Tag Archives: Sanderson

How to reread Wheel of Time before A MEMORY OF LIGHT.

This article is dedicated to Carey Peters, Bruce Lecus, and Ryan Jones.

So you’re a Wheel of Time fan. The final book, A MEMORY OF LIGHT, is finally finished. Praise the Light! Only it’s been years since you’ve read the Wheel of Time, which contains rich mythology, heavy foreshadowing, and loads and loads of characters. And most of the books are long. Will Continuity Lock-Out keep you from enjoying the final volume?

Don’t panic; there are a variety of ways to enjoy this epic tale before Tarmon Gai’don. And most of them don’t require rereading the entire series from pages 1 to 10,670, though that is certainly an option. Brandon Sanderson did so multiple times while writing the penultimate novels, so you’re in good company.

The idea of skipping books or chapters will strike some as odd; I assure you, it’s warranted. I’d rather you enjoy what you can than skip the whole series.


I was furious that Jordan wrote a prequel with the series unfinished, and (at the time) most releases failing to resolve much. I haven’t read NEW SPRING and don’t plan to. It is omitted from this guide.

Why your first reading was worthless:

The series is an order of magnitude better on subsequent readings. To modern readers, Jordan is dry, long-winded and fills his books with pointless chapters, especially later in the series. Only upon rereading (or reviewing supplemental material) does it become clear just how much Jordan planned in advance. Chapters which seemed at first irrelevant actually fill critical niches in the chronology.

For example, I used to hate any chapters with Whitecloak or Forsaken POV. They seemed to progress nothing. But both are rarer than I originally believed, they just seem longer when you want to read more about Mat. What you can’t tell in a single reading is how important a particular event becomes to the main characters  along arcs that take 8+ books to resolve.

Whatever you think of his prose, Jordan was a master planner; the foreshadowing and resolutions in Wheel of Time are second to none. On page 204 of the first book, Jordan tells you what Mat will do at the end of Book 13 to resolve a dangling thread from Book 5. Jordan’s work is photomosaic: Single chapters and books are downright ugly until you can see the larger picture. There’s too much to digest in one reading.

Your Prime Directive

I’m outline options to get you started, but the cardinal rule for rereading WOT is:

Don’t read what you don’t enjoy.

If you hated a book, chapter, or character, skip it. Even on your first read. I would rather you enjoyed the remainder. Remember Sturgeon’s Law:

90% of everything is crud.

…and the fan corellary:

The remaining 10% is worth dying for.

Read More →

Wheel of Time: The Beginning of the End of an Era

Brandon Sanderson posted this week that he has finished the final draft of A MEMORY OF LIGHT, the last book in the Wheel of Time series.

My own journey through Randland started when I was 16 years old, so I’ve been awaiting the conclusion literally half my life. I have followed Sanderson’s career and methodology much like he followed Jordan’s, so I owe a great deal to both men.




This is mastery.

On page 204 of the paperback version of Eye of the World, Robert Jordan tells you exactly what one of three major characters will do on page 800 of the hardback of book 13, Towers of Midnight, which was outlined and partially drafted by Robert Jordan before his death but posthumously completed by Brandon Sanderson.

That’s roughly 13,000 pages of acute foreshadowing.

And anyone who has read the series will know it’s not a fluke. Seeming innocuous comments from the very first pages will sketch out the future of most characters upon a critical rereading of the series.


Each Saturday, Jason spotlights one person, product, service, or work of art he finds particularly amazing; the kinds of things that make you wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone have this?” (Read more at www. jasonrpeters.com.)

If you read epic fantasy, chances are you’ve heard of Brandon Sanderson. If you’re one of the few that hasn’t, sit up and pay attention.

Sanderson gained instant notoriety with Robert Jordan’s fandom when he was chosen by Harriet Rigney (the late Robert Jordan’s wife) to write the final volumes of the Wheel of Time series.

Like many others, it was this news which brought Sanderson to my attention. And as crucial a step as this was in Sanderson’s developing career, true Sanderson fans might consider it a mere footnote.

The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time was an incredible read for about four books, after which it waded into perennial sequilitis. Jordan, having unraveled the Pattern at the rate of one or two Forsaken (The Wheel of Time’s major villains) per book, was unwilling to dive into the final chapters which would release all thirteen AND the dark lord they served, not to mention all the other forces of good and evil rattling around in Jordan’s brain.

The result was a long series of long books with phenomenal moments, but no end in sight. It was disappointing but not surprising when Robert Jordan passed away before the epic tale could be completed.

I give you this backdrop because though Sanderson was also a fan of Robert Jordan, in my estimation his work exceeds Jordan’s on many counts. Read More →

Cliche Dodging: The Heroes’ Council

Council of ElrdonI’ve reached a point in FRAGILE GODS that’s annoying me. And the reason it’s annoying me is that it’s been done to death.

The first dangers have been survived, the early challenges surmounted. Now the author needs to explain to the reader some of the wider politics of our fictional world, while the heroes need to understand their course of action for the next book (or in some cases, three).

Enter the  Heroes’ Council, where high ranking members various factions congregate to explain to protagonist (or have him explain to them) just what to do next. Tempers may flare, sides will quarrel, heroic sacrifices might be offered.

Tolkien had the Council of Elrond. George Lucas used war rooms congregated around a holographic presentation, or in the prequels, the Jedi Council.

Brandon Sanderson’s version was to have a heist gangleader outline ideas on a chalkboard while his crew chimed in.

I’ve reached a point in the plot where just such a council has occurred, and I’m thoroughly nonplussed by the idea. Yet in terms of plot, it was necessary; Azai is heading north specifically to convince several tribe chiefs of his plan. And the big chieftain would be out of character not to involve trusted advisors and friends.

Are there alternatives to the cliche scene?

Academia vs Creative Writing: Adversaries or Bedfellows?


Should I pursue an MFA?

When I met Orson Scott Card, he told me:

If you want to be a writer, don’t major in English.

Although the quote has stuck with me for many years, I don’t remember the exact rationale behind it.

More recent guidance from one of Brandon Sanderson’s podcasts explored the question of whether a writer needs writing classes or degrees to be successful. He and two other writers all agreed:

Acedemic degrees related to writing are not a required for success as a writer. Furthermore, all three writers in the podcast acknowledged that many “English and Literature” programs will try to breed genre fiction out of the creative writer. There are still some stuffed shirts who believe that science fiction isn’t “serious”. (Crappy movies on the sci fi channel don’t help.) I myself had a devil of a time in undergraduate studies trying to convince my professors and fellow students that it was science fiction which introduced me to philosophy, because science fiction writers (good ones) are always trying to address deeper questions of philosophy, theology, anthropology, epistemology, and ontology.

A recent bar discourse with an undergraduate in English revealed his disdain for MFA and other “creative writing” focused programs. This is someone within the English field of study who is of the opinion that serious writers ought to first study serious writers — therefore study literature — because by diving straightaway into workshopping, they end up being 30 writers who don’t know much about writing all critiquing each other without much to go on.

The catch-22 there is that no writer wants to be a Hemingway 2.0 or a Dickens 2.0 or even a Shakespeare 2.0. In first place, such an aspiration would be insulting to the greats we ought to honor; they are unique and their work cannot be replicated. In the second place, we want to similar unique and irreplacable in our own way. It is entirely arguable whether immersing oneself in the canon of great literature is more likely to produce one result or the other.

Furthermore, many of the methods previously employed, for all their recognized genius, are tired and dated both inside and beyond literary communities. My ideas for fiction would not work in iambic pentameter any more than Star Wars would have worked as a silent film. Our methods of storytelling have evolved (and I remind my readers that “evolved” is a value-neutral term).

But here’s the rub — I’ve tried the “outside the English-teaching community” method already. I have devoted my time to studying thinkers like Aquinas and Luther, Augustine and Plato and Kant, not to mention countless others. I can no longer fall into the trap of young writers who learn how to write, but don’t have any content to write about. I have been a soldier, a cop, a warehouse worker, pianist, event planner, disc jockey, singer, composer, dancer, worship leader, and philosopher.

What I have is real world experience. What I lack is writing experience:

1. Workshopping, a speedy method of constant rejection, revision, and resubmission.

2. Discipline created by deadlines of submitting work for credit

3. Interpersonal connections in the literary world.

The previously mentioned podcast identified one of the biggest examples of going the traditional route of “studying” writing is the contacts that were made in the programs, which led to agencies, book deals, and at minimum better word-of-mouth.

For these reasons, I have decided to at least consider pursuing an MFA. I will first wet my feet in a non-degree seeking status taking graduate level courses. That will let me evaluate without commitment how much of a fit such a program would be for me.

But I’m excited about the prospect and I expect to be pleased.

“Wheel of Time” conclusion is being split into three books.

wheeloftimeThose of you who have been following along already know:

After Robert Jordan’s wife read the first Mistborn book, she was so impressed she asked Brandon Sanderson to finish the Wheel of Time series.

This initially meant completing just one book, A Memory of Light. However, as Brandon dug his nails into it for real and began to work 16 hour days, he found himself estimating that 400,000 words wouldn’t even nearly finish the book. He and Tor would much like to get Wheel of Time fans a book in 2009, and finishing the WHOLE story (now estimated to take about 800,000 words) will not be possible in that timeframe.

Solution? Split the book.

You can read Sanderson’s own notes on this project and this difficult decision here. I’ll warn you; I think he manages to ramble more in that article than I do, and that’s saying something. But if you’re a Wheel of Time fan, it’s all good stuff to know.

For those who are RJ fans and aren’t yet familiar with Sanderson’s work, be it known that I consider Sanderson the better author.