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Three Stories in New Formats

Words of Radiance launched in paperback this week, so if you’ve been waiting to grab it, now might be a great time! (The ebook price was supposed to drop at the same time, but due to a glitch that won’t happen until Monday or Tuesday.)

I don’t usually do much of a heads-up on paperback releases, but I figured this would be a good time to talk about a few other re-releases we’ve got going on. For one, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (the novella I wrote for GRRM’s Dangerous Women anthology) just had its standalone release in ebook. I’ll do a blog post on that next week in depth.

For now, I wanted to talk about a new edition of Elantris, along with making a bit of confession to you. You see, I’ve done something dangerous. The new editions of Elantris and Words of Radiance both made me confront some of the problems in the text, and I have decided to go ahead and fix them. (More on that below.)

Elantris 10th Anniversary

First, in relation to Elantris, May is the 10th anniversary of its release, my first published book! In celebration, we’ve been putting together a 10th Anniversary Edition, which is coming out later this year. It will be in trade paperback form (the paperback format which is more the size of a hardcover), and I’m hoping I can get Tor to print at least a few hardcovers for those who want to get them.

We’ve packed this edition with some cool extras. It includes a new foreword by Dan Wells, a retrospective by myself, an Ars Arcanum appendix (as this was the only one of my Cosmere books not to have one), brand-new redone maps by Isaac Stewart, and a very short extra scene. In addition, as I mentioned, we’ve changed a few things.

Now, this is the dangerous thing I talked about above. We’ve seen in certain high-profile films that changes done by the creator many years later are controversial. It’s a slippery path. Part of creating a work of art is learning when to let it alone—most writers I know could just keep tweaking something forever. The quote (often attributed to da Vinci) that says “Art is never finished, just abandoned” is quite a true statement.

However, Elantris needed some attention. When I wrote it, I didn’t have access to a good cartographer who could make the continuity of my crazy map-based ideas for the story work out. I did my best, but it never quite clicked. The maps didn’t match the story, and the conceptualization of the ending was always kind of vague because of this disconnect.

Well, I have Isaac now, along with Peter who is really, really good with the minutiae of this sort of plotting. We’ve made two kinds of sweeping changes, then, to the text:

Map Continuity: We’ve had to shift the locations of some buildings and events as we’ve figured out a scale for the maps and for the city. We’ve tweaked the ending; the events are the same, but where certain things happen has been changed to fit. (Over the years, many of you have asked me about this, and I’ve had to admit that we just got it wrong.) This shouldn’t change the story in any significant way except that now it actually makes sense, but I thought you should know.

Language Changes: Peter has done a very, very thorough copyedit, and has made some stylistic changes to remove some of the quirks of my earlier prose. (Extraneous commas, for example.) Again, this shouldn’t change the story in any significant way except to make it more readable.

Right now the book looks like it’s scheduled for an October 20th release, but since that’s over half a year away, it could possibly end up coming out slightly earlier or later.

Words of Radiance Tweak

Moving on to Words of Radiance, as we were entering typo fixes for the paperback of this book, I made changes to a few lines near the end. This isn’t anywhere near as extensive as the changes in Elantris, but once again I figure I should be up-front about what I did and why I did it.

This part is going to have some spoilers for the book, so if you haven’t read it, please stop right here. I’ll put a number of blank lines here to prevent accidental spoilers. Scroll down if you’ve finished the book.

So, in Words of Radiance, I think the scene I worked on the longest both in my head and on the page was the final confrontation between Kaladin and Szeth.

There was something I wanted to do, and took a stab at it in the text, then backed off because I couldn’t make it work. It was important to me that Kaladin refuse to kill Szeth at the end. Kaladin is about protection, not vengeance, and once he realized that Szeth really just wanted to be killed, I wanted Kaladin to hesitate.

It didn’t end up working, and I moved on to a new version and submitted it. But this itched at me, and by the time the book was released, I felt I’d made the wrong choice for that scene. So I’ve taken this chance to roll it back to the previous idea, and written it in a new way, which I like much better.

The events are the same, except for that moment. Szeth is now killed by the storm instead of by Kaladin, which I think is more thematically appropriate.

The question this raises is about Szeth being stabbed by a Shardblade, then being resuscitated. I’m sad to lose this sequence, as it’s an important plot point for the series that dead Shardblades cannot heal the soul, while living ones can. I’m going to have to work this into a later book, though I think it’s something we can sacrifice here for the stronger scene of character for Kaladin and Szeth.

As I’ve said, it’s dangerous to tweak your work after it’s out. I realize this, and I hope you’ll give me some artistic liberty in this case. (Besides, with Tolkien’s after-publication tweaks to The Hobbit being so good, I think there is proof in the genre that changing the text here and there isn’t always bad.)

Thanks, and as always I appreciate you reading and supporting me in this crazy thing that I do.

Brandon Sanderson
March 2015

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