Editing a Western Romance Novel “Dust, Unsettled” 04

Dust, UnsettledThis 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: 405
  • Edited: 275
  • Difference: 130

Dust, Unsettled

Chapter 01 continued

Original Story

Cover playing 01“Come here, Jess. You’ve got to see these.” Mike chuckled as he searched through the pictures he had printed.

“What?” Jessica leaned over his shoulder to see the pictures. “Mike, that’s disgusting.”

In the photo a man straddled a woman’s lap while she sat on the toilet. His pants were up, but her pants fell around her ankles. [This is what Jessica is looking at, so she (we) needs to see it before she comments. Also, the are a lot of filler words her that can be removed with a little phrase rearrangement.]

“Just a minute there’s others,” Mike insisted [Replaced this with ‘said’. I love invisible ‘said’.]. “Look.” He held up a photo where three people were [This passive ‘were’ is easily removed.] covered with a white foamy substance as others held beer bottles above their heads. “Some party, eh?” [There’s no transition from this paragraph to the next, so I added one.]

“Hello.” Jessica greeted the customer as he entered the store.

“Hi, how are you?” The customer copied the opening many others used when they met someone. [Needless information.] “Can I get this back today?”

“Sure,” Jessica answered as her head turned to the clock on the wall. “Would an hour and a half be okay? We’re a little busy this morning.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Can I get doubles?”

“Sure.” She pulled out a one-hour envelope. “Can I have your last name, please?”

“Campbell. C-A-M-P-B-E-L-L.”

Jessica glanced at the man. “Yeah,” she replied. She knew how to spell the name. Did she look that stupid? “And your phone number?” The customer provided the remaining information and then she said, “Would 12:30 be okay?”

“Yeah, I probably won’t be back until tonight.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll have it ready and waiting for you.” [Unnecessary chatter.]

“Thanks,” the man said and left the store.

“I wonder if he’s related to Carrie?” Jessica smiled as she stood in the archway to load the film. “I can’t believe this day. I guess I can look on the bright side. I only have to work with her until 5:30.”

Mike chuckled.


“Rachel really pulled a fast one on you. She was supposed to work ‘til close today.”

Mike, you better be joking.”

“Check the schedule.”

Jessica finished with the film and headed for the employee schedule board.


Mike shook his head and kept printing the negative.

“Why do they do this to me? Do I have ‘sucker’ written on my forehead or something?”

“Come a little closer. Yup, it’s in small print, but it’s there.”

Mike,” Jessica half shouted and wrapped her hands around his neck. She shook him in fun, then rested her forehead on the top of his head. “If you don’t see me next week, you’ll know where I’ll be.”

“The mental hospital and I promise, I will visit.”

Edited Story

He went to the print dispenser, shuffled through the freshly printed photographs and chuckled. “You’ve got to see these.”

“What?” Jessica leant over his shoulder. The naked man in the photo straddled a woman sitting on a toilet. “Mike, that’s disgusting.”

“Wait, there’s more.” He held up a photo of three people covered with white foam and beer bottles stuck in their folded arms. “Some party, eh?”

“Not one I’d attend.” She watched a customer enter the store. “Good morning.”

“Hello.” He placed two rolls of film on the counter. “Can I get these back today?”

“Sure.” She glanced at the clock on the wall. “Is an hour and a half okay?”

“That’s fine. Can I get doubles?”

“Sure.” She selected a one-hour envelope from the nearby box. “Can I have your last name?”

Erase your memories“Campbell. C-A-M-P-B-E-L-L.”

Jessica frowned; she knew how to spell it. “And your phone number?” The customer provided the remaining information. “They’ll be ready by twelve-thirty.”

“Thanks,” he said and left the store.

“I wonder if he’s related to Carrie?” said Jessica as she loaded the film. “It’s going to be one of those days. At least it ends at five-thirty.”

Mike chuckled.


“Rachel pulled a fast one on you. She was scheduled to work ‘til close.”

“You’re joking.”

“Check the schedule.”

Jessica marched to the bulletin board. “Damn! Do I have sucker written on my forehead?”

“Come a little closer. Yup, it’s in small print, but it’s there.”

She glared at him. Eight full hours working with Carrie would be torture. “If you don’t see me next week, you’ll know where I’ll be.”

“The mental hospital. I promise, I’ll visit.”

NOTE: I dropped 130 words. Most were unnecessary, just filler that slowed the story. I also used the characters’ names fourteen times. This section isn’t that long, and it’s only the two of them. I think readers will be able to know who is doing and saying what without stating it. I reduced the official name count to six. In the next edit, this may drop further.

…until next Saturday.

8 thoughts on “Editing a Western Romance Novel “Dust, Unsettled” 04

  1. I agree with you about the names in dialogue and the he said, she said attributions, especially when there are only two people. Having said that, I like the way you broke up the conservation with a few action paragraphs to keep the reader on track as to who is talking. I’ve seen the occasional book that has had a long string of unattributed dialogue where I’ve had to go back and do the he said, she said, stuff myself just to figure out who was talking half-way down the page. Nothing slows a story down more than doing that.


    • I’ve been in that place, scanning back through long dialogue with no tags to see who is speaking. It definitely slows the reading.

      When I do quick exchanges between two people, they only go about five to seven lines before I throw in something to identify the character. I don’t like tracking a speaker, so I imagine other readers don’t like doing it either.

      Thanks for visiting, Art, and for leaving a comment.


  2. Using the names too often is one of my hang-ups too. I’ll start out thinking I need to make sure the reader knows who is who. When editing, I realize that at least half of it isn’t necessary.

    Your edit reads much clearer.


    • I think many writers do this in the first draft. It’s okay there. It clearly tells the writer who is speaking. It’s easy to weed them out later.

      Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment.


    • Darlene, as of this time, I will keep it in the 80s. You’re right; people enjoy stories set in the past, whether that be 100 years ago or 30 years ago. Thank you for suggesting that I do.


        • I agree. To be honest, I had forgotten a lot of what I did in the lab; it was long ago. Reading this novel reminded me of things, such as the black box. It was a light-sealed box with two holes with shirt-like sleeves for our hands. We’d put our hands in, the material would wrap around our arms (there were elastic in material) and we would break open the film canister and place it in a loading canister. We did this all by feel.

          The tricky part was there were two things inside the film canister: the negative and a thin strip of paper. You had to know the different between the two just by touch. I remember one day an employee who had worked there for about two months was working in this box. When he opened it, I was standing near by and almost died when I saw the negative sitting in the light, completely exposed. He had loaded the paper into the canister instead. The film was lost.


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