Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 18

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: 392

Edited: 311

Difference: 81

Dust, Unsettled

Chapter 05 continued

Original Story

Cover playing 08“Are you here with anyone?” questioned Jessica, hoping to get away from the hair-do subject. ‘People don’t understand the damage they do to their hair from perms, dyes and they use of blow dryers, curling irons, mousse, gel and hair spray’, thought Jessica. Her hair was just beginning to grow healthy again after six years of perming and curling, trying to meet the public’s demand for an ‘appropriate’ appearance. How she cursed her friends and family when they commented about her straight hair, wishing she would get a perm. “It has been a year,” they said lately. And every time, Jessica must defend herself, explaining one more time that she liked straight healthy hair. It was natural. [I decided to lose the rant and settle for something similar but shorter.]

“Yes, Mickey’s with me. He’s over there looking at the hockey cards,” Nicholl grinned as she pointed to her handsome boyfriend across the mall. “He only needs 18 more cards to complete his set and he says he wants to get them all today.” [By eliminating all those filler words, the sentence become more direct. It is common for writers earlier in their writing lives to add filler words. Eventually our eyes spot and delete them.]

Jessica chuckled. Nicholl knew nothing about hockey and less about the cards. Jessica knew if she asked her what set he was collecting, she would not know. But that didn’t stop Nicholl from bragging about her boyfriend, who returned to high school the following year after he graduated to play another season of hockey. Mickey was cute, thought Jessica, and had an athlete’s body, but he was too full of himself. [Again, a lot of this is filler that is unnecessary to the plot. From reviewing the entire novel, I see where more important scenes must be expanded. I’ll save my wordage for them.]

“He should have no problem getting the cards. There must be a dozen tables here selling.”

“Well, if he doesn’t find them here, he’s going down [The words ‘down’ and ‘out’ appear often in my writing to this day. They are target words I seek out to see if I need them. Most of the times, I don’t. In Nova Scotia, we’re always going down somewhere. My favourite place to go is down to the camp. Maybe it’s because we are down east. In contrast, we go out west, over to the island and up north. Just don’t flip the map on us, or we’ll be totally confused.] to the stadium to that Flea Market. Is your mom here with you?”

“Yeah, she’s back there in the crowd somewhere.”

“Oh, and Joey’s here, too,” Nicholl chimed with a gleam in her eye as she watched him approach.

“Hi,” Joey stammered at the young women.

“Hello, Joey.” Nicholl greeted him with an ambitious smile. “Jessica didn’t tell me you were here. What’s wrong with your leg?”

“I just got here.” Joey looked at the silent Jessica, ignoring his damaged leg. “I want to talk to you.” [I want doesn’t come off strong enough. I need does.]


“Alone,” added Joey when she made no move to leave Nicholl.

“I’ll see you later, Nicholl.”

“Okay, I’ll see you two soon. Maybe we can double-date or something?”

“Yeah, sure,” replied Joey as he led Jessica down the mall to a coffee shop. “Want a hot chocolate or something?” he offered, pulling a chair out from a table for her.

“No, I don’t want anything.” Jessica took the seat and pulled it in herself.

“I’m gonna get a coffee.” [Again, getting a coffee doesn’t sound as though Joey is desperate for it. He needs a coffee.]


“Are you here with anyone?” asked Jessica, hoping to change the subject. Perming, styling and spending way too much time and money on her hair wasn’t her thing. She preferred the wash-and-go natural look.

“Mickey’s here, looking at hockey cards.” Nicholl beamed as she pointed at her handsome, athletic boyfriend at a nearby table. “He needs only eighteen cards to complete his set, and he wants to get them today. They’re special ones not everyone has.”

Jessica chuckled in her mind. Nicholl knew nothing about hockey and less about cards. If questioned about what set Mickey collected, she would not know.

“He should have no problem getting them. There are more than a dozen vendors with cards.”

“If he doesn’t find them here, we’re going to the flea market at the stadium. Is your mom here?”

“Yeah, she’s back there in the crowd.”

“Oh, and Joey’s here too.” Nicholl’s voice changed, and her eyes sparkled as she watched him approach.

“Hi.” Joey nodded at the young women.

“Hello, Joey.” Nicholl greeted him with an ambitious smile. “It’s great to see you again.” Her smile faded. “What’s wrong with your leg? I hope it’s not serious.”

“Just a bang. It’ll be fine.” He glanced reluctantly at Jessica. “I need to talk to you.”


“Alone,” he added.

“I’ll see you later, Nicholl.”

“Sounds great. Maybe we can double-date or something?” She touched Joey’s arm gently. “Take care of that leg. Jessica and I both love dancers.” She winked and strode towards her boyfriend.

Joey led Jessica to the coffee shop in the middle of the mall. Along the way, they stole silent glances at each other.

“Want a hot chocolate or something?” He pulled out a chair from a table for her.

“No thanks.”

“I need a coffee.” He touched her shoulder lightly, forced an artificial grin, then went to the counter.

…until next Saturday

3 thoughts on “Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 18

  1. It’s interesting to watch you go through this process, Diane. I find myself faced with many of the same edits, unnecessary “downs” and “ups” for example. I struggle with want/need too. There just aren’t enough options. “Desire” often doesn’t fit the character, so my characters end up “needing” alot. Ha ha.


    • Thank you for sharing, Adele. I hope others are learning from my mistakes. Writing has the largest learning curve of anything I’ve done in life. After all these years, I’m still learning.


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