I’ve never kept it secret that Sanderson is my favorite active writer. It gets more complicated for me if you throw Tolstoy, McCaffrey, or Jordan into that mix, but given that they are no long with us, I can use the term active, and not start a debate.
Well, I was at work taking a break when I got an email with this YouTube video link:
So when he dropped that first stack of papers, I wasn’t very shocked. I was like, “Oh, I remember when he did that with Shadows of Self!” The short version: He said he was struggling with Shadows, so he paid with Bands of Mourning and ended up writing the whole book to make sure that second on worked well.”
I vaguely remember Steelheart also happening in a way similar to that. A flash of inspiration and white space in his time ended in a novel.
After having a few days to think about it, I honestly wonder why I didn’t see it coming (not the one, I saw that ONE extra book coming). My payoff moment was that second pull, and then the following three.
I’ve seen some look at the business side of it. I’ve seen some talk about how cool it is that we’ll have a bunch of Sanderson novels to read (and Cosmere to boot). But every now and then, my brother and I will discuss something that I thought would be good to address.
Are you one of those people who thinks, “Well, great, Brandon! You write five whole books, and we’re still waiting for Stormlight Five, and God knows when you’ll get those other books written”?
I can understand that. My brother might agree with you. He’s probably more patient when those books are Cosmere stories, but every time he releases one of those, he reacts in a manner somewhat like the above.
I think the ephemeral thing I try to point out is either something one “gets” or doesn’t. But I understand it, and I’d like to try and explain it.
I’m working very hard on Discovered (about 27 chapters, 61%, through). I worked hard on Betrayed. Some people look at writing like building a home or making sandwiches or cutting hair. They see it as a mechanical process that one can do and then stop do. This leads to the belief that if one had more time to work, they’d just continue work on whatever home or sandwich or head of hair they had been working on.
That’s just not how it works with Sanderson. It’s not how it works with me either. If I had more time to write, I would get some more work on Discovered done, but I’d probably end up working on Mercer or Perception of War. You see, in this creative process, it’s not just “writing.” The process of writing a specific novel really requires a mindset. And to go into that mindset outside of the time designated (at least for me and perhaps Sanderson) is really hard. But what is pretty easy is letting my imagination run wild. When I’m actively working on a novel, I have to reign that wild horse in, and that takes energy and focus. This is how novels get finished.
Another factor is expectation. When I’m working on Discovered, I’m trying very hard to make sure it’s satisfying based on feedback and anticipation that’s been building since Caught came out. Now I have somewhere around ten loyal readers. Sanderson has somewhere around 20,000. I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to write something 20,000 people have been following for some ten years.
These secret novels of his have no expectation or urgency. They’re completely free and harmless. Sure, I bet he hopes his readers enjoy it. There’s probably some pressure because people will read these and think, “I should be reading another Stormlight book, not some random book.” I imagine Sanderson is aware that people will think that.
What I’m trying to convey is that it isn’t this book or that book. It never was. We authors work very hard, and Brandon isn’t slacking on his deadline at all.
Maybe another analogy would be working out. Let’s say for some reason Sanderson was a body builder, and we all love those (metaphorical) biceps. Then one day he goes, “check out this six pac.” When working out, it’s actually very important not to overwork certain muscles. These secret novels aren’t examples of Sanderson not putting in all the energy he should (or can) on Stormlight or the Cosmere. It’s just him making the most of his energy by working a different (metaphorical) muscle group.
I hold this belief (and if anyone could get this in front of him and ask) because I work the same way. I have far more demands on my time now than I did four years ago. But if I had that same amount of time, maybe Discovered would be out a bit sooner, but it’s far more likely I’d have a full season of Mercer done because I like having multiple projects going in multiple stages to keep me fresh.
So if you’re someone who feels a little angry that “He’s been writing all these other books and will never finish Stormlight,” please take a moment to step back and respect the process one needs to make these wonderful stories. If Sanderson hadn’t done these books, he probably would have done something else, but I doubt very seriously he’d apply much more energy, not because he doesn’t want to, but because it’s just so darn hard to keep creative energy focused on one project. When I was releasing more books per year, it wasn’t that I worked on the longer projects more quickly, it’s that I could work on more projects with that extra time.
Even while typing this blog, I’ve stopped four times because it’s just that hard to focus, at least for me.
So maybe support this Kickstarter of his. Get some new things to read or listen to, and enjoy them for what they are. Stormlight 5 is coming. I’m sure Sanderson will work very hard to finish the third era Mistborn saga and get to work on the second half of the overall Archive. Try not to see this as books you’re reading instead of Stormlight. Instead, see them as books you can read along with Stormlight.
Thanks for reading,