“The first 100 pages were build up” or “The Fantasy Writer’s Dilemma”

So I’m sitting here, working on my 10th book—how did that happen?—and thinking about pacing. As someone who writes fantasy, I’m always faced with a dilemma, a push-pull problem: the need to introduce the world and its rules, without dragging down the plot. I like to think I do this—I certainly do my best—but the simple fact is that those first 100 pages can’t JUST be plot, not in fantasy.

They have to lay foundations.

They have to set up the rest of the book, so that it all makes sense and pays off and the clues add up and the twists work and the punches land and you’re left with a feeling of YES. Because here’s what I think: it’s worth it. Those opening pages, which lay that foundation—I’m not talking about info-dumping, that is nightmarish and just bad writing—and establish your world, they are worth it. They are the incline, pulling the weight like the beginning of a roller coaster so you can get the height needed to have all the heart-wrenching, stomach-dropping turns that come with the drop.

And it’s worth it.

I spent my first seven or eight books fretting about the fact that my first 100 pages are always pulling weight, always slower than the rest of my books, thinking I was failing somehow, thinking if I could just be better, there would be no incline, it would all be drop. I braced myself for all those comments at the 1/3 mark of “I hope this picks up” or “lots of build up so far” and all I could see was that pattern, but over time, I noticed another one.

People got to that hinge point, that drop, and started saying WHEEEEEE.

People got to the end of the ride, and they were exhilarated, happy, ready to go again.

The build-up was worth it.

And I’m really, really proud of that.

It’s taken me a lot of books to see that there’s no wrong way to write a book. That sometimes things that seem like failures are actually necessary parts of success. I’m still striving to get better, obviously, to crank readers up to the top faster, but I’ve decided, I’m okay with the incline. This is how I write.

So if you pick up one of my books, and find the first 100 pages a little slow, stick with me for the rest of the ride.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on ““The first 100 pages were build up” or “The Fantasy Writer’s Dilemma”

  1. Interesting that you should say this. For me, I need that world building. I don’t want it all thrown at me at once when reading fantasy. There definitely needs to be that build up. If it’s not there, I will drop the book. So you go ahead and have what you call a “slow start” because for me, it’s what makes the book!

  2. I’m the type of person that prefers when a book just throws you into its world and explains it as the book goes, but I understand that Fantasy can’t normally do that since it’s set in a foreign world.

  3. mightier says:

    This is very reassuring, thank you. I’ve just hit page 100 of my first draft of a fantasy novel and been struggling to make sure I have the right balance of WORLD and CONFLICT / FORESHADOWING. Now I just have to figure out what happens in the rest of the story…

  4. Paul Weimer says:

    Worldbuilding in a secondary world is a tightrope. Some readers will eat up your worldbuilding, while others want you to “Get on with it”

    The first 100 pages, as you say, do a lot of work for an original universe, and have to.

    I like your rollercoaster metaphor, too.

  5. shanadubois says:

    I think this is a wonderful thing to keep in mind generally speaking because often times readers might abandon a book after 30-50 pages. When it could have been a book that they ended up loving. Do I think everyone should finish every book they start? No. Not at all. But if something about a particular book drew you in to begin with, maybe give it a bit longer to get into a flow. You make excellent points and it is something I will keep in mind for future books.

  6. Reblogged this on Further Annotations and commented:
    Some wise words from V.E. Schwab.

  7. […] Victoria Schwab on “the first 100 pages were buildup” or The Fantasy Writer’s Dilemma. […]

  8. […] her blog, V.E. Schwab shares her books’ origin stories, insight into her writing process, and even short stories. We particularly enjoyed her unique About page adjunct listing her favorite […]

  9. […] her blog, V.E. Schwab shares her books’ origin stories, insight into her writing process, and even short stories. We particularly enjoyed her unique About page adjunct listing her favorite […]

  10. […] her blog, V.E. Schwab shares her books’ origin stories, insight into her writing process, and even short stories. We particularly enjoyed her unique About page adjunct listing her favorite […]

  11. Kaie says:

    Fighting that issue out with my editor right now. Half my beta readers want more; the other half complain it’s too slow; apparently that issue never gets resolved… Thanks for sharing; it helps!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: