Elantris: Do’s and Don’ts at the Beginning of a Book

If you’ve been keeping up with stuff for the past year or two, you might have heard of Brandon Sanderson (you know, the guy who broke Kickstarter?). You might have even read some of my posts about his books, as I’ve been reading through them for the past year or so.

Sanderson is a fantastic author for any writer (especially sci-fi and fantasy) to learn from because he’s extremely skilled at his craft. From excellent worldbuilding and top-tier character development to perfect humour and plots that make your brain explode, there’s a reason that Sanderson has such a huge following.

Elantris and the Cosmere Reading Order

Elantris, well… Let’s just say it’s not my favourite of his books. Elantris was Sanderson’s debut novel and the start of his “Cosmere” universe. Most people suggest that this is the place to start when you begin reading the Cosmere, but now that I’ve experienced it for myself, I disagree.

Some of you might know the story of how I stumbled across Sanderson’s novels. At my brother-in-law’s recommendation, I started with Warbreaker and loved it. Then, naturally, I began The Way of Kings, (with over 1,000 pages), tore my way through the massive Stormlight Archive, then read through both Mistborn eras and am now making my way through Elantris.

Okay, so…maybe my reading order isn’t the best either.

A Journey into High Fantasy

The important thing for me was that when I read Warbreaker, I wasn’t bored. I was trepidatious stepping into high fantasy because I’m usually not attracted to all the crazy detailed worldbuilding; apart from Lord of the Rings, I just found it boring (and even then, I sometimes skip the endless pages on Shadowfax. Sorry). Warbreaker showed me that high fantasy didn’t have to be boring or complicated, and that was what made me pick up the Stormlight Archive next.

I think it might have been a different story if I had started with Elantris. While it’s still a quality story, it’s slow. Very slow. My husband and I are reading the book together, and while he is enjoying it, I still feel the need to continually reassure him that the other books are better. If I had started with Elantris, I’m not sure if I would have finished it. I probably would have thought I was right about high fantasy being boring and forgotten about it and Sanderson’s books altogether.

What Does the Beginning Need?

It just goes to show you how important it is to have an engaging start to your novel. To do that, you need to think about two main things:

1. Action
2. Payoff

I’m about one-quarter of the way through Elantris, and so far, there have been two action scenes. Two! Obviously, the start of this book involves a bit more politics than some of Sanderson’s other novels, but even then, tension is severely lacking in many scenes. As I said before, I probably wouldn’t stick through it if I didn’t already have faith in Sanderson’s plots.

Additionally, there’s very little payoff at the start of Elantris. This is a tricky one; you obviously can’t have too much payoff too soon or else there will be nothing left for the rest of the book, but you need to give your readers some kind of satisfaction, some kind of reward at the start.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like Elantris, and I’m sure I’ll love it even more as I keep reading. It’s funny, the characters are interesting, and the plot is unexpected. But boy am I glad it’s not the first Cosmere book I read!

How are you doing with the start of your book? It’s one of the most critical parts of the whole story, so make sure to keep building your confidence by reading posts like these! If you need help, remember that I offer feedback and book coaching starting at $10.

Happy writing!

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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


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