State of the Sanderson 2014
Hello, all! I recently turned in Shadows of Self, the new Wax and Wayne Mistborn novel. (And, well, something else too. More on that below.) In addition, tomorrow is December 19th—known with fondness as “Koloss Head-Munching Day.” Also my birthday. (I’ll be 39.)
This seemed like a good chance to take a step back and give you all a long-form update on what I’ve been doing lately, and where I am looking for the future. I like to be accountable to you, my readers, for what I’m doing. You are the ones supporting me in this, my lifelong dream of being a professional writer.
2014 was an excellent year for me. Words of Radiance has been very well received, and enthusiasm for the Stormlight books is very high. As this series is my baby, it feels awesome to see people getting to know characters like Dalinar and Kaladin, whom I’ve known for decades. At the same time, I’ve been jumping back into teen books again after the Alcatraz books. (Which kind of fizzled back in 2010 or so, though we’re planning a relaunch.)
Having two publishers made for a very challenging tour schedule. I’ve been away from home far more than I want to be, mostly because of the need to add more touring (along with things like school visits and appearances at teacher/librarian conferences) for Steelheart and The Rithmatist.
I’m still struggling to find a balance I like. On one hand, I enjoy visiting you all and going cool places. On the other hand, my real love is writing the books—and I don’t want to get so busy that the stories fall by the wayside. Anyway, the following is an account of my 2014 writing experience for those who are curious.
What I spent 2014 doing
January–March 2014: Firefight
Though I had hoped to have Firefight (The Reckoners 2) done long before January, the touring last year made that impossible. It snuck over into 2014, which is why you’re getting the book in January 2015 instead of the originally scheduled fall of this year. In March, I also did the Words of Radiance tour, which really cut into my writing time.
April 2014: Legion: Skin Deep
In April, once all the chaos was done, I took the time to finish up Legion: Skin Deep (sequel to Legion from a few years back), which I’d been working on during plane flights the year before. If you haven’t checked these two novellas out, you might want to consider it! They’re very fun, though the second book is not yet out in the UK and associated territories such as Australia and New Zealand. (Note that in those territories, Legion 1 and The Emperor’s Soul were released together in a very handsome paperback.)
We will eventually have regular hardcover copies of Legion 2 available. That will probably come sometime in the first half of next year. Our contract with Subterranean Press, who produced the very attractive limited edition hardcovers of Legion 2, says that we’ll wait until their edition sells out before we release a competing one.
May 2014: The Aztlanian (Rithmatist 2)
Next, I dove into research for a sequel to The Rithmatist. This is going to be a tough book to write, as it takes place in a fantastical version of Central and South America, and deals with things from Aztec (Mexica) mythology. (In The Rithmatist, a lot of the geography is shifted around in bizarre ways.)
Dealing with another group’s culture in this way is rife with opportunities for stuffing my foot in my mouth, and so I wanted to be very careful and respectful. This meant spending time devoted exclusively to doing extensive research. I didn’t actually get any writing on the book done, though I read some very excellent history books.
(As an aside, if anyone out there is an expert in the Aztec/Mexica culture—particularly if you yourself are a Native American—I’d love to have your help on this book.)
At the end of the month, I decided I needed to do way more research than a month afforded, so I put the book off for now. I still intend to write it, but I need more time to do it right.
June 2014: Alcatraz
Having spent a month with no writing, I wanted to jump into something fun and quick to refresh me before moving on to my next book. So, I dug out my outline for the Alcatraz series and at long last did a rough draft of the fifth book. These are fast, fast books to write—as I improvise them—but they are very slow to edit.
I finished the book, and am pleased with it, but I have no firm date yet for when I’ll be publishing it. Tor is rereleasing the series starting next year with new covers and extensive interior art. I believe these launch starting about a year from now. (If you want them before then, your best bet for getting them is the UK omnibus of the first four.)
I’ll want to release the fifth one once the series has been rereleased, so maybe summer 2016. If you’ve never read these, they are very different from my other work. They’re bizarre and sarcastic comedies that are self-referential and offer commentary on fantasy as a genre along the way. Those who love them absolutely love them. Those who don’t tend to find them insulting. That dichotomy alone is part of what endears them to me.
July–December 2014: Mistborn
The last half of the year was dedicated to Shadows of Self, the new Mistborn novel. And I have a confession to make.
I also wrote the sequel.
Now, before you start wagging your finger at me for being a robot, there was a really good reason I did what I did. You see, I was having real trouble getting back into Shadows of Self. I had written the first third of it in 2012 between revisions of A Memory of Light. (I was feeling Wheel of Time overload.) However, it can be very hard for me to get back into a book or series after a long time away from it. (This is another issue with the Rithmatist sequel.)
So, jumping into Shadows of Self was slow going, and I found it much easier to go write the sequel to refresh myself on the world and characters. That done, I was able to move back to Shadows of Self and finish it up.
So a week or two back, I turned in two new Wax and Wayne Mistborn novels. They’re titled Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning, and Tor decided to publish them in quick succession: the first in October 2015, the second in January 2016. So, if you have read the original trilogy but haven’t tried The Alloy of Law yet, you might want to give it a look! From the beginning, I’ve planned Mistborn to be a continuum series, showing off Allomancy in different time periods. I think you’ll find the Wax and Wayne books to be fun, quick reads—and they introduce some very, very big things coming in the Mistborn world.
There will be one more Wax and Wayne (early 1900s-era) Mistborn book. Back after I finished The Alloy of Law, I sat down and plotted out a trilogy with the same characters. The Alloy of Law was more of a happy, improvised accident. The follow-up trilogy is meant to be more intentional. So in the end, we’ll have four total. (The final one is tentatively called The Lost Metal.) From there, I might jump to the second “big” trilogy, which is 1980s tech. Or I might dally a little more in something 1940s-era instead. We’ll see.
Amusingly, doing these two Mistborn books together totaled only about half as much writing as a Stormlight book. Perhaps you can see why it takes even me quite a long time to finish Stormlight novels. (And it’s why you might want to lay off Pat Rothfuss a little. I believe The Wise Man’s Fear was even longer than Words of Radiance.)
Tor did their announcement about these books earlier today. You may now commence wisecracks about me secretly writing extra novels when nobody is looking.
I’ve now begun Calamity, last of the Reckoners series. My goal will be to rough-draft it over the next three months. I have a tour between now and then (for Firefight) and a trip to Taiwan as well, so who knows if I’ll make that deadline. We’ll see.
Once that is done, I will dive into Stormlight 3. I’m still waffling on whether this will be Szeth’s book, Eshonai’s book, or Dalinar’s book. The original outline calls for book 3 to have Szeth’s flashbacks, but I am feeling that another character might match the events better.
I did some exploratory scenes for it this summer, though these may or may not end up in the actual book. I have been tweaking the outline, and am starting to feel very good about it. Writing the book should consume the entire rest of 2015, with a 2016 release. I do plan the Stormlight books to be an every-other-year thing.
Follow along starting next spring as I write the book and post updates on my website. I’ll even try to do some screen capturing with Camtasia as I write, for those who are interested in watching for them.
That wraps up current and finished projects. 2014 was partially about me getting my feet underneath me after finishing The Wheel of Time and going right into Stormlight 2. I’ve caught my breath now, and feel good moving forward.
And, speaking of moving forward, it’s time for a State of the Sanderson tradition—we’re going to play “What about the sequel to this book I love, Brandon!”
Here comes the big list.
The big list of projects I want to do
The Emperor’s Soul is now two years old, so it is probably time to get back to Sel and do some more there. We should be releasing a trade paperback of Elantris in the next year or two, with revised (and new) maps and a better Ars Arcanum. (Read: an Ars Arcanum.)
The full sequels will need to be finished before I can do the contemporary (1980s tech) Mistborn novels because of behind-the-scenes Cosmere bits, so I will do my best to find a place to squeeze these in. At the very least, I will write them following the end of Stormlight 5. So, these are distant, but not too distant.
Nightblood (Warbreaker sequel)
This is still on the back burner, but it is coming. Probably after the Elantris sequels. I’ll squeeze it in someplace. I’m very excited about it, but now (while I’m juggling multiple teen series) is not the time.
This is a series I’ve talked about for a long, long time about a boy who discovers he’s the “Dark One.” Basically, it’s the classic epic fantasy story told from the eyes of the dude destined to try to destroy the world instead of save it. I’ve made good progress on the setting, which is going to be awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the teen series I do once the Reckoners and the Rithmatist are both done.
As a note for fans, this is a Cosmere story.
Silence Divine (this will be renamed sometime)
I did readings from this on my last tour (you can probably find them on YouTube; it was the Words of Radiance tour). I only have a few pages done, playing with the primary concept. (Diseases grant magical talents for as long as you have the disease—you lose the power when you get over it.) This one has probably been downgraded from full novel to novella, as I feel that something more Emperor’s Soul-esque will do a better job with the themes I want to explore.
Legion 2 is out! Are you tired of me mentioning that yet? I’m sure that someday there will be a third adventure for Stephen and his aspects, but I don’t have an outline or plan yet.
The Lurker (now renamed Adamant)
I’ve finished a novella set in this science fiction world. For those who want more SF from me along the lines of my two novelettes, this should be coming someday. I don’t have time for revisions right now, but I plan to tinker with the story again next year sometime between Stormlight 3 drafts.
The graphic novel adaptation of this Cosmere book is coming along very well. The first volume’s script adaptation is finished, and pencils for the first chapter are done. We should have pages to show you before too long. Expect a lot of talk about this on the blog come 2015.
Hoid’s backstory series is still going to be one of the last Cosmere sequences I do, so don’t expect this until Stormlight is completely done. (Both sets of five books.)
That’s the list of things people often ask me about. Unsurprisingly, I have other projects in the back of my mind. For example, I have two more Cosmere series that will need to be written before we can get to the third “big” Mistborn trilogy. (The sf one.) But that’s the long, long-term plan.
For now, my goal is to get Calamity and Stormlight 3 finished. As always, I appreciate all of the enthusiasm you show for this crazy thing that I have somehow managed to do with my life. Thank you for sharing my books with others, and for being willing to try the more unusual projects (like Legion) that I do.
I feel humbled to have a great crowd of fans who are willing to put up with my eccentricities as a writer—particularly my desire to not work on just one project, but to have an entire body of varying stories. You guys are awesome. May you have a happy holiday season, and do go munch some heads tomorrow in my name.
p.s. If you aren’t on the newsletter mailing list, please consider signing up! In the summer, the newsletter included exclusive looks at some of the Stormlight 3 scenes I was working on. We plan to do more of this sort of thing in the future. As always, if you include your city, we’ll send you notifications when I’m going to be doing signings in the area.