Thursday, February 28, 2002

Writing The Wheel of Time

This section deals with stuff specifically to do with writing the series. That may be how his original plan differed from the books, how long it takes him to write each book and if there have been any errors along the way, to name just three examples.

Characters and Background Info

  • Do you put any of your friends or your personal character traits into your characters?

    No, none of my friends, none of me. There is a touch of my wife in all of the major female characters, however, and a good many of the secondary female characters. She's a very complex woman.

  • How did you develop the female characters in your series? They are strength to the series, and are interesting because they seem to contain genuinely "feminine" thought patterns?

    I spent forty-odd years listening to women, and besides that, they're all based on my wife.

  • When you started writing the series, were Osan'gar and Aran'gar in the original plotline, or were they added in as you went along?

    They were in the original plot line.

  • Do you already know the fates of all the primary characters or are they still changeable?

    I know the fates of all of the primary characters.

  • I understand there would be a person in The Eye of the World, but that he was cut out or something. Who was he?

    One of the characters who I have brought in later was a fellow named Daniell in TEOTW, and I brought him out because I realized he didn't have anything to do there. I reintroduced him later. At that point, he was simply taking up space.

  • Did you create Rand, Mat, and Perrin one at a time or all together?

    One at a fact, when I first started thinking of what would turn into The Wheel of Time, Rand and his foster father were one character. Not a 50-ish man and his teenage foster son. But a man in his 30's who had run away from a quiet country village seeking adventure, had become a soldier, and now after 20 years of that, world weary and tired. Who has come home to his pastoral village seeking peace and quiet, only to find that the world and prophecy are hard on his heels. You can see that that's a much different character that what I ended up with when I started writing. I may actually use *him* someday.

  • Why introduce a somewhat important character like Cadsuane so late in the series? Is the fact that it seems a little odd supposed to be a clue?

    She's introduced late in the series because this is the place where she was supposed to come in. I didn't expect her to be a part earlier in the series--there was nothing for her to do! We introduce no character before her time. With apologies to Orson Welles.

  • RJ wrote the Mat/Tylin scenario as a humorous role-reversal thing. His editor, and wife, thought it was a good discussion of sexual harassment and rape with comic undertones. She liked it because it dealt with very serious issues in a humorous way. She seemed to think it would be a good way to explain to men/boys what this can be like for women/girls, showing the fear, etc.

  • How did the Ajahs originate?

    Simply because I needed an organization for the power structure, and it seemed to me that a collective organization was something women were more likely to come up with, rather than something strictly hierarchal.

  • Your societies seem to all place women in a very influential role. Any particular reason why you created so many matriarchies?

    3000 years ago, the world was destroyed by men: specifically men, and for all of that time, every society has been afraid of any man who can channel. The result has to be greater power and influence for women.

  • Is there any specific reason why there isn't a name given to the continent in which Rand and co. inhabit?

    Simply because people don't generally give names to their homes that way -- it's other places they give names to.

  • The Series

  • Do you ever feel under a lot of pressure to finish the books due to their popularity?

    Well, sometimes. But I know where I'm going, I know how I want to finish it, I do not intend to speed up the pace to get there faster. In truth, the greatest pressure to finish it, I think, comes from ME. I won't really have done it until I finish it.

  • I have heard that you once said there are many things in your books that you were surprised readers hadn't discovered. And there were also things you were surprised we had "deciphered." Any comments?

    Too true. Too true. But when I find out that something I wanted to be obvious isn't, I do look around to see if I can find another place to slip in a hint.

  • In the first five books, the pace of the story, switching between character situations and the action in general was high speed and covered significant periods of time. In Lord of Chaos the story seemed to slow. Was this intentional or only my perception?

    It covered a shorter period of time, but in Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords there were a great many things that happen in a short time that made it necessary to have the books, if not slower paced from the reader's point of view, slower as far as the chronology is concerned.

  • Do you know roughly what will happen between now and the last scene of the last book, or are you making it up as you go along?

    Yes and no. I know the last scene of the last book. I know the major events I want to happen between now and then. I know who will be alive and who will be dead at the end of the series. I know the situation of the world. I know all of those things, but I leave how to get from one point to the next free so that I can achieve some fluidity. I don't want it too rigid, which is what I think will happen if I plan in too great a detail.

  • Are you the one that sets the pace of the books being published, or is there a "plan" behind the timing of when they come out?

    The books are published as fast as I can write them. In fact, in the beginning, you might say they were being published faster than I can write them! The normal lead-time from ending a book to publication is 8 months to a year. My last 3 books have been published within 60 days of completion by me.

  • His writing technique with the Wheel of Time books he described as "simply stretch out and run".

  • I would like to see the fires in Rand's head quenched, but I would settle for them being significantly subdued. Do you find yourself WANTING to make things happen sooner so that you can delve into other areas of a character's psyche?

    I sometimes feel impatience but I am trying to maintain the same pace, making great effort to maintain that pace, to go neither faster nor slower than I have gone before.

  • I've always admired the incredible patience you show in your writing moving from major event to major event (like moving Rand from the Stone of Tear to the completion of events in the Aiel Waste). Do you have any precise method you use, or does that flow naturally? Do you ever write the events then fill in the spaces, so to speak?

    No, I never "fill in the spaces." Sometimes I have to cut events out, because I've become entirely _too_ patient, getting from one place to another. For the rest I don't really have a "method" beyond telling the story.

  • Is there something you've learned since, that you would now change in your first book?


  • How do you feel when someone finds a minor or perhaps a major inconsistency in your books (I'm not saying there are any)? Do you say "Oh well, better luck next time" or do you get really upset?

    Sometimes people have found things that are typos, and sometimes people have found a place where a change or correction that I had intended to be put into the book was not before it was published. I always try to get those corrected as soon as possible after they're found. And, while I don't like having them there, I'm glad when someone points one out to me. As for inconsistencies, I'm afraid inconsistencies are a failure to read the books correctly. Every time somebody has come to me with an inconsistency, I have been able to point out in a return letter where his or her mistake was.

  • Are there any particular themes that you have added since the beginning e.g. theme or characters that you did not have in mind when you first thought up the series? Are there any items of the story that have been cut out that you would like to tell us about?

    In both cases, no. I have, in some cases, developed the story in ways that I did not quite intend to at first but there has been no important character who has been deleted, there has been no necessity to add in something I did not expect to add in.

  • Did your interaction with fans lead you to make certain things previously hidden obvious in this book?

    No, not interaction with fans. There are always things that are going to become more obvious as the story goes along. I certainly don't intend to keep everything hidden until the very last. There won't be any Perry Mason revelation scene where all the characters sit down and say, "This is what happened and this is why it happened."

  • The Plots

  • Do you have to reread your books often in order to remind yourself of everything you have done and still need to do, or do you just look back at notes as a basic reminder.

    Sometimes I have to look back at the books themselves, but primarily that is to make sure that I remember for example, exactly what someone said to someone else, I don't need to remind myself of the story or what has happened. I sometimes do have to check on small details.

  • How much editing do your books get? Does the story or your writing get modified?

    The story does not get modified. Occasionally the writing is modified to this extent. A good editor tells you what is wrong, as another set of eyes. A good editor says, "I don't understand what you're saying here, you haven’t told me enough, you haven't made me believe that this person will do this or say this." And then I go back and work at making sure the editor is convinced. Remember the editor is the first reader. If the editor isn't convinced, I doubt the fans will be either.

  • Your plots are so detailed and intricate- Do you ever get confused about what should happen when?


  • Planning

  • How long did it take you to plan the Wheel of Time world?

    A very long time. Almost ten years of thinking about it before I began writing. And then four years to write The Eye of the World. Then roughly 14 months each for the next five books, and about 20 or 21 months for A Crown of Swords. You see, I have the world planned out, but quite often details are a work in progress.

  • Do you use story boards, flow charts, etc.

    No, I don't use story boards, etc. I just do outlines in the sense of synopses of what I intend to write.

  • He knows the final scene of the last book, all the major events he wants to have happen and who will live and who will die. When he starts a book, he decides which of these events he wants to try to do and then writes it so they happen.

  • I find the magic system in the series so complex and fascinating. Could you tell us if it is something you worked out before you started writing the series, or did you just add things in as you went along?

    I had the basis of it before I began writing, and a good part of how it fit together. Other parts were added in when I realized that there was a question to be answered: something that I had to decide here and now, how this worked. But I have now quite a large file describing the one power and how it works, and the things that can be done with it and the things that can't be done, and the exceptions to the rules and all that. It would probably be 300 pages, if I printed it out, maybe a little more, but I never have. It's just a computer file at the moment.

  • The amount of notes he held on persons, countries, cultures, cities, events etc he approximated to be as large as the amount of text in the currently published books. (Editor’s note: Up to Lord of Chaos)

  • With the scope of this work, it must have been on your mind for a long time. When did you first conceive the story and how many years after that was the first book published?

    I had the first notions for this book, I guess it was 1975 or 76. For these books I should say, but there were a lot of things to think out, a lot of changes I went through. For instance the character of Rand and Tam were originally one. I spent about ten years noodling the story around in the back of my head before I ever put words on paper, but that's rather typical for me. My books have a fairly long gestation period.

  • Publishing

  • When did you first develop the idea for Wheel of Time? How long have you been working on it before it was accepted by a publisher?

    The very first notion came to me nearly twenty years ago; I spent ten or twelve years mulling it over, told my then-publisher about it, and he offered me a contract.

  • How difficult is it to get a major publisher like Tor to publish a novel, Mr. Jordan?

    It wasn't difficult to get Tor to publish my first novel. Tom Doherty liked what I write. I've been writing for 20 years and I told him that I had an idea for a multi-volume book. I didn't know how many books and probably any other publishers would have thrown me out of his office, but Tom said OK!
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