Why Your Book Stalled at 100 pages

As I talk with other writers, (especially newbies) I often find they have a book (or several) stopped dead at about 100 pages or 25 to 30,000 words.  They have thrown up their hands in despair. This project which once seemed so compelling, so urgent, has come to a screeching halt and it may remain that way.

Here’s the thing.  Books are meant to stall at 100 pages.  It’s perfectly natural, and you will find many pro-novelists who have a pause at that point as well (though they are unlikely to abandon the project).

The first 100 pages of a book, especially a fantasy novel or series, are about setting the stage.  You need to create a new world, sometimes from scratch.  You need to establish cultures and conflicts.  You need to bring characters on-stage, begin to reveal who they are, get the reader invested in them and suggest the inner conflicts that will drive their motivations.  Phew!  That’s a lot of work.

And that’s about 100 pages.  Up until that point, the book has been expanding, opening outward like a growing tree as you add more detail, more levels of engagment.  And about this point in the book, you need to start pruning.  The conflicts you’ve begun must collide.  The characters must interact with each other–you can’t keep introducing new ones or they’ll diffuse reader interest.  You need to take all of that stage setting and begin to shape it into a plot.

Up to the 100 page mark (give or take a bit, especially if it’s epic), you can keep throwing in all kinds of wonderful stuff.  At that point, it has to start coming together, making sense, sparking off the elements already present.  The inciting moment must progress into a plot and structure.  It’s a good time to take a little break, see what you’ve done and think about where you’re going.  For pro’s, that’s exactly what happens.  Have I established the groundrules clearly?  Are my characters in motion?  Good–let’s get on with it!

For the newbie, however, it can cause a terrible brain freeze.  It’s likely you’ve worked through all of the way-cool stuff you started with.  If you’re an outliner, you may have a plan for going forward, but it suddenly seems like a slog–this is the part where the real work begins.

So if this is happening to you, you’re in good company.  Now pick up your tools and get back on the job!

About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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3 Responses to Why Your Book Stalled at 100 pages

  1. yellowlancer says:

    Great advice and inspiration to get on with the stalled book 🙂 Thank you.

  2. EMoon says:

    75 pages was the point at which I realized my first book wasn’t just an overlong short story, but intended to be a book. Somewhere around 300, I began to suspect it wasn’t one volume but several. Yes…there’s the 75-100 page pause for breath and to begin to understand the scope of a given project. One volume? Three? Five? Godhelpus, seven!?!

    And yes, the only useful response to the appearance of “slog” or “this isn’t fun anymore” is “get with it!”

    • Yes–I had the same short story delusion for a while, but I got over it and accepted my series. Wrapping up book one would be a good topic for a follow-up. Thanks for the thought!

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