Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Pantsing by the Seat of my Write!

Morning, y'all! It's another beautiful day here in the Crescent City. And it makes me so happy to be able to write another WIP Wednesday post! It's been... a million years since my last WIP Wednesday post. I know, I just looked it up.

So I'm closing in on 40K words and the end is in sight! The road is littered with spare prose and talking heads, but that will be a job for draft two. The thing about pantsing, I need to underwrite. Unless I'm struck by a marvelously suitable turn of phrase while I'm typing, I wind up reverting to a lot of short-hand "stage cue" type tags (lots of he says, she says, and people turning around) that are basically placeholders for better writing once I have the plot figured out. I think if I was trying to do both at the same time,  my head would explode!

But yes, it's working pretty well for me, since I'll wind up writing about five hundred words, go back and realize there's been a lot of talking, and then suddenly make something catch fire (not literally. except that once when it was.) and see how the mc is going to react. I've learned a lot about her this way, actually.

Other than that, I solemnly swear that I am only doing research when absolutely necessary at this point. I mean, I did one big glut before I started, but I'm limiting my research to stuff I can't. Write. Without. Knowing. And I'm keeping a list in my notebook of topics I need to research while I'm letting my first draft stew:

electricity, plumbing, etc in poor areas of FQ
prevalence of automobiles
Charity Hospital layout pre 1930s
medical training
segregation in church/public transportation/workforce/theaters/Spanish Fort

The fun thing about my day-job is that I have access to a lot of digital copies of photographs, but to anyone writing a historical novel set in New Orleans, an excellent resource is the Louisiana Digital Library, or, the LOUISdl. Over twenty local institutions, including LSU, LSM and THNOC, contribute to this database, so make this your first stop, not Wikipedia, lol!

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to come across this little beauty:

It's like a blue book, but printed by the madam of the "World-Famous" Mahogany Hall, with pictures and descriptions of all the girls, c.1906. Segregation laws prohibited white prostitutes and prostitutes of color from working in the same building. Mahogany Hall was one of the most famous houses where a (white) man could go to find a prostitute of color—the legendary quadroon and octoroon girls for which New Orleans was so renowned. Part of the reason had to be its location on Basin Street, right on the railroad line. Convenient, non?

I'll leave you with one last image of the girls inside this guidebook, but in my opinion, one of the most interesting things about this book are the period turns of phrase, sayings that seem old and tired now, but at the time were en vogue.

"-Nuff sed." :)


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That catalogue is chilling in retrospect, but perhaps the girls in an establishment like that were treated better than the girls in frontier towns. although I'm guessing they were all expendable.
I love reading about your historical finds. New Orleans has to be one of the most fascinating cities for that.

Tere Kirkland said...

Ah, I didn't want to give too much away about my new story, but you're so right, the girls who worked the District were more or less expendable. That's part of what inspired SKIN.

Fascinating is putting it mildly sometimes! Which is why I love living here. ;)

Thanks for such an insightful comment!

TheLostWitch said...

I used to hate research. Now I LOVE IT. This all sounds so fascinating. GO YOU!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

There are a lot of talking heads going on in my first draft. I definitely have some work ahead of me. :D

Wow, you do have a lot of research to do. I love to do research, but I don't have to do anywhere as much as you.

Krispy said...

I love the bits of research you share when you're writing! It's always so fascinating. I can see why something like this find can inspire a story.

Julie Dao said...

That sounds like an AMAZING resource!! Wow. The topics you have to research are absolutely fascinating. It's fun how much we can learn from delving into the backgrounds/time periods of our stories! Sounds like you're having a productive April and so glad the end is in sight for you - it's such a great feeling!