WFC – What I Learned from Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is very passionate about writing and it was refreshing to listen to him!  My notes were a bit scattered, but I did manage to scribble down some helpful nuggets.

Mr. Sanderson began by stating there are two types of writers: discovery writers and outline writers.  He said you will likely hear a hundred different ways to write from a hundred different authors, and that there is no correct way, just the way the works best for you.  But it still helps to know what type of writer you probably are so you know your strengths and weaknesses.

Discovery Writers.  He listed Stephen King as the example for this category.  Discovery writers love to test out an idea.  They throw their characters into a scene with certain parameters and see what happens.  They love to revise because once they realize where the story is going they want to change what they’ve written to match.  They are less likely to follow an outline because that would limit their discovery.  Their strength is a willingness to revise, but it is also their weakness as sometimes they can’t get to an end when they’re too busy still revising Chapter One.

Outline Writers.  Orson Scott Card was his example in this category.  Outline writers love to think the story out and then follow it through to the end.  They don’t like revision, since they already spent the time working out the whole plot while writing the timeline.  Their strength is they will finish the story, their weakness is they may balk at having to revise it (which is necessary for any writer).

Next he discussed BUILDING PLOTS.  He said your climax should be aligned with certain types of plots.  Figure out what kind of plot you have and then make sure your climax works within those parameters.  He listed three types of plots:

  1. The Information Plot.  This is typically mystery stories, where the little pieces of info and clues are what moves the story forward.
  2. Relationship Plot.  Obviously this would be big in romance novels, but it’s not limited there.  He said Star Wars (IV) was a relationship plot in some ways.  We wanted to see the friendship between Luke and Han come to fruition–which it did when Han came back to save the day at the end.
  3. Big Problem Plot.  A popular version of this plot is the heist plot.  Think Ocean’s 11.  You could also list Lord of the Rings as a big problem plot.

The whole point of the plot of a book is making promises.

What Brandon means is you promise the reader answers to questions or certain resolutions.  The fulfillment of those promises is what drives the reader to continue reading the book.

The last little nuggets I gathered were 1) watch for the seeds of story everywhere.  There will be hooks for novel ideas all around you, whether they be for worlds, characters, scenes, keep your eyes open and your imagination running.  2) A writer is like a stage magician.  Writers make the mundane seem magical, flashy, etc.  They make something surprising that was at the same time inevitable.

And that concludes all that I learned while attending the Writing for Charity Conference.  I hope you were able to glean some good info from all the entries.  Writing conferences are worthwhile.  I found that even with all this good info and the feedback there are also great opportunities to network with other aspiring writers.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to the writing community.  They have a wealth of information, too, and may have learned things you had never considered.  That is what I found, and I came away with some new, encouraging friends whom I hope I can also encourage while we’re all on our journies to better writing.