State of the Sanderson 2016
Hello, and welcome! I hope the holiday season is treating you all very well. Around this time each year, I write a blog post called State of the Sanderson. I usually post it on or around my birthday, which happens to be today. (So, happy Koloss Head-Munching Day to you all.)
These posts run long and are extensive essays that go over what I did during the year, updating you all on the projects I’ve been working on, then doing a rundown of projects that I’m planning. (Find past year’s State of the Sanderson right here.)
I hope you’ll find this helpful and interesting. Storytelling is not an exact science, and things don’t always go as planned. At the same time, I believe it important to be up-front with you all. I know what it’s like to wait for years to read the ending of a favorite series, and I appreciate your longsuffering support when I jump between projects.
In teaching my university lectures and workshop, I interact with many, many hopeful and talented newer writers. Their excitement, and worry about the future, reminds me how fortunate I am to be able to do what I love for a living. In the story of the ants and the grasshopper, I get to spend my life making music—but instead of letting me starve in the winter, you bring me in and give me something warm to eat, then you listen while I tell you a story.
It’s strange to consider what might have been. How many plausible variations of life are there where I’m not a professional novelist? Did I hit on the one perfect sequence of events that brought me here, or would I have muddled my way through even if Moshe hadn’t agreed to look at Elantris back at a party in Montreal in 2001?
Though I deal in the fantastic as my daily labor, the scene where I’m not a writer is one scene I have difficulty conjuring. Would I be a professor perhaps? I do enjoy teaching, though only in moderation. (When I had to teach the same class multiple times in a day, I found the experience monotonous. One course a year is just about right for me—exciting, vibrant, and involving new things to teach and talk about.)
Indeed, early in my graduate studies, I realized I’d never make it as an academic. Ironically, I discovered that doing all the things in my writing program that would prepare me for a good Ph.D. or MFA course (being on the staff of journals, assisting professors, traveling to conferences) would prevent me from actually writing—so I threw all of that up in the air and doubled down on my novels. Some of my colleagues went on to professorships, but I was never really headed that direction.
For me, it was always write or bust. I don’t know what busting would look like—but I do know that, barring something truly insane, it would involve me ending up with a closet full of dozens and dozens of unpublished manuscripts.
As an aside, for those who didn’t hear the story on tour this year, my second son (who is six) has started to figure out what it means that I’m an author. He came up to me a few months ago and said, “Daddy. You write books!”
I said, “Yes!”
“You sell them, so we have money for food and our house!”
“And when people visit, you give them books from the garage! That’s how you sell them!”
I often give copies of the books to friends who visit, and in his six-year-old understanding, this was how we made our living. But hey, there are worse things to be than a garage novelist with a trunk full of demo manuscripts.
In any case, you have my sincere thanks for your support! I’m glad we’re not in the alternate, dystopian Sanderson timeline where I have a goatee and have to spend my life selling people insurance.
This year was almost completely dominated by the writing of Oathbringer, Book Three of the Stormlight Archive. The first files I have for the book were Kaladin scenes, written in June 2014. But the book didn’t really start in earnest until July 2015, when I wrote the Dalinar flashback sequence. (See State of the Sanderson 2015.) I had those done by October, but November was when I really dove into the novel.
I spent most of 2016 working on it, with only a few interruptions. It was an extremely productive year spent writing on something I’m very passionate about—but it was also a monochrome year, as I poured so much into Stormlight. There were far fewer side projects, and far fewer deviations, than the year before.
I’ve come to realize I can’t do a Stormlight book every year, or even every two years. You can see that this one took around 18 months of dedicated writing time (though that does include some interruptions for edits and work on other things.) My process is such that, when I finish something like Stormlight, I need to move on for a while to refresh myself.
That said, Oathbringer is done as of last week! Here’s a quick breakdown of the year.
A lot of this month was revisions. I decided to do something unusual for me, and revise each chunk of the book as I completed it, which let me get my editor working on his notes early in the year—rather than making him wait until this month, when the whole thing finished. That means I’ll soon have a second draft of the book completed, though I only completed the first draft a little bit ago.
Also squeezed into January was a trip to Bad Robot, where I had a cool meeting with J.J. Abrams. (In conjunction with a video game my friends at ChAIR Entertainment are making—the Infinity Blade guys. I just gave a few pointers on the story; I’m not officially involved.)
February: Calamity Tour
I toured for Calamity, the last book of the Reckoners. The whole series is out now, so check it out! There is a nice hardcover boxed set of all three available in most bookstores, and it makes a great gift.
As to be expected, there were a huge number of awesome costumes shown off during the tour. (More than I can reasonably put in this post.) Here are a few:
March: Trip to Dubai
I was invited to, and attended, the Emirates Festival in Dubai, then traveled south to Abu Dhabi to visit some friends. This was an extended trip, and I often find it difficult to work on a main project (like Stormlight) while traveling. I have too many interruptions. I can write something self-contained, but have more trouble with something very involved.
On this trip, I wrote a novella called Snapshot: a science Fiction detective story where people solve crimes using exact recreations of certain days in the past. It’s a little Philip K. Dick, a little Se7en. This one’s coming out in February, and will likely be my only release in 2017 other than Oathbringer (which will be in November). More details here.
I got back into the groove of writing, and did a big chunk of Oathbringer Part Two. If you missed the discussions on Reddit, here are my various updates there spanning about a year’s time, talking about the book: One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.
I took a short break from Stormlight 3 to write…Stormlight 2.5, an extended story about Lift, with smaller appearances by Szeth and Nale. If you want to get your Stormlight fix before the release in 2017, you can find Edgedancer in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection. (There will eventually be a solo ebook release, but that’s a number of years away, as required by my contract with Tor.) I also wrote essays and annotations for each world and/or story in the collection.
When I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself (and my team) trying to get Oathbringer out in 2016, I committed to writing this novella to tide people over. I think you’ll enjoy this one, unless you’re one of the people that Lift drives crazy. In which case you’ll probably still enjoy it, but also want to punch her in the face for being too awesome.
I finally got a good long chunk of time dedicated to Oathbringer.
I do love traveling, but it takes a big bite out of my writing time. So please don’t get offended when I can’t make it out to visit your city or country on tour. I try to do as much as I can, but I’m starting to worry that has been too much. Last year, for example, I was on the road 120 days for tours or conventions. This year was a little better, clocking in at about 90 days.
September: Alcatraz Release & Writing Excuses Cruise
Book Five of my middle grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, came out this month. (A long-awaited book.) You should read it. And if not, you’ll still have to look at a picture of my cute children wearing Alcatraz shirts.
The cruise was a fun time, but very unproductive for me. There is too much going on, and too much to organize, for me to get much writing done. I did finish one chapter of a potential novella on the single day of writing time I got. (The story, called “The Eyes,” is a space opera inspired by Fermi’s Paradox.)
I might do something with the chapter eventually, but for now I’m sending it in to be this month’s Random Hat reward for the $10 patrons of Writing Excuses on Patreon.
As a warning to those planning on attending the cruise in 2017: we’ll have a ton of awesome guest instructors, and it will be well worth your time and money. I, however, won’t be attending. I’ll be on the cruise other years in the future, but (like JordanCon, which I love) I can’t promise to go every year. Once every two or three years is more likely. It’s just a matter of trying to balance touring/teaching with writing.
By the way, JordanCon, FanX, and Dragon Con had some amazing costumes this year—but I’ll save those for another post.
October: Europe Tour
Though I had a few good weeks of writing between the end of the cruise and the start of the Europe trip, I quickly lost steam again as I visited France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal on tour. I had an awesome time, signed a ton of books, and met many people in excellent costumes.
November: Arcanum Unbounded Release
Finally, I released Arcanum Unbounded: the Cosmere Collection. The tour for this was short, and I apologize for that, but…well, there’s this writing thing I need to do sometimes…
December: Writing Excuses and Oathbringer
I got about half the episodes for next year’s writing excuses season recorded at various locations, and then finally managed to type “THE END” for Oathbringer.
There’s still a lot of work left on the book, but I’m confident we’ll hit our November 2017 release date.
Big List of Things I’m Working On
All right, here we go. Here’s the rundown on everything I’m actively working on right now, and some of those that I’m not really working on very much at the moment… (Sorry.)
The Stormlight Archive
Book Three is done! Edgedancer is out!
I’ll be spending about four months of 2017 doing revisions on Oathbringer, then will have a tour in the fall. (Might manage to get to the UK on that one too.) Things are looking good for Stormlight and Roshar, and not just because we are working on a film. I’m excited for you to read the next installment.
I’m officially adding “Oathbringer (Stormlight 3) third draft” to the progress bar, now that I’m almost done with the second draft. (Most of which was completed during writing the first draft, as I explained above.)
Book Four will probably not be released until 2020—I’ll start managing those expectations now, rather than trying to promise 2019 like I thought I might be able to do, once upon a time.
As I always promise, I’ll see if I can speed that up. But if you take the year it took to outline Book Three and add eighteen months to actually write it, we’re already at 2.5 years—not counting other projects I want to do.
Status: Book Three in revisions, out in 2017.
The Lost Metal, Wax and Wayne Four, will be my next non-YA novel project. I still intend to write it so that it can come out in 2018. You should see a progress bar for it pop up sometime in the fall of 2017.
This will be the last Wax and Wayne book. Because of fan outcry, we’re just going to call the Wax and Wayne books “Era Two” of Mistborn from here out, and I’m sorry for the “Era 1.5 fiasco” of last year. That would have worked if I’d started calling it that from the get-go, but it’s too late now.
Once Era Two is done, we’ll let Mistborn lie fallow for a few years while I move on to Elantris/Warbreaker sequels. (See below.)
Status: Book Seven (W&W 4) being outlined.
The Apocalypse Guard
This is my next YA book series, in the same universe as the Reckoners. The simple pitch is: Emma is the intern/coffee girl for the Apocalypse Guard, a group of scientists, engineers, and superhumans specialized in saving planets from extinction-level events.
When the Apocalypse Guard headquarters gets attacked by a shadowy and unexpected force, Emma gets stuck on a doomed planet they were planning to save. She has to either find a way off, or find a way to put the Apocalypse Guard’s plans into motion—and do so with no training, no powers, and no support.
Here’s the concept art I’m working from. (Note, this isn’t cover art. It’s just the art I commissioned so I’d have character designs to reference.)
This will be my next writing project, between Oathbringer revisions and Wax and Wayne 4. Like the Reckoners, it’s right on the borderline between YA and Adult—and might be published in my adult line of novels in some countries.
I intend the series to follow in the footsteps of the Reckoners—having the feel of a science fiction/superhero action film. Sometimes as a reader (and as a writer), I want something a little less “steak dinner” and a little more “hamburger and fries,” if that makes any sense.
Stormlight is my steak dinner, and while I originally thought of Wax and Wayne as hamburger and fries, by books two and three they became steak dinners too. (Just a 6oz fillet instead of a 12oz T-bone.)
Okay, that metaphor is getting a little out of control. I might need to go out for steak for my dinner. Let’s just say that the Reckoners managed to hit that sweet spot of fun action, interesting worldbuilding, and quick plots I was looking for—so I’m eager to do something similar. The Apocalypse Guard is the next step; look for the progress bar to start on it sometime early in 2017.
Status: Outlining almost finished; will be my next project.
A sequel to The Rithmatist is looking likely this year, depending on some factors (such as how long Stormlight revisions take.) This is the single most requested book I hear about, though that’s probably because people know that Stormlight is coming along very well already.
Some people do wonder why I’d do like The Apocalypse Guard before The Atzlanian (Rithmatist 2). It comes down to having two publishers. Stormlight, Rithmatist, and Wax and Wayne are all books for Tor. I need to give Delacorte some love too, and they’ve waited patiently all year for me to finish Stormlight. So they get the next major writing time slot.
I hear you, Rithmatist fans. We’ll get something to you before too much longer. My son Joel (who has a character in the book named for him) is getting old enough to read The Rithmatist, and so I intend to read it with him together, and then jump into the second book sometime soon.
My big reveal for Alcatraz promised one more book in this series, though you shouldn’t read that blog post until you read the first five books.
I will probably do Rithmatist 2 before Alcatraz Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians. But I can’t say for certain. This is where that part about books being art, and not science, comes into play. I can’t say exactly what my inclinations will be on these books, as I need some freedom built into my schedule. We’ll see what happens.
Status: Soooon also, but a little less soooon.
The plan is to alternate Stormlight Books with Elantris sequels after I finish Wax and Wayne. Likely I’ll go into Stormlight 4 sometime in 2018, but there’s a chance I do Elantris 2 first. It won’t be written this year—that plate is full of the books mentioned above—but we’re growing ever closer and closer to getting back to Sel.
Status: Not this year. Small chance of being written in 2018.
The graphic novel incorporating the first third of the book was a huge success, so we’re going full-steam on the second part. And, of course, Khriss (one of the main characters) is the in-world author of many essays in Arcanum Unbounded. So Taldain is still peeking up here and there, reminding everyone it’s part of the cosmere.
I don’t have control over when the second part of the graphic novel comes out. That all depends on the artist’s schedule—but I have assurances from the publisher that it won’t take too terribly long. We’ll post when we know for sure about release dates.
Status: Second volume actively being worked on.
No real motion on this one, folks. I’m sorry. We’ll get a second book some time, but don’t hold your breath. The cosmere has a long outline.
Status: No Evil to Be Slain Today
The new Marvel television show is unrelated, but it being out killed our chances of a television show based on these books. I do want to do a third story, but might save it for another short story collection (with all of the non-cosmere works like this, Perfect State, etc.)
I really wanted Legion to be a television show, even before I started writing the first story. So we might rebrand them, calling them simply Leeds, and try another run through Hollywood with the new titles. If so, another novella would certainly help us get attention there. We’ll see.
Status: Probably not this year, but still on my radar.
My epic science fiction space opera super-series is getting closer to finding a home. I can talk a little more about it, as I spin up my mind on the outlines.
I’ve envisioned Adamant as a sequence of novellas, released episodically through the year, one every other month. Ideally, I write four of them, then find co-authors for the other two to give them a slightly different feel, like you’d see on a television show à la Doctor Who or Star Trek.
If I did this though, I’d want to have all four of my parts done first as the backbone of the “season” of books. The last thing I need is another unfinished series looming over me.
I’ve only written one “episode” so far, but had a kind of breakthrough on how to work out some of the visuals and worldbuilding for the series. So it’s inching closer to the front burner. You might see a progress bar for it pop up this year.
Status: Novella 2 could happen at any time.
This story (the story of the shattering of Adonalsium, as told by Hoid) is next-to-last in my sequence of cosmere novels (though it’s first chronologically). So don’t expect it until Stormlight 10 is done.
Status: A long way off. Though it might still beat that one book by that other author.
Ah, the eternal Dark One update. If you’ve been reading State of the Sanderson posts for a while now, you might be looking forward to this one (still) making no progress.
My anti-Harry Potter story told from the viewpoint of a boy who discovers he is prophesied to be the Dark One…has made no progress this year. I’ve had a ton of trouble writing this one. I did set aside three different versions of the first chapter of this, each of which have a very different tone from one another, to be Patreon Random Hat Rewards for January, February, and March. If you want to read “The Eyes” and these three chapters, you could sign up for those months only.
Be warned, though, the Patreon is primarily intended for people who want to support Writing Excuses. The rewards are mostly afterthoughts as a thank you, rather than true incentives to coax you into spending money. The tidbits you’ll get probably aren’t going to be worth the $10 you give for them. (For example, each of the ones I’ve mentioned are a few thousand words at most.)
The real reward is supposed to be Writing Excuses going ad-free, so don’t sign up just to get the fiction.
Death By Pizza
Still on hiatus, but not dead. (No pun intended.)
Status: See above.
Still on hiatus, but still…getting sick and gaining magic powers? (No pun discovered.)
Status: A fan recorded a short reading from this at a signing for Words of Radiance. The reading is at the end.
No progress here either. (This was a bad year for side projects, as I warned you.)
Status: On hiatus.
Aether of Night
No progress. (Though you can still get a copy of the draft I wrote back in college, around the time I wrote Elantris. Also, requisite request that you sign up for my mailing list. I give some free fiction away on the newsletter every time I send it, and the chapters I set aside as Patreon rewards usually do make their way on here eventually, though many months later.)
Status: On hiatus (but still part of the Cosmere sequence, with seeds of the story already in other books).
There’s a chance of a standalone Mizzy book sometime in the future, which is why I put it here and don’t just leave it off entirely. But even if I do that, it won’t be for a while.
Status: On hiatus.
Untitled Threnody Story
There’s a novel in the Threnody system I’ve been planning for many, many years. Might as well move it onto this list. I’d originally planned it as the arrival of people in hell after fleeing the Evil that destroyed their homeland across the sea, but I’m toying with flipping this around, sending an expedition back to the destroyed continent.
Either way, a Threnody novel has been part of the cosmere since before I got published, so I’m confident we’ll see more from it eventually. If you’re confused by all this, might I mention again the value in grabbing a copy of Arcanum Unbounded?
Status: Very early planning stages.
We’re almost far enough in the cosmere where I can set a story in Silverlight. It would be a novella, rather than a full novel. I don’t expect it in 2017, but you all know enough tidbits about Silverlight that I can at least put it on the list now.
Status: Very early planning stages.
Projected Release Schedule
I’m going to keep this to three years this time, as my projections in the past have tended to go skiwampus (technical term) after about one year of projecting.
I intend Rithmatist 2 and Alcatraz 6 to slip in here somewhere, but I don’t know where. (I was hoping to do one of them this year, but Stormlight three went even longer than projected.)
February 2017: Snapshot
November 2017: Stormlight 3
Spring 2018: Apocalypse Guard 1
Fall 2018: Wax and Wayne 4 (final book)
Sometime 2019: Apocalypse Guard 2
Sometime 2019: Undecided. (There will likely be a second novel this year. It’s possible that I’m still working on Stormlight 4 though, and will have a lean year as a result.)
Sometime 2020: Stormlight 4
Sometime 2020: Apocalypse Guard 3 (final book)
Next year will be a little quiet, following this year’s releases. (Which included Secret History, The Bands of Mourning, Calamity, White Sand, Alcatraz, and Edgedancer/Arcanum Unbounded.) Right now it’s just Snapshot and Oathbringer. (Which might give you a glimpse into how much work a Stormlight book is. The new one is longer than all of the above stories combined, and then some.)
As always, thanks for reading.
December 19th, 2016
All right, let’s talk about the birthday thing.
Every year, people ask me if they can give me anything for the holidays or my birthday. On one hand, I’m flattered. On the other hand, I’ve already got basically everything a person could ask for, while there are many others who do not.
In the past, I kept an Amazon wishlist for people who wanted to send me gifts—but I not only found that very impersonal, it also made me feel guilty. I don’t need anything, really. The charities linked above deserve your attention far more. You’ve already given me a gift by reading these crazy stories I put together.
However, I understand that saying, “Oh, just give to charity” is somehow a weak answer to people who want to do something for me personally. It’s like asking for the cash instead when someone offers to buy you dinner.
So, I’ve given it some thought. I maintain that I really do not need you to send me anything. But if you must, I figure you could do this. Dig out or buy a foil Magic card from the Kaladesh set or its sequel coming out in January. Try to pick one that strikes you, or matches you in some way.
I’m building a foil cube of that set—and though even the common foils look great, they only cost around $.25. (Don’t feel you have to give me rares or mythics—I’ll actually need five of each common, three of each uncommon, and fifty of each basic land—so commons and lands are totally needed.) Like I said, try to pick one that matches you somehow, not one that is famous, as this is better if they’re randomized so I get some of each.
Take the card, and sign or write your name on the back side (the side that says “Magic: the Gathering”) with a felt-tip pen or Sharpie, so you don’t dent the front. Tell me where you’re from, write me a message, or tell me something about yourself. Whatever you feel like saying.
Then, stick the card between two pieces of cardboard (or slip it in a card case) and send it to me to me at:
Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC
PO Box 698
American Fork, UT 84003
I’ll put them all together, protect them in protective sleeves, and then take them to conventions so we can play games with them—and everyone can glance at the backs of the cards and see what you wrote. That will make a pretty cool keepsake for the year for me, but won’t (hopefully) cost you more than a buck or two for the card and the postage.
Again, I repeat, this isn’t a request. Consider it more a pressure valve to give you compulsive gift givers an outlet for your madness in a way that won’t make me feel like I’m taking advantage of my wonderful fans.
I’ll post the results when we get them.
Thank you all again.