I stumbled upon this blog last night–quite accidentally, I assure you. I like to read my old writing the way other people like to remember their days in Middle School. My plan was to scrap this blog and start fresh, creating a platform for myself and my fiction.
But then I remembered how I felt four years ago about my writing. And I want to promise any young(er) writers reading this: no matter how good (or bad) you think you are, it gets better.
When I started this blog I was ending my Sophomore year in High School. As of writing this post now I am in the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of college.
Even at the end of my Sophomore year (of High School), I thought I was a fantastic writer. Looking back, I could describe well, but I lacked a fundamental understanding of a three act structure and how it pertains to short fiction. Plus, as is the case with all art, my prose got better, too.
Take, for example, the following excerpt from Terror in the Night that I put up here four years ago. It would later be revised and go on to become Scars (full text coming, for comparison) and try not to cringe.
Terror in the Night:
The driver exited his car to see a woman with elegant curves throughout her body. She stood tall, displaying her perfect hourglass figure. Her hair was jet black and smooth and draped down at her shoulders. She had a small leather jacket on which gave her the appearance of a biker chick.
“You shouldn’t be here, Ro.” the woman growled in an animal bellow. “Kajar will be here soon….there are only the two of you left.” Her voice grew sweet as honey. “You know what THAT means….”
“I know, Lady.” Ro told her. “and I can handle myself.”
“Very well.” Lady replied sarcastically. In a cloud of brimstone the ancient tome appeared in her hand along with a feathered pen. “I shall record the battle…the victor shall receive the prize…”
In a split second, a second man arrived in a cloud of smoke, which rose from his body. His smile was awful and wicked. He wore tight jeans with a skintight black shirt. His curly hair drooped down just below his neck.
“Are you ready, Ro?” the new man asked.
At that point, the two began circling each other…like prey preparing to pounce on their quarry.
“as ready as I’ll ever be, Kajar.” Ro replied.
Both men began to change, morphing into a different shape…their clothes torn and skin draped limply on their bones. Their very flesh fell to the ground like pieces of cloth, revealing thick layers of fur underneath.
They had completed their transformations into wolves!
Both let out ear splitting howls in unison.
Now compare it to the version written four years later, where that exact same thing happens.
Lady appeared in front of Kajar in a burst of fire, “Five minutes to the witching hour.”
Kajar smiled. “Good.”
Ro’s hand grasped the top of mountain ridge. With a final grunt he pulled himself up.
“And here is Ro.” Lady said.
The opponents stood opposite each other, staring at the enemy they had waited millennia to kill.
“I’d like to congratulate both of you on your journey.” Lady was a fine mist, weaving her way between the two, in a figure eight. “You’ve both trained hard for this. And the final battle is here.”
Lady disappeared in a blaze of fire, leaving behind a lingering smell of brimstone.
“For all my training, I expect a challenge,” Ro said, addressing both Kajar and Lady.
“Rest assured, you’ll get one,” Kajar said.
The two looked up in the sky. The hazy clouds parted to reveal a full moon. Off in the distance, the church bells struck twelve.
“The witching hour…” Kajar said.
Hair sprouted from underneath their skin. Their flesh was rent, falling to the floor like a snake shedding its skin. Their jaws and noses sprouted forward and their spines realigned. The killers let out a mutual cry of pain. Their entire anatomy was rewritten. When their skin shed fully, it revealed their inner beast. Two wolves circled each other. Where Kajar had snow white fur with gray spots, Ro was completely black.
The two howled.
Even prose can change in four years. But I’d like to urge younger writers not to force such changes. Let them occur naturally as you find your voice.
Speaking of voice, I’ve heard many people tell younger writers “You don’t know what your voice is yet.” In other words, “You haven’t developed your own unique style of wordsmithing.
However, I’d like to posit that neither have any of the people who tell young writers that. Sure, they’ve had more time to hone their craft and get better, but finding your own way of writing is a lifelong discovery. So don’t let people telling you you’re still finding your voice dissuade you, because so are they. But time is time. They just happened to have more of it by way of being older. Like Neil Gaiman once said, “You don’t start to sound like yourself until you’ve sounded like a lot of other people, and that’s not a bad thing.”
On a final note, I’m going to juxtapose worldbuilding, considering these days I write mostly fantasy and/or historical fiction. However in most cases of genre writing, some level of worldbuilding is required. I used to be in the camp of “I’m making up my own world. I don’t need to do research.” But then I discovered that the medieval longsword weighed closer to three pounds than fifty…
Long story short, I will give you a link to Secrets of the woodlands. and ask that you ignore the improper capitalization in the title and the period at the end there. Give it a read. Or at least, as much as you can. Feel free to let me know how well I did with worldbuilding, creating mood, setting, establishing the facts of this Universe, and then get back to me. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Are we all caught up? Good? Now contrast those 822 words with these 839 words:
In my experience, when you smash a sacred relic over a man’s head, he usually has the decency to fall over. But sometimes you underestimate the strength of a man’s helmet.
He turned to face me, but by the time he freed his sword from his scabbard, I’d rounded the path winding down from the tent he guarded. I counted myself lucky he was too dazed to call for help.
To be clear, I did have a sword, but my swordsmanship can be described as mediocre if you’re being generous, and I wasn’t about to engage someone whose fighting prowess I’d never even seen. Not only that, but it’s horribly dangerous to run full sprint with a sword in hand.
Thankfully, I can always count on my friends. Okay, friend. Singular.
I heard the guard’s muffled scream and turned around to see that Orym had one hand on his mouth. He’d pressed the back of the guard’s head against his chest as he unsheathed his own blade and cut the man’s throat.
The guard hit the grass like a sack of flour, staining it a ghastly red. Orym looked from the body to me. “You’re a coward, Azoc.”
“That may be so,” I told Orym, “But look where this man’s bravery led him.” I kicked the corpse as my feet, careful not to bruise my toe on his helmet. “We tried it your way. Now it’s my turn.”
“Yours is the way of cowards,” Orym muttered.
“And yours is the way of fools,” I countered. “Come now, my friend. We didn’t come to the highlands for nothing. We have a witch to visit.”
We returned to the tent by way of mountain pass. Orym and I had been to seven of the Eight Cities if Nyn to seek a cure for our curse. To date, nothing had helped.
Orym held the deerskin tent flap high and I glimpsed a hag bent over a brazier. “After you,” I insisted.
Orym entered, shaking his head. I followed, seeking only to stare at his back. But as he drew upon the Witch he stepped aside. I could’ve sworn it was to make me look upon her garish visage.
The gray fumes of her brazier misted up, weaving in and out of the tangles of black hair spilt over the sides of her head. Her face was both wrinkled, yet at the same time each feature stood sharp as a knife. What little teeth she had left poked through her gums like brown tree stumps.
I cleared my throat.
“What do you seek?” She did not look up, and I’d never heard such an absence of emotion in an exclamation so loud. “You’re mistaken, it’s my friend here who does the seeking, not I.” Orym scowled at that. “We’ve been through nearly all the Eight Cities of Nyn. We seek—tell her, Orym.”
“We seek a cure for our affliction—” her next sound made even Orym pale. He snatched a fistful of my cloak, as if anticipating my next move.
The Witch sucked in a breath of air between her teeth, though it sounded more a death-rattle. Her eyelids fluttered, showing two white lines. “The taint of the White Wizard is in each of you. One half of the same spell. How can this be so?”
Orym spoke. “We killed him as he cast his final spell.”
I waited for her to say something, yet the hag stood there statue-still. The only sign she even lived was the hiss of her breath, as if breathing in the brazier fumes. Orym’s hold rose to the back of my neck. “Do not run.”
“Me? Run? Never.”
“And the coward’s tale?” The hag asked.
“My tale? Ah, I see. My tale. Well, it was a glorious battle for both Icelanders and Midlanders. I made my way quickly through the ranks—” This was not, strictly speaking, a lie. What I didn’t mention was that my move through the enemy was more of a sprint than a glorious battle. “—I was the first of the Midlanders to reach the castle, and like my friend here I sought the White Wizard.” Another lie, this time wrapped up in a truth. While I hoped I might take him by surprise and win a bit of glory and land and all that that implies, my foremost concern was finding a place to hide until the massacre was over. “I had the misfortune of coming upon the White Wizard as he was preparing his death-cast for my friend here.” I neglected to mention his back was to me. “In the strangest of odds, we both struck a killing blow at the same time, and one half of his final curse latched onto both of us.”
The Witch finished for me. “And you want me to drag the curse out of you?”
“Yes,” we said at once, and I added, “We’ve traveled half the world with not one sorcerer who can do it. We thought you might like the prestige of such a feat.”
Your writing will get better. You will get better. Keep writing, my friends, and watch your craft grow. I promise, four years isn’t as long as it seems (Scars was written a few years ago, albeit with multiple revisions since then).
As soon as I hit publish on this, I’ll be putting the full text of Scars up for anyone who wants to compare or contrast that with Terror in the Night.