Thursday, November 3, 2016

Day 22: I’m Grateful for Brandon Sanderson

So it wasn’t until about 2008 when I learned that Robert Jordan had passed away that I remembered a series of thick epic fantasy novels called "The Wheel of Time" I’d read in my early teens. And I was amazed, maybe a bit bewildered, to learn that Jordan’s editor and widow, Harriet McDougal, had picked some unknown upstart to finish the series. With the resurfacing of this series, the memories rushed back of adolescent late nights following Rand al’Thor and Mat Cauthon picking fights way beyond their skills, and Egwene and Nynaeve tugging reproachfully at their braids.

I’d never heard of a writer handing off his unfinished series to someone else, and frankly, I didn’t trust it. So I picked up my first Sanderson book to see just who this guy was. Like most new-comers to Sanderson, I began at Elantris. And it wasn’t love at first page.

I was an older reader, now. A grown man, with real worries and hopes in my life. It had been a long time since I believed that picking up some magic spells and a heron-marked sword could solve my problems. But I thought Arelon was wonderful, Elantrians were compellingly complicated. The characters tackled topics I hadn’t remembered from my earlier dive into fantasy: politics, human and civil rights, religion, and a very personal search for purpose and meaning that I could identify with. It was rich and complex, conflicted in the right ways, but containing a beautiful, elegant reveal that made for a fun, relatively fast (it’s 600+ pages), very immersive experience and I saw what McDougal had seen in him. This guy can write!

I devoured the Mistborn series, then Warbreaker, and finally The Way of Kings before I came up for air and looked around for what Sanderson was doing next. At this point in 2011, I was pretty much current with all of his published fantasy. So I looked around for more of his stuff and found his podcast Writing Excuses. And that's what I am most thankful for now in my life.

I love to write, I've been writing personally and professionally for years, but I have never studied the "craft of writing" sufficiently to really see myself improving at it. Listening to Writing Excuses now for over 4 years and hundreds of episodes, I feel like I'm growing, learning, and improving as a writer. It's giving me exactly what Sanderson promised in Season 10, a masterclass in writing genre fiction. And that has given me hope that my dream of publishing one of my novels is achievable.

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