For the past week, I haven’t been getting a lot of progress done on my Russian novel sequel. I’m steadily coming along on Chapter 37, “First Visit to Minnesota,” and the word count is around 323,000 as the chapter draws to a close. I thought perhaps I was just hitting a wall because I’d been with these characters for so long at a stretch again, but then I started to think it might really be because while I have the notes/outline for the entire book, not to mention having had the entire story memorized backwards and forwards in my head since I was about 15 years old, I don’t really have the earlier chapters of Part II outlined in my head in as much detail as I had all the chapters of Part I. Once I get up to Chapter 41, “Union with a Snake,” when Lyuba finally cracks and does what the book title suggests and what’s been hinted at and developed towards for much of the book, it’ll be smooth sailing. The remaining chapters after that, “Facing the Music in Minnesota,” “Beyond the Rocks…or Not?,” and “Who’s the Father?,” plus the Epilogue, “No Thirteenth Time,” are outlined and memorized in my head in much greater detail.

I got a lot of work done on editing and rewriting The Very First, and the word count is around 30,000 now. I decided to bite the bullet and leave out the original Chapters 2-30, which only served to introduce each character and tell a little about the layout of the town and what the world was like in 1938. So I moved the chapters of Part II into Part I, and decided, since the book is so short, I won’t even divide it into two parts. I consolidated a lot of chapters, since many of the chapter titles ended up bearing only a faint connection to what actually happens in them. Now I only have to add two, maybe three, new chapters. There are going to be chapters called “School Days” and “High Holy Days.” I might also put in a chapter about Halloween. I’m pretty confident I can get it to around my original misestimation of 43,000 words.

I also modified some things so it would seem slightly more age-appropriate, though I didn’t entirely take out things casting the characters as older than they are. That’s an important part of the entire series, and to suddenly have them acting and looking so much older when the Max’s House books begin in June 1941 would seem rather abrupt and out of thin air if it weren’t already established from the jump. There are always reasons given for it, and it always is supposed to make sense in the context of the story, the characters, and the quasi-religion of WTCOAC. Like, for example, when Cinni is gleefully showing Sparky the adult version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey they’re going to play at her birthday party, which her own father took her to buy because she thought it was funny:

“This is what Americans consider funny?”

“People with a sense of humor do.  My daddy took me to the novelty shop so I wouldn’t get in trouble for buying it underage.  And it’s wrapped in brown butcher paper so no one will really know what’s inside.  There’s something in this country called the Comstock Act, and it makes it hard to buy certain things and send some stuff through the mail.  They have a movie code too, forbidding certain things.  All of it’s damn stupid.  I hate these modern-day Puritans who think the world is like a Norman Rockwell painting or some movie or book set in a small town.  That kind of life never existed for most Americans.  It’s just a fantasy people create to feel better about themselves.  Besides, it ain’t like I’m gonna do adult things with a boy at my party.  I’m just playing an adult version of pin the tail on the donkey.  I didn’t start setting fires when I learnt about fire.  I won’t go out and become a harlot after seeing dirty pictures or playing this game either.”

I also made the age of Cinni and her friends ambiguous, so I wouldn’t shock so many people. While I feel their behavior is a funny parody of modern-day preteens and teens who think they’re all grown-up already, and serves to call out, as Cinni says, people who want to pretend America in that era was so ultra-moral, innocent, perfect, and happy, I know it might shock some people if they knew how old these kids are really supposed to be. It’s said a number of times they’re not little kids anymore, but they’re not teens yet. We know Cinni and some of her friends are already sprouting bustlines, but Cinni says she’s still a bit young to get her “lady days” (how these girls refer to their period). At one point Cinni refers to the sixth grade as being in the future. I think I might finally come out with their actual age in the third book.

I also converted, as I previously mentioned, the third, fourth, and fifth Max’s House books from their old MacWriteII formats. I didn’t have to do too much reformatting on the files that make up the fourth and fifth books (three files each; I think those two books might end up somewhere in the vicinity of 60,000 words?), but I have more reformatting and editing to do on the third book. There are six files that make up Resolutions, and I’ve estimated it’s somewhere in the vicinity of 90,000 words. (I think the sixth book, Two Happy Endings, and the eighth book, Back to School, will be somewhere in the same longer vicinity after I convert those files.) I’ve got a lot of work to do on #3, since it’s just so overwritten, contains stupid bits of dialogue and scenes that serve no purpose other than giving my 15-year-old self an excuse to work in some of her current obsessions and interests like showing off how many obscure foreign languages and cultures I knew of, has a rather obnoxious, preachy, judgmental, editorializing narrative voice (I use third person omniscient, not first person!), rather like D.W. Griffith’s intertitles, and contains things that weren’t entirely historically accurate, even considering it’s part historical fiction, part spoof. (I just love the episodes of parody talkshow Lulu that are featured during this particular book!)

Right now I’m reformatting, editing, and rewriting the second of the six files. I’m completely rewriting the birth scene of the quints. I was so naïve about the history of hospital birth when I was 15. I was so naïve I thought women were allowed to be conscious, eat during and immediately after labor, have their husbands and other relatives in the delivery room, get large beds to labor on, and only have to be in labor for a little while. Little did I know this was the era of knock ’em out, drag ’em out obstetrics, with the terrifying, abusive twilight sleep, enemas, shaving, forceps, lamb’s wool shackles, nurseries that kept babies isolated and apart from their mothers except for one hour every day, shots that dried up women’s breastmilk unless they insisted against it (because, you know, it would be vulgar, dirty, and lowbred to not use bottles), and episiotomies. Bambi is tied up to the twilight sleep crib and given a shot of something. The next thing she can remember, she’s in a bed in a recovery suite, the five babies swaddled up and being held by her, Mr. Seward, oldest stepchild Tiffany, and Mr. Seward’s brother and sister-in-law. I was quite a few years away from becoming a birth junkie at 15. I probably would’ve been shocked had I known I’d grow up to want a natural childbirth!

I’m going to focus, during the editing and rewriting, on the real major storylines of Resolutions: The birth of the quints, the stupid but hilarious tv show The Hermit Family, Kit’s troubles with her mother and her boyfriends, Sparky’s anguish over what’s going to happen to Lazarus and Malchen back in Europe, Kit’s makeover of British girl Paulina, who horrifies her sisters Galatea and Lolanda with her resulting wardrobe and behavior, and Elaine’s kind of creepy phase where she glorifies Death and the idea of plotting and planning a suicide, as though she’s planning a wedding with a month by month, week by week checklist.

Other weekly reports from other people in the Writers Support 4U group:

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