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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