To start the year off, I decided to reread the Mistborn series, but as I headed into the first trilogy, I realized that I’ve never actually read the final version of them. I read them chapter by chapter as we workshopped them in writing group over several years. And in my head since then, they never changed, so there are things that Brandon edited before publication that I never realized got edited.
This has led to a very interesting experience. I think it’s the first set of books that I’ve read in print where I can point to different sections and know what sort of an impact writing group had on them. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by mentioning these things (If I am, Brandon, I can take this post down), but here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
- I remember having a long debate in writing group about Vin killing the wolfhound. In the first draft, she just went up to the dog and pewter-punched it in the head, killing it instantly. I can’t remember if anyone other than me had an issue with it, but I was very less than pleased with the killing of a dog in-scene, by our heroine. We talked about what animals you could and couldn’t hurt. There were some who were squarely in the “anything but a cat is fair game” crowd, but I stuck to my guns. No killing dogs, if I’m supposed to like the character later on. This is ironic, of course, because I now kill people regularly in my novels. But note: I haven’t killed any dogs! In my head, Vin’s been a dog killer all this time, and now I realize she’s been falsely maligned. (Although I will also admit now that having OreSeur kill the dog instead also feels strange. I mean, Vin must have really held back to avoid killing the dog, and it feels out of character for her to hold back from doing it. So maybe Brandon was right, after all? Actually, what the scene really needed was a long flashback explaining how much Vin always loved dogs, and how a dog once saved her life on the streets, and so she’d made a solemn vow never to kill a pooch. That would have fixed it . . . )
- Kelsier will always been pronounced with a French accent for me. It was a long running joke that he was outrageously French. I’m disappointed that it was never canonized, but I suppose it’s something I’ll have to learn to live with.
- There’s a big twist in book 2. Brandon’s very keen on setting one thing up and then doing something unexpected, and that goes all the way back to his early books. In Well of Ascension, a big part of the book is devoted to “who is the spy?” Vin bounces back and forth between suspecting just about everyone. I remember when we read the first draft, as soon as it came to light that there was a spy, that I said in writing group who I thought it was and how it went down. It turns out I was 100% correct. I’m not sure if Brandon tweaked anything in the later drafts, because I still remembered who the spy was, and so couldn’t really tell if it was harder to guess.
It’s been a lot of fun to revisit the book, since there are many memories tied up in it. Back then, we were workshopping Cavern of Babel at the same time, and there was another long-running joke about what a Mistborn llama would be like. Some of the time we were at Brandon’s house, down in his basement. He had a huge bean bag that was a very popular spot to sit, and a parakeet who would make a guest appearance now and then. (No parrots). Then for a bit we met in my apartment, and we finished workshopping things over at Sally Taylor’s house.
I miss writing group. It wasn’t just about the writing. We had a lot of fun times, and I became close friends with everyone. Many times we’d head out to eat after a session. Mama Chu’s. Spaghetti Factory. Good times. Moving to Maine was wonderful in many ways, but that’s definitely one area it was much less than great.
Anyway, just thought I’d share. (Oh–and Happy Groundhog Day!)
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