Jeepers, Writing Is Hard!
And if that title seems cocky and chirpy and chipper?
I am not feeling cocky and chirpy and chipper.
Today was a day of writerly ups [revisions, and rereading, and swelling with emotions–all the feels!–even though I wrote it myself and have been over and over it before] and downs, omg downs [spending hours making very little progress on revisons when I get stuck on word usage–would Persephone have used the word ‘babe in nappies’ in 1811?
Dipping another cloth into the jug, she cleaned his face, ignoring the wild-eyed glare he gave her. He clearly did not take to being treated like a babe in nappies. Of course the thought of babes, cleaning and nappies took her in a direction that brought blazes into her cheeks, not to mention all too much a reminder of why she was there.
Unedited draft, The Dead Shall Live, Volume Two of The Fury Triad
Well, evidently not. Nappies is 20th century. Diapers also wasn’t in use. It seems that the proper term would be…
Babies wore linen clouts, the 18th century form of a thick cloth diaper, which was pinned with straight pins (ouch) or tied with with lacings. The clout was covered by a pilcher, a garment that offered another layer of protection. Today’s pilcher has a plastic lining to prevent urine from leaking through. (Do recall from a previous post, that the 18th century attitude towards urine was different than ours in that urea was regarded as a disinfectant.)
Jane Austen’s World, 18th Century Children
This is kind of interesting since yesterday I wrote about holy wells in Cornwall, where the Cornish word ‘cloutie’ is used not for diapers, but for the bits of cloth and ribbon people tie to trees near holy wells and leave behind to represent their prayers and requests. Clout or cloutie stems from the root word for cloth.
I actually had been fretting over this issue of nappies/diapers/clouts [in the background, one of many words on a long list of words to verify] for months and months. I had eliminated nappies, diapers, etc. but hadn’t found what people in her Persephone’s days would actually call them. Today I–somehow–managed to stumble across the right keywords to google to finally find the above reference. After asking on a couple of writerly websites and getting others involved in the hunt.
This, however, doesn’t in any way solve the problem. Because I am not at all certain that substituting ‘clouts’ for ‘nappies’ will be clear to today’s readers. And there is not sufficent reason to turn it into a ‘learning moment’ because it’s simply not important enough to use a term that trips up readers. I will use terms readers probably don’t know when they are important to the story and worth going to the effort of weaving them in with context and some artful info-dribbles [never, hopefully, to be confused with info-dumps, as I am far more prone to not explaining enough since I don’t want to slow down the story*].
So I spent a lot of time today on what infants in early 19th century England wore on their bums to soak up [evidently disinfecting] urine, and ended up with a term and still no clear decision on whether to use it.
And that was just one quandary.
I emailed a nautical source to find out, when Persephone sinks down to the ‘floor’ of a lower deck on the sailing ship, whether she would be sitting on the deck, or the floor [actually I knew that was wrong or I wouldn’t have been tracking it down], or some other term. I had questions about casks and barrels and other things found on the deck of said ship, and he has graciously continued to answer said questions. I wore out a previous maritime mentor!
These were a couple of the more time-consuming searches, but nowhere near all of the words, phrases, and other details I was tracking down today.
And I didn’t even finish that chapter by the end of the day.
Why do I write about so many freaking things of which I know NOTHING? It makes writing ever so hard. The creative part, the spinning of a yarn, is like magic. The early research gives me wonderful ingredients and my muse goes wild with plot-twisting and Aha! moments and OMG SHE DIDN’T moments and–oh well, my characters never cease to shock and delight me. But then I eventually have to deal with all of these little details, and I always forget–
They are hard to track down. They are hard. At least for me, they are hard. And so freaking time-consuming. I am truly wrapping up The Dead Shall Live–and yet, these little details are killing me.
And I found this image, and had to turn it into…. this.
I ain’t no quitter.
I may bitch and moan, but I will get these last revisions done–with a little help from my friends, my acquaintances, strangers I collar on the street, thesauri, primary sources, anecdotal sources, and sometimes just a blind stab at the donkey’s butt with my eyes closed.
But, I promise.
The Dead Shall Live.
[But seriously, should I use the term clout or just skip it and move on?]