Fortunately we writers rewrite. A lot. Otherwise readers would have to consume the drivel we spew out in our early drafts. As an example, here is an early draft from the work that eventually became “The Confederate Cavalryman’s Saber.”
The Cavalryman’s Saber
Delivering a sword to an eccentric grandmother makes for an interesting day. Of course I’ve only done it once in my two years as a delivery driver. It turns out that express air regulations are rather stringent on the transport of weapons, and while it’s not a surface to air missile, a sword, or more accurately a cavalry saber, is still a weapon, and still requires a mountain of paperwork. I hate paperwork.
I parked my old van in front of Granny’s shop, just like always. Over the past two years I’ve delivered many oddities to her—rare herbs, poisonous frogs, Japanese pottery—almost all of which required special paperwork. It is good that Granny was the recipient of all this stuff rather than the shipper, as I doubt she could do all the paperwork. She does not have a computer; she doesn’t even have a phone. Not that this is all that incongruous with her shop, which looks like it has not been swept in 12 years. Perhaps this explains why I have never seen a customer there.
Compare this to the published opening:
The Cavalryman’s Saber
Turquoise frogs, Japanese earthenware, and today an antique sword—all items I’ve delivered to an eccentric grandmother. She was a regular customer and I didn’t ask questions. With the economy in tatters and my skin being the wrong color, I was glad to have a job, and it was hard not to like Granny Hooper.
She stared for a full minute at the oblong package before she ambled, with spryness that belied her age, into the back of her shop to fetch a pen. I’d given up on convincing her to sign electronically. She doesn’t do technology; hell she doesn’t even own a phone. Not that this was incongruous with her shop, which sold potions, artifacts, rare herbs and even vials of blood. Her clientele was stranger still: I’ve seen a foxy blonde with a war axe and a green-skinned dude, three feet tall, max.
“Everything okay?” I asked, as she signed all eight pages. A sword wasn’t a surface-to-air missile, but it was still classified as a weapon for international shipping.
Which do you like better?