A Personal Comparison Between Then and Now

Everything changes over time, that much is certain, but how much? Let’s find out.

Then:

After about 20 minutes she reached the top. She walked over to where here telescope sat and began to search an area to the south-west of the city. Nothing. Whatever, had been out there was gone now. Either it had been moved by someone, or something as was more likely, or it had been covered by the shifting sands of the desert.

It was already beginning to get dark so she hurried down the stairs to her jeep. She drove about a block to where there was a building whose front had been blown off. She parked the jeep inside the building and walked across the street to where her house was. It was a small house, consisting of two rooms. The living room in the front opened into a small kitchen area. A door on one side of the living room led to the bathroom.

It wasn’t much, but it was home. She sat down her bags in the coffee table in the living room and then walked into the kitchen to get something to eat. The cabinets held a wide variety of canned foods, all of which tasted basically the same. She chose a can of corn and then as an after thought grabbed a box of dehydrated potatoes.

There had definitely been something out there, of that she was sure. She had clearly seen sunlight glinting off of something metallic out in the desert, but what it was and where it had gone were a mystery. She got up and turned on the radio. Most of the news was the same as everyday, which was to say just about nothing interesting, but there was one story in particular that got here attention.

A Martian cargo ship was schedules to land at the Dallas Spaceport. Martian ships didn’t come to Earth very often, but when they did, they paid high price for anything dug up out of the ruins. Kara got and marked the date of the ship’s landing on her calendar. She hadn’t been making much money recently, but she had been saving a few things and now would be a good chance to get some money for more supplies. She switched off the radio, put up what was left of the food, and promptly went to sleep.  

————————–

That’s right, bask in the shame of it all. There’s certainly enough of my personal shame present in these five paragraphs for everyone to suitably wallow in. In a word…it’s bad. Very bad. This was something I wrote about 8 years ago. I wasn’t being particularly serious back then, but I was trying. It wasn’t fanfiction, so that was something that I could feel a small measure of pride about. That’s about the only thing I can feel pride about. It was a start, a beginning. Not the first thing I’d ever tried to write, but the first stab at doing an actual story with chapters and a plot that extended beyond a few events tossed together in a blender and then spilled out on the carpet.

Stiff writing, repetition, and way, WAY too much passive voice going on here. Some of those sentences are rather convoluted, as well, in part because of lackluster use of commas. I still get tripped up by commas. How do they work? I don’t understand! But it was far worse here. Missing words, too. Misspelled words. Sloppy. Some of that did eventually get fixed over the course of the next few years, but not enough of it. The Martian Empire trilogy is best left as an object lesson and no more.

Now:

Kalis shifted his pack, relieving one shoulder at the expense of the other, and then came down from the outcropping, moving slowly along the exposed rock. It was well into the afternoon when he reached the village. By then, the inhabits had come out of their shelters and were milling about, seeming uncertain as to what they ought to be doing. Many of them cast sidelong glances in his direction, others ignored him entirely. None spoke. The creak of a wooden sign, painted in garish colors, drew him towards what roughly approximated the center of the rude village.

A large tent had been set up there and the sign informed weary travelers, through crudely-drawn pictures, that food and drink might be purchased within. Kalis expected nothing beyond the bare essentials and was not surprised to find that the merchant’s supply consisted mainly of dried camel flesh and stale rainwater, collected when and where it could and then stored in large, wooden barrels.

The merchant himself, a tired-eyed man moving past his prime, accepted a few small copper coins in exchange for refilling Kalis’s canteens. Kalis asked his usual questions, but the merchant barely seemed to hear. Even the prospect of payment couldn’t roust his interest. The merchant didn’t know, didn’t care. The canteens returned to the pack and Kalis left.

A gaggle of children, laughing now that the storm was over and gone, ran past him. One child carried a brightly-colored bit of paper with a long, thin string attached and the others chased. They were carefree, unworried by storms or desert sun. A faint gust of wind tugged gently at Kalis’s long cloak and then caught the colored paper, pulling it high up into the air. The children laughed all the harder and the one child struggled to control his drunken bird as it bobbed and weaved. Soon enough it came crashing to the ground as the wind subsided, but the children did not mind. They retrieved their paper bird and continued on towards the other side of the village, full of energy. How many years now since Kalis had laughed as those children laughed?

But the sun would not wait for him to reminisce of better days. Kalis left the little village behind and traveled deeper into the desert. By his reckoning, he was less than twelve leagues from Sirtan, one of the desert’s few cities. He hoped to find some information there, but Sirtan, like the other cities he’d already visited in the past year, would likely yield a similar result. And he would be left to wander further, deeper into the desert, deeper into that sun-blighted wasteland. How many more days? How many more weeks? How many more months? The answers he sought could come tomorrow or never.

————————–

Much better, no? Years of writing will do that. More variety on sentence structure, less of all that passive voice nonsense, better descriptors, less mistakes. Those lines are probably about a year old, written during a second attempt at writing a storyline I had in my head. The first? Went far afield, I’m afraid. Poor story choices doomed it to a swift death. Best forgotten, as well. But I get better and I get better because I keep writing. Right now we’re looking at seven years of progress, of making attempts and failing spectacularly. Each failure was a lesson learned, each success was a mountain climbed. I wish it could all have come easier, but it never does. You work and work and work and eventually you get there.

Have I finally reached that magical nirvana where every sentence I spit out is solid gold? No. Far from it, in fact. My writing is still too stiff, still too plain, still too filled with mistakes. I still want to get better. So I keep writing.

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Filed under Between Sand and Sky, Fantasy, Science Fiction, The Martian Empire Trilogy, Writing

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