Welcome to the Brandon Sanderson newsletter for January 2016! A new book is out this week, plus more exciting news below.
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In this newsletter:
The Bands of Mourning Is Out!
This is one of those books that just zipped out of me. Though I had all kinds of trouble writing the previous book (Shadows of Self,) this one was a blast from start to finish. Both books have a certain air lent to them by the process. Shadows of Self has emotion and thick characterization, born out of my own struggles to find the book’s voice. The Bands of Mourning, on the other hand, is just plain fun. It mixes the more classic Mistborn themes of epic storytelling with the newer Wax and Wayne themes of investigation and adventure.
It also changes (well, expands) the Mistborn world in a huge way. It is both my agent’s and editor’s favorite book in the series. So I hope you’ll be willing to check it out! If you want a teaser, your newsletter exclusive fiction is the prologue, posted below. After that, Tor has posted chapters 1–6 on their website.
Mistborn: Secret History
The Bands of Mourning also marks the release of something I’ve been hiding from everyone, something I’ve been very tight-lipped about.
I don’t want to say much here, as it’s supposed to be something of a surprise. (Unfortunately, news of it started leaking out a few weeks ago.)
Mistborn: Secret History is a digital novella set in the Mistborn world. It’s a companion story to the first three Mistborn books, and shouldn’t be read until you’ve finished those. It contains some very small spoilers for The Bands of Mourning also, so if you’re caught up on the Wax and Wayne books, I’d read Bands first. Then it will be safe to go check out Secret History.
A few warnings about this novella. First, it is long for a novella—the longest I’ve ever written (in fact, by some definitions it would be called a short novel). Second, it will be released in print form as part of the Cosmere short fiction collection, which we’re hoping to release later this year. Finally, the ebook of Secret History may go away sometime in the summer, as Tor will gain the rights to the story for the collection. So if you want the solo ebook (which is only five bucks—store links are here), make sure you pick it up before then. We’ll post warnings when it’s about to go down, but you should have six months or so.
Book three of Stormlight is going very well, but the books are very big and take a lot of effort and time to write. If you’re interested in some detailed talk about it, I posted a thread on reddit discussing it.
In short, I’m about halfway done with the writing of the book. I plan to finish it in the first half of this year, but the realities of publishing these books (the art needs, the continuity checking, the editing) mean that it probably won’t be out by the end of the year. Because of this, I’m planning to write a Stormlight novella and include it in the collection coming out later this year, so you can get your Stormlight fix. (Right now, plans are for the novella to be about Lift—with maybe a Lopen short story as well, if I can find time for it.)
As always, you can watch my website and follow along with the percentage bars in the upper right corner. I should be getting back to Stormlight soon, as I’m not doing a tour for The Bands of Mourning. (Though if you want a signed copy, both Weller Book Works and the BYU Store have an extra hundred or so signed and numbered hardcovers. They both ship worldwide.)
I will be touring for Calamity, the final book of the Reckoners series, which comes out on February 16th. So expect another newsletter next month. After that, I probably won’t send one until late summer or fall, as I don’t want to overwhelm you with these things. I appreciate you signing up, and for following along with my crazy career.
My Writing Space
One of the questions I get that surprises me is what my writing space looks like. Where is it that I do my work? As I’ve been trying to add something more personal to each of these newsletters, I thought I’d talk about this one for a little bit. Because—it being me—it’s actually a long story.
The idea of a writing space is a bit different for me than it is for some other authors. When I started at this, I didn’t have much in the way of personal resources. And so I ended up squeezing writing between the spaces in my life—and that meant some fairly unusual writing spots. The first place I can remember working on my first book was in the back of a bus in Korea. On my days off as a Mormon missionary, I would sketch out ideas for worlds, and eventually this just turned into me writing down scenes and ideas. I’d often do it at the side of a gym as my fellow missionaries played basketball, which is what they wanted to do on their day off.
There wasn’t a lot of writing time for me in those days, and I didn’t get even close to finishing the book. But after I got back from Korea, I had more time. And so my first stable writing space was in the cab of a pickup truck.
You see, my father got me a job that fall selling corn at a street corner in Idaho Falls (where my parents had moved while I was away.) Basically, my job was to go borrow a truck, pick up a load of corn from a farmer in Iona, then park on the corner beneath a sign and sell it to people when they pulled up. This left me a lot of free time during the workday (a theme of jobs I hunted). I didn’t have a computer back then, so I just sat in the cab with a large sketchpad, wearing gloves against the chill, scribbling furiously.
The next job I got was a little better: Selling neckties in the mall at one of those seasonal kiosks. Again, I was told I didn’t need to wave people down, I only had to sell when they stepped up to me. So, I brought along the notepad and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Across from me was a Suncoast Motion Picture Company with huge television sets broadcasting movies (with no sound, fortunately) out into the mall. So, in between writing fantasy novels, I caught glimpses of Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to find a Power Rangers doll for his son for Christmas. I must have seen that film (though I never heard a line from it) eighty times by the end of the holidays.
There were a lot of distractions at that job, so it wasn’t as good for writing as the truck—but at least I didn’t have to worry about my fingers getting cold. After that, I moved back to Provo to go to school, and—most amazingly—I inherited my family computer, because my brother went off on his mission and didn’t need it any longer. We’d bought this in ’93. It was now ’98. So . . . it was a little outdated. It ran Windows 3.1 (for you tech people)—and by then, Windows 98 was out.
I didn’t have enough money for a desk, so in my little room at college, I put the monitor on the top of my half-sized wardrobe, then pulled a chair up to it and sat with a wooden Xiangqi board on my lap, with the keyboard on top of it, to raise it up high enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable as I typed. I spent hours upon hours typing in my first book, White Sand, from sketchpad pages I could mostly read.
It was here that I finished this novel, about three years from the point where I first started it. I typed “The End” and printed off the page with pride. I was now, officially, a novelist.
People often ask me about my productivity. I usually explain that I’m actually not that fast, I’m just very consistent. I can credit these days for that—learning to write in a gym in Korea, the cab of a truck in the cold, with a game board on my lap as a substitute for a desk. I just really, really wanted to be a writer—and I had no idea how to go about that, other than to write and hope I could figure it out. I had the misfortune (or perhaps fortune, as it has turned out) to need a lot of practice before I got any good—which means that I learned some very good writing habits in my early years.
My next writing space was the one I had the longest before getting published: the front desk of a hotel. (The Best Western Cottontree Inn, it was called back then, just down the road from BYU.) I got a job working as the night desk clerk, a job that was perfect. It let me work full time and go to school full time, while providing six hours in the day to do my writing. I don’t think I could have managed what I did without a job that gave me a lot of writing time.
I wrote, standing up, at the front desk on the computers they used there to check people in. I saved my work to a series of floppy disks. (By this point, my desktop computer was dead and buried.) A year or two into this job, my father gave me a glorious gift: a laptop, which I then was able to bring in and work on at the front desk. (The laptop, years later, died on me—but I was able to coax it back to life by removing the hard drive and blowing on it, then copying off the chapter I’d been working on. My computer friends still scratch their heads at that one.)
For five years I was there at that front desk, in a suit coat, being friendly to people who came in and getting them rooms—and then scurrying back to my stories. I wrote Elantris, Dragonsteel, and the first attempt at Mistborn here. I rewrote White Sand so that it wasn’t terrible any longer. And I wrote The Way of Kings, in its first incarnation. (I printed off my worldbuilding and put it in a giant 3-ring binder, which I left at work under the front desk, rather than lugging it back and forth. Other employees found it a hoot.)
The theme of all this was forcing myself to write, regardless of the situation. Because if I waited until I had the perfect writing space, I knew I’d never be able to finish anything. I credit my mother, who taught me early in life to just work, for the way I think. It has certainly served me well throughout my life.
About this time I went pro, getting my first deal. (And getting married soon thereafter.) My next writing space returned me to one of my first spaces. I worked in the basement of our little townhome—it was the only place free from the terror of our toddler son, who liked to unplug my computer for laughs. The basement wasn’t finished, so I ended up down there in the cold during the winter, with gloves on again, typing away. (This is eventually where I ended up working on The Wheel of Time.)
We moved a couple years later. (Though not until I forced Peter to work for a few months in that cold basement. Sorry, Peter.) And now we finally get to my more normal writing space—and the first that most people would consider sufficient to inspire the creative process. I work in an easy chair recliner, with my feet pointed toward our gas hearth. I’m in the bedroom, next to a window. We keep talking about building me an office as an add-on to the house, and I’m sure we’ll do it someday. But for now, this is paradise. I can put my feet up, turn on some music, grab my laptop, and write. All without wearing gloves or having anyone call and ask me to bring them extra towels.
I really ought to have my wife do that to me someday. For old time’s sake.
Exclusive Look: The Bands of Mourning Prologue
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