Sanderson shows Rothfuss a real wordcount…
When it was announced a few months back that the release date for Brandon Sanderson’s second book in his Stormlight Archive series, Words of Radiance, had been moved all the way back from January to March my first reaction was: #$@&%*!
I know these things happen, but it always feels like such an injustice, right? Well, after asking around, it seems the author, editors and publishing bodies involved in putting the book together thought that the manuscript might need a few more readthroughs and some extra editing work to perfect it in the way they’d like before unleashing upon the general public. Without any other option available to me I accepted this as ‘just one of those publishing things’, but deep down did wonder why their scheduling was so far out… surely it couldn’t have been ‘that’ much more work than they were expecting… could it?
Well, then… then I saw this and all became clear. All was forgiven:
That’s quite a monster, right?
Why so long? Well, some will say that Sanderson’s emphatic storytelling, magic systems and character-building command a larger wordcount than most. But, me? I have a theory… my theory is that Sanderson and Rothfuss have some kind of war going on and that it’s spilling over into their books… I remember when I received Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings (386,470 words) a couple of years ago and just couldn’t believe the size of the thing… then, just a few weeks later, I had Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear (395,000 words) turn up and was astonished to find it was even longer…
Anyway, the reason I really bring this up is because looking at Sanderson’s manuscript (above) and comparing it to Rothfuss’s manuscript (just above) I believe this may be even longer than The Wise Man’s Fear. This means that we may have a book approaching 500,000 words here; normally I’d feel a little nervous about this, but, you know what, having read and enjoyed The Way of Kings within a single week I don’t think it will have any problems holding a reader’s attention.
By the way, if I’ve not done enough to convince you of the Sanderson/Rothfuss war, I’ve even found evidence of them engaged in book signing combat too:
Rothfuss’s message in The Wise Man’s Fear reads: “Perhaps more majestic than Way of Kings.” Sanderson’s response in The Way of Kings is one I’m sure we’d all agree with: “1000% less sex with random goddesses.”
I jest about any real war going on, of course, but it is quite amusing to bring up the many exploits of Sanderson and Rothfuss. If you want a real answer as to the wordcount thing… he is Rothfuss interviewing Sanderson on the matter a few years back:
Rothfuss: Let me just jump right in here with a question. How long was Way of Kings? I heard a rumor that the ARC I read was 400,000 words long. It didn’t really feel like it…
Sanderson: Let me see. I will open it right now and word count it, so you have an exact number. It’s 386,470 words, though the version you read was an advance manuscript, before I did my final 10% tightening draft, which was 423,557 words.
I didn’t really want it to be that long. At that length we’re running into problems with foreign publishers having to split it and all sorts of issues with making the paperback have enough space. I didn’t set out to write a thousand-page, 400,000-word book. It’s just what the novel demanded.
Rothfuss:Wise Man’s Fear ended up being 395,000 words. And that’s despite the fact that I’ve been pruning it back at every opportunity for more than a year. I’d spend weeks trimming superfluous words and phrases, extra lines of dialogue, slightly redundant description until the book was 12,000 words shorter.
Then a month later I’d realize I needed to add a scene to bring better resolution to a plot line. Then I’d add a couple paragraphs to clarify some some character interaction. Then I’d expand an action scene to improve tension. Suddenly the book’s 8,000 words longer again.
Sanderson: Yeah, that’s exactly how it goes.
It’s very rare that I’m able to cut entire scenes. If I can cut entire scenes that means there’s something fundamentally not working with the sequence and I usually end up tossing the whole thing and rewriting it. But trimming, or pruning as you described it, works very well with my fiction.
I can usually cut fifteen percent off just by nurturing the text, pruning it, looking for the extraneous words and phrases. But I wonder if in doing that there’s a tendency to compensate. There’s a concept in dieting that if someone starts working out really hard, they start to say, “Well, that means I can now eat more,” and you’ll find people compensating for the extra calorie loss by eating more because they feel they can. I wonder if we do that with our fiction. I mean, I will get done with this big long trim and I’ll say, “Great, now I have the space to do this extra thing that I really think the story needs,” and then the story ends up going back to just as long.
Though at least in my case I can blame my editor too. He’s very good with helping me with line edits, but where we perhaps fuel each other in the wrong way is that he’ll say, “Ooh, it’d be awesome if you add this,” or “This scene needs this,” or “Can you explain this?” And I say, “Yes! I can explain that. I’d love to!” And then of course the book gets longer and then we both have to go to Tom Doherty with our eyes downward saying, “Um, the book is really long again, Tom. Sorry.”
But, back to the book! But, back to the book! The blurb has been around for a while, but in case you haven’t read it:
The Knights Radiant must stand again.
The ancient oaths have at last been spoken; the spren return. Men seek that which was lost. I fear the struggle will destroy them.
It is the nature of the magic. A broken soul has cracks into which something else can be fit. Surgebindings, the powers of creation themselves. They can brace a broken soul; but they can also widen its fissures.
The Windrunner, lost in a shattered land, balanced upon the boundary between vengeance and honor. The Lightweaver, slowly being consumed by her past, searching for the lie that she must become. The Bondsmith, born in blood and death, striving to rebuild what was destroyed. The Explorer, straddling the fates of two peoples, forced to choose between slow death and a terrible betrayal of all she believes.
It is past time for them to awaken, for the Everstorm looms.
And the Assassin has arrived.
Finally, Tor.com have been kind enough (cruel enough?) to provide us with a sample chapter, the interlude, of the new book. The chapter can be read by readers whether they’ve finished book one of not as it introduces a new character and a new land entirely removed from the plot of The Way of Kings, and stands on its own. Click Here to check it out.