Here we have the second half of what April learned while researching her upcoming nonfiction work: Folsom’s 93.
Rockin’ it old school
As much as I love the convenience of internet research, nothing compares to having a desk full of old documents, letters and photographs in front of me. I spent a couple of weeks at the state archives in Sacramento over the course of two trips and nothing brings out the history nerd in me more than going through boxes of documents. It also adds so much to your writing—you can describe your experience. I held hand-written letters from condemned men; their last correspondence before facing the noose. I sifted through telegrams and transcripts that told me more than any newspaper article or book ever could. Take those personal experiences and incorporate them as much as possible into your writing—they will make for a richer and more dynamic story. Depending on what you need, contact a state’s archive department or library. Many records are public knowledge and are just waiting for you to discover them.
Schedule a field trip
Field trips aren’t just for kids; they’re for writers, too. How else will you be able to get an accurate account of the scene, atmosphere, and surroundings? My second trip to Sacramento led me to a tour of Folsom prison and even though the book spans 1895 to 1937, seeing the prison and getting a lay of the land was critical. Investing in a field trip is truly that: an investment that will pay you back two-fold. It adds a new perspective to your writing and shows you are a professional and serious about what you’re writing.