Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Thanks for your letter of May 21, and for the copies of The Chronicles, which I enjoyed very much. Please keep them coming. Your take on the prophecies is interesting. Hmmmm.
Oh my dear, I do hope there will not be ten books all told. I'm planning for eight, at present, and hope very strongly that I can wrap it all up in that length. Enjoy your vacation!
Jordan said he didn't really know, as he is constantly writing and cutting parts. He writes from the beginning of the story to the end, and then cuts and edits large chunks, pulling together threads. He doesn't even think about a working title, but lets the story determine it.
He says there will be at least three more books, maybe four.
Jordan knows the very last part of the final book, but doesn't know how long it will be till he'll put it in.
One humorous story mentions the quote saying he will continue writing until the day the nails are put into his coffin. One elderly lady apparently told him that she was a lot closer to that than he was so he had better hurry up.
How many books?—"I don't know. Two, maybe three, maybe four. I know the last scene. But after I write the last scene that is all there is for these characters." (No Eddings sequels) "Maybe a series in another Age."
What other books?—"More books planned than I have years to write them."
He said it was a ram's horn.
About the time the line was getting fairly long and the people a little restless, someone told RJ that he'd love to have a new WoT book out in February, then another in March, then another in April... RJ asked the crowd (aka "the lynch mob") to turn on this guy.
I also asked RJ what Tor thought about the length of his series in terms of the number of books in it.
RJ said that Tor has told him to write as many books as he wants/needs to, and that Tor has never asked him to "stretch" the series out into more (money-making) books. He also said that even if Tor pressured him, he wouldn't do it.
I've stopped saying how many more books there will be.
"No prequels, no sequels, and no one else writing in my universe."
I was beginning to think you had joined the Navy or gotten married or something. It's good to hear from you again. I suppose I'll just jump right in.
1. I have never signed books in San Diego. San Francisco, yes. Los Angeles, yes. San Diego, no. At one time, I did hope for eight; now I don't think so. I certainly hope (Please, God!) it doesn't go to ten books, but I have stopped saying anything except that I will write until I reach the last scene of the last book, which scene has been in my head from the beginning. I will not write one word more in this world than I need to reach that scene.
I know where I'm going.
Jordan's Writing Process
Jordan spoke a bit and answered a few questions about his writing process. He said that he originally thought the series would be three to four books. When he was negotiating a contract with Tom Doherty, he told Tom that he didn't know how long the series would be, but that he did know the ending. Jordan says that writers seldom get contracts under those circumstances, but Tom signed him one because he like Jordan's writing. The contract was for six books.
After Jordan wrote the first book, he increased his estimate to four to five books for the series. After the second, he thought it would be 5-6, then 7 or more, etc. Now he does not give any estimate of the length of the series and is upset that the jacket of Lord of Chaos suggested that the series would end with eight books. (Update: In an open letter sent courtesy of Tor Books, dated 19 May 1996, Jordan said that the series will comprise at least ten books.)
Jordan says that the idea for WoT came to him about ten years before he began writing. "What would it feel like to be tapped on the shoulder and told, 'Hey, you're the savior of the world?'" He began writing The Eye of the World four years before it was published (and I say that it shows).
Jordan has lots of notes for the series. He began by writing approximately ten pages (of notes) of history about each of the countries in his story, more for the places he was going to use first. Right now his notes fill more pages than his manuscripts, he says.
I started writing about eight years ago. The first thought occurred to me, oh, somewhere between 18 and 20 years ago. My books always bubble around in my head a long time before anything gets on paper. Actually, yeah, I guess it is about that.
The first idea that came to me, the first thought, was what is it really like to be the savior of mankind? What's it really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you are the savior of mankind, and oh by the way, we expect you to go mad and die in order to fulfill prophecy and save everybody. That was the genesis.
No, not really. What I know is that we're heading for a final scene that I have known from the beginning. I could have written it before I wrote the first book. And it would be very little different from what I would write today. I know what has to happen—those major events, those mountains I talked about—I know what has to happen between now and that final scene.
I really don't know whether it's going to be another two books, or another three, or maybe even another four. I don't know. I'm not going to make any promises to anybody, or any suggestions to anybody, about how many books. I've done that in the past and seen it taken as promise: "Jordan said. Jordan said, it's going to be this many books." Well, no I didn't, I said it might be. But by the time it gets out into print, and on the street, it's Jordan promised. Well, Jordan didn't promise, and Jordan isn't promising, so there.
There will be a few more books, some, not a lot, hopefully fewer than seven more.
He knows the final scene of the last book, all the major events he wants to have happen and who will live and who will die. When he starts a book, he decides which of these events he wants to try to do and then writes it so they happen.
He will tie up all the major plot lines, but will leave a lot of the minor ones unresolved. He finds it too unrealistic for a series to end with all of life's problems solved. Expect the series to end with the major problems solved, but a lot of people will still have tumultuous lives ahead of them.
Considering all the work you've been through already, you'll probably hate this question, but when can we expect the next book, and how many more do you expect?
Will you be writing any other books that are similar fantasy/fiction?
First, I expect to deliver the next book in the fall of next year, which means that it will probably be published in the spring of 1998.
I do not know how many more books there will be. There will be at least ten total, probably more...but the safest way to say that is to say "there will be a few more, not too many, and please god not as many as have already been written!"
Other books? Not until I finish the Wheel of Time. I am already working in my head on what I'll do after that. It is indeed a fantasy series. I have a long gestation period for my books. The Wheel of Time gestated for at least ten years before it appeared on paper, and Shipwreck seems to be doing at least that.
I was wondering if you accept fan mail...if so, how can I write to you?
Also, how many books long do you think this series will end up being? I have no objections to it being long.
I like receiving fan mail! Write care of TOR books, 175 Fifth Avenue, NY NY 10010. They forward fan mail to me at fairly regular intervals.
There will be a few more books, but not too many.
I believe—believe!—there will be three more books. I am trying to finish up as soon as possible, but I cannot see how to do it in fewer than three books. That isn't a guarantee, mind! In the beginning, I thought that there would be three or perhaps four books total, but it might go to five, or even six, though I really didn't believe it would take that long. It wasn't a matter of the story growing or expanding, but rather that I miscalculated—brother, did I!—how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I've known the last scene of the last book literally from the beginning. That was the first scene that occurred to me. Had I written it out 10 years ago, and then did so again today, the wording might be different, but not what happens. It has just taken me longer to get there than I thought.
I do have another series perking around in the back of my head already. Books generally have a long gestation period with me, so this is not at all too early. There isn't a word on paper, yet, of course. It will be different cultures, different rules, a different cosmology. Nobody likes to redo what he's already done.
He said the book-signing tour will run through November 22nd. He'll spend two days fishing in Canada, and then return home to Charleston for Thanksgiving. (He said he finds being on tour exhausting, and always spends the following several days doing nothing at all.) After Thanksgiving, he'll start in on the next volume.
Someone mentioned the Internet-based rumors about him suffering from heart attacks / other forms of poor health. I couldn't tell from his expression whether RJ was amused or annoyed: Probably both equally. He replied that he's in good health with a resting heart rate of 71 beats per minute and good cholesterol.
He told quite a few people that the series would be requiring a minimum of three more volumes, perhaps more—and pointed out that he'd had to find time to work on "New Spring" and the Guide, in addition to The Path of Daggers. He also pointed out that, so far, the books have always been published within a month of completion, which he called "instantaneous for the publishing world". He stressed that he wants to reach the end (the final scene that he worked out 15 years ago), and would like to be "as compact as possible". (He said "Don't laugh.")
There was the usual mention of how many books. I heard three or so but then he said something else which I missed. It seemed to create a bit of buzz but I have no idea what it was.
He said he had no idea what the title of the next book was yet. Once again I did not hear the rest of what he said. I think though he said that once the title was firmly established he will let us know. Which is what he did with The Path of Daggers.
The Path of Daggers was finished August 25th, and published in less than 60 days.
The usual "at least three more books" was mentioned several times in an increasingly loud voice.
Firstly, RJ said three more books "at least" and that he'd try to do it in three if he could, but he couldn't promise it would be only three. And he said he thought it would take "at least five years".
I won't repeat the stuff about sources Mark mentioned, although it took up most of RJ's responses to questions (and indeed, the interview) at the 'Spotlight' session.
Is it possible to know how many volumes the Wheel of Time will be?
Sigh! At least three more. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s still the case. When I started this, I really believed I could finish it all in four or five books. Maybe six, I said, but I didn’t think it would take that long. By the end of The Eye of the World, I was pretty sure it would have to be six, and by the end of The Great Hunt, I knew it would be more. I have known the last scene of the last book since before I began writing, so I know where I’m heading, but as to how long to get there, I am just putting my head down and writing as hard as I can. Two minutes left in the game, four points down, and we’ve got the ball on our own five-yard line; they’ve been covering the receivers like a blanket and cutting off the outside like pastrami in a cheap deli, so we’re going to do it the old-fashioned way, straight up the middle, pound it down their throats, and nobody slacks off unless he’s been dead a week and can prove it. If you know what I mean. If I can finish it in three more books, I will, but I can’t make any promises on that, just that I will reach the end as soon as I can.
Regarding this evening's signing at Tower Books in Richmond:
The crowd was not very large, perhaps 50-75 people.
"Well, I'd like to do it in three, if I can, but I'm not promising anything".
He had originally thought that the entire series was going to be only about five books, six at the most (which drew a big laugh from the audience by the way). He said he has always been over-optimistic about how much material he can get in any one book. Which immediately sparked a follow up question by the moderator Friday night: "So based on what you just said, can we really believe you when you say 'Only about 3 more books'? " He basically laughed and said that he'd do his best, but again, was not promising anything.
I guess at this point we were some 40-45 minutes after Jordan's entrance. Time for the audience questions. Because there were so many people it would be a good idea for people to stand before asking their question so that there would be no confusion.
Jordan took the lead by first answering the common questions.
The next book (#10) will be ready and in the stores...when I finish writing it.
There will be no more than five, but also no less than another three books to be expected to appear in The Wheel of Time series.
I know where I'm heading, but I need time to tie lots of loose ends together.
There is definitely a change in pace from the earlier books to the later ones. Does this reflect a change in style over the last decade, a change in the story's pacing, or something else? What would you say to the critics out there who think you've been doing this just to stretch the series out longer?
In the beginning, I was writing about a very few characters, relatively speaking, on a relatively constricted stage. They were, for the most part, people with very small experience and a very small world view. From the start I expected this to spread out to cover more people over a much wider stage, and for the characters to expand their world view. Nobody is a kid from the sticks any more! Plus which, a little time has to be spent on some side characters, and what might be considered side plots, because they are important to the development of the main plot lines, keys to why things happen in the way that they do. Writing it any other way would require what seems to me to be entirely too much deus ex machina. The things I want to happen not only have to happen, they have to happen in a way that is believable.
In each book, there was has been a widening of scope over the previous books, though I am beginning to narrow it down once again. To some extent, anyway. And, no, I am not trying to stretch it out. I have had the same difficulty with every book from the very beginning. Namely, I could not put into it the amount of the story that I wanted to. Believe me, I will finish WHEEL in as few books as I can while telling the story I want to tell. After all, this is a multi-volume novel. When you set out to run a marathon, it's twenty-six miles and change. Getting a good time over fifteen or twenty miles doesn't mean a thing. You have to reach the finish line, or you might as well not have started. I'd like to finish this race.
Uhm, no, there is no possibility that it will never end. I will wrap up all of the major storylines, I will wrap up some of the minor storylines. Other minor storylines will be left hanging, and I'm going to do worse than that. I am going to set a hook in the last scene of the last book, that will make some people who don't believe what I say, think that I am setting up a sequel. What I am doing, what I will be doing, is trying to leave you with a view of a world that is still alive. One hope that some fantasies have is that when you reach the end of the book, or you reach the end of the trilogy, all the characters' problems are solved. All of the things that they have been doing are neatly tied of in a bow, all of their world's problems have been solved. And there's no juice left, there's no life left. you think 'I ought to set this world on a shelf and put a bell-jar on top of it, to keep the dust off.
When I finish the Wheel of Time, I want to do it in such a way that you will think it's still out there somewhere, people still doing things. This story has been concluded, this set of stories has been concluded, but they're still alive.
When asked "how many more books?", which of course met great laughter, he responded that he had started the process intending to have only five or six. Now on book 10, he remarked that he would complete the series in two more books if at all possible. If not, then three. He stated that no one wanted to complete the series more than he, because he has great number of ideas to work on after this project. He stated that one main idea has been percolating and stewing in his head for the last six or seven years. He went on to say that his next project will probably be a pair of trilogies (more laughter)—though he clarified that he would "beat the next story into submission" so it did in fact fit into six novels. He also stated that he may try a few "singletons" in the future as well.
I was in the line having fun with my friends and couldn't hear what RJ was saying, but I guess somebody asked him how many more books to go and he stood up and answered it to all:
[Apologizes for taking so many books to finish.] If I can finish it in two more books, I will. I promise you. [Very slight pause as he thinks about that.] IF I can do it in two I will, I promise. Again I apologize."
Or something very close to that. It was more of an IF instead of an IF, but the emphasis was definitely there. I suspect that when the next book progresses and he says that there's one book to go, I think he'll mean it (or any other time he says one book to go). But otherwise, I think there's quite a few more books to go.
When he said he was aiming for two more books, someone from the crowd yelled out "Make it 15 or 20!" meaning, I think, 15 or 20 books total for the series. RJ dramatically looked to the ceiling and abjured the Creator to not listen. He then said he was Anglican, and was therefore allowed to talk to God. Has anyone ever read or heard anything about his religious background? Just curious.
"How many more books will there be? There will be at least two more books. I apologize for that. I cannot finish it in fewer books. I will try to finish it in two more. I have known the last scene of the last book since 1984. I know where I'm going. The problem is...[my tape is once again inaudible and this was one of the few parts of his speech I could not hear, sorry gang]. That's about it."
There are an estimated 65,000 fan Web sites devoted to Jordan's work. But The Wheel of Time series has not been made into a film or miniseries. (In the 1980s, Jordan wrote a series about Conan the Destroyer of film fame. The character was first created in the 1930s by Robert E. Howard.) Jordan promises that he will write "at least" two more novels in The Wheel of Time series.
"What makes Jordan so popular, I think, is that everything he writes makes perfect sense," notes Swedish high school teacher Lars Jacobsson, 27, from Malmö. He has been a fan since 1995. "In most other fantasy books, there's always a point where you go, 'I don't buy that, that doesn't seem right.' In The Wheel of Time, that point has yet to come."
I did have some people mention your movie. Not just the folks who came to various signings who are associated with it, either. I think there are people out there eagerly awaiting it.
Take care, Jason. It's back to work for the likes of me. No rest for the wicked. I really hope—knock wood, spit over your shoulder, and sacrifice to the gods—that I can finish up in twelve books total. We shall see.
The plan is to do a main sequence book—which I'm working on now, and then a prequel, then another main sequence book and another prequel.
I hope—please God, are you listening?—that there will be only two more books in the main sequence. When I started out, I thought it was only going to be five books. I thought I could fit the entire story into five books—maybe it might take six. When I finished The Eye of the World, I realized it was highly unlikely I'd be able to finish in six books.
The problem is, although I know what I want to happen, every time I begin a book, I realize I can't fit into that book everything I wanted to get into it. Some things had to be left over, to be taken up in another book.
I'm now at a point where I think I can see the end. For which I'm very grateful. It's been about 20 years of my life I've given to these books.
There will be two more books in the main story sequence. Twelve will be the final number of books, not including the prequels.
Book 11, Knife of Dreams will be published in October, 2005.
He will finish that book in the Spring of 2005, but instead of the normal six week turn-around to get it on the shelves ultra-fast, he is insisting on a full editorial review. He has not done this since Lord of Chaos was published.
He confirmed (again) that he will finish the last two novels in the series (Knife of Dreams, and the untitled Book 12) before returning to write two more prequels.
You know, it's a strange thing. People come up to me at a signing, and they have just bought the new book. They haven't even finished reading it yet. And while I'm signing it, they will say, "When's the next book coming out?" Well, for people who want to know when the twelfth book of the Wheel of Time will be coming out: I absolutely, positively guarantee that book will be on the shelves in the stores very shortly after I finish writing it.
Book 12 will be the end. He will finish the story in one more book even if it takes 1500 pages hardcover.
The full editorial review of Knife of Dreams resulted in the addition of exactly one sentence. Q: Will we be able to tell which one? A: No. I'm good!
There were no startling plot revelations from Jordan this time. The only questions asked were personal or repeats of questions asked at Dragon*Con or previous interviews, so I don't need to repeat much of it.
There is only one book left in the series but it will be a doozy. He will fight to prevent it from being "George R.R. Martined," or split for publication. He plans to do a signing in Anchorage, Alaska for Knife of Dreams, but it will be during the salmon season so he can do some serious fishing while there.
After a few pronunciations, RJ described some of the original details about his contract with Tor.
(At this point, let me say that I'm reconstructing RJ's comments to the best of my ability. I did take a few pages of written notes during the session, and the content should be accurate, but I'm forced to paraphrase the information since I don't know shorthand and didn't actually record his exact words.)
RJ had his first contract with Tor in 1984. He expected to write about one book per year, and would need five or six books to complete the story. In fact, it took him four years to write The Eye of the World, and 16 months to write The Great Hunt, and about 15-16 months to write each subsequent book until A Crown of Swords. Up to Lord of Chaos, Tor was trying to publish the books every 12 months. RJ turned in Lord of Chaos in August of 1994 and the book was published in November of that year.
During this period of trying to maintain Tor's once a year publishing schedule, RJ said that Harriet was doing what he called "drive-by editing." That is, RJ would give Harriet chunks of chapters as he finished with them, and she would basically edit them on the fly. Once a book was finished, they would slap it together and send it to Tor for a barebones editing process and publication.
After Lord of Chaos was published, RJ informed Tor that there was no way he would be able to provide them with the next book in time for a November 1995 publication, and Tor told him that he could take two years for the publication if he needed it. About a year after that, his Tor contact (Sorry, I didn't write down that name) came back to RJ and said something to the effect of, "We agreed you'd be done in 16 months, right?" RJ remained adamant about the two years for A Crown of Swords, however.
RJ then talked a little bit about Knife of Dreams, saying that he was done writing at the beginning of April, which apparently means the end of April in author-speak. Which also apparently means in the middle of May in author-speak. That bit was fairly confusing, but I got the impression that he was basically finished in April, but Tor didn't really get the book to begin their editing process until May. Once Tor had the book in hand, they tried to push up the publication date to August, but RJ refused and insisted on the full editorial review and publication in October. RJ then said the result of that fully editorial was to add a single sentence to the book (This was actually quite funny and drew some considerable laughter from us in the audience.)
Wrapping up his initial comments, RJ reiterated that the twelfth book would be the final book. I did write down the following quote: "If I have to make it a 1500 page publication it will be the final book." He then warned us that we might need to wheel this final tome around in a cart.
For Segovia, my intention is finish with twelve books, and that may mean that the last book will be VERY long, but I really can't say how long it will take me to write. My publisher is always trying to get me to commit to a time frame. I just do a little sand dance until he goes away. I carry a small bottle of sand with me in New York for exactly that purpose.
For Anonymous—not George, I think—when I started writing, I knew the beginning, the end, and the major events I wanted to happen along the way. Some of those major, to me, events were as simple as two people meet and the courses of their lives being diverted in different directions by that meeting, but others were as large as Rand being kidnapped and his rescue/escape at Dumai's Wells. How to get from one major event to another I have always left until I was actually writing. I would pick out the major events I wanted to put into a book, start figuring out how I could get from one to the next—without their order necessarily being fixed—and see what I could some up with. Usually, I had to leave a few of the major events out of the book I originally thought I could put them into, one reason what I had thought would be five or six books turned into twelve. And thank you for realizing that I don't think my readers are idiots. I've never thought I had to tell the reader every last detail for them to figure out what was going on.
I was at the West Chester PA signing as well and had a few thoughts to add.
As others have mentioned, RJ gave us the working title of book 12 (A Memory of Light) and threatened it could be a 2000 page monster.
He showed up about ten minutes late and went through his normal pronunciation spiel looking slightly perturbed. He then reiterated the answers for what have seemed to become the most oft-asked questions this time around: Book twelve will be done when he’s finished with it, it will be last one no matter what, Infinity of Heaven is the next thing he’s doing, the two WoT prequels will be done at some point in the future, and that he’s come up with an idea for a trilogy of “outrigger” novels in the WoT world, but that he has to let it stew for a few years before he decides on doing it.
Then, probably because he arrived late, he skipped the Q&A and went straight to signing. Somewhat disappointing, as the event was billed as a Q&A / Signing, and the Q&A was the main reason I went in the first place. I would have liked to just hear him talk for a little bit.
RJ then went on to say that during the signing, he would be asked a few questions, as he always is. The second person in line, he said, would ask, "When is the next book coming out?" He gave us a guarantee that we could "take to the bank" that it would be on shelves shortly after he finished writing it.
And the fourth person would invariably ask, "How many more books in the series?" which he explained the same way as other signings, about needing a 'dolly' to carry the thing out. But unlike other accounts, he said at this point, it is not possible for him to write two more coherent books. He said he might get one coherent book, and one incoherent, or two semi-coherent, so WoT would be finished by book 12.
Question 3 From RJ: The next person in line is going to ask how many more books are left.
Answer: Can we all say it together? One more book. I don't care if it has to be 2000 pages and you have to wheel it out the door. One more book.
Before I start a book I always sit down and try to think how much of the story I can put into it. The outline is in my head until I sit down and start doing what I call a ramble, which is figuring how to put in the bits and pieces. In the beginning, I thought The Wheel of Time was six books and I'd be finished in six years. I actually write quite fast. The first Conan novel I did took 24 days. (I wrote seven Conan books—for my sins—but they paid the bills for a number of years.) For my Western, I was under severe time constraints in the contract so it was 98,000 words in 21 days—a killer of a schedule, especially since I was not working on a computer then, just using an IBM Correcting Selectric!
I started The Wheel of Time knowing how it began and how it all ended. I could have written the last scene of the last book 20 years ago—the wording would be different, but what happened would be the same. When I was asked to describe the series in six words, I said, 'Cultures clash, worlds change—cope. I know it's only five, but I hate to be wordy.' What I intended to do was a reverse-engineered mythology to change the characters in the first set of scenes into the characters in the last set of scenes, a bunch of innocent country folk changed into people who are not innocent at all. I wanted these boys to be Candides as much as possible, to be full of 'Golly, gee whiz!' at everything they saw once they got out of their home village. Later they could never go back as the same person to the same place they'd known.
But I'd sit down and figure I could get so much into a story, then begin writing and realize halfway in that I wasn't even halfway through the ramble. I'd have to see how I could rework things and put off some of the story until later. It took me four years to write The Eye of the World, and I still couldn't get as much of the story into it as I wanted; same with The Great Hunt. I finally reached a point where I won't have to do that. For Knife of Dreams I thought, "I've got to get all of that into one book: it's the penultimate volume!" And I did. Well, with one exception, but that's OK. That one exception would probably have added 300 pages to the book but I see how to put it in the last volume in fewer.
It's a good question. As many of you may know, I have progress bars on the front of my website showing how far I've gotten on whatever project I'm currently engaged in. I've got one now listing how far along I am in my re-read of the series. (Finished Crossroads of Twilight, by the way, and am now reading New Spring.)
Will I do this for Book 12? I'm planning to, but with a few caveats. The thing is, it's hard for me to judge how long this project will take. It's unlike any book I've ever worked on. With my own novels, I've gotten to the point where I can sit down and plot them and know roughly how long they will be before I start. (I generally shoot for about 200k words in length for my epics, 50k for Middle Grade books, 80-90k for a YA novel.)
I don't know how long A Memory of Light is going to be, though. That's going to present a problem for running a progress bar of how far along I am. (The current program we have is percentage based, and I won't know what percentage is done if I don't know how long the novel is going to end up being.)
Right now, my goal for the book is 300k minimum. Looking at the material Mr. Jordan left behind and the story that needs to be told, that's a realistic size to start with. This wouldn't make the book the shortest in the series, though it wouldn't be the longest either. It would be right in the middle.
I'm expecting it to go longer than that, to be honest. Mr. Jordan himself often said of this book that it would be as long as it had to be, even if Tor had to invent a new binding for it! From what I've seen of the material, I don't think that's going to be necessary—I think he was responding to worries of the fans that he wouldn't tie the novel up in one volume. From his outline, writings, and other work on the project it looks to me that he was planning it to be in the 300-400k range.
So, I'll probably start the progress bar assuming the book will be 300k long, then update it later when I have a better idea of its length. I will be needing to go and touch up the sections that Mr. Jordan wrote. (They are in rough draft from. As I've mentioned, I intend to leave them as pristine as is possible for the novel, with as minor editing as is possible while still maintaining the integrity of the novel.) Therefore, I'll start the bar at 0%, and once a section of pages is touched up or written by me, I'll update accordingly.
(For you trivia buffs, the longest book I've ever written was 306k long. It was The Way of Kings, which was the book I wrote right before Mistborn. The first draft of Well of Ascension was second, topping out at 258k in first draft form, though we cut it to about 245k before it went to press. So yes, A Memory of Light is going to be the longest book I've ever worked on. Though, since Mr. Jordan left large chunks of writing for the book—including much of the beginning and ending—I don't know that this will technically be the longest book I've written, assuming you count only words I myself wrote.)
And, as for A Memory of Light, I've been looking through what we have done and I'm very pleased with it. There will need to be edits done, of course, but I'm very excited at how this project is going. I'm still on target to get it done by the end of the year, I hope, but as I've warned before . . . this book is going to be LONG. I'm hoping to keep it to between 400k and 500k words in length, but I worry that it might stretch longer. We shall see. As everyone knows, there is a lot to tie up, and the more I work on it the more I realize that I can't place a hardfast limit on its length. It could end up at 350k,it could end up at 600k. Whatever it takes to write this story the way Mr. Jordan would have wanted it.
Mr. Jordan promised that this would be one book, even if Tor had to invent a new binding method to print it! Well, I intend to write it as one book. However, I do want people to be aware that I have no power over whether or not this thing gets cut into two volumes after I've finished it. That will be up to the publisher and Harriet. It's really too early to tell if a cut will be considered or not. (And to be honest, I think it's unlikely that the book will need to be cut.) But I do think readers should be aware of the possibility. (Part of the reason Tor could end up having to cut it would have to do with bookstore pressures. They're already very upset with Tor at the length of its books, as they take up a lot of shelf space at the store and earn less money per inch for the booksellers than books in other genres.)
Anyway, my job is to write the book at the length it needs to be to make the best book possible, whatever that length may be. We'll let Harriet and Tor decide how to present the final product! Keep an eye on the blog for future updates, as I'll know more about length once I've finished a few of the other sections.
(Also, know that if Tor does decide to cut the book, I will lobby heavily for a couple of things. First, a special collector's edition with both books in one that can be ordered by the hardcore readers who want one volume. Second, to have both volumes released in stores around the same time, rather than waiting years between.)
No. When I started this series, there were only two commonly used means of publishing: a single book or a trilogy. I, however, told my publisher: this won’t be a trilogy, but a series of at least four or five volumes, possibly even six. At that time I knew the overall content of the story, I knew what events I wanted to put in them and also had the final completely ready-made in my head. But I soon discovered that I could fit much less in the first book than I thought. That first book was actually supposed to hold the story of The Great Hunt and at least a part of The Dragon Reborn. At that point, I though: “Okay, it will probably be six or seven books.” Exactly the same thing happened to the second book. At this point, I no longer dare make predictions how long the series will eventually become. It will end sometime, I swear, but I don’t know when exactly that will be.
In 1984, Jim came to Tom and said, “I’ve got a great idea for an epic fantasy, and it’s going to be 6 books.” Tom says that book one was 5 years late [it came out in 1989]. Tom describes first reading the manuscript for The Eye of the World: “Oh God, I fell in love with it.” He knew it would be the greatest epic fantasy since Tolkien. Tor prepared a marketing campaign unprecedented in those days of 5,000 Advance Reader Copies to send one to every bookstore in the country and a combined hardcover/trade paperback first printing. 40,000 books sold out almost immediately, and when the second book came out, the sales of The Eye of the World shot up again, doubling what it had sold the first time. After that, Tor stopped the trade paperback part of the release and just pushed the hardcover.
Jim always said he knew the ending of the series, Tom says. And when he was working on A Memory of Light, he wrote the ending. That plus the prologue and the rest of what he wrote totaled 200 manuscript pages [that’s about 50,000 words].
Brandon explains that he is writing the book according to viewpoint cluster. There are several groups of characters who follow their own plotlines until toward the end of the book—at the three-quarter or 80% mark—all the groups meet up. Brandon’s writing the book one viewpoint cluster at a time. The first cluster he focused on was Rand’s, with Rand, Nynaeve, Min, etc. Brandon has finished writing this viewpoint cluster from the beginning of the book up until that meet-up point. Now he’s working on the Perrin, Faile, Galad cluster. After this he’ll move on to Egwene and the White Tower, then Mat and Thom, and then he’ll work on a more unconnected cluster of viewpoints that aren’t as closely connected to each other, such as Elayne’s story and what’s going on with the Black Tower, etc. Then when all the viewpoints are all gathered together at the same place, Brandon will write the last part of the story up to and including the part that Jim wrote. For each group of characters there are detailed notes on who’s there and what secrets can be revealed.
Including what Brandon has been writing during this trip (he even wrote in the car while his wife drove), he’s written almost 200,000 words so far.
“200,000?” Tom breaks in. “You told me yesterday you were a third done!” Everyone in the room does the math.
Brandon says the goal is not to leave out anything that Jim has written. As much of what he has written will make it into print as physically possible. Any manuscript words that Jim has written will go in the book. If Jim said that something has to happen, it will happen.
Tom says, “It’s sounding more and more like two volumes.”
This was Jim Rigney’s dying request: “Take care of the fans. Find someone to finish the book.”
If the book does end up needing to get split, Brandon would prefer for the first half to be released in October 2009 and the second in November 2009, with a leatherbound special edition of the complete book.
Tom says, “I do not believe it’s physically possible to bind in one book.” [I’m interpreting this as a reaction to the possibility of the book being 600,000 words, and also not ruling out a special edition.]
Brandon says, “By the way, Jim was not artificially inflating the series. He was writing what he loved.”
Before I get into rambling, I just wanted to mention that it looks like Barnes and Noble.com sold through their copies of Mistborn Three at the 50% off sale. I don't know if they'll get any more in stock. However, my agent has said that he's seen them in bookstores at that price. The sale is supposed to run until January 20th. So if you were waiting for the paperback, you may want to consider grabbing a hardcover from your local B&N for a few bucks more. (And if they don't have any left, you can probably have them order one for you. They make great gifts! For . . . uh . . . (grabs a calendar and searches for next holiday coming up) Martin Luther King day!)
Anyway, I'm looking forward to the new year, and what it will contain. These times also make a person retrospective about the past. It wasn't so long ago—six years now, I guess—that I had no real assurance of what the future would hold for me. I can still remember the holiday season of 2002. I had just finished doing draft work on a book called The Way of Kings during NaNoWriMo in November. It was the longest, most ambitious book I'd ever written. (More info here about that book, which I'm now calling The Way of Kings Prime, as I'm going to rewrite it soon.)
I was pleased with it. Very pleased. But I'd spent years trying to get published with no success, and I'd just written a 300k word book in a time when everyone was telling me that 150k was too long to publish from a new author. I'd had nothing but nibbles on every novel I'd sent out, and I had no current dating prospects.
I'm not the type to get down. I have one of those even-keel personalities, and I have a generally optimistic outlook on life and on humankind in general. But I can remember the transition that year being a tough one for me. I was in the first year of my master's program, and soon I would have to decide whether or not to apply to Ph.D. programs. That would take my life in directions I wasn't certain I wanted. A master's in creative writing can be a good shelter for someone hiding from the world and working on their writing, but a Ph.D. in literature wouldn't leave as much time by writing. I knew I couldn't keep working at a low-wage graveyard shift job for much longer, even if it gave me a lot of writing time. I would have to move on.
I wouldn't have stopped writing. Nothing would have stopped me from that. But life was looming, and I knew it was going to steal time from my writing.
Three months later, I got a call from Tor, and everything changed. Two years later, I met a very special woman who—finally—'got' me. That had never happened in my dating life before. I snatched her up as quickly as she would let me.
Six years have passed. I'm helping complete the Wheel of Time. I've hit the New York Times Bestseller list. I have a movie deal. And I've got a wife and family. Life is like a flame. Sometimes it flickers along, but sometimes the right fuel comes along, and you get an inferno.
What am I looking toward this year? Well, the release of A Memory of Light (or a part of it, if that is what Tor decides to do.) That will be a strange experience. I'll have to think a lot about how to do my signings. Right now, I draw good crowds—but nothing like what I'm sure the Wheel of Time will draw.
Tor really wants me to complete one of my own novels this year too, otherwise there won't be a Brandon Sanderson solo release next year. That's going to be tough. Wheel of Time comes first, and I won't let myself stop and write something else even if Tor and Harriet decide to break A Memory of Light into multiple books. I will work on nothing else until at least the rough draft of this book is done. That's been my promise to myself and to the other fans. We've waited long enough for this book. I'm pretty certain I can have it done by summer, even if it goes longer than the 750k I'm anticipating. (And that really doesn't seem likely.)
But that leaves me working very hard the second half of the year to get my next project ready. I can't rush it, either. I plan to launch a large, multi-volume epic of my own. That sort of thing requires groundwork. Fortunately, I have a 300k 'dry run through' of the book that I wrote those six years ago. It has to be scrapped entirely, of course. But six years of thinking on the book I wrote—along with many years of planning before that—have left me with the most dynamic, powerful story in my head that I've ever developed. We shall see.
New year's resolutions? I don't really tend to make them, not in so many words. But if I were to make one, I think it would to be to keep giving that flame fuel. I'm enjoying the inferno.
But being who I am, when that flame returns to a peaceful candle, I'll probably enjoy that as well.
May all of you have a period in your lives like these last six years have been for me.
(And sorry for the typos. Didn't have time to proofread this one before posting it.)
We're going to have to face facts, though. The longer the book grows, the greater the chances of it being split. The choice isn't mine on this one, I'm afraid. I feel I need to write the book at the length it deserves to be, even if that leaves it needing to be divided up by Tor and published in sections. We're nearing the time where we'll have to turn something in if we want it out by November, and while we'd like this to be one book, it might make more sense for all parties to give you some now, rather than make you wait another year to get the whole thing. (Though Orbit in the UK has decided, inexplicably, to make a new Amazon posting for A Memory of Light. Uh, that's very optimistic, folks. But we haven't even turned anything in to Tor yet. How do you know the page count? How do you even know what the title will be? If the book gets split, Harriet will have to decide what to call it. it could be A Memory of Light part one, or it could just have its own title, with A Memory of Light going to the final book after the split. The UK publisher for the WoT seems to know the answers already. There's only one conclusion I can draw from this. Orbit UK is populated with TIME TRAVELERS.)
Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you happen to prefer to celebrate this season!
A few things to point out. First off, we are at 99% (!) on A Memory of Light as of last night. We'll see if I can get some more writing done tomorrow and bring us up to the 400k mark. However, THIS IS NOT THE END. We will soon see what happens in the system when I type in 101%. I'm honestly not sure how the code will regard that.
I'm expecting to go to 150% or so on this book, maybe 175%. It won't go to 800k, I don't think, but 600-700 seems likely. I might just keep the same progress bar and have it inch higher, since if you're following the blog, you know what that means. And if someone sees the bar for the first time, there's a chance they'll interpret it right if it shows 110% or so. Once I'm into revisions, I'll have a separate progress bar for those.
No. Not at all. I've said from the beginning that I'd write the book as long as it needed to be to tell the story the right way. My progress bar has always been set at 400k words, which is roughly the length of the longest Wheel of Time books. Very early in the process, I had thought that maybe I could bring it in at that length, but I realized the truth very quickly. There's just too much going on in this novel to constrict it to any artificial length. It will be as long as it needs to be.
How long will that be? I still can't tell for certain. For a while (since July) I've been saying 600-700k. That still feels right to me. The point I've reached right now does feel vaguely halfway, perhaps just a tad less. It's hard to tell because I've never done a book like this before. I also don't know how much we'll be adding or editing out in revision even after I get the rough draft done.
As I've always said, this isn't my call. Harriet and Tom will decide this. My gut instinct says yes, but I don't know how that process will proceed. I think that the best thing I can do for the Wheel of Time readers is FINISH the book, no matter how long, with as much speed as I can manage while still maintaining the highest of quality. That way, even if the novel gets split, readers can be reassured by the fact that the book IS done and that it is not going to continue on endlessly.
One of my biggest fears is that readers will assume I'm artificially inflating the length of the book in order to keep the Wheel of Time going and bring in more cash. I promise you in all sincerity that this is NOT the case. I'm writing a single book, following the outline where I can, filling in holes where I must. We are not going to keep you juggling forever. I will finish this book as quickly as I can, so that even if the first half is released on its own, you can know that the second half is done and coming soon.
Remember. Robert Jordan DID write the ending himself. I just have to get us there.
Sorry, but I really have no firm idea on this. I'm still hoping to get to 400k by December 31st. (Watch the website and see if I make it—it's going to be very close. I could make it still, but it will take some hard core writing through December.) At that point, I think it will be time to fly out and see Harriet again to go over the outline for the remaining portion of the book. (What we talked about during my last visit in April will bring us right up to about the point where I'll be ending in December.) At that point, we'll decide whether to press forward with the rough draft until the book is done or do some heavy revising on the first 400k to stabilize it before moving on. We'll have to talk this through, as I can't really decide which would be better. I'm of two minds on it.
If I press forward, I could have the book finished by March or April. If we revise, it will probably be until June or July. But even that is probably an optimistic guess, since I have no idea how much time the book will need to spend in revision.
I keep saying that I'd like to have the book out by November next year, and that's not outside reason. But we'll have to see. The last thing we want to do is release a book that feels rushed and thrown together. One thing I do know is that Tor is poised to get it through production at record speeds once we turn it in.
Thank you for your support. The response has been fantastic. I get emails each day cheering me on.
Thank you for your understanding. I can't replace the man you lost. But I'm doing my best to give you the book you've been waiting for.
And finally, thank you for your patience. I'm working hard, I promise. But this book is a HUGE undertaking, and will likely be three times the size of previous books I've written. Even considering the parts Mr. Jordan finished, there's just a lot to do, and I don't want to rush an imperfect product to production. We hope to have something for you in stores by November 2009. But if it takes longer, it takes longer.
My new computer is shaping up quite well. I'm sorry, Mac lovers, but I'm firmly gripped by Microsoft. I don't philosophically oppose your OS, but Windows is what I know, and I've never had cause to change. (My wife loves her Mac, though.) Beyond that, I've got a shiny new version of Office 2007 courtesy of a certain individual that I've been playing with lately.
Though if it sates any of you Mac folks, I DID work on a little of A Memory of Light on my wife's computer during some outages where my computer wasn't reliable. So you can content yourselves that a portion of the book was indeed written on your beloved OS.
Annotation coming soon. I've got a big deadline on these A Memory of Light revisions coming in April, and so I've been pulling some long hours working on revisions. I can't really talk about a release date or anything else right now. Harriet has asked me just to focus on the revisions. I think she'll be making a specific announcement about these things come April, perhaps at JordanCon.
By now, many of you know about the press release that Tor put up about A Memory of Light being split.
Well, I do have a reaction I wrote to this. I posted it as a separate article on my website so that those of you who watch the blog via RSS or LJ wouldn't have to deal with eight pages of writing if you don't want to. It's long, but it's mostly me talking about the process of writing this book over the last sixteen months. I think the Wheel of Time readers will find it very interesting read.
All right, now that the press release is out, let's talk about some things. I like to be transparent with my readers, whenever possible, and I feel it's time to let you in more fully on what has been happening this last year.
Pull up a chair. Get some hot cocoa. This is going to take a while. I'm a fantasy author. We have trouble with the concept of brevity.
In order to explain to you how this book came to be split as it did, I want to step you through some events of the last sixteen months. That way, you can see what led us up to making the decisions we did. You might still disagree with those decisions (many of you will.) But at least you'll understand the rationale behind them.
Before we start, however, let me explain that I only saw one piece of what was going on. As I've stated before, Harriet and Tom are the ones making decisions when it comes to publication issues. I've deferred to them. My input has by no means been ignored, but often I was so focused on the book that I didn't have the time or energy to do more than say "Harriet, I trust your decision. Go with what you feel is best." Therefore, some of what I say may be distorted through my own lens. I don't have the whole story, but I think I've got most of it.
Let's hop back to November of 2007. That's the month where I'd discovered for certain that I'd be the one finishing THE WHEEL OF TIME. I was excited, nervous, and daunted all at the same time—but today's blog post isn't about that aspect of the experience. Perhaps I'll have a chance to write more about it later.
The first discussion of length came in late November, early December during the contract negotiations for A Memory of Light. I say negotiations, though those 'negotiations' were really nothing more than Harriet's agents saying "Here's what we offer." And me saying to my agent "Sounds good. Say yes." I wasn't about to let the chance to work on this book slip away.
The contract stipulated that I was to provide a completed work which (including Mr. Jordan's written sections) was to be at least 200,000 words long. This sort of length provision isn't uncommon in contracts; it's there to make certain neither author nor publisher are surprised by the other's expectations. It's generally a ballpark figure, very flexible. I hadn't seen any of the materials for A Memory of Light at that point, so I essentially signed blind, saying yes to produce something "At least 200,000 words" in length.
I'm not sure what Harriet was expecting at that point for length. She was still coping with Mr. Jordan's death, and was focused on finding someone to complete A Memory of Light so that she could rest easier, knowing that it was being worked on. Remember, this was just months after Mr. Jordan passed away. I honestly don't think she was thinking about length or—really—anything other than making certain the book was in the right hands. She left it to my decision how to proceed once I was given the materials.
Around January or February, I posted on my blog that I was shooting for a 200k minimum. This surprised a lot of people, as 200k would not only have made A Memory of Light the shortest Wheel of Time book other than the prequel, it seemed a very small space in which to tie up the huge number of loose ends in the book. I wasn't focused on that at the moment; I was just passing along my thoughts on a minimum length. I think that I, at the time, hoped that we could do the book in around 250k. That was naive of me, but I honestly didn't want to drag this on for years and years. I wanted to get the readers the book they'd been waiting for as soon as possible.
At that point, I started reading through the series again. I did this with the notes and materials for the final book at hand, taking notes myself of what plotlines needed to be closed, which viewpoints needed resolution. The read-through took me until March of 2008. As I progressed through the series, I began to grasp the daunting nature of this book. How much there was to do, how many plotlines needed to be brought back together, the WEIGHT of it all was enormous.
April 2008. I had to make a decision. I realized that the book would be impossible to do in 200k. I'd begun to say on my blog that it would be at least 400k, but even that seemed a stretch. I looked over the outlines, both mine and Mr. Jordan's. I stared at them for a long time, thinking about the book. And this is where the first decision came in. Did I try to cram it into 400k? Or did I let it burgeon larger?
To get this into one book, I'd need to railroad the story from climax to climax. I'd have to ignore a lot of the smaller characters—and even some aspects of the larger characters. I just couldn't justify that. It wouldn't do the story justice. I cringed to consider what I would have to cut or ignore.
Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps readers would have preferred a single, condensed volume so that they at least knew what happened. But I just couldn't do it. The Wheel of Time deserved better.
This was not an easy choice. I knew it would anger some readers. I knew it would take a lot of time, and I would end up dedicating a great deal more of my life (and my family's life) to the Wheel of Time than I'd initially anticipated. At the very least, I was contemplating writing a book three to four times the length of the initial contract—essentially, doing four times the work for the exact same pay.
But this had never been about the pay for me. I'd been put in charge of this project. I wanted to do what I felt Mr. Jordan would have done. I felt, and feel, a debt to him for what he did with this series. He had promised readers a big, big book—not big for big's sake, but big because there was so much to do, so much to tie up. I decided that I would do whatever the story demanded, no matter how many words it would require, no matter how mad it made people. I would not artificially inflate the book—but I would treat each character, even the minor characters, with care and consideration.
I flew to Charleston that month and outlined my feelings on the various outlines for the different characters. The Charleston camp was cautiously enthusiastic; I don't know if they realized just how much work this would all take. I'm not sure if I even told them how many words I was starting to feel it would be. At this point, Harriet was pretty much letting me call the shots when it came to the actual drafting of the novel. Harriet is an editor; she works best when I provide material to her, then she works her magic to turn it from good to excellent. That meant I was in charge of getting material to her as I saw fit, then she would tell me if I was on target or needed to try again.
I had already set the progress bar at 400k words on my website. I started writing in earnest, and also started warning people that the book was likely going to run longer than my initial estimate. Perhaps much longer. Soon, I was saying 750k.
By this point, I'd already warned Tom and Harriet that I saw the length being very large, but I hadn't told Tom the 700-800k number. When I'd mentioned 400k to him once, he'd been wary. He explained to me that he felt 400k was unprintably large in today's publishing market. Things have changed since the 90's, and booksellers are increasingly frustrated with the fantasy genre, which tends to take up a lot of shelf space with very few books. There is constant pressure from the big chain bookstores to keep things smaller and thinner. When I'd turned in Mistborn 2 (revised and already trimmed) at 250k, production and marketing had nearly had a fit, complaining that the book would cost more to print than it would make. Tom approved the publication of the book anyway. (And fortunately we managed to fit it into enough pages—and sell enough copies—that it was still profitable.)
Anyway, Tom implied that 400k was what he saw as a cut off for length. Anything 300-350 could be one book, anything over 350 should be cut. (That's me guessing on things he said; he never gave those hardfast numbers, and I know there was probably some flexibility.) Anyway, Tom—like Harriet—wanted to wait and see what I was able to produce first. At this point, it was too early to begin talk of cutting the book. I'd barely written any of it.
I wrote all summer, and the next point of interest comes at Worldcon. Tom and I were on a panel together, talking about A Memory of Light. I noted that (by that point) I had around 250k written. He said something like "Ah, so you're almost done!" I looked chagrined and said "Actually, I feel that I'm only about 1/3 of the way there, Tom." He blinked, shocked, and then laughed a full bellied laugh. "It's happening again!" he exclaimed. "Jim sold me one book that somehow became three, and now it's happening again!"
Well, that was the first hint I had that this might be three books instead of two. I started to lobby Harriet subtly, pointing out that previous Wheel of Time books had been 380k, and perhaps that would be a good length for each Volume of A Memory of Light, if it was cut. I also indicated that I felt it would be really nice to keep volumes of the book published close together if, indeed, the book had to be split.
What I didn't realize was just how taxing this process was going to be. There's only so much one person can write in a year. Before working on A Memory of Light, my average wordcount for a year was around 300k. One 200k epic fantasy, then 50-100k on other projects. During 2008 I wrote over 400k—fully a third more than usual, and that was done with three months of my working time spent re-reading and taking notes on the Wheel of Time series. (Yes, it was easier because of materials left by Mr. Jordan. However, that was offset by the need to become an expert on thousands of characters, places, themes, and worldbuilding elements. All in all, even with outlines, notes, and written materials Mr. Jordan left, I'd say this was the most difficult 400k I've ever written.)
By December, after my book tour, I was pushing hard to even get 400k done. I still had this phantom hope that somehow, I'd be able to spend January, February, and March writing harder than I'd ever written before and somehow get to 750k by the March deadline that Tom had said was about the latest he could put a book into production and still have it out for the holidays.
In January, Tom called Harriet and they talked. At this point, I'd hit my 400k goal, and I knew that I was only about halfway done. (If even that far along.) Very little of that 400k had been revised or drafted. Tom and Harriet chatted, and several things came up. One of the most dominating points was this: it had been four years since the fans had been given Knife of Dreams. Tom felt that we NEEDED to provide them a book in 2009. They couldn't wait until I finished the entire volume to publish something.
Harriet called me and I finally agreed that I needed to stop work on writing new material. It was time to begin revising. That was, essentially, the decision to split the book. And I wasn't certain that we could simply print the 400k that I had written. There were scenes all over the place, and if we printed that portion as-is, it would cut off right in the middle of several plot arcs. The book just wouldn't be any fun to read. Beyond that, editing 400k would take too much time to have it done by April.
This is the second big decision. Perhaps you would have chosen differently. But let me outline the options as I see them. Pretend you're Tom Doherty or Harriet in January 2009, making the call on how to publish the book.
1) You can decide not to print anything until the entire novel is finished. That means letting Brandon write until the end, then revising the entire thing at once, followed by printing the book (either as one enormous volume or several chunks, released in quick succession.) Last summer and fall, this was what I was hoping we'd be able to do.
If you make this choice, the readers don't get a book in 2009. You're not sure when they'll get a book. Brandon took a year to write 400k words, and feels that he's around halfway done.
So, if you choose this option, let's say Brandon writes all 2009, delivers you a rough draft of a full, 800k book in 2010. 800k words would take roughly eight months to edit and revise. Production would take another eight months or so. (Minimum.) You'd be looking at releasing the book somewhere in summer 2011. Perhaps one volume in June and another in August.
2) You could publish the 400k as they are done right now. If you do this, the readers do not get a book in 2009. 400k would take roughly four months to revise (and that's rushing it), and you'd have to put the novel into production with a January or February 2010 release date. That's not too far off the November 2009 date you'd promised people, so maybe they would be satisfied. But you'd leave them with a story that literally cut off right in the middle of several plotlines, and which did not have tied up resolutions.
In this scenario, Brandon writes all through 2009, turns in the second half sometime around April or May 2010. It takes roughly four months to edit and revise that portion, and you're looking at a summer 2011 release for the second half. Maybe spring 2011. (This way, you get the whole thing to the readers a little bit faster than the other option because you have the luxury of putting one half through production while Brandon is writing the second half.)
However, in this scenario, you end up releasing two fractured books, and the bookstores are mad at you for their size. (Which may translate to the bookstores ordering fewer copies, and fans being mad because they can't find copies as easily as they want—this is what happened with Mistborn Two, by the way.). Beyond that, you missed releasing a book in the holiday season, instead putting one in the dead months of early 2010.
3) You could do what Tom did. You go to Brandon (or, in this case, to Harriet who goes to Brandon) and you say "You have 400k words. Is there a division point in there somewhere that you can cut the book and give us a novel with a strong climax and a natural story arc?"
I spent a few days in January looking over the material, and came to Tom and Harriet with a proposal. I had what I felt would make the best book possible, divided in a certain way, which came out to be around 275,000 words. It had several strong character arcs, it told a very good story, and it closed several important plot threads. I felt it would be an excellent book.
Now, this was longer than they'd wanted. They'd hoped I'd find them a cutting point at the 225k mark. But I didn't feel good about any cuts earlier than 275. In fact, I later took that 275,000 word book and I added an extra 25k in scenes (one's I'd been planning to write anyway, but decided would work better here in this chunk) in order to fill it out and make of it the most solid novel possible. Right now, the book sits at about 301,000 words—though that will fluctuate as I trim out some excess language here and there. I suspect the final product will be right around 300,000k words.
Now, let's assume you made this decision, just as Tom did. This is the ONLY case in which you get to keep your promise to the Wheel of Time readers and deliver a book in 2009. (Though, it took a LOT of work to get it ready. I've been pulling 14-16 hour days six days a week for the last three months.) In this scenario, you get to deliver them a solid book, rather than a fractured one.
But you are also splitting a book that Robert Jordan intended to be one book. (Tom and Harriet both have said they don't think he could have done it, or would have done it, given the chance.) A bigger problem is that you're releasing a book without knowing when you'll be able to release the next section. You aren't certain what to tell people when they ask how large a gap there will be between the books; it will depend on how long the next chunk is and when Brandon can finish it. (Plus, Brandon keeps increasing the final estimate, which—now that I've added some material to this book—indicates that the final product will easily be over 800k.)
So . . . how big will the gap be? Well, the honest truth is that I don't know. Tom has been telling other publishers and retailers that November 2009, 2010, 2011 seems like a safe bet. But that's just an estimate, erring on the side of caution. I'm pretty certain that we have to divide the book in three parts because of where I chose to make the split. There will be another good split at around the 600k mark.
If I had the next 300k or so done already, it would take me 4 months to revise it at the shortest. I feel that the next chunk is going to need a lot more revision than this one did. Partially because I cut into the 450k completed portion with the hacksaw and pulled out 275k. What's left over is ragged and in need of a lot of work. I'd say five months of revisions is more likely. So, if it were all done, we'd have the second book coming out five months after the first.
But it's not all done. It's around halfway done. I've got a lot of writing left to do—four to six months worth, I'd guess. By these estimates, we'll have another book ready to go to press, then, in February next year. That means a fall 2010 release. And if things continue as they have, the third book (none of which is written right now) would come out summer 2011 at the earliest.
And I guess that's what I'm trying to show you with all of this: No matter how the book is split, cut, or divided, the last portion wouldn't come out until 2011. Why? It goes back to that first decision I made, the one to write the book the length I felt it needed to be. And so, it's not the greedy publisher, stringing you along that is keeping you from reading the ending. It's not the fault of production taking a long time. The blame rests on me.
I am writing this book long. I'm writing it VERY long. Most books in most genres are around 100k long. I'm shooting for eight times that length. And one person can only produce so much material, particularly on a project like this. Writing this book, keeping all of these plot threads and characters straight, is like juggling boulders. It's hard, hard work.
You're getting a book this year. You'll get one next year. You'll get one the year after that. I don't know which months in 2010 or 2011 the books will come out. You can keep hope they'll be sooner, but you might want to listen to Tom's November, November estimate, as I feel it's the absolute latest you'd see the books.
I know some of you will be mad that it is getting split; I feel for you, and I hope to be able to persuade Tor and Harriet to publish a special edition omnibus some day. But . . . well, they're both convinced that it will be too long for that. I'm not going to fight for it right now; I'll wait until the books come out.
I will continue to fight to get the books released as quickly as is reasonable. But I have to write them first. You've been able to watch my progress bar; you know that I'm working and the book is getting written. I'm not going on vacations and living it up. I'm working. Hard. Sixty, seventy, sometimes eighty hour weeks.
I won't make you wait an undue amount of time. But please understand that some of the things you want are mutually exclusive. You want a high quality book that is of an enormous length published quickly. Get me a time machine and I'll see what I can do.
George Martin and Patrick Rothfuss have both spoken on this topic already, and both did it quite eloquently. Books, as opposed to a lot of other forms of mass media, are unique in that they rest solely on the production capabilities of one single person. A good day of writing for a lot of authors is about 1,000 words. And you're lucky to get 200 days of writing in a year, with all of the other demands (edits, copyedits, book tours, publicity events, school visits, etc.) that come your way. I tend to scale higher than the average, partially (I think) because of all those years I spent unpublished getting into the habit of constantly writing new books.
But even I can only do so much. We'll get these books to you. At the slowest, they will be November, November, November—meaning that they all come out in the space of two years. Perhaps it will be faster. If we can do them more quickly, and keep the quality up, I will continue to advocate for that. But I honestly don't know if I can do another two years like these last sixteen months. I'm exhausted. I've pushed very, very hard to get you a book in 2009 because you've been waiting so long. But I can't promise that I'll be able to keep the same schedule. Plus, I do have other commitments, contracts signed to other publishers, fans of other writings of mine who cannot be ignored. I'll need to write another Alcatraz book this year sometime. And I will have to do revisions on The Way of Kings, which I've stayed pretty quiet about. I'm planning to do these things during down time on A Memory of Light, when waiting for revision notes or the like. But I also can't afford to get burned out on The Wheel of Time. You deserve better than that.
Now, some words about titles. Where did The Gathering Storm come from? Well, in January where it was decided to split the book, I continued to advocate for something that would indicate that this was ONE book, split into three parts. (I still see it that way.) And so, I suggested that they all be named A Memory of Light with subtitles. I love the title A Memory of Light; I think it's poetic and appropriate. Plus, it was Mr. Jordan's title for the book. That alone is good enough reason to keep it.
And so, I suggested smaller, shorter, more generic sub-titles for each of the parts. With a long, evocative title like A Memory of Light as the supertitle, the subtitles needed to be shorter and more basic, as to not draw attention. The first of these was named Gathering Clouds by Maria's suggestion. Book two would be Shifting Winds, book three Tarmon Gai'don, all with the supertitle of A Memory of Light.
We proceeded with that as our plan for several months. And then, suddenly, Tom got word from marketing that the titles needed to change. The bookstores didn't like them. (You'll find that the bookstores control a lot in publishing. You'd be surprised at how often the decisions are made because of what they want.) In this case, the bookstores worried that having three books titled A Memory of Light would be too confusing for the computer system and the people doing the reordering. They asked for the supertitle to be cut, leaving us with the title Gathering Clouds.
I shot off an email to Harriet, explaining that I never intended that title to be the one that carried the book. It was too generic, too basic. She went to Tom with some suggestions for alternates, and The Gathering Storm was what they decided. This all happened in a matter of hours, most of it occurring before I got up in the morning. (I sent her an email at night, then by the time I rose, they'd made the decision out on the east coast.) Some materials had already gone out as Gathering Clouds, and I wonder if The Gathering Storm was chosen because it was similar. I know it was the one out of those suggested by Harriet that Tom liked the most. It's somewhat standard, but also safe.
That title swap came at me rather fast. I plan to be ready for the next one, so hopefully we'll have the time to produce something a little more evocative. I don't mind The Gathering Storm, but I do realize that it is one of the more bland Wheel of Time titles. (My favorite title, by the way, is Crossroads of Twilight.)
I think that brings you all up to speed. The question many of you are probably wondering now is "What did you decide to put in this book, and what did you decide to hold off until the next one?" I can't answer that yet—perhaps when the time gets closer, I'll be able to hint at what was included and what was saved. But know that I believe strongly in the place where the cut was made, and I love how the final product has turned out.
I also want to mention that one of my main goals in division was to make certain that most (if not all) of the major characters had screen time. Some have more than others, but almost everyone has at least a couple of chapters. (In other words, it wasn't cut like A Feast for Crows/A Dance with Dragons with half the viewpoints in one and half in the other.) However, some of the important things you are waiting for had—by necessity—to be reserved for the second book.
I'm almost done with the revisions on the first part. I expect to start writing new material for part two sometime in April. The progress bar will inch forward again when that happens.
Anyway, that's the story of how this all came to be. I don't expect you all to be happy with the choices we've made, but I do want you to understand where we are coming from. I have to trust my instincts as a writer. They are what got me here, they are what made Harriet choose me to work on this book, and it would be a mistake for me to ignore them now.
Those instincts say that we've made the best choices, and I think The Gathering Storm will vindicate those choices. So, if possible, I ask you to hold back on some of your worry and/or anger until you at least read the book this November. As always, the work itself is the best argument for why I do what I do.
Now, how about some Reader Mail:
I read your post about splitting A Memory of Light and thought your reasoning was very sound. It seems obvious that you care very much about putting out something of quality. I'm concerned though, that you won't end up changing what you write based on reader's reactions to the first book. How do you make sure the book/volumes you end up writing at 800k a year or so from now isn't different from the book you would have written if you had just done the whole thing in one big chunk?
Excellent question. The answer is simple, yet may not be very satisfying. Honestly, I don't know if the book will turn out differently.
It's rarely fruitful to second-guess decisions based on what might happen in the future. Every novel I read, every review that comes out, every day spent pondering . . . these things all influence my writing. Each day we make hundreds of decisions that nudge us in this direction or that. Scenes are influenced directly by events that occur in my life.
Would Mistborn Three have been a different book if I hadn't stopped and written something else between it and Mistborn Two? Probably. Would it have been better or worse? I don't know. Will A Memory of Light Three be different because A Memory of Light One will be released before it comes out? Perhaps. Will it be better or worse? I don't know.
I can say this. The second chunk should be done before the first comes out. And the third chunk saw a lot of work by Mr. Jordan before he passed away. So the structure isn't going to change, regardless. An author also has to learn not to let reviews or reader reactions influence him/her TOO much. Writing is a very solitary art, and the writer learns to trust their instincts. One of the early lessons to learn in writing is that feedback is good, but must be held at arm's length.
If anything, knowing that there is one part out for readers to enjoy will take some of the pressure off of me and, hopefully, allow me to work more smoothly on the next two sections. Thanks for the question!
Those two books will be Towers of Midnight (scheduled for November 2010) and A Memory of Light (November 2011). Rigney's single concluding volume has become three because there's just too much story to cram into one book; 750,000 words would be impossible to bind. "Even Jordan couldn't have written everything he left in one volume, although he thought he could," said McDougal in a Dragonmount blog. "But you recall that he thought he could write the entire Wheel in six volumes."
Although Sanderson produced The Gathering Storm quickly and efficiently, McDougal understands that the ending can't be rushed. She quotes from the Jack Nicholson movie Wolf: "If you push a deadline, you get a first draft," she says. "If Brandon needs the time, he needs the time. It's gotta be good."
Meanwhile she's under contract to develop a Wheel of Time encyclopedia, and Rigney is the focus of The Wit of the Staircase, a documentary by local filmmaker Hunter Wentworth, son of South Carolina poet laureate Marjory Wentworth. The series continues to gain new admirers, and there are ongoing rumors of TV and film adaptations.
Oh, a medium amount. Most were mad at the start, but my post about why we split calmed many. Reading The Gathering Storm calmed many more.
Glad to hear they understood!
I think, reading The Gathering Storm, people could see just how much still has to be done in these books. So they understood I couldn't fit it all in one volume.
Will the series EVER END?
Edit: I swear, my wife is karmic poison. This was her question. She's a huge fan of the Wheel of Time but wants some resolution.
Don't mind the downvoters, Warlizard. I'm sure people just are worried about me taking offense. They forget that I've been involved as a fan with this series for twenty years. I've felt the feeling you express several times during my history with the WoT—and I bet most of us have.
It WILL END. I am about halfway through the final book. I have told Harriet that I would prefer that we not do any more books, as to not exploit RJ's legacy. Even if she decided to do those (the other two prequels RJ mentioned, for example) the real ending to the series is here.
Also, on another note, I've watched many of your posts and been interested in your publishing experiences. I find that you often have very useful things to say, and are a real strength to the reddit writing/publishing community. I don't always agree with you, but what you bring is very engaging. So thank you for what you do. I'm going to have to read one of your books, eventually. (I'm sorry that I haven't gotten to them yet.)
Thanks for the response. Just told my wife and she said, "Oh thank GOD!" It's a bit like watching Star Wars, having Empire finish up, then waiting 6 more books to find out if Darth Vader is REALLY his father.
I know there has to be vast pressure to continue writing books and not just because of the financial aspects. People want to read them more about that universe and it's hard to deny them that.
I don't mind the downvotes. Reddit has been pretty good to me and I wouldn't have put out any of my stories if the feedback hadn't been so strong and persistent. I always give away the books to Redditors first and put 'em up on Amazon second as a way of saying thanks.
I appreciate your kind words and if you'd like a copy of anything I've written, please feel free to PM me an email address were I can send them.
Extending back to the first clear thought I had that I can say led into the Wheel of Time was maybe 10 years before I began writing. I'm not saying I knew 10 years before I began writing what it was going to be, or that I was actually on to something that would become the Wheel of Time.
I thought I had a story set in my head, a set of stories, fixed. And when I began writing the Wheel of Time—The Eye of the World in particular—I realized I didn't have as much of it as clear as I thought I did. There were things that I needed to work on. So The Eye of the World took me four years to write. I guess you could say, in a way, it was about 14 years of development to get the thing set.
Did you ever think it was going to turn into this epic series?
No. The story is the same story that I set out to tell. I knew before I began writing what the story was. There were details of how it worked that I didn't have fixed that I thought I knew and suddenly realized I didn't. But, I knew the beginning and the end and the things that I wanted to happen in the middle. I literally could have written the last scene of the last book before I began writing The Eye of the World. The problem has been over-optimism.
In what way?
Well, when I went to the publisher with this at Tor Books and I said, "Look, this isn't a trilogy that I'm talking about. It's going to be four or maybe five books." I said. "It could be six. I don't think so, but it could be." And I really believed that. But the over-optimism has been, "How much of the story can I get into one book?"
With every book I start out thinking I can get more of the story into this book than I actually turn out to be able to. I suddenly realize that I have to stop here or I'm going to have to write another thousand pages to really make it fit together. Or I realize that I'm going to have to take some things and do them later or I'm going to write a 2,000-page hardback, which they really would have to sell to people with a shoulder strap.
I've heard that myself. I just put out the ninth book, Winter's Heart. And as I tell people, there are going to be at least three more books. Now, I say, "at least." I cannot see how to finish it in fewer than three, how to get to that final scene. If I can do it in three more, I will, but I'm not promising. I apologize to people about that. I'm really sorry. I never set out to write a mega-epic as far as the number of pages go.
Why would you possibly apologize? Obviously people want it.
Well, yes, I know but . . .
I still love writing it as much as when I started. But in a way I also feel impatience with myself. Until I complete the Wheel of Time I haven't really done it, if you understand what I mean. It's like a football player takes the kickoff on the one and then runs to the opposing team's 20. Well, he didn't get the touchdown. If he stops there he hasn't finished it. You have to cross the goal line. And until I finish it I haven't crossed the goal line.
At the end, Jordan said there's a poll on Motley Fool (not sure if he's making it up or not) asking:
Which event will take place first?
1. Robert Jordan finishes WoT series
2. GRRM finishes Song of Ice and Fire series
3. Obscure reference I didn't catch
4. Heat death of the universe
and the poll has #4 leading 5:1 to all other choices.
I hope that there will be only two more books in the main sequence and then two prequels, the first prequel, New Spring, is already published. I said “I hope” because when I started out I thought it was only going to be five books, then it grew on it’s own.
So when you began The Wheel of Time you knew where you where heading?
I know exactly where I'm heading. I've known the last scene in the last book for about 20 years.
Jordan, the pen name of 52-year-old Charleston, South Carolina, author James Oliver Rigney Jr., should be forgiven if he feels a tad caught in the whirlwind.
Publisher Tom Doherty Associates (Tor Books) released Book Nine, Winter's Heart, on November 7. Since then, there have been interviews, promotional appearances and book-signings aplenty. Fans pepper him with questions. The first one nearly always echoes the 1965 film about the painting of the Sistine Chapel, "The Agony and the Ecstasy," as the pope demands of the artist: "When will you make an end?"
"In the beginning, I truly thought it was going to be four or five books," said Jordan, a tall, burly man with a salt-and-pepper beard, a shock of unruly dark curls and a seeming perpetual twinkle in his hazel eyes. "When I finished The Eye of the World, I thought I had a good chance of doing it in six.
By the end of Book Two, The Great Hunt, also released in 1990, Jordan was no longer sure. "I thought I'd better keep my head down and push on," he said. "Now, I think it will be at least three more books."
Jordan hastens to add, however, "That's not a guarantee it will be done in three books."
A slight pause for the gnashing of teeth. Even so, Jordan's fans will probably wait, if not always patiently.
When asked about the total number of books, he gave the stock answer of at least three more books. When I suggested that 13 is a nice symmetrical number, he looked up at the ceiling and said "Don't listen to this man." I can only assume by his reaction that he took my comment to mean 13 additional books, instead of 13 total books.
I then asked him if there was going to be any more short fiction, he said, "I don't know. Maybe." He went on to explain about how the day that Bob Silverberg called him about Legends, he had been going through some notes about Lan and Moiraine's meeting. Lucky for us. He had to stop work on the novel to write the short story.
Another question followed about the number of books. Same answer.
He said that he writes about 8 hours a day 6 days a week when he is not on tour. He said something about when he was fishing, unless he was fly-fishing or was on the boat really having to work at it, he felt like he should be home writing.
He then answered a question about living in Charleston; about how it was his favorite place to live out of the half dozen or so cities he felt that he would like to live in.
He said that for this book it took two months from the time he handed in the final manuscript until he went on tour.
This essay I just posted:
Started as a blog post for this thread, talking about the old books I wrote to give context to my previous post. It outgrew the length of a proper forum post, so I put it on the site instead. But this might help you understand some of my history as a writer, not to mention explain the origin of all these old books Ookla that references all the time.
I remembered a thread from ages ago in which Brandon posted a list of the books he'd written, I looked it up when I realised it wasn't in the article, and I figured you guys might be interested too, so here it is.
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy
8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)
13) The Way of Kings (Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)
16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Unfinished. Coming late 2007)
18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)
19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)
Thanks for posting that. Note that I can never quite remember which was first, Aether or Mistborn Prime. I always feel that Aether should be first, since it wasn't as bad as the two primes, but thinking back I think that the essay is more accurate and I wrote it between them.
This would be the new list:
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (First Published)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic, other than the not-very-good Final Empire prime.)
8 ) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt, turned out much better.)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
13) The Way of Kings Prime (Fantasy War epic.)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Came out 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Came out 2007)
16) Alcatraz Verus the Evil Librarians (Came out 2007)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Came out 2008)
18) Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Came out 2008)
19) Warbreaker (Comes out June 2009)
20) Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia (November 2009ish)
21) A Memory of Light (November 2009ish. Working on it now. Might be split into two.)
22) The Way of Kings Book One (2010ish. Not started yet.)
23) Alcatraz Four (2010. Not started yet)
Will elements of your untitled Aether project be worked into the Dragonsteel series?
The Silence Divine (Working title. Stand alone Epic Fantasy. Unwritten.)These titles are news to me. You described two potential YA or middle-grade books to me and Karen when you came out to Book Expo, plus Dark One, but now I can't remember the plots except they were cool (and that one of them involved superheroes). Are they among this list? Also, is that really Harbringer or is it supposed to be Harbinger?
Steelheart (YA Science Fiction. Unwritten)
I Hate Dragons (Middle Grade fantasy. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Zek Harbringer, Destroyer of Worlds (Middle Grade Sf. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Bah! That's what I get for typing so quickly. Yes, Harbinger. It should be "Zeek" too. Short for Ezekiel.
Steelheart would be the superhero one, though that's a working title, since I'm not sure if it's trademarked or not. Haven't had much time for thinking about any of these books lately.
Brandon, here you said Alcatraz 4 is called Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent; is that still the working title? Also, you mentioned Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens, but now you say The Liar of Partinel is a standalone. Change of plans? (I know you can't get back to Dragonsteel for a while.)
The Alcatraz titles are in flux because I need to know if Scholastic wants the fifth one or not. (They only bought four.) Dark Talent will be one of them for certain.
The Liar of Partinel was part of a two-part story told hundreds of years before the Dragonsteel epic. However, since I've dropped plans to go with Liar anytime soon—A Memory of Light has priority, followed by Way of Kings—I don't know what I'll end up doing with the second book, or if I'll ever even write it. I was planning on not calling either of these "Dragonsteel" in print, actually, and just letting people connect the two series on their own. It wouldn't be hard to do, but I didn't want the first actual book in the main storyline to be launched by Tor as "Book Three" since there would be such a large gap of time.
Honestly, I don’t know. When I first started working about fifteen years ago, I assumed that there would be four or five books. Then, I understood that I could not fit my work within these limits.
On one internet site I came across information that the Wheel of Time will consist of ten volumes.
Well, it's not entirely true. I think the number will be greater. You see, every book is devoted to certain events that occur with Rand and the other heroes of the series. The plot, of course, is undergoing changes to the original plan, so sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice some things. Attentive readers may have noticed that Rand, after appearing at the beginning of the novels, only comes again to the forefront at the very end of the books ... I think, to complete the entire story I need to write three or four more volumes. In the summer of 2000, I completed and passed to the publishing house TOR a new, ninth book, which is called Winter's Heart, and it came out on November 7th. Let's hope there will soon be a Russian translation.
Harriet mentioned in the Kaffeklatsch that it was possible A Memory of Light would end up being too big to fit in one volume, and so it might end up two books. But then Sanderson in the status update really didn't leave much opening that it would at all be possible. So.....
That was the one shocker that I heard personally, but there could be others. Oh yeah and A Memory of Light released November 2012, but I'm sure that's been mentioned somewhere else.
She hinted at that it would be a big book. I think that she said something that if A Memory of Light would be something like 500,000 words it would have to be split.
She could be preparing me for a small chance that it would be that big.
Would you be willing to write a report on that signing, with everything you can remember? It doesn't matter if you can't remember everything; whatever you can remember would be awesome.
Terez—I'd be happy to. I was a kid then, and with my mom. I'll write up more later but I do remember the name of the place which Im 99% sure isn't there anymore, sadly. It was called "Future Visions" and it was in Houston, Texas. I said '91 earlier but I distinctly remember it being RIGHT when The Eye of the World came out and buying it in hardcover there and getting it signed by RJ. The REASON we were there that day was because that was a favorite bookstore of ours and the owner had told us before on a prior visit about Jordan's "Tour Stop" there and that early word was that The Eye of the World was AWESOME. So, Mom and I made a date of it.
I THINK it was a Saturday and there were not many people there at all. Sign of the times. Now days, it'd be packed, lol. Plus, "Jordan" as Mr. Rigney was calling himself the pen name by for his fiction books then, wasn't super well-known yet—though his version of Conan had been liked by critics for years.
Anyway, there were mainly four of us there chatting in this little shop. Myself, The Mom, the owner and RJ. He was hilarious because the way he spoke was waaay more cultured and distinct that we silly, twangy Texans. He was a chatterbox, too. He gave signs that he would NEVER be comfortable with any kind of "celebrity" but if you could set him off on a topic he'd chat your ear off. I remember him talking about his love of writing and remember him insisting repeatedly that HIS series (TWOT) was DIFFERENT than the norm. A "thinking person's" series and not typical fantasy of the day. I remember him stressing that he had laid down hints and seeds in The Eye of the World that would not come to fruition for many books to come and he wanted people to be shocked and excited when they did. THIS is what always made me scratch my head in later years when he reportedly said he originally envisioned TWOT as a "trilogy."
NO FREAKIN WAY, lol.
He was a BIG man, Jolly, chivalrous-seeming. A real gentleman. Treated everyone the same—me as a child, my mom as a mom/woman, the guy as the shopkeeper...he came off a bit socially awkward, BUT, that was probably due to US—the crazy Texans more than him ;)
You could tell that he had put SO MUCH of himself into The Eye of the World and what would follow.
Awesome man. I wish I could have told him that HIS books were the last books my mom read before she passed very unexpectedly.
One person asked about a rumor that there would be a 13th book and he stood up and addressed the line.
He informed us that the next book would be the last book for this "story", it might be a 2,000 page hard cover that you need a luggage cart to get out of the bookstore but it will be the last one.
He also mentioned that after the last book he is considering two more prequels but I got the impression that he was not completely committed to both of them.
Well, in a way yes, in a way no. When I went to my publisher in the first place, I said, "This is at least three or four books. It could be five or six. I don't know." I knew it was going to be long, but I didn't know how long it was going to be. I'm always optimistic about how much story I can cram into a certain number of pages. So we did a six-book contract. At first people were saying this would be a trilogy, and I'd say "No, no, no." But people kept saying that. And by the time the fourth book came out, people admitted that it wasn't going to be a trilogy. It's going to be more than eight books. I'm a lot closer to the end than to the beginning; there's not anywhere near the same number of books to come. But I refuse to suggest even a number now.
Working on a series of this length—it's more like a singe story broken into book-length segments.
Yes, and in each book, I do try to provide a climactic closure that is satisfying.
So how long is the series going to be? RJ's answers from 95–06
Friend of mine posted this on Dragonmount and I got a kick out of it, a timeline of RJ's estimates on just how many books the series was going to be:
He still isn't sure how long WoT will go on for, saying probably seven books but adding that when The Eye of the World first came out he saw the series as four books.
"At present I am indeed hoping to complete the cycle in either seven or eight books. I am 90% confident that I can do it in seven, 95% confident that I can by eight. The thing is, as a famous manager of an American baseball team once said: 'It ain't over till it's over.'"
"It will last several more books, until I reach the last scene, which has been in my head since the very beginning."
"I do hope there will not be ten books all told. I'm planning for eight, at present, and hope very strongly that I can wrap it all up in that length."
He said he writes as the ideas come and he has no clue as to how long the series will be!
"I knew from the start that I was writing something that would be multiple books. I just never knew how many, exactly."
Not only did he decline to set the number of future WoT books, but he denied ever setting a number and says he never planned it to be only a trilogy. But he seemed to indicate he was planning 9-10 books total. When faced with the prospect of about twelve books, his wife threatened to divorce him and his editor began to make jokes about the Irish Mafia.
"Several. Some. A few. I'm not even speculating now on how many books I hope it will take, because every time I do mention a number I hope I can finish it in, it turns out to take longer. It will be at least eight, because I've signed the contracts for books seven and eight."
"I've stopped saying how many more books there will be."
"At one time, I did hope for eight; now I don't think so. I certainly hope (Please, God!) it doesn't go to ten books, but I have stopped saying anything except that I will write until I reach the last scene of the last book, which scene has been in my head from the beginning."
"There will be a few more books, some, not a lot, hopefully fewer than seven more."
"It will be at least ten books, yes. There will be some more books, not too many, and please God, not so many as I've already written. I am, in truth, writing as fast as I can. I want to maintain the pace of the story until I reach the final scene, which has been in my head since before I started writing The Eye of the World."
1997"There will be at least three more books. I'm not saying that there will be ONLY three. I'm saying that I can't finish in fewer than three."
"I believe—believe!—there will be three more books. I am trying to finish up as soon as possible, but I cannot see how to do it in fewer than three books. That isn't a guarantee, mind! In the beginning, I thought that there would be three or perhaps four books total, but it might go to five, or even six, though I really didn't believe it would take that long. It wasn't a matter of the story growing or expanding, but rather that I miscalculated—brother, did I!—how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I've known the last scene of the last book literally from the beginning. That was the first scene that occurred to me. Had I written it out 10 years ago, and then did so again today, the wording might be different, but not what happens. It has just taken me longer to get there than I thought."
"When I finished A Crown of Swords, I said it would take me at least three books more to finish. Now that I have completed The Path of Daggers, it looks like it will take me at least three more books to finish. Believe me, guys, I'm trying as hard as I can to get there as fast as I can."
"I don't have a set amount of books planned. I believe it will take at least three more books to reach the ending that I have known for more than 15 years."
"Remember, after A Crown of Swords I said at least three more books....the same thing I say now."
The usual "at least three more books" was mentioned several times in an increasingly loud voice.
"I am only asked that question by about 300 people a day. The answer is that there will be at least three more books. At least. As I said earlier, I know everything that I want to happen and I have known the last scene of the last book for fifteen years. I also know that I cannot get everything that I want to happen into less than three more books. So that's where we stand at the moment."
Firstly, RJ said three more books "at least" and that he'd try to do it in three if he could, but he couldn't promise it would be only three. And he said he thought it would take "at least five years".
"Sigh! At least three more. I know I've said that before, but it's still the case."
"It still sits at three more books to finish, but I've always said from the time I began using the three books that it would be AT LEAST three books—that I'd try to finish in at least three books, but I couldn't promise. I know that I couldn't possibly finish in fewer than three. If I can finish in three, I will. But that's what I'm hoping for, what I'm trying for. NOT a promise."
"There is no set number. It takes as much space as it takes."
The next book will be out very soon after he's finished writing it. He don't know how many more books there'll be. At least three. If he can finish it in three, he will.
There will be no more than five, but also no less than another three books to be expected to appear in The Wheel of Time series.
"There will be at least three more books. The next book will be in bookstores very shortly after I finish writing it, and Michael Jordan is my kid brother whom I taught to play basketball."
"After Crossroads of Twilight, there will be two more books, knock wood, God willing and the creek don't rise. I never intended The Wheel of Time to be this long. The story is progressing the way I planned, but from the beginning I believed I could tell it in many fewer words, many fewer volumes."
"I think twelve."—Harriet
When asked "how many more books?", which of course met great laughter, he responded that he had started the process intending to have only five or six. Now on book 10, he remarked that he would complete the series in two more books if at all possible. If not, then three.
Jordan showed up around 7, and gave a little speech. He said there will be at least two books, and that he will not write a word more than he has to."How many more books will there be? There will be at least two more books. I apologize for that. I cannot finish it in fewer books. I will try to finish it in two more. I have known the last scene of the last book since 1984. I know where I'm going. The problem is...[my tape is once again inaudible and this was one of the few parts of his speech I could not hear, sorry gang]. That's about it."
"I really hope—knock wood, spit over your shoulder, and sacrifice to the gods—that I can finish up in twelve books total. We shall see."
"No, at least two more books, I'm afraid....I've had some people say they'd like five or ten, but I generally throw something at them."
"I hope—please God, are you listening?—that there will be only two more books in the main sequence."
"I very much hope to finish in two more main sequence books. It's not an absolute promise, but I'm very much hoping for it and I think I can do it."
"I sincerely hope it will be possible to tie everything up in two books."
There is only one book left in the series but it will be a doozy. He will fight to prevent it from being "George R.R. Martined," or split for publication.
"I am committed it is going to be 12 books, even if it is fifteen hundred pages long and it requires you to bring a luggage cart to get it out of the store. Bring your knapsack, you may need it, because no matter what the case that is going to be it."
"One more—the twelfth book. That will be so even if that book has to be 2000 pages in hardcover, and require a luggage cart and shoulder strap to get it out of the store."
"I have said it before and will say it again. There will be one more book. Even if it has to be a 1500 page book. It will be the last book even if you have to use a luggage cart to move it."
"For Segovia, my intention is finish with twelve books, and that may mean that the last book will be VERY long, but I really can't say how long it will take me to write. My publisher is always trying to get me to commit to a time frame. I just do a little sand dance until he goes away. I carry a small bottle of sand with me in New York for exactly that purpose."
Book Twelve will end the main sequence if he has to personally go to New York and beat the publishers at Tor, even if it runs two thousand pages and they have to invent a new way to bind the books (shudder). There will be two more prequels a la New Spring, and there might—very big MIGHT—be another trilogy in the same universe.
First, "the next book will be out very shortly after I'm done writing it." Next, "the next book will be the last book, even if it's 2000 pages, and you need a luggage cart to carry it out of the bookstore."
"Can we all say it together? One more book. I don't care if it has to be 2000 pages and you have to wheel it out the door. One more book."
"After Knife of Dreams, there's going to be one more main-sequence Wheel of Time novel, working title A Memory of Light. It may be a 2,000-page hardcover that you'll need a luggage cart and a back brace to get out of the store. (I think I could get Tor to issue them with a shoulder strap embossed with the Tor logo, since I've already forced them to expand the edges of paperback technology to nearly a thousand pages!) Well, it probably won't be that long, but if I'm going to make it a coherent novel it's all got to be in one volume."
Ah, and what a marvelous 2,000 page book it would have been. I was really shooting for this. Turns out, however, that I don't have the influence that RJ did, and couldn't persuade the publisher that printing a 2,000+ page book was viable. You'll have to be satisfied with three 800 pagers instead.
I do kind of hope we'll be able to do a cut of the volume in ebook where I weave the three books back into one, which would fix some of the timeline confusion in Towers of Midnight, which was the big casualty of the split.
(I knew that, in all likelihood, a split would be mandated, and so I prepared for it by deciding on the three book split instead of a two book split, as I feel it fit the narrative flow better. However, I was working on Perrin when the first split happened, and didn't realize until afterward that by jumping back to the beginning of his story after finishing The Gathering Storm, I was going to create the issues it did with Tam.)
So you're planning on doing a Phantom Edit of your own work? I, for one, would be really interested to read something like this, but I think that what you lost in chronological clarity in the split, you gained in pacing and narrative clarity.
That said, you mentioned in a previous interview that The Gathering Storm's intensity also came from an awareness that your first effort in the Wheel of Time really needed to be a home run. Would your decisions regarding the narrative structure have changed if you didn't feel that pressure?
I wouldn't consider it a phantom edit, as I wouldn't be removing sections. I'd be moving them around, adding in a few deleted scenes. More like an extended edition mixed with pacing tweak.
I don't know how my decisions might have changed if I hadn't felt that pressure. I might have chosen to do Rand/Perrin in the first book and Egwene/Mat in the second book. Perrin/Mat have great stories in TofM—but they're not as focused as the ones for Rand/Egwene. I don't know. The timeline might have been even worse.
This is something I'd have to play with, if I were actually to attempt it, to even see if the narrative flow would work that direction now that I've made writing decisions with three books—instead of one—being the reality.
Now that I've finished reading A Memory of Light, I have to say, I think this would be an insane task. Mostly, The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight would be the things caught up in reorganizing, since A Memory of Light's timeline is internally consistent enough to justify things. It would also let you sprinkle the Black Tower POVs a bit more nicely throughout the trilogy, since the frontloading of that plot at the beginning of A Memory of Light is one of the few structural weaknesses I thought I saw.
In any case, congratulations! You've really done it! Those annotations will be fascinating, assuming you get permission to take it on.
You're right on the Black Tower structural weakness. I actually plotted that sequence to go all in Towers of Midnight, but ran up against deadlines and only did a few chapters of it. It would work far better moved earlier.
Thanks for reading. I'll see what I can do about annotations.
That makes a lot of sense. One gets the feeling that a lot of your writing was done with several different forces tugging you one way or another; collaboration can be tough, especially for artists who are used to working in the silence of their mind, and I can't imagine adding a massive fandom to that.
Seriously: congrats. Tai'shar...Utah? :)
Tai'shar Nebraska, actually. But I like Utah well enough. :)
My name's Jeremy Griffin; I'm from Orem, Utah as well. I bought Eye of the World in 1991, so I've been reading them for a very, very long time. So thank you so much. By the way, Brandon—Alcatraz, fantastic—if you guys haven't read any of them...rarely does a book make me laugh out loud. So thank you. Thank you very much.
Harriet, did Mr. Jordan have enough clout to be able to push his last book through to make it one novel like he wanted to? He said two thousand pages, I don't care if that's what it is...could he have done that because of his history?
Well, the problem is, it wasn't clout; it was pushing up against the laws of physics. [laughter] There are limits to the size a bound book can be without sort of falling apart the minute you open it. And then you're up against the shelf space in bookstores.
Okay, great. Real quick too, please don't sell the rights to a computer game for it if it's going to be as bad as [?] was...[laughter] Please, please don't do it.
Ah, the rights are sold. [laughter]
How many books was this originally supposed to be? I don't think it was fourteen, right?
It wasn't . . . it was six.
I think he'd only actually written two Conans when he decided to write The Wheel of Time. We talked about it a lot in '83. I remember talking about it quite a bit before we did the contract in '84. I thought The Fallon Blood was going to be a standalone and that there was only going to be the one book on the Southern sweep of history. It ended up being three. We began talking about an epic fantasy: one book, then maybe three books like The Lord of the Rings. I just didn't believe it would get done in three books, because by then I knew how Jim liked to tell a story. So we did the contract in early '84. He was doing Conan books well beyond when we began talking about that in '83. When did the first Conan book ship? '81?
Oh, I don't remember. Maybe the movie you were hoping to plan your timing around was the second Conan movie?
I think it was. I think it was later because we were already pretty far along in the planning of The Wheel of Time, and this was related. It just seemed natural for him to be doing that, too.
After Knife of Dreams, there's going to be one more main-sequence Wheel of Time novel, working title A Memory of Light. It may be a 2,000-page hardcover that you'll need a luggage cart and a back brace to get out of the store. (I think I could get Tor to issue them with a shoulder strap embossed with the Tor logo, since I've already forced them to expand the edges of paperback technology to nearly a thousand pages!) Well, it probably won't be that long, but if I'm going to make it a coherent novel it's all got to be in one volume. The major storylines will all be tied up, along with some of the secondary, and even some of the tertiary, but others will be left hanging. I'm doing that deliberately, because I believe it will give the feel of a world that's still out there alive and kicking, with things still going on. I've always hated reaching the end of a trilogy and finding all of the characters', all the country's, all the world's, problems are solved. It's this neat resolution of everything, and that never happens in real life.
I originally thought I was signing up for a 10 or 15K run, and somewhere along the line I found out it was a marathon. So yes, I would like to cross the finish line on this thing and get on to what's next. I'm not that old, and I've got a lot of writing left. There are two more short prequel novels to be done at some point, but aside from that, I have said I would never write again in this universe unless I get a really great idea—which would have to be an idea that would support two or three of what I call "outrigger" novels, not part of the main storyline. Well, I may have had one! But I'll have to set it aside for a year or two because I've already signed contracts for an unrelated trilogy called Infinity of Heaven, which I'm very excited about. I've been poking that idea around in my head for 10 or 12 years.
I've also thought about doing a book set during the Vietnam War, but Jim Rigney will probably never write the Vietnam book. If I did, it would be history now, and I decided a long time ago that Rigney was going to be or contemporary fiction, and my name for historical novels is Reagan O'Neill. Maybe Jim Rigney will never become a writer!
There have been some computer games and comics, and a movie based on The Eye of the World is still in the works (with contracts that allow me a lot of involvement), but nobody else is ever going to write Wheel of Time books. For after I die, I've purchased an insurance policy with a couple of guys who have a kneecap concession in the southeastern United States, and they have rights to expand this concession should it be desired. For a very small fee, they have guaranteed that they will crack the kneecaps of anybody who writes in my universe, and nail them to the floor!