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.
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
Chapter 03 continued
“No!” Joey half shouted. “Fuck! It ain’t that bad. Just leave me alone!”
Jessica stared at him. He was always moody when he drank, but lately he had been drinking more often and arguing with her at every chance. She remembered a time, not too long ago, when they could enjoy themselves without the liquor. They would have fun swimming, fishing or just watching a hockey game. As long as they were together, that was all that mattered. But Joey changed over the winter. What happened, Jessica could not imagine. He grew restless, demanding and reckless in his ways, almost to the point of losing his job at the car dealer. [I tightened this paragraph, removing unnecessary words and phrases.]
One thing was certain, [A needless introduction.] Jessica liked the old Joey more than this overbearing drunk. Unless things changed, she felt it would only be a short time before they went their separate ways.
“Excuse me, your pizza is ready,” the girl announced from the counter.
“Thanks.” Jessica took the pizza and drinks and waited for Joey to stand.
He slowly pushed himself up, using the table, and put his arm around her shoulder for support. They stumbled out the door to the truck and Joey pulled himself up on the seat. Jessica climbed in beside him, laying the pizza between them. [These details are unnecessary. We don’t need a play-by-play.]
As they started from the parking lot, Joey asked, “Can ya pick me up in the morning on your way to the market? I wanna get the car.”
“Sure.” This was their routine when out drinking. Jessica drove while Joey left his car at the tavern and the following morning, she picked him up to retrieve it. [I don’t think there’s a need to explain what they’re doing. This scene is played out Saturday and Sunday mornings in countless parking lots across the country.]
A couple miles passed before they turned into an apartment parking lot. Jessica parked in the 204 apartment space and shut off the engine. She carried the pizza and drinks, locking the door behind her. Joey managed to get out and close the door. [Again, we don’t need a play-by-play of the action. It has nothing to do with the plot.]
“We’ll go slow,” said Jessica, putting his arm around her shoulder.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Jess,” Joey sighed as he stumbled along. “You’re always there when I need ya.”
“Hey, don’t go mushy on me now.”
Joey chuckled and squeezed her shoulder. “You’re a very special person.”
“And you’re drunk.”
“Jess, you don’t get it, do ya?” He stopped to speak, looking her straight in the eye. “You’re a lot better person than you give yourself credit for. Better than I deserve.”
“Should I take you to the hospital?”
Jessica frowned. He was moody when he drank, and lately he had been drinking a lot. She remembered when they enjoyed themselves without the liquor. They had fun swimming, fishing or watching a hockey game. All that mattered was being together, but Joey changed over the winter. He grew demanding and reckless, and his boss threatened to fire him if he didn’t straighten out.
She liked the old Joey and unless things changed, she’d stop seeing this one.
“Your pizza is ready,” said the girl at the counter.
Jessica picked up the box and drinks, and waited for Joey to rise.
He pushed himself up, using the table to steady himself, then followed her to the truck. As they left the parking lot, Joey asked, “Can ya pick me up in the morning, so I can get my car.”
“Sure. Call me.”
Several minutes later, she turned into Joey’s parking space at his apartment building. She balanced the pizza and drinks in one hand, and helped Joey with the other as they walked to the front door.
“I don’t know what I’d do without ya, Jess,” he said. “You’re always here when I need ya.”
“Don’t go all mushy on me.”
He chuckled and squeezed her shoulder. “You’re a special person.”
“And you’re drunk.”
“You don’t get it, do ya?” He stopped and looked her in the eye. “You’re a better person than you give yourself credit for. Better than I deserve.”
…until next Saturday