Monday, March 11, 2013

The Night Circus

Recently, I read this book by Erin Morgenstern. Even though I never would have chosen this book, and read it because it was up for discussion in my book club, I enjoyed it a great deal!

In The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern tells the story of two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who are involved in a challenge of their magic skills that takes place within the circus, which is open only at night and travels around the world. In the meantime, there are lots of other people who help make the circus function, including organizers, performers and patrons, though these folks do not understand that the circus is the setting for such a contest. Instead, they simply love the circus because it is such a special place.

This book is definitely in the realm of fantasy, which is the main reason I wouldn't have normally been drawn to it. But, it also has a strong historical fiction element, which is definitely in my wheel house. In fact, this combination of history and mystery made me less skeptical than usual because much of the "magic" was definitely impossible at the time it was going on, but would be possible with the technology and special effects we have today. The author didn't go into a lot of detail about what was making the magic happen, so it was even easier for me to believe that!

I also really, really enjoyed this book because Erin Morgenstern has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and indeed, at least some parts of this book were written during such a challenge! It's a pretty long book, much longer than you could reasonably produce during 30 days of dedicated effort. On her own website, she indicates that parts of the book were drafted during several different NaNoWriMo periods. Having done such writing myself, I can safely say that there were definitely moments when I said to myself, "Okay, I'm doing my writing and that's fine. But no one would ever want to read this. Not a publisher, not a library patron, not even me!" While that might be true of any given project, it's cool to see that the NaNoWriMo process is capable of producing at least a rough draft of something wonderful!

Knowing that the history of writing this book includes NaNoWriMo also gave me an interesting perspective when we were discussing it during book club. One of the reasons the book is so long is because it includes SO much description. At times, it gets a little tiring to read, though I thought descriptive passages were effectively mingled together with passages that move the story along. But, of course, the book that explains how to do NaNoWriMo (called No Plot, No Problem, by Chris Baty) advises writers to include extra descriptions as a way to meet the required daily word counts. Specifically, Baty suggests describing things that are easy to leave out. Three biggies that stuck with me were description of smells, descriptions of clothing, and descriptions of weather - even when the weather isn't influencing the plot. There's a ton of this in The Night Circus. In fact, it seems to me that if you're considering or actually participating in NaNoWriMo, this is an awesome example of how great your project could turn out to be! 

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