Brandon Sanderson Shares Writing Secrets

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How To Write a Fantasy Novel
Bestselling Author of Mistborn Trilogy Shares his Writing Secrets

Nov 21, 2008Joe Lam

MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE – BRANDON SANDERSON
New York Times Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson shares his process of writing fantasy, how he handles character & plot, and how he deals with rewrites.
Suite101 sat down with Brandon Sanderson, fantasy author to discuss writing tips & tricks that he uses to write a successful fantasy novel. Sanderson is the author of Elantris, the Mistborn Trilogy, and also the childrens series, Alcatraz and The Evil Librarians.

Suite101: What is your process when you go about writing a book?

Sanderson: It’s honestly different for every book. For Alcatraz and The Evil Librarians, my middle grade book, I write much more off the cuff. I want them to be fun and light and free. I’m writing books that are more snappy so to keep that improve style, I do them very much off the cuff and that requires a lot of revision to make them actually work, but I like that spontaneity that comes from almost writing a free-write.

For my epic fantasy, I plan a lot. I do a lot of outlining, a lot of world building, a lot of preparation. Sometimes I’ll write hundreds of thousands of words of preparation before I’ll write the books themselves. I’ll lay that groundwork and then I’ll keep a floating outline, which is an outline I’m not married to. I’m willing to change it but I’ve got goals in that outline, big important scenes I need to get to.

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Suite101: What does it take to be a solid fantasy writer?

Sanderson: Determination. To be a writer of anything, I would say that the number one important thing to do is to read a lot. Widely in all genres, but specifically in the genre you want to write in. Know the genre, write what you love and so read what you love. And the next things is, just work at it.

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Suite101: How to do you approach character development and plot in your stories?

Sanderson: I actually approach them very differently. Plot I tend to plan a lot ahead of time, I like to have explosive endings and for an ending to really work for me, I have to have it planned out before I start the book usually. If I’m not excited about the ending, I don’t start the book because I need an exciting ending. If it pulls me through to the end, I assume it will pull readers too.

For character, I don’t have what the characters are going to do outlined, I have who they are when they start the book. I have their conflicts and what’s inside of them, but then I let them change and grow as it’s a little bit more natural in writing the book. I can’t jump around in a book and write the ending or the middle first, I have to start at the beginning because my characters begin as people.

Suite101: In terms of editing, how often do you revise your own work? Do you just write it once and then send it out to an editor?

Sanderson: I revise quite heavily. I usually do between seven and ten drafts depending on the book. The first three or four are done only with my desires. I read through and I change it and usually I’ll give myself some space and time between those. Then I’ll run it through writing groups. It’s not that I’m looking for advice on how to make the story better. I’m looking for how people respond to my writing to see if those are the responses I want so I can make the right emotions in the right places.

Learn more about Brandon’s fantasy novels at: Mistborn Trilogy: Interview With Fantasy Author

Also visit: Brandon Sanderson’s Official Website

Copyright Joe Lam. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Joe Lam – My Life’s Purpose “To Benefit Humanity through Storytelling”. About Me I have worked in the entertainment industry for over 10 …

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How to improve your writing, Three tips from great Writiers.

When George Plimpton asked Ernest Hemingway what the best training for an aspiring writer would be in a 1954 interview, Hem replied, “Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with.”
Today, writing well is more important than ever. Far from being the province of a select few as it was in Hemingway’s day, writing is a daily occupation for all of us — in email, on blogs, and through social media. It is also a primary means for documenting, communicating, and refining our ideas. As essayist, programmer, and investor Paul Graham has written, “Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.”

So what can we do to improve our writing short of hanging ourselves? Below, find 25 snippets of insight from some exceptional authors. While they are all focused on the craft of writing, most of these tips pertain to pushing forward creative projects of any kind.

1. PD James: On just sitting down and doing it…
Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.

2. Steven Pressfield: On starting before you’re ready…
[The] Resistance knows that the longer we noodle around “getting ready,” the more time and opportunity we’ll have to sabotage ourselves. Resistance loves it when we hesitate, when we over-prepare. The answer: plunge in.

3. Esther Freud: On finding your routine…
Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.

Book review . What is oldest will be new,What is lost shall be found

 
Book Description via Goodreads:
 
ARC, 435 pages
May 22, 2012, Harper Collins
 
WHAT IS OLDEST WILL BE NEW, WHAT IS LOST SHALL BE FOUND.

The ozone is ravaged, ocean levels have risen, and the sun is a daily enemy. But global climate change is not something new in the Earth’s history.

No one will know this better than less-than-ordinary Owen Parker, who is about to discover that he is the descendant of a highly advanced ancient race—a race that took their technology too far and almost destroyed the Earth in the process.

Now it is Owen’s turn to make right in his world what went wrong thousands of years ago. If Owen can unlock the lost code in his very genes, he may rediscover the forgotten knowledge of his ancestry…and that less-than-ordinary can evolve into extraordinary.

 
Source: Kevin Emerson (T

The Fantasy Fiction Formula

“Rob Parnell is the World’s Foremost Writing Guru” – Writers Digest Best Writers’ Site – Critters #1 Best Writers’ Info Site 2010 – 2011. Rob is listed in Who’s Who 2011/12

“News, Views & Clues… to Writing Success”

stop Crazy Cut Price: Writing Resources from Rob Parnell

The Fantasy Fiction Formula

Rob Parnell

Now, most fantasy writers have been constructing their fantasy world since childhood. It grows with them; they add to it as they develop as writers until it’s so real to them that writing about it feels effortless – even when they seem to have created a huge, sophisticated universe.

But if you’re new to the genre, where do you start?

Many professional fantasy writers will joke about ‘the formula’ for good fantasy because it does exist and good fantasy authors still use it – not because they’re lazy but because the fans want it – in fact insist on it!

It has been condensed thus: ‘Hero, artifact, quest’. That’s it. All you need to start a fantasy novel! Think Froddo, the ring and the journey to Mordor and you’ll see what I mean.

I prefer something a little more organic and creative.

Get a very large sheet of paper. A3 at least – that’s about 3 feet by 2 in the US. Draw an outline for your kingdom – or kingdoms. Experiment with the shape of coastlines, archipelagos and spits. Maybe put some islands around it.

Use a blue crayon or chalk to shade in the sea and draw a compass somewhere on the paper to orientate the map. Maybe a scale too: one inch equals 100 miles say.

Divide your kingdom into countries or regions – draw in the border lines.

Using different color pencils, add mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, whatever you like. Have lots of fun with this bit!

Cities normally grow up on rivers and ports – so start placing important cities and towns, farming communities, military posts etc. Start thinking about trade routes, badlands and resistance enclaves where nobody goes…

Don’t forget that most fantasy is set in an entirely medieval world where technology is limited to bows and arrows, spears and fire, with a liberal sprinkling of magical swords, jewels or articles of clothing like magic capes or belts. Don’t take this element too lightly.

I have known many writers who try to insert guns and flying machines into their world and are promptly asked to remove them by pedantic publishers!

Now for some writing.

Invent three major castes of inhabitants. For example: human, elven and dwarves say, or make up your own. One of the caste may be dragons if you want to be faithful to the ‘formula’.

Describe the class system for each. Who’s the king or the head magician, how the government of Elders work, what the peasants do, whether there are bands of mercenaries roaming the countryside, that kind of thing.

Now think of three characters for each caste – have them related for maximum impact. For instance three characters might be Princess Tumar who needs to regain the crown after her father was killed by the evil Majadon, aided by her younger brother.

Write a paragraph for every character, describing their physical appearance.

Give each of the characters an agenda that is at odds with at least two of the other characters.

Write a few pages describing the scenario you have invented.

By now you should be feeling an attachment to one or more character. Choose one to be the hero and give him or her an important quest that they must undertake to gain maturity, power or enlightenment (perhaps all three!)

Next, choose a magic artifact that the character must obtain during this quest. Don’t choose a book!

Then create a huge threatening situation (a war, natural disaster or magical event) in which the characters are all at risk – of losing their power, authority, self respect, lives etc. and then…

Open up a new file and write: Chapter One.

Okay, over to you!

Go here for my award winning Fantasy Course

Best regards and keep writing!

Rob Parnell
rob@easywaytowrite.com
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

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“The Secret World of Louis Lambert”

The Secret World of Louis Lambert (excerpt)

~The Secret World of Louis Lambert, A Novel by A. N. De Berry~

“Tell me, do you love her?” Lambert asked, as he sat down next to him in the garden.

James looked up into the branches of the trees, searching for an answer he need not search for. Of course I do, he thought as he watched the day’s dyeing twilight dance across the leaves; kissed so softly by a western wind.

“I do, more then anything,” James said, raising from his seat with a frustrated breath. “I fear how much I do,” he said as he began to pace. “Nothing has ever felt so right, and yet so undeserving. Since first kiss, my very breath seems but tribute that I would lovingly give,” James said before stopping. “I now have knowelege of a thing I would deem beyond beauty, beyond love, and yet feel ever so damned and cursed for it’s very knowing.”

“And why is that?” Lambert asked, meeting his troubled eyes.

“Because it is unreturned.” He said with a defeated shake of his head, “I addmit it, I tried dearly not to fall so, as she had admitted to me of trying likewise, but before a second breath I found my body aching in agony, and only realized then that I had already met earth.”

Lambert looked away from him and up to those same trees, watching the sun’s setting light, seemingly chase and flee the shadows, there numbers growing by the second. “It has be said,” he started, “that a love unreturned, is no lesser love, and no less important,” he told him, finishing just shy of a whisper. “You love her, fine. Now you must bear it, never doubting it. Emotions are ghastly things, but when one is lucky enough to understand the one’s that rule them, never betray them!” he said in confusion, bewildered by his own words. “Do so and you betray yourself, and in the end of all things, all we truly ever have in this world, is self. Never forget that.” He said with a shake of his head,  as he raised from his seat and turned to leave, “Never forget.”

101 of the Best Fiction Writing tips part 1

101 of the Best Fiction Writing Tips, Part I

  1. Calling characters by their proper names in dialogue almost always sound phoney. 5 Creative Flaws that Will Expose Your Lack of Storytelling ExperienceStoryfix
  2. There’s never a perfect time for writing, so stop waiting for itWhy There’ll Never Be a Perfect Time to WriteDaily Writing Tips
  3. Be selective about what you include in your story. You don’t need it allSix Structural Problems Writers Face & How to Fix them.Beyond the Margins
  4. Increase the stakes for your characters to prevent sagging story middlesWhen Middles SagWriters in the Storm
  5. Use a waterproof dive slate to take notes in the showerThe Three Writing Tools I Can’t Live WithoutWriter Unboxed
  6. Avoid extended dialogue without sufficient groundingFive Openings to AvoidNathan Bransford
  7. To write a better book, write your query letter firstWrite Your Query First for a Better Book. Writer Unboxed
  8. Bigger doesn’t mean better. Use simple words instead of deliberately choosing big wordsJust Call It Freaking “Green” Already.Writer Unboxed
  9. Writer’s block might mean you’re trying to write something you’re not ready to writeAdvice from Jonathan FranzenGotham Writers’ Workshop
  10. Epiphanies are overused in fiction, and can be boringThe Problem of the Eureka MomentBeyond the Margins
  11. Your novel shouldn’t be a thinly-disguised memoir12 Signs Your Novel Isn’t Ready to PublishAnne R. Allen
  12. Try to use all five senses when writing each scene of your book5 Tips for Writing Better SettingsJody Hedlund
  13. Don’t describe silence as ‘deafening’Things to Avoid [in Writing]Glass Cases
  14. Prologues usually just encourage infodumps. Prologues–This Side of Hell. Behler Blog
  15.  Using defense mechanisms can increase the tension between charactersUsing Defense Mechanisms for CharactersRoni Loren’s Writing Blog
  16. Less is more when it comes to describing your charactersWhy Less Detail Makes More Believable CharactersPlot to Punctuation
  17. In action scenes, vary sentence length and structure to increase or decrease speed and excitementHow to S.W.O.T. Your Story Over the FenceStoryfix
  18. In first drafts, you don’t need to know everything. Use placeholders (like X) as reminders to research a detail later. First Draft Secrets: Five Simple StepsWrite to Done
  19. Sometimes the most important moments in dialogue is what isn’t saidWhat Isn’t Said: Subtext in DialogueAuthor Culture
  20. Try using an ambiguous ending to create a plot twist (often works well in short stories). 10 Ways to Create a Plot TwistT.N. Tobias 
  21. Avoid overused, obvious symbolism in your fictionThe Obvious Symbolism PoliceGlass Cases
  22. Dialogue should reveal emotion through words, not adverbs (eg. “she said angrily”)Tips for Improving Dialogue In Your NovelThe Creative Penn
  23. Know everything about your characters’ backstories, but write about only 10% of itCharacter PlanningProcrastinating Writers
  24. Your protagonist can’t be easily satisfied. He needs to want something badly. Can You Write a Publishable First Novel? Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Ten rules for writing fiction

 

Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray. Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, we asked authors for their personal dos and don’ts

Read the second part of the article here

Tips for writers

Illustration: Andrzej Krauze

Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’reMargaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

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