Over the past week, I didn’t do much work on my Russian novel sequel. I was more preoccupied with reformatting and doing some preliminary polishing and editing on the fourth, fifth, and sixth Max’s House books. Now I’m up to doing preliminary fixing on the sixth book. I did finish Chapter 39, “Second Visit to Minnesota,” which also covers the reunion of Lyuba’s missing stepsister Lyolya (Yelena) with her family in July of 1929. (Lyuba meets the man who becomes her stepfather in June of 1920, and he marries her mother in the spring of 1923. He’s been a father figure to her the entire time she’s known him, and has ten daughters from his first marriage. Over the course of the first book, he’s reunited with 8 of his daughters, and in the second book, one of the remaining two, whom the reader has known all along is alive, comes to America and eventually to New York.)
Now I’ll be starting Chapter 40, “Mrs. Kalvik’s Dire Warnings.” As Lyuba goes through the third trimester of her fifth pregnancy, her friend Katrin’s revered mother-in-law becomes a frequent visitor at Katrin’s Upper West Side penthouse. Mrs. Kalvik, who inspired Katrin and her husband Sandros to invest heavily in the Stock Market some years back, which in turn inspired Lyuba to put a fair amount of her own savings into stocks more recently, now starts warning about withdrawing their money. Katrin and Lyuba are going to withdraw all of their money from the bank, taking Mrs. Kalvik’s warnings seriously. And of course, the big historic event in Chapter 41 is going to be the Stock Market Crash.
So now it’s up to a bit under 342,000 words. By now I know it’s going to top out at a longer length than the first book, and I’m fine with that. I enjoy reading and writing sagas with large story arcs. Even my shorter books generally aren’t fast-paced and full of action and conflict. It’s just the style I’m used to. Now there are just four chapters left, plus the Epilogue.
I have a blog post scheduled for Thursday that goes into more detail about my probable heavy overhauling of the sixth Max’s House book, so I’ll only get into it in smaller detail here. I think I made a huge mistake in taking so much focus away from the real protagonists of the series for this book, and making it about Cinnimin and Levon’s blossoming love story. Yes, that was the subplot that was developed over the fourth and fifth books, but at least Max, Elaine, and their family were still the stars of the show. They still controlled the main plots and most of the action.
I also think I made a mistake by having the 1942-43 main story of the sixth book interlink with a story set in 2007, about Cinni’s granddaughter Livia and her clandestine marriage with Violet’s grandson Liam. Livia is Jewish and Liam is Wiccan, and Livia’s mother strongly opposed their relationship, and even hated how they were best friends before taking it to the next level. Instead of breaking up with Liam after graduation in 2003, she secretly married him and they ran away to the University of Wyoming, where no one could find them. Now they’re moving to Boston to do graduate studies, and will be living with Livia’s favorite cousin Vikki. They’re also going to stop by Atlantic City to secretly visit Cinni and some other people.
I think I knew all along why I made books four through six so Cinni-centric. I wrote these books some time after I’d completed Saga I of Cinnimin, and knew I hadn’t developed her relationship with Levon enough (esp. since he wasn’t even a figment of my imagination until 1995, thus necessitating he be written in at an earlier point). I guess I got scared by how many notebooks I’d already used to write Saga I, and so began rushing through the rest of it, leaving a number of awkward time gaps and rushed narratives. Whereas before I’d leisurely taken 10 or more pages to write a chapter-like section, now I was forcing them into rather small sections just to conserve paper. I figured I’d just go into more detail in the Max’s House and WTCOAC books set at the same time. But that compromises the whole narrative. I figure I can just take most of the Cinni-centric sections out of the Max’s House books and put them where they belong, in her OWN book, and then just write some new sections focusing on the real stars, Max and Elaine. The whole point of having three of the four series with overlapping timelines was to have a separate focus for each, not to depict the same events three different ways. I just didn’t do a good enough job of keeping them separated enough.
I also think it might be a good idea to entirely take out the Livia and Liam storyline and put into into a file for future use. That’s a pretty good story, even if there is too much backstory and infodump, to try to catch the reader up to all these events that happened between 1942 and 2007. It just gives away too many future stories and ruins a lot of surprises and dramatic tension. Then, when I get up to 2007 when I’m finally on Saga VII of Cinnimin, I can just copy and paste that into a file, or print the pages out and stick them into a notebook. I’m not entirely ready to give up handwriting Cinnimin. There’s just something to be said about amassing a big collection of notebooks over the years and having memories associated with each, looking back on how your handwriting has changed, knowing what’s in each notebook just by seeing the cover, etc.
After I finish the sequel to the Russian novel, I’m going to continue reformatting and editing the rest of the Max’s House books completed to date, and cursing the fact that I was so anti-Word I kept them in their MacWriteII format instead of saving them as Word documents. Yes, I’ll always prefer the older word processing programs and find them simpler to navigate, but after enough time of working in Word, I’m not so opposed to it and finding it so difficult to figure out. This time I know better than to immediately jump into another very long book with the same characters after finishing the current book. I’ll take a bit of a break before starting the third book in my Russian family saga. Maybe I’ll really start working on Justine Grown Up for NaNoWriMo.
Other progress reports from Writers Support 4U: