Thursday, April 28, 2011


At the end of most books I read, I smile. Sometimes the book stays with me, sometimes not. A few tick me off, others barely register.
Yesterday I finished reading Water for Elephants. As I closed the book and looked around, I felt a sense of vertigo. It was as if I were being pulled from one world into another, duller place. While not a perfect book--what is?--it drew me in to a Depression-era circus and kept me there. That's a very rare thing.

It was a more common experience for me when I was a kid. Each book was a new experience, something I'd never read or thought of before. I was also more willing to let myself be drawn in.

There have been several times in my adult reading that I remember the feeling. Both The World According to Garp by John Irving and The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy had such strong pulls that I turned around and reread each one immediately after "The End." The Harry Potter books give that sense of vertigo, too.

So what is it about certain books that make the reader feel as if she has been transported somewhere else? I could answer with the usual: three-dimensional characters, great settings, a strong plot, excellent craftsmanship. But there are books with those things that don't have that same effect. I don't think you can quantify it or point to one thing that creates it.

But wouldn't it be nice if we could?

Any books that caused vertigo for you? Can you figure out what it was that affected you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

And Another Thing

I learned about writing from NaNoWriMo is

5) November is a lousy month to tackle this challenge.

The beginning of the holiday season is not a good time to try to produce 50,000 words in 30 days. Families tend to balk at the idea of you taking your turkey dinner into the writing room so you can get 500 more words. When your company has driven across two states in a snowstorm, they kinda want to see your face.

My suggestion is to move it to April, June or September. Whichever works best for you.