Books: the goose girl
  "I often have to write a hundred pages or more before there's a paragraph that's alive."
Philip Roth

Rewriting the goose girl

When I set out to write the goose girl, I didnít have a strong outline. After 80 pages of rambling (most of which I had to toss), I waited almost a year before returning to it. During that time, I thought a lot about the book, wrote it into a short story just to get intimate with the tale, and started a more detailed outline. Because of my stuttered beginning and because I was still learning my own writing process when it came to novel writing, my first few chapters changed drastically and dramatically by the end.

I estimate that I lugged my way through 30 total drafts of the book, but the first chapter more likely received 50. Nevertheless, from 1st to 50th, I still started the story in the same place—at Aniís birth.

Below you can see how the first paragraph matured through the rewriting process, both as I figured out the story I wanted to tell and the words I needed to tell it.


Draft 3

She was born Talianna-Kiladra Anidori Isilee, Crown Princess, First Daughter and First Spear, Honor of Justwold and Hope of Kildenree, or so it was written by the court scribe and sent out on very thick, expensive paper to all those who ought to know. The birth was hailed as a beginning of a new era for the kingdom. The people were hopeful that the long-threatening civil war was finally snuffed out. The old line of bickering (and often barren) royals had died out with King Turantac five years before. The new royal couple brought stability to the White Stone Palace, security to the small mountain kingdom, and assurance that the peopleís reasonably prosperous lives would continue undisturbed.

Draft 5 or 6

Older children set off noisy bucket bombs and racing streams of fireworks, the colors barely detectable in the bright day. Others brought out cow-hide drums and five-stringed guitars to encourage dancing. Once the music began, it did not take long for street venders to arrive selling spiced apples, pots of roasted nuts and giant paper flowers to hang from doorposts. In Kildenree, the birth of a Crown Princess was easy provocation for a holiday.

Draft 10 or so

She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, crown princess, hope of Justwold and honor of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days. The people reveled in the streets, setting off noisy bucket bombs and danced to flutes and five-string guitars and toasted each other that for the first time in three generations the countryís monarchs had an heir. Others waited below the white stone balcony for the queen, at last, to emerge. She did not bring out the child; even from the beginning, she would keep the girl away from the public. The queen was fair, and that day she wore her yellow hair piled on her head, reminiscent of the sleek height of the coronation crown. She waved beautifully at her people, whose cheers came to her ears like wind in good harvest wheat, and lighting a long string of yellow, blue and purple star-mirrors, she waved and disappeared through the heavy curtains.

Final Draft (around draft 50)

She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.

Return to main goose girl page