IWSG—A miraculous relief and future writing plans

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and lets us share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears.

I found out at the beginning of September that mice got into my storage locker 900 miles away and ate some of the Easter candy in there. From that point on, I became consumed with worry about the fate of my irreplaceable notebooks, my journals from 1989–2008 (most of them in a big black computer bag) and at least 95% of the first draft of my still uncompleted 12-volume magnum opus Cinnimin (from October 1993–September 2010).

For the first week, I could barely sleep, and even began dreaming about my precious notebooks. I saw them in boxes in the storage locker, untouched, but in my waking life, I had visions of them chewed up by mice, decades of dedicated work destroyed, never to be replicated.

Finally, on Monday, my little brother got back to me after I followed up my initial text with well-chosen words to light a fire under him without making it seem like I expect him to be at my beck and call. Baruch Hashem (Thank God), he found both boxes of notebooks and the computer case.

I’ll feel a lot better when they’re back in my physical custody, but for now, it’s enough to know they’re safe.

Part IV of Cinnimin, written autumn 1993

For many years, I’ve been very aware of the fact that Cinnimin needs a lot of work when it’s finally transcribed, esp. the parts I wrote as a teenager. Even as a teen, from age fifteen on, I knew I’d significantly flesh a lot of things out when I had the luxury of a computer file which could be of any length and wasn’t confined by the parameters of a notebook. I deliberately underwrote many things.

Sagas I and II (the Forties and Fifties) need the most radical rewriting, and Sagas III and IV (the Sixties and Seventies) need a fair amount of work too. By the time I got to Saga V, I was an adult, and had developed into a more mature, stronger writer.

I’m also once again having nagging feelings about making my original generation of Atlantic City characters two years older. They’ve always deliberately been written as looking and acting older than they really are, as part of the satire, over the top humor, and je ne sais quoi of WTCOAC (We the Children of Atlantic City, a quasi-religion and secret society sort of like the Masons).

When I resurrected my long-shelved Anne Terrick in 2017, I moved her starting age from ten to almost thirteen, and don’t regret it. If I did the same for my Atlantic City characters, some things would have to be tweaked, but I don’t think the overall stories would suffer if, e.g., they’re in seventh instead of fifth grade when Pearl Harbor is bombed, or seventeen instead of fifteen when the war ends.

Toning down the content even further would destroy the satirical element, but keeping their ages might turn off a lot of people. E.g., Kit’s extremely precocious sexual début and her long list of lovers are a major part of her character, but if she starts at twelve instead of ten, the shock value is retained without coming off as creepy.

My yearly October spotlight on classic horror films kicks off on Friday with Georges Méliès as always. This year will also feature a few D.W. Griffith films, the 1919 German film Unheimliche Geschichten, a couple of lost films, German Expressionist films Waxworks and The Hands of Orlac, the 1939 remakes of The Cat and the Canary and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Hound of the Baskervilles (also 1939). The series will wrap up with Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

I also hope to finally finish A Dream Deferred in time for NaNo. I decided to move the subplots about Katya and Dmitriy’s friends Marusya and Sima all the way into the future sixth book, when they buy cheap, abandoned, side-by-side Victorian houses in Haight-Ashbury.

If all goes well, I’ll start the fifth book, From a Nightmare to a Dream: Out of Stalin’s Shadow, next month. I’m looking forward to outlining it.

9 thoughts on “IWSG—A miraculous relief and future writing plans

    • It does seem, Ellen, that if mice can eat candy, they will eat anything.

      And the stickiness does transfer to manuscripts. They do like some of the substances involved in notebooks.

      And the chewing through seems to satisfy and satiate them.

      I do not know, though, that mice are particularly interested in the material of Carrie-Anne’s computer bag. They could drive some small hole.


  1. Empathy, Carrie-Anne!

    This Tuesday and Wednesday there have been bees in a bedroom I’ve been in from 1998-2015.

    It is four years since I moved into my current quarters.

    That bedroom contains at least one manuscript which is tied up in green string – three exercise books and some 1800 folded pieces of paper.

    It was when I thought I would try to be Proust in St Peter Port. From 1999-2006 this was actually possible if a shoot-for-the-moon thing.

    Fortunately bees go to windows and to doors – but I do not know what is in that cupboard apart from games and artwork and things which live on desks and reproductions.

    “For many years, I’ve been very aware of the fact that Cinnimin needs a lot of work when it’s finally transcribed, esp. the parts I wrote as a teenager. Even as a teen, from age fifteen on, I knew I’d significantly flesh a lot of things out when I had the luxury of a computer file which could be of any length and wasn’t confined by the parameters of a notebook. I deliberately underwrote many things.”

    Computer files which can be of any length! In my youth there was TeachText/SimpleText/Text Editor which would make files of exactly 32K/8 pages – and this was before we could put the classic Mac stuff on. [eg shadow and outline and strikeout – things publishers may or may not like].

    Didn’t really experience that freedom until the early 2000s – then files could be 5 megabytes [a quarter of a hard disk in IBM days – and something of a horror/anathema to me back in December 1998 when it was all just beginning].

    In the early days of the public Internet, too, files had to have their limits.

    Thinking about the craft and work aspect of the writing – the thing you want to share with the other Insecure Writers and whoever else may come by.

    It has been found that senior secondary students in my state have been forced by the curriculum [the Victorian Essential Learning Standards or AUSVels] to minimise the craft of writing and the teaching and learning of it. This has been going on since at least 2007.

    And when you said you “deliberately underwrote many things” that too struck a big chord. For me, and for the students who are coming in 2020 – and were probably fifteen years old in 2018.

    I imagine lots of people use notebooks for the more technical type of writing like outlines and things.

    Sometimes dreams and knick-knacks and quotes.

    And then expand from the hand to the computer.

    And I know other people do not write with their hands – they write with their mouths and feet and extenders.

    When I underwrite it tends to be more for drama or because of lack of resources [in some instances, my body; in others books or sources].

    That big black computer bag – very secure! And I don’t think anyone would make mischief with such a bag. I used to carry statistical work for three books in a Hallmark bag.

    We writers who want to be sustainable and make work of archival quality – we have a hard road to hoe.

    Twitter; YouTube and Quora seem not to be behaving themselves at least on this IP. I have no desire to go into Tor at this point even for diagnostics.

    Kit being twelve seems fair. I could even see her doing it at seven or eight, myself, and certainly with the kind of peer group she has…

    I can see why you did it for two years rather than one year or even eighteen months. It can be a floating timeline?

    [I am not so strict with dates – only the years and sometimes the seasons. Because the script I talk about in my opening words was a diary – it was meant to go on for a few years – or at least a term in the holidays. It grew beyond my wildest dreams and aspirations; especially in 2002 and 2003 when I had more time].

    [Again it is like with plays – indoors and outdoors and a general sketch of a scene – where; when; why; how. You have the characters moving and motivated].

    The timeshift seems to have worked for Terrick.

    I am thinking today’s 10-year-olds would probably relate a little bit to a 12-year-old.

    Dean McIntosh – screenwriter and speculative fiction author – would always complain about the babification of current culture [and his complaints stretched from the 1990s to today]. He is the author of Spirit and Stone which is told from the perspective of a bear bard like Shardik by Douglas Adams. The Shardik is the last fiction book I have completed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have mice get into our house and garage from time to time. They shredded the inner lining of one of my boots, which taught me not to leave any footwear I like in the garage. Little buggers will use just about anything to line their nests. I’m sure paper would be vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d be worried to death too if I had manuscripts and notes someplace miles away and mice or rats, or any other critter for that matter broke in. I’m glad your documents were okay.

    Sounds like you have some neat classic films coming up in your posts. I’m a big viewer of vintage films especially in the horror and sci fi genres. I’m looking forward to seeing more posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad your notebooks are safe! I have a box of notebooks, too, and I’d be devastated if they were destroyed (even though they have been transcribed onto a computer document).


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