Lunch with Brandon Sanderson

   Posted by: Admin  in Interview

Today I met with a bunch of my fellow Bootcampers for a luncheon with the fantasy novelist, Brandon Sanderson.

It was awesome seeing my bootcamp friends again. We are also starting a writing group, so it will be nice to have some deadlines to get me to do my writing.

Brandon was a very nice guy, also. He had a book signing later that day that we all went to.

Here are my notes from our conversations during lunch:

Brandon recommends that (new) writers go to conventions to meet editors and agents. For the fantasy genre, he’d rank them thusly:

  1. World Fantasy. This is the premier convention to go to because it caps the number of non-pros who go so you don’t have to compete with other wannabes ?:smile:
  2. World Con. This has more non-pros.
  3. Nebulas.

How to talk with editors:

First of all, DO NOT bring your manuscript to the convention.

The important thing to remember about editors is that they are sci fi/fantasy/whatever your genre is nerds! They love the genre they are in. The next thing to remember is that they don’t like schmoozing with wannabes, but they know it is a necessary evil. So, you need to put them in their comfort zone. Ask them what they are working on right now. Ask them what advice they have for new writers. And LISTEN to their answers. You need to really want to listen to this or it will seem fake. Another idea is to go to a panel discussion that they are on and find something interesting that they say that you want more information about. Afterwards, let them know you found it interesting and ask them for more information.

Finally, when you are drawing the conversation to a close (don’t spend too much time with them, they are busy people), ask them, “Do you mind if I send you something?”

Alternately, you could offer to buy them lunch (or a drink, or whatever) so you can talk a little more. Then, ask if you can send them something.

It is important to ask this question, even if it makes you (and them) feel uncomfortable. The worse they can say is no, right? Plus, if they say yes, it gets you past the query stage and the slush pile stage so your work gets seen much quicker.

Brandon also talked about how important it is to research who the editors are at the various publishing houses so you can later put names with faces. This makes you look smarter and helps to avoid embarrassing situations ?:oops:

He did talk about some editors, but I’d like to keep that a little under wraps since I don’t know if he (or they) want their names plastered all over the internet.

But, here are some ideas he gave for finding out who they are:

  • Look in the acknowledgements section of books you like (and that are like what you write). Typically, the writer will thank their agent and editor. Once you have the name, you can start finding out more about them.
  • Watch for editors who change houses. These people need to get their own authors so they look good at their new job (they have to leave the authors they were working with at the previous house). They also love being the person who “discovers” the next big writer, so they have a double incentive.
  • Some editors maintain blogs. Frequent their sites and join the discussions. When you make yourself known in this way to an editor, they realize you’re not some wacko out of nowhere when you actually do meet in person.

Next, we talked about agents and taxes. This wasn’t too interesting to me (I knew most of it already) so I didn’t take notes here.

When sending out works, send to Writers of the Future first. Orson Scott Card also echoed this during bootcamp. Brandon said that these credits count higher for editors than other publishing venues, because often it means that you are a new writer who has not yet been discovered, and you are a good writer. Can you say “sure bet”?

Someone then asked Brandon how he comes up with names for his books. He said he likes to look at baby name books for languages he doesn’t know and try to see patterns. He combines names and changes spelling. This was an intriguing idea to me and seemed very smart to do.

Our next subject was about magic. Brandon always has wonderful magic systems, so I was very interested in his responses here. He said that, for him, the limitations of a magic system are much more interesting than the abilities. He likes to see how characters overcome those limitations. This is how you develop real characters.

He also said that it is important to have every character (even and especially villains) make the best decision possible for them. The, your task is to figure out how to have your good guys overcome, or be smarter than, the villain. This is excellent advice, I think. And I definitely need to work on this in my stories. Too often I find it too easy just to make the villain stupid or easily fooled. I’ve also read some bad stories that do the same thing. This makes for boring reading.

The next thing we talked about was how Brandon uses outlining when he writes. He said it is important to figure out how you write the best and to develop that. For him, he does outlining with main plot points interspersed so he knows where he is going with the writing. I know that I tried the seat-of-the-pants method last year during NaNoWriMo, and it did not work for me. And hte Snowflake method seems like too much for me (although I have not yet tried it). Brandon’s method seems like the best way for me, and I intend to use it during NaNoWriMo this year. He also said that his outlining is much stronger now that he knows his own writing style. I definitely need to learn my writing style.

Finally, he talked about the best way to get published and to learn your writing style is to finish a book. Finishing is a huge accomplishment and says quite a bit about you as a writer. It takes dedication and commitment to finish something, rather than flitting around from one thing to another. (Hello, this is a bit hint for me). You also learn plotting, gain confidence, and understand your writing process intimately.

He said it takes getting through several novels (maybe as many as 7, but usually just 2 or 3) before you are ready to be published. So get through those quickly!??:razz:

The process of doing is most of the learning curve and separates you from most wannabe writers.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, October 20th, 2007 at 3:07 pm and is filed under Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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