a class on science fiction and fantasy offered at BYU from author Dave Wolverton (who also writes as David Farland).
"Dave took a 'pay cut' to teach us," Sanderson said. "It was something he did to help us. Both of those situations were so incredibly helpful to me and so wonderfully useful that I basically got published because of things like this—authors spending their time. ... These chances I got were so useful to me that I think I would be remiss if I didn't do it myself."
But as successful as Sanderson has been, he tries to keep that success in perspective. Although huge lines and crowds will, if past events are any indication, gather for his book launch at midnight on March 4 at BYU Bookstore in Provo, fame isn't a motivator.
"Fortunately, writers don't get that famous; even famous writers don't get that famous," he said. "Like if you were to walk out on that street and say, 'Hey guys, Brandon Sanderson is in this room,' I can guarantee that nobody would care. There might be one person who might say, 'Hey, I've heard of that guy. Didn't he write those books?' Nobody would care. ... And so it is very easy to keep well-grounded as a writer."
Other Eligible Works
Writing Excuses Season Eight is also eligible in the Best Related Work category. We won last year, which was thrilling. Thank you all for your nominations and votes! (I believe we won by three votes.)
"Lift," which you can read for free here, is eligible in the novelette category. Though it is part of Words of Radiance, it also stands on its own, and is worth consideration.
I also have other shorts eligible in various categories, but I think the ones listed above are the stronger works.
Hi! First of all thank you for answering our questions :)
Shadows Beneath the Writing Excuses anthology is available in digital format on Amazon or in hardback in your store but if you are from Europe is really expensive to buy it. Will the hardback be available on Amazon some day?
I don't think it will be. :( This would require us to get Amazon to stock it, I believe, which I don't think will happen. But I'll look into this.
Yeah, Writing Excuses! We recommend a book on every episode of Writing Excuses, um, so.
Have you read Pat’s books?
Have I read Rothfuss? Yeah, I’ve read Rothfuss’ books. I’ve got… I get them early! Uhm, so, um… I’ve got the Wise Man’s Fear and The Slow Regard of Silent Things, and both came with a number in the corner like “if this ends up on eBay, we know who we gave it to” sort of thing, it was watermarked, “this is Brandon’s copy, don’t sell it”.