The Hundred Rule

We’re all familiar with the magic of the number 3 whether it’s three act structure; birth marriage, death; Three Little Pigs, Wishes, Stooges, Bears and so on. There is mysticism about the number 3 and there’s even a Latin expression, “omni trium perfectum” that means everything that comes in threes is perfect.
I’d like to propose ‘The Hundred Rule.’ This rule states that the initial hundred pages of a first draft are worse than the combined awfulness of the rest of the draft and to quote Hemingway, ‘The first draft of anything is shit.’
In the case of a novel, the first hundred pages roughly equates to the first act. It’s the part of the novel when there’s a lot to achieve. You’re setting up the characters, the story world, the theme, dilemmas, motivations and the problems that the characters have to solve by the end of the narrative.
Recently I read the first draft of my new novel and I was so disheartened by the early chapters that I considered walking away from the project. But after a break I forced myself to go back and read to the end and I noticed that around page 102 my notes to myself changed. In the early chapters my notes were: ‘Where’s the drama?’ and ‘No conflict, too much set up’ and ‘This whole sequence is weird.’ After page 100 my notes became more positive with comments such as ‘Quite like this,’ ‘Good suspense.’ ‘Like detail of scene.’
What I found most interesting was that I remember having the same experience in my previous novel, Be My Friend, when I rewrote the first hundred pages more times than I care to remember.
Untitled copy
I’ve also started noticing the same pattern in some of the novels I’m reading so I reckon I am not alone. How many times do we say, ‘Brilliant book but a little hard to get in to but once in, you can’t put it down.’?
I don’t think it’s just a case of getting into the author’s voice, I think this is evidence of the existence of ‘The Hundred Rule.’
Have any other writers or readers noticed this?


About merlenygate

Writer, script editor
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