So this past week I didn’t do any work on Justine Grown Up. I was focusing all my energies on editing and polishing Adicia’s story. By this point, I’ve been away from it for long enough to be able to do some editing. I really don’t think it needs a huge amount of editing or rewriting (as compared to the original sections of the first six chapters of my Russian novel, which I wrote when I was all of 13), but there are some things I’ve been doing.
I’m continuing to make contractions, and am also taking out unnecessary dialogue tags and excessive wording. I’m also making their speech a little more consistent by making slang contractions. While I’m not going to overdo it and make them sound completely detached from formal speech (since Adicia and her sisters highly value education and read a lot), it does seem to fit with their lower-class downtown Manhattan origins to have them more frequently say stuff like gonna, hafta, wanna, and gotta.
As of right now, only midway through Part II and still having to go back to Part I to make some more slang contractions, the word count is around 393,000. I’m pretty confident I can have it down to around 390,000 by the time I’m done going through the whole manuscript, possible lower. Judging by what I’ve been able to do so far, and taking into account how I’m still in the gradual process of writing in left-handedness for a number of the characters (which will add more words back in), I think I can easily get it whittled down to my target.
While I never dreamt last November that this would end up a bit longer than The Brothers Karamazov in the first draft, I have to say I’m not that surprised it ended up being so long. It’s a Bildungsroman spanning 15 years and containing many characters and storylines. Of course it’s not going to be wrapped up within 400-500 pages. It’s just a very long book, a book that was intended to be a saga.
I’ve actually started to consider releasing it as an e-book on 11 July (Adicia’s birthday), though it would be nice to find an agent who loves superlong books and wants to traditionally publish it. I know I’ll need someone to help me handle copyright issues, since some of the quotes I use at the beginning of each Part are copyrighted. Not all of them are, but a few are (such as some lines from “Blessed,” a song from Sounds of Silence, and a couple of lines from some George Harrison solo songs).
It’s very important to me to use all those quotes I used to introduce each Part, like how the quotes on the front page of Part IV are the first intertitle from the 1922 film Moran of the Lady Letty (which I think has passed out of copyright) and the conversation the Skin Horse and the Velveteen Rabbit have about what Real is, and how you become Real. I chose each quote for a reason. They just set the mood for the action to follow.
Here’s how I hit upon introducing the left-handedness of Allen, Emeline, Ernestine, and Adicia in Chapter 1:
Emeline picks up a fancy calligraphy pen and lovingly strokes it. “I wish I could have a real pen to write all my important assignments. All the other girls have real pens.”
“You’d break the nub off,” Lucine says. “And you’d get wet ink all over your hand. At least I could use a pen like that if we had the money for it.”
“Why don’t people make stuff with us in mind?” Ernestine asks. “It’s not nice to discriminate against people who happen to be born with all their strength in the left hand.”
“Be thankful schools have evolved enough so you, Emeline, and Allen were able to get through kindergarten and first grade without getting beaten and forced to switch like our dad was. Maybe in another fifty years, there’ll be more specialized merchandise for lefties.”
Adicia begins shaking. “Is my teacher going to beat me or yell at me when she sees I’m writing left-handed?”
“Not in this day and age. Most schools in this country don’t do that anymore, even if a lot of teachers give lefties failing marks in writing. Part of me wishes I were a southpaw like you, Ernestine, Emeline, and Allen, but then I remember I don’t need even one more reason to stick out and be made fun of.”