Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 15

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: 421

Edited: 347

Difference: 74

Dust, Unsettled

Chapter 03 continued

Original Story

Cover playing 08“No, I won’t!”

“Relax. I’ll do everything. You won’t have to do a thing. Just lay there.” Joey kissed her slowly and lingers for more as his hands slipped between them to unfasten her pants. His hands slid along her bare waist to her buttocks and he pulled her towards him.

“No! Stop!” Jessica screamed. “Stop! Now!” She fought with all her strength, punching and kicking and managed to push Joey on the floor. [I removed excess words because this scene happens fast, and both the dialogue and the action needs to show this. There’s also very little need for dialogue tags. Again, I’m crazy about using names, so I’ve all but eliminated them.]

What the hell is wrong with you?” he shouted.

Jessica quickly buttoned her pants, then wiped the tears from her cheeks.

“Jess, Jessica, what’s wrong?” he growled. [Although in real life we repeat things all the time, in writing it is less effective. It slows down the story, particularly if it is a scene that happens quickly. You can get away with asking twice if the scene is less active and the second asking of the same question would prove essential.] “I’m not gonna hurt you. I promise. I love you.”

“I told you, I didn’t want to sleep with you. I meant it,” she sobbed, sniffing back the moisture in her nose.

“But why? Ain’t I good enough for you? Don’t you want me?”

Jessica crawled off the foot of the couch and to the door.

“Jessica, why won’t you make love to me? We’re ready.”

She stopped, gripping the door handle, wondering if she should explain.

“Jess?” Joey pleaded from the floor.

“Will you ever marry me, Joey?” Jessica asked, already knowing the answer.

“Marry ya? What does that have to do with this,” he answered, the mere thought making him shiver. “People sleep together all the time, Jess, and never get married.”

“Well, I am not one of those people,” Jessica stated. She slammed the door behind her.

Jessica heard Joey shouting her name as she walked away, but she refused to stop. [Dialogue Tags: I recall in my early days one of the reasons I liked confrontation/fight scenes: I got to use lots of colourful tags. Here is no exception: screamed, shouted, growled, sobbed, pleaded, asked, answered, stated. I removed all of them but one (pleaded) and it’s not a tag, but in a standalone sentence. We know who is speaking (it’s only the two of them), and we get a sense from their words and actions (and punctuation) how they are saying it.]

Chapter 4

It looks as if she made no attempt to stop. There are no signs of skid marks, said the young police officer to his partner.

There are a lot of things that don’t add up here, Frank.

This is what the police at the scene of the accident would say, thought Jessica, after I ram the gas pedal to the floor and miss the turn in the road. And I would be dead and nobody would have to worry about me anymore. No. Not tonight, she decided. I will just go home and go to bed alone.

I wish the one I loved was Joey, but it’s not and I can’t bring myself to settle for close enough. Why did Joey have to do that to me tonight? She wiped the tears away, feeling more alone than ever before. He kept me busy while I waited for my true love, but now I haven’t the guts to face him. It can never be the same. [Somewhere in these last two paragraphs, I mixed-up tense; I went from past (she, he) to present (I, me). This story is written in the past, so I edited to conform. Occasionally I do this even today; it’s a lapse in thinking or something. Perhaps I get too into the story and start thinking all about me as a character! Except nowadays I wield a sword.]

Edited

Dust pic“No, I won’t!”

“Relax. You will.” He kissed her slowly and unfastened her pants. His hands slid along her bare waist to her buttocks, and he pulled her towards him.

“No! Stop!” She fought with all her strength, punching and kicking, and managed to push him off. He crashed to the floor with a reverberating thud.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

She buttoned her pants quickly, then wiped away the tears.

“I’m not gonna hurt you. I promise. I love you.”

“I told you, I didn’t want to sleep with you. I meant it.” She sniffed the moisture in her nose.

“Why? Ain’t I good enough for you? Don’t you want me?”

She crawled off couch and went for the door.

“Jess, why won’t you make love to me? We’re ready.”

She stopped, gripping the door handle, wondering if she should explain.

“Jess?” He pleaded from the floor.

“Will you ever marry me, Joey?” She already knew the answer.

“Marry ya? What does that have to do with this? People make-out all the time and never get married.”

“I’m not one of them.” She slammed the door behind her. He shouted her name, but she refused to stop.

Chapter 4

“It looks as if she made no attempt to stop. There are no signs of skid marks”, said the young police officer to his partner.

“There are a lot of things that don’t add up here, Frank.”

This was what the police at the scene of the accident would say, thought Jessica, after she rammed the gas pedal to the floor and missed the turn in the road. She would be dead and nobody would have to worry about her. No. Not tonight, she decided. I’ll go home and go to bed alone.

She wished she loved Joey but she didn’t, and she wouldn’t settle for close enough. She wiped away the tears, feeling more alone than ever. Joey had kept her busy while she waited for her true love, but now she hadn’t the guts to face him. It could never be the same.

 

…until next Saturday

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