Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 11

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.

This story takes place in the late 1980s. I’ve decided to keep it there instead of updating it to 2016.

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: 408

Edited: 335

Difference: 73

Dust, Unsettled

Chapter 03 continued

Original Story

Cover Playing 07“Let’s make a stop at the Pizza Racket.”

“Joey, I want to get home. I’m tired,” Jessica whined, but it was weak for she was hungry, too.

“But I’m starved and it’s on the way,” Joey persisted [Here’s an awesome example of bookism.]. “You can come in ‘n have a piece, if ya like.” He pulled her close as they walked, kissing her cheek.

“Well,” Jessica spoke slowly. She would really love a piece of pizza.

“It’s settled. We’ll get a twelve inch with bacon and pepperoni.” He knew this was her favourite topping, although he preferred more items. [This is borderline POV. This looks a lot like Joey’s POV, and we’re not in his head.]

“Alright. I’ll stay for a piece,” she surrendered, digging for her keys.

“Great. Can I drive?” Joey reached for the keys.

“No way,” she pulled her keys from his reach.

Joey forced her against the driver’s door, holding her arms. He laughed as he tried to control her struggling.

“Joey, you’re hurting me!” Jessica shouted.

“Well, stop fightin’. All I want is a kiss.”

She stopped, looking up at him. Joey leant forward and kissed her, releasing his hold. As they parted, she looked away at the half-lit empty parking lot.

“See, that didn’t hurt,” Joey whispered in her ear as he caressed her sides. “No, that didn’t hurt a bit.” His voice became soft and low. He began to rub his body against her and groaned. “Oh, Jess, you don’t know how much I want ya.” [Words like ‘began’ and ‘started’ take away from the action. I remove them unless it is clear that something has begun and was stopped for a particular reason.]

“Joey, stop,” she ordered, pushing him away. “You’re drunk. If you want me to take you home, get in or I’m leaving.” [Honestly, I don’t understand why she’s with him. This relationship is going nowhere fast.]

“Will you stay with me tonight?” He slurred his words as he spoke. [Right there is a fine piece of writing…can you detect my sarcasm. Of course he spoke. He’s not writing slurred words. 🙂 ]

“Joey,” started Jessica, tired of making this speech every time they went out. “No, I will not sleep with you. Now, get in the truck.” [I like short and sweet, so I reduced this rejection down to one word: No.]

Jessica pulled away and unlocked the door. Joey made his way to the passenger side and crawled inside. He leant against the door, staring at the pavement through the windshield. She started the truck and pulled from the parking lot. She moved uneasily in her seat, trying to get comfortable. Unable to bear the silence between them, she turned on the radio. A fast country song escaped the speakers, relaxing Joey enough for him to start singing. [This paragraph didn’t have enough feeling for me, and I wanted to know more of how each of them felt.]

By song’s end, Joey had forgotten the incident in the parking lot and again wore his usual smile.

“Don’t forget the pizza!” Joey cried as they approached Pizza Racket.

Jessica signalled into the parking lot of the pizzeria and before the truck came to a full stop, Joey opened the door, stepping out. He fell against the door and to the pavement.


“Let’s stop at Pizza Racket.”

“I’m too tired to eat,” said Jessica.

“I’m starving,” said Joey, holding his gut. “You must be too.” He pulled her close as they walked, and kissed her cheek.

window edited“Well,” she said slowly. Her supper break had been hours ago, and Pizza Racket never made a bad pizza.

“It’s settled. Bacon and pepperoni pizza, here we come.”

“One piece and I leave for home.” She dug her keys from her pocket.

“Sounds great.” He pressed her against the box of the truck, laughing as she struggled.

“Joey, you’re hurting me!”

“Stop fightin’. I only want a kiss.” She froze, and he kissed her. “That wasn’t so bad,” he whispered in her ear. “In fact, I can do a whole lot better.” He caressed her sides and rubbed his body against her, groaning. “Oh, Jess, you know how much I want ya.”

She shoved him away. “You’re drunk. Get in or I’m leaving.”

“Will you stay with me tonight?” He slurred his words.

“No.” She unlocked the door and climbed into the truck. As she started the engine, she watched him in the rearview mirror. He staggered around the back of the truck to the passenger’s door. His slow moments told her he was two things: drunk and disappointed. When he crawled into the cab, he avoided eye contact. It took him three attempts to close the door completely because his foot blocked the way. His seatbelt fastened, she put the truck in drive. Before they left the parking lot, the awkward silence forced her to reach for the radio dial. A fast country song escaped the speakers, relaxing him enough for him to sing along. By song’s end, he had forgotten her rejection and wore his usual smile.

“Don’t forget the pizza!” Joey pointed as they approached Pizza Racket.

Jessica turned into the parking lot. Before the truck came to a full stop, Joey opened the door and stepped out. He slammed against the handle and bounced to the pavement.

…until next Saturday

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