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: 407
- Edited: 351
- Difference: 56
Chapter 01 continued
Jessica pulled into the first empty spot, turned off the engine and waited for “The Hanging Tree” to finish. She shook her head as she watched a lady carrying a Barbie camper under her arm and the man beside her pushing a mountain bike. No doubt these were Easter gifts. Jessica remembered a time when she was happy to receive a one pound chocolate bunny and a kite to fly, but those days were long gone.
The song finished and Jessica pulled the key from the ignition and stepped outside. She made her way through the mall, side stepping the many shoppers rushing by looking for Easter bargains. The store windows were decorated in bright spring colours, bunnies and eggs. She rolled her eyes as she watched a line of kids follow the Easter Bunny down the bunny trail. She knew they were headed for the Easter display at the end of the mall where pictures where taken with the bunny for a mere three dollars and fifty cents.
Jessica smiled at the lady behind the counter as she passed the frozen yoghurt shop. She looked into the next store and saw her friend leaning over a computer game, letting her pass unnoticed. The next store was Eastern Camera, where Jessica had worked for almost a year and a half. She held an assistant manager/lab manager position, but basically performed the same tasks as everyone else.
A young suited man at the counter busily filled out envelopes for the customer in front of him. The dark head rose for a moment to acknowledge Jessica’s arrival, then returned to work. She continued to the back of the store and removed her spring jacket and sneakers to replace them with a white smock and a pair of black shoes.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Mike had finished with the customer and stood in the archway to load the film into the negative processing machine. [As I mentioned in the last Dust, Unsettled post, this story takes place in 1980s, when processing machines were the norm. I’m not sure if I will update the story to 2016. If so, these machines will be history.]
“Didn’t Rachel call you?” Jessica asked as she tied her shoe.
“No.” Mike flipped the film and leader over in his hand and fed it into the machine. [Mike owns this paragraph and the next one. They are short, so I joined them.]
“Did you want me to print those?” Mike offered. [I see I kept forgetting his name and needed to use it in every dialogue tag. Don’t do that. It insults the reader’s intelligence, especially if there are only two people talking, and if they are the opposite sex. He said, she said will do, and only every three or four lines unless they are doing something important.]
“Yeah, you might as well. I’ll be stuck behind this machine enough after you leave, you little scum bucket.” Jessica smiled as she flicked Mike’s cross-shaped earring. From many long winter nights of working together, she had become comfortable enough to talk and joke freely with him.
NOTE: I have always been fascinated with photography. I received my first camera when I was eleven. I took a lot of pictures and read several books and magazines on the subject. By the time I was sixteen, I had already made my own box camera and developed film in the washroom. Although I learned a lot through self-teaching, I was fortunately to have a professional photographer mentor who exposed (pun intended) me to more than I thought possible at that young age (thanks, Dave Middleton, wherever you are). It wasn’t too long before I was working in a lab, mixing chemicals, developing negatives and printing film. To say I was a photography nerd was an understatement.
Jessica drove into the first empty parking spot. A woman walked by carrying a Barbie camper under her arm, followed by a man pushing a mountain bike. Jessica frowned at the Easter gifts. She remembered a time when kids were happy to receive a chocolate bunny and a new kite, but those days were long gone.
She exited the truck and entered the mall, side stepping the many shoppers. The brightly coloured store windows were decorated with bunnies, chicks and eggs. She rolled her eyes as she watched a line of kids skipping along with the Easter Bunny down the bunny trail. They headed for the Easter display at the end of the mall where they’d get their pictures taken with the imposter for a small fortune.
Passing the frozen yoghurt shop, she smiled at the lady behind the counter. She looked into the next store and saw her friend leaning over a computer game, letting her pass unnoticed. The next shop—Eastern Camera—was where Jessica had worked for almost two years. She held the assistant manager and lab manager positions.
A young man at the counter was filling out envelopes for a customer. Mike’s dark head rose for a moment to acknowledge Jessica’s arrival, then returned to work. She continued to the back of the store where she removed her spring jacket and sneakers and replaced them with a white smock and black shoes. When she turned, she saw Mike loading film into the negative processing machine.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Didn’t Rachel call you?”
“No.” Mike flipped the film and leader over in his hand and fed it into the machine. “Did you want me to print those?” He pointed to a string of negatives hanging next to the printer.
“Sure. It looks like I’ll be a slave to the machine after you leave. I mean you abandon me.” Jessica smirked as she slapped him on the shoulder playfully. They had bonded from the many long hours of working together the past ten months, and she had grown comfortable enough to joke with him freely.
…until next Saturday.