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: 401
- Edited: 264
- Difference: 137
Chapter 01 continued
“Yes,” Jessica said, raising her head to see a large woman leaning over the glass counter looking into the display case.
“I’m lookin’ for a camera.”
“What kind were you looking for?”
“Just a simple one. It’s for my daughter for Easter. She’s ten. She loves taking pictures.”
“Well, we have the M-160 here. It’s totally automatic and even loads your film for you.”
“How much is it?”
“One hundred and forty-nine, ninety-nine, but you get the case and batteries with it.”
“I was looking for something cheaper. It is for my daughter.”
“We have the G-55. It is basically the same camera except you have to load the film, advance to the next frame and the focus is fixed.”
“How much?” [We don’t get a sense of how the woman is feeling. The dialogue gives us only so much, so I added a few details.]
“Sixty-nine, ninety-nine and that, too, includes the case and batteries.”
“Is that your cheapest?”
Jessica looked over the showcase. “Yes, that is our cheapest camera.” [Lovely (hear the sarcasm), wordy dialogue. I must have felt as if I had to answer in full sentences: “Is that your cheapest?” – “Yes, that is our cheapest camera.” In reality, this exchange is much shorter.]
“You don’t sell disc cameras?” [Do you remember these cameras? They were the worst for picture quality, worse than a 110.]
“No, just 35mm.”
“Okay, thank you.” The lady turned on her heals and left.
“What a size, eh? I bet she has good shocks on her dump truck.” Mike joked as he rolled up the final negative to be printed.
“Hey, I was once that size.”
“Yeah, well then show me those stretch marks.” Mike grabbed Jessica’s smock and pulled it up. “Wow! Grand canyons!” he exclaimed.
“Mike!” she cried, pulling her smock from his hand. “I’m shy about my canyons!” She grinned and smacked his shoulder. “You don’t sell disc cameras?” Jessica mocked the customer. “Why don’t you give your kid coloured pencils. I’m sure she could draw a better quality picture. I can see it now, everyone and their cellar monster will be out today. And I’m working with one of those monsters tonight.” [All this is just filler, and it doesn’t advance the plot at all. It only slows down the story.]
“Ah, quit complaining. Things could be worse. I don’t know how, but they could be.” Mike smirked.
“You’re a lot of help. You’re leaving me in this mess. I don’t like you anymore.”
“Good. Can you cut these negatives for me and I’ll trim the prints.”
Jessica took the negatives after slipping a protective white cotton glove on her right hand. She fed the negative into the cutter and sliced off four sections that automatically slipped into the negative sleeves. After several cuts, a section jammed. She cursed under her breath, pulling off the roll bar to repair the machine.
“Doesn’t anything around here work properly?”
Jessica found a woman leaning on the glass counter staring into the display case on the wall. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for a camera.”
“A simple one for my daughter. She’s ten and loves taking pictures.”
“We have the M-160.” Jessica pointed to the black pocket camera. “It’s totally automatic. It even loads the film.”
“One-fifty. It comes with a case and batteries.”
“I was looking for something cheaper.” She frowned. “It is for my daughter.”
“We have the G-55. It’s basically the same camera except the film is loaded and advanced manually, and the focus is fixed.”
“Seventy. That includes the case and batteries.”
“Is that your cheapest?” The woman had permanent scowl marks around her mouth as if she seldom smiled.
“Yes, it is.”
“You don’t sell disc cameras?”
“No, only 35mm.”
“Fine.” The woman turned and left.
“There goes a happy camper,” said Mike as he rolled up a negative.
“I wouldn’t want her in my trailer park.”
“A gated community. Now there’s a way to keep out the riff-raft.” He handed her the negatives. “Can you cut these for me, and I’ll trim the prints.”
Jessica slipped on a protective cotton glove and took the negatives. She fed the long strip into the cutter and sliced off four frames. A roller automatically shot the severed end into the negative sleeve. Two cuts in and the machine jammed. She cursed under her breath and removed the roll bar to repair it. “Doesn’t anything around here work properly?”
…until next Saturday.