I almost didn’t write this post because it sounds a little…well…self-congratulatory (like, wow! Look at what a good writer I am now compared to then!), but I would have to be lying if I told myself that I still wrote as miserably as I did ten years ago. So, today, I am going to share pieces of one of the first stories I ever scribbled out with the intent to sell.
And guess what? It’s awful.
The story is about an United States astronaut that goes to retrieve an important piece of Chinese technology on the moon before China decides to nuke the United States because…I actually have no idea why. It’s vaguely patriotic and quite possibly xenophobic, but, as you will see with a lot of my writing from my early years—I was an idiot kid who understood nothing and who sucked.
Anyway, here we go.
Examining “Retrieving the Item” by Joshua Sampson (I’m sorry)
Here is the first line of the story:
The cave was still trembling from the quake that had collapsed the cavern.
Oh, it’s worse than I thought.
Rocks from the ceiling were spiked into the ground, and dust settled in the air. A few bodies lay on the floor around the protruding stones. One of those bodies belonged to Sargent Mills whose helmet was broken open—his face black and frozen from space exposure. The glass around his helmet was a smashed picture, it extended sharply outward. Astronaut John Chamber lay nearby, stirring slowly.
It’s all very literal description and definitely clumsy. There’s a few pieces of beautifully written dialogue as well:
“Did… you get it, John? Please….. tell me you have it…” The captain said, gasping as blood trickled down his face.
I think one of those pauses uses like 37 dots. It’s crazy. I also enjoy this line from the dying captain:
“Then go…you fool!” He said huffing. “We have…limited time,” and then he went silent.
I like to imagine it was some dying character from an 80s B-movie. We have……………………………….limited time (I think that’s 37 dots). Later in the story, the character of Buck Rogers—er—I mean John Chamber, decides to head to the surface with the device to save the Earth. He thinks briefly:
Forget it, he thought, I have to save my parents,and the rest of my family. My girl.
That ill-placed space was in there when I found it. It’s truly astounding character development. He loves his country, his parents, his family, his planet, AND his girl.
I guess I wrote this post today to let you all know that it’s okay to look back at your old writing even if it’s embarrassing and somewhat shameful, because things often look different from the future. For instance: writers and their writing change. I used to mostly write fiction for shady magazines, but now I just write nonfiction for this blog. I once wrote hilariously bad dialogue and now, well, I don’t even write dialogue (and that’s probably good for everybody).
So, if you have some old writing lying around, go back and revisit it for a good laugh…and maybe a lesson or two (that was only three dots).