Currently Reading: The Night Circus

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

There has been a lot of hoopla around Erin Morgenstern’s début novel – The Night Circus. After seeing many glowing reviews I was keen to read it myself, and even more so after hearing the book started life as a National Novel Writing Month manuscript. NaNoWriMo, as it is lovingly called, and is an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word first draft in the month of November (it’s a fun experiment and as my friend Rebekah said – it’s excellent for turning off the inner critic).

Last night I finished reading The Night Circus, and to my surprise felt very conflicted. I adore the premise – immersive experiences really float my boat. And the book is stuffed with gorgeous imagery – think ice gardens, a living carousel, paper birds and other transcendent illusions. I have no doubt that this story will be translated for the screen.

But when it comes to mechanic like character and plot, it is a rather clunky story. This thorough Amazon review cites a lot of grammatical errors that will make you frown, and the use of first person present tense makes you feel like you’re leafing through a child’s choose-your-own-adventure. While Harry Potter is technically for younger readers, as a 25-year-old I can still read the series and feel satisfied. Likewise with Meg Rosoff’s fantastic How I Live Now. I don’t feel this with The Night Circus.

The plot staggers around the world like a drunk, flipping from dull character to character. And like some drunks, it’s got a bit of a paunch. It just didn’t feel fully polished and the middle of the books sags. Writers, if you’re concerned about your weight, Kat Asharya has written an excellent piece on fictional Flabby Middles and How To Tone Them.

Once you’ve spewed your dreams on paper and have that shitty first draft down, it’s time to re-vision the work.  It’s important to edit, edit, edit and when you’ think you’re done, put it away for a month before editing some more. Various writing tutors I’ve met over the years always say hard work is where the magic lies. I really wanted to love The Night Circus. To echo countless parents around the globe – I’m not angry, just disappointed.