State of the Sanderson 2015
We are approaching Koloss Head-Munching Day—the day of the year that happens, by utter coincidence, to coincide with my birthday. (December 19th.) I’m turning forty this year, which isn’t as dramatic for me as it might be for some others. From the way I act, people have been joking for the last twenty years that I was “born forty.” I guess I’m finally just catching up.
It’s been almost twenty years since I finished my first book. I can remember joking with my friends in college (whom you might know as Lieutenant Conrad from Mistborn and Drehy from Bridge Four) that by forty, we were all going to be rich and famous.
The thing is, I always intended to make that dream happen. Not necessarily for the “rich” part or the “famous” part, neither of which interested me a great deal. I just knew that without a solid, stable writing career, I’d never be able to make the Cosmere happen.
Perhaps that’s where this whole “born forty” thing came from in the first place. I basically spent my twenties writing, slavishly trying to figure out how to craft stories. Friends would tell me to relax, but I couldn’t, not when these dreams of mine were so big. It should be mentioned that despite what our society would like to believe, hard work doesn’t always equate with success. For me, luck played a huge part in my being able to sit here and type this out for you.
Still, here I am, and I honestly can’t imagine things having gone better. People often seem bemused by my productivity; when I get together with fellow authors, they sometimes jokingly refer to me as “the adult” in our group. I get this—for a lot of them, writing is more of an instinctual process. Sitting and talking about the business side of things, or their goals for writing, flies in the face of the almost accidental way they’ve approached their careers. And it works for them; they create great books I’m always excited to read.
However, sometimes there’s also this sense—from fans, from the community, from us authors in general—that whispers that being productive isn’t a good thing. It’s like society feels artists should naturally try to hide from deadlines, structure, or being aware of what we do and why we do it. As if, because art is supposed to be painful, we shouldn’t enjoy doing our work—and should need to be forced into it.
If there’s one thing that has surprised me over the last ten years, it’s this strangeness that surrounds my enjoyment of my job, and the way my own psychology interfaces with storytelling. People thank me for being productive, when I don’t consider myself particularly fast as a writer—I’m just consistent. Fans worry that I will burn out, or that secretly I’m some kind of cabal of writers working together. I enjoy the jokes, but there’s really no secret. I just get excited by all of this. I have a chance to create something incredible, something that will touch people’s lives. In some cases, that touch is light—I just give a person a few moments to relax amid the tempest of life. In other cases, stories touch people on a deep and meaningful level. I’ll happily take either scenario.
Almost thirty years ago now, I encountered something remarkable in the books I read. Something meaningful that I couldn’t describe, a new perspective, new emotions. I knew then that I had to learn to do what those writers were doing. Now that I have the chance to reach people the same way, I’m not going to squander it.
I guess this is all a prelude to a warning. I’m working on a lot of projects. Many of these tie together in this epic master plan of mine, the thirty-six-(or more)-book cycle that will be the Cosmere. Even those books that aren’t part of the Cosmere are here to challenge me in some way, to push me and my stories, to explore concepts that have fascinated me for years.
These last ten years have been incredible. I thank you, and I thank God, for this crazy opportunity I’ve been given. I don’t intend to slow down.
I’m not embarrassed to be “the adult.” Even if I’ve only just hit the right age for it officially.
2015 was a bit slower than last year was, as I spent a lot of time editing.
The bulk of my writing time this year was spent on Calamity, which I’d been putting off last year in order to write the two new Mistborn novels. Looking back at my records, I finished the last chapters in early May.
This was interrupted, on occasion, for revisions of various books—and for the Firefight tour, along with a trip to Sharjah in the UAE. Busy times. So busy, in fact, that it’s taken me all the rest of the year to give full feedback to the writers who took my class. I managed to grade their papers in May, somehow, but promised them each a personalized look at their final story submissions, which I’m only now finishing up.
June–August: Stormlight Three
I did squeeze in some writing time for Stormlight in here, though not a whole ton of it got done. I had to stop for revisions, touring, and travel through most of September and October.
September–October: Revisions and a Secret Project
Traveling so much made it difficult to do Stormlight 3 writing, which requires a lot of time investment. So between revisions, I managed to finish a project I’ve been working on for about a decade now. (Yes, a decade.) You’ll see this soon. It’s a novella.
November–December: Stormlight Three Again
I plan to keep on this one until I finish it, as I’ll talk about below. However, if you want to read a little about my writing time in November, you can read this other blog post.
Big List of Things I’m Working On
Now, let’s get to it. Each year around this time, I take stock of my many projects. You can read last year’s post here, to compare and see how things have been progressing. (And to see how well I did in my plans for 2015.)
Thank you in advance for continuing to give me the freedom I feel I need to jump between different worlds. While I know it’s frustrating sometimes that I’m not working on your world, the greater plans I have for all this require me to approach things in a certain way. Both for my health as a writer, and to bring about some large-scale awesomeness.
I’m going to go down the list of projects I’m working on, starting with what I consider my “main” projects. These are getting the focus of my time right now. From there, I’ll move on to things that I’m still toying with doing sometime soon.
Then it gets a little more speculative.
Main Book Projects
The Stormlight Archive
Stormlight is going very well. I’m working on Book Three, which I’m calling Oathbringer. (That is likely at this point to be the final title.) This is my main project, and I won’t be writing any new prose on other stories until it is done. You can follow the progress bars!
Release dates for this book are still in flux. Even if I finish it early next year, it could be a year or more until you see the book. The amount of editing, continuity, and art that these books require creates a need for a long lead time. I’ve told people that Fall 2016 is the earliest they’d see it, but my team has been warning me that’s not realistic. We’ll see, but for now you should assume on a 2017 release.
What does this mean for my once optimistic “one Stormlight book every eighteen months” goal? The more I work on these books, the more uncertain I am about that. The outline for Oathbringer, for example, took about a year for me to nail down. Considering how many moving pieces there are in these books, it’s tough to judge how long they will take to write. And while there are books I can force through if some things aren’t right, I can’t afford to do that on this series.
I’ll continue to write Stormlight books at as quick a pace as is reasonable. I consider this my main project for the next decade or two, and am dedicated to it. But each book, as I’ve said before, is plotted as four books in one. So even if I release them once every three years, you’re getting four “books” in three years.
We’ll see. I’ll try to pick up the pace. In the meantime, I’ll try to get some short stories in the world out for you. (More on this later.)
Status: Book Three in Progress
The last book of the trilogy is complete, revised, and turned in. It’s coming out in February, and is—indeed—the ending.
I have not closed the door on doing more in the world, but it will not be for a while. If I do return, it will be like a Mistborn return, where the focus of the books shifts in some way and I create a new series. I like leaving endings as endings, even if the world and some of the characters do progress.
I’m extremely pleased with the last book. I look forward to having you all read it, and I am grateful to you all for supporting this series. There were voices that told me something outside the Cosmere would never sell as well as something inside—but this series is neck-and-neck in popularity with Stormlight and Mistborn. It’s a relief, and very gratifying, to see that people are willing to follow me on different kinds of journeys.
And speaking of Mistborn, how is Scadrial doing? My current plan is still to have the Mistborn books stretch throughout my career, establishing stories in different eras of time with different sets of characters.
The original pitch was for three trilogies. The Wax and Wayne books expanded this to four series. (You can imagine Wax and Wayne as series 1.5, if you want.) This means there will still be a contemporary trilogy, and a science fiction trilogy, in the future.
I have one more book to do in the Wax and Wayne series, and I’m planning to write it sometime between Stormlight books three and four. Until then, Wax and Wayne three—The Bands of Mourning—comes out in January!
Status: Era 1.5 book three done; book four coming soonish
Secondary Book Projects
I do still intend Elantris sequels. (And the enthusiasm for the leatherbound edition proves that people are still interested in the world.) Right now, I have them scheduled to be slotted in once Wax and Wayne is done. We’ll take a break from Scadrial at that point, go back to Sel and do some Elantris books, then hop back to the 1980s era Mistborn series.
This slots an Elantris sequel into the spot between Stormlight books 4 & 5. It is coming, just more slowly than I’d once hoped.
Status: Delayed, but coming before too long
Book two of The Rithmatist (called The Aztlanian) is another thing on my schedule that I need to get to soon. If you didn’t read last year’s update on the book, I tried writing this—and found I didn’t have a strong enough grasp on the historical period and culture to do it justice. So I stopped and did a bunch of research, but by the time I finished, I needed to be back to work on my main projects.
Therefore, I’ve slotted this in after Stormlight 3 as well. Hopefully it won’t get pushed back again. Usually I try to do about equal in pages to a Stormlight book between Stormlight books. That gives me room for three smaller books. Right now plans are for these three books to be The Lost Metal (Wax and Wayne 4), The Atzlanian, and a new project. (See below.)
Status: Delayed, but maybe coming soon
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
Here’s another one we’ve been able to clear off my list. With Tor republishing the first four books of this series throughout the spring next year (starting in February), I am at last able to get the fifth book (and the final one Alcatraz will write) out to you fans.
The new art for these editions has me very excited. For once I think we have covers that indicate to readers the tone of the books. Book Five should be out in the summer, though I believe Tor is scheduling it for August instead of June. It is written, and I’m doing final edits on it right now. (In the evenings after I feel I’ve hit my wordcount goal for Stormlight.)
If you haven’t read these books, give them a browse once they come out again in the spring. They’re very fun, but very different from my other books. They’re insane, fourth-wall-breaking comedies, so they’re certainly not for everyone. They have been an excellent way for me to blow off steam and refresh myself between longer, more ponderous books.
Status: Book Five Completed!
For those who don’t know, this is a book I wrote around the same time as Elantris—but which I didn’t ever sell. Once I was published, I considered releasing it, but felt it needed a solid revision before I could do so.
Well, that revision was delayed time and time again, until the point where I decided I probably would need to just rewrite the book from scratch if I ever did release it. An interesting opportunity came along a few years later, however, and that changed my perspective. You see, the comic book company Dynamite Entertainment had come asking if I had anything, perhaps an unpublished novel, that would make a good graphic novel.
This seemed the perfect opportunity to make use of White Sand. I didn’t have time to do revisions, but another writer could take my words and adapt them (really, what the book needed was a trim anyway) into a graphic edition. We said yes, and started into the process.
I’ve said before, Dynamite has been excellent to work with. Rik Hoskin, the person hired to do the adaptation, is a fantastic writer—and he really managed to preserve the core of my story, using my own dialogue and descriptions, while cutting out all the chaff. The artist Julius Gopez, the colorist Ross Campbell, the letterer Marshall Dillon, and the editor Rich Young have all done a fabulous great job.
The novel is big (no surprise), so it’s going to be released as three graphic novels. The first of these is almost ready, and we’re expecting a release sometime next year. The fine folks at Dynamite have given me permission to post some teaser pages here, so here you go! The first look at White Sand, the graphic novel:
Tertiary Book Projects
Now we move on to some of the projects that are itching at me, and I do intend to do someday—but which are delayed indefinitely until I figure out the right time to do them.
While some characters from Nalthis have made appearances in other books, I still don’t have a specific timeframe for when I’ll go back and write the second Warbreaker book. (Titled Nightblood for the time being.)
I know a lot of people really want this book, and I intend to do it, but I have to find time for the Elantris sequels first. So you’re unlikely to see it until Elantris is finished. (Sorry.)
Status: On Hiatus
I owe people another (and final) Legion novella, and I plan to do this as well. Novellas aren’t as big a commitment as novels, obviously—that’s part of why I do them. But I don’t know when I’ll squeeze this in, with all the things I’m doing right now. It could happen literally at any time—but I don’t expect it in 2017, to be honest.
Status: On Short Hiatus
Cosmere Short Fiction Collection
For a while I’ve been thinking that I need to collect all the various pieces of Cosmere short fiction and put them into a single collection, for those who don’t like hunting around for them.
This might be the year to do that. If Stormlight doesn’t make it into 2016, we might be able to get a collection (with a Stormlight novella) out by the end of the year instead. Something to tide you over, at least, until book three comes out.
If we do this, my goal will be to have it include every piece of short fiction from every source up until now and bind it together in a handsome hardcover that will look nice on the shelf next to your other books.
This will give you multiple options for the short fiction, if you want to collect it. We will continue to do our little two-novella collections (like the Perfect State and Shadows for Silence double that we just released.) So if you’d prefer to collect those in the smaller size, I anticipate everything eventually being released in that format too. However, if you’d like one thick tome, every ten years or so you should see a bigger collection.
More on this as it develops. Right now I’m toying with the title Arcanum Unbound, and would love to include a star chart of all the cosmere worlds in it.
Projects in Development
These are projects you might have heard of, but for which no solid evidence of them ever being released is out there. On occasion I might do readings from them, and I might tinker with them—but I don’t have much specific to tell you about release dates.
New YA Series
I am developing a new YA series to be released after the Reckoners with the same publisher. I can’t say much about it right now, though we will probably do some announcements regarding it during the Calamity tour. If all goes well, the first book of this trilogy will be the third shorter novel I write between Stormlight 3 and 4.
I always need to have something new to be working on, if only in the back of my mind, to help prevent burnout. I’m excited about this series right now, and actively working on the outline. But I won’t be digging into writing it until next summer or fall, depending on when Stormlight Three is done. So I don’t expect a release for a while yet.
Some of you have heard readings from, or seen excerpts of, this epic science fiction series that I’ve been working on. I finished one novella in the world, and am pleased with it, but I have no immediate plans for writing the rest. Perhaps I’ll feel different once Stormlight is done and I’m satisfied with it. (It’s always possible I’ll need a break between projects where I can do something very different.) We shall see. I have no plans to release this in 2016.
Status: On Hiatus
A perennial favorite on the State of the Sanderson is this YA series about a boy who discovers he’s the Dark One, a figure from prophecy fated to destroy the world. My outlines are looking okay for this one, but it doesn’t feel like the right time to do it. I pitched it to my editors at Random House along with the new YA series above, and we all agreed the other project was a better follow-up to the Reckoners.
Dark One is bound to get done someday. That day isn’t now.
Status: No Projected Start Date
Death by Pizza
I had a nice breakthrough on this book recently, making the main character far more interesting. (For those who don’t know, this is about a necromancer who owns a pizza joint.) However, this remains a very out-of-left-field project for me, and something I did mostly for fun. (I have a nearly complete draft of the entire book.)
I don’t anticipate doing this anytime soon, though I did briefly consider it as an alternative to the new YA series listed above. It’s still just too strange for me to want to do right now. Perhaps eventually.
Status: On Hiatus
Dragonsteel/Liar of Partinel
This is Hoid’s origin story, a prequel to the entire Cosmere. The time is not right. It’s going to happen eventually, but I feel that I shouldn’t dig into this until Stormlight is completely done. (All ten books.) So don’t hold your breath on this one.
Status: Loooong way off
This story (which is the one about a world where catching a disease grants you magical talents) is another perennial State of the Sanderson participant.
I did some work on a short story in this world a while back, and liked it, but didn’t have time to finish. (This is the thing I did readings from during the Words of Radiance tour, I believe.) It’s set in the cosmere, and I have plans to someday write this—but I’m not sure when I’ll do it. Could be a long way off still.
Status: On Hiatus
This is an outline I developed last year during a lull—a kind of space-opera-fantasy-hybrid like Dune or Star Wars. The setting is awesome, one of my favorites. Very distinctive.
I don’t have a story for it yet though. I’m just putting it on here so that you know that wacky things are still bouncing around in my head, looking for a way out. It’s not something I’m going to release anytime soon, but if I ever do, you can point here and say, “Hey, I saw this first!”
Status: No Projected Start Date
Aether of Night
Another of the books I wrote around the time of Elantris, and another one that’s not half bad—but still in need of a solid revision.
I’ll likely do something with it someday. In the meantime, if you want to read it, you can send us an email to ask for a copy. (Consider it a thank you for getting this far in this huge post.) I’d ask that you’d consider signing up for my mailing list when you do email me, as that’s how I get the word out on when I’m doing signings and when I have cool new things to release. But that’s not required in order to get the book.
Projected Novel Release Schedule
There’s a good chance I won’t hold to this, but just so you know, here’s how I view my upcoming novel release schedule (not including any novellas or short stories that may or may not appear during moments when I need to do something new):
January 2016: Wax and Wayne 3
February 2016: Reckoners 3 (final book)
June 2016: Alcatraz 5
Sometime 2017: Stormlight 3
Sometime 2017: Rithmatist 2
Spring 2018: New YA project 1
Fall 2018: Wax and Wayne 4 (final book)
Sometime 2019: Stormlight 4
Sometime 2019: New YA project 2
Sometime 2020: Elantris 2
Sometime 2020 New YA project 3 (final book)
Sometime 2021: Stormlight 5 (ending of first arc)
Sometime 2022: Elantris 3 (final book)
Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you that the list was big.
It’s been quite the year. Lots of travel, lots of meeting people and signing books. My tenth year doing this. I’ve spent the last decade kind of looking at myself as one of the new kids in the fantasy market, but I suppose it’s time to admit that I’ve become—albeit not a member of the old guard—one of the genre’s more established names.
As always, you make this possible. Here’s looking to another excellent year. Merry Christmas, and a Happy Koloss Head-Munching Day, to you all.