It’s Getting Silly Around Here & Revision Tip 23

The Creature With Fangs Elfed yesterday.

My Beloved Husband Elfed yesterday.

Queen Louise Elfed yesterday.

And I did, too.

A most merry time, indeed!

Revision Tip #23

I rarely have the image systems of my books in mind when I start writing. But by the end of the first or second draft, some image (symbol for Eng lit majors) has cropped up and I realize that I can riff on that symbol throughout the book to tell the larger story. In a subtle way, I hope.

In SPEAK, it was the image of the tree. There was only one mention of it in the early drafts. When I realized the power of it, I wrote in all the art class scenes, and made the tree into a year-long project for her.

WINTERGIRLS was interesting. The first paragraph of the first draft of the book was this:

"The crows stalk me, wings folded neatly behind them, hungry yellow weighing my soft spots. They circle around me once, twice, three times, claws scarring the stone floor of the church.

I curl up on the frozen altar. They flutter close, black feathers filling my mouth and eyes and ears."

I really don’t know where that came from; I just wrote it down, plus a bunch of other stuff. The reference to the "frozen altar" is what got me thinking about ancient religions and mythology, which in turn led me to ponder if there was a mythological story within Lia’s story. Ofcourse there was: the story of Persephone. That became a central image system for the book, with references to pomegranate seeds and the death that is winter, along with mother/goddess figure at her wits end, trying to pull her daughter back from the grasp of hell.

(For the record – that opening paragraph wound up migrating to page 264. It fits much better there.)

Is there a small detail in your draft that could be expanded into a central image system?

5 Replies to “It’s Getting Silly Around Here & Revision Tip 23”

  1. I loved reading the original opening paragraph for “Wintergirls.” Thank you for sharing! Thank you, too, for the many, many helpful entries on revision. Merry Christmas to you and your family! Jeni

  2. Thanks so much for these revision tips on your blog. I *LOVED* your book “Speak” and got 2 more as Christmas gifts this year. Reading about your process helps on the road to hopeful publication 🙂


  3. Speaking Volumes

    I teach middle school English, and I just wanted to pass along the power of that central image to a story (and let you know that yes, the kids out there get it!!). The assignment: a book club (group) project to present a novel to the class using reader’s theater. The group: an interesting mix of eighth-grade girls with the courage to choose Speak as their interpretive text. The results: an amazing performance that handled a very delicate topic in a creative way without minimizing the impact of the story presented to an sometimes-less-than-mature group of boys (and girls). The audience sat rapt, and we even followed the performance with a meaningful dialogue about the story. The girls used signs and visors with names to switch characters. I loved the “thought bubble” character who told what was going on inside Melinda’s head, but the most amazing thing to me was the tree–one of the girls actually played the tree, and she followed Melinda everywhere she went during the performance. I guess when kids cease to amaze me, I will have to find something else to do…Thanks for writing such inspirational work, Julie Fitz.

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