This is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.
The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.
Word Count Comparison
- Original: 392
- Edited: 235
- Difference: 157
Chapter 01 continued
Jessica turned the key and the engine immediately rolled over. The homemade cassette automatically began to play in the stereo, blasting out Marty Robbins singing “El Paso”. [This is clearly set in the 1980s because of the cassettes used in the vehicle. Once the first edit is completed, I might update it to 2016 and upgrade to CDs.]
She pulled from the driveway and began on the twenty minute drive into the city. Driving almost by instinct, Jessica imagines the cowboy overlooking Rosa’s Cantina in El Paso. The horse below her stumbled as it hit a pot hole and she reminded herself to keep an eye open for the spring holes. Her mind drifted along a dusty road and a tumble weed rolled by. A cowboy approached on a black-spotted horse and stopped before her. She looked into the faceless figure and accepted his reaching hand.
Jessica searched for the source of the blowing horn. A hand at the windshield of a 4-door car across the intersection waved crazily at her. She smiled, returning the gesture. The light turned green and she gave a final wave to Joey as he passed. The smile faded on her face as she thought of him. Many of her friends, including her family, thought Jessica and Joey made a great couple and believed they would eventually marry, but Jessica had other plans. Joey was nice enough, alright and handsome, too. And he had that country spirit she so desired, but her feelings were honest to tell her he was not for her.
A mini-van pulled out in front of her, grey smoke flowing from the muffler. Jessica applied the brakes to avoid rear-ending the woman driver who had a doll’s head stuck out the side window.
“Ugly colour,” she mumbled of the murky green vehicle. Her eyes searched the belly, examining the wheels, springs and axle. The positioning of the axle bothered her the most. She pictured the van travelling over a bumpy dirt road and the axle being hooked upon a sharp rock protruding from the ground. A vehicle like that could never drive where Jessica wanted to go. A bad suspension, she thought. [The two paragraphs describing the ugly minivan had been added to the story as an afterthought. It was written on its own piece of loose leaf and a note was placed in the story to add it. However, my current thought—the same as my first thought when I didn’t originally write it into the story—is that it is unnecessary. Mind you, I still don’t like minivans, and they would get hooked up on the places I like to go on old dirt roads.]
A couple miles more and Jessica turned into the mall parking lot, adding another vehicle to the already backed up traffic.
“Christ, why are there so many people out shopping?” Jessica asked herself. “Oh, yes,” she said sarcastically, “Easter is only a week away! Give me a break, people. This ain’t Christmas. Money. That’s all any holidays are about now.” [Too much whining and complaining about commercialism. Although I might go on like this in real life, it doesn’t belong in a novel.]
Jessica started the engine, and the homemade cassette played Marty Robbins’ El Paso. She pulled from the driveway and began the twenty minute drive into the city. Driving almost by instinct, Jessica imagined the cowboy in the song overlooking Rosa’s Cantina in El Paso. The horse below her stumbled, and she reminded herself to watch for spring pot holes. Her mind drifted along a dusty road and a tumble weed rolled by. A cowboy approached on a black-spotted horse and stopped before her. She looked into the faceless figure and accepted his reaching hand.
Jessica searched for the source of the horn. A hand at the windshield of a car across the intersection waved crazily at her. She smiled and returned the gesture. The light turned green, and she gave Joey a final wave as he passed. The smile faded as she thought of him. Her family and friends thought she and Joey made a great couple and believed they would marry one day. Jessica had other plans. Joey was kind and handsome, and he exhibited the country spirit she desired, but she had to be honest; she didn’t love him with all her heart.
She turned into the mall parking lot and came to abrupt stop behind a line-up of vehicles. The amount of traffic surprised her until she realised the source. “Easter.” Many treated the holiday as if it were Christmas.