Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 19

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: 412

Edited: 445

Difference: plus 33

Dust, Unsettled

Chapter 05 continued

Original Story

Joey walked to the counter and ordered a coffee. He glanced at Jessica several times while he waited for his order. He remembered bits and pieces from the night before and he knew he had hurt her. [This is Joey’s point of view, and we’re not supposed to know what he is thinking. This paragraph needs to be rewritten from Jessica’s POV.]

“Joey, I have something to s—”

“Wait, Jessica,” he cut her off [Because of the em dash (—) and Joey talking, we know he cut her off; we don’t have to say it. Also, there’s a bit of Joey’s thoughts here that don’t belong.] before she said something he did not want to hear. “I’m sorry for what happened last night,” he spoke softly, leaning close to her as he caressed her hand. “I was drunk and it was stupid. And I promise you it will never happen again.”

“You remember all that happened last night?” She was surprised by his memory.

“No. No, I don’t,” Joey admitted, “but I know I hurt you. The first thing I remembered this morning was you being mad.”

“Tell me this, Joey,” Jessica tried to remain calm. “If you don’t remember what you did and said to me, how in the hell can you promise to never do it again?”

Joey bit his lip, [Ever since a big deal has been made about the women in Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey constantly biting their lips, I’ve been conscious about my characters biting their lips. I remove them whenever I can (not the lips but the biting of them).] trying to find an answer. “Well,” he began, “you could tell me what I did and I could take it from there.”

“Joey,” she swallowed hard as she tried to speak. Already a lump was growing in her throat, thinking of what she must do. “Joey, I think that it would be best if we didn’t see each other any more.”

Joey was stunned, unable to say a word. From her mood, he knew she was upset, but he never thought she would say this. Screaming and punching would be better than this. [These are more of Joey’s thoughts that need to be removed. We have to describe his reaction from Jessica’s view.]

“I gotta go.” Jessica rose. [Again, I used names often when they are unnecessary. Joey and Jessica are the only ones in this scene and by using their names, it pushes readers away from the emotions they are feeling.]

Joey grabbed her hand, refusing to let her leave. “Jess, please,” he begged. “We can work this out.”

Jessica fell back into the chair unsure if she could keep herself from crying while she was with him.

“Honey, I know what I did last night was wrong, but that doesn’t mean that,” Joey hesitated, but decided he had to say it, say it and mean it, “that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

Jessica was shocked. Never before had he told her he loved her without a few beers in his belly.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he pouted. “You know I feel that way for you. No need in makin’ a big fuss about it.” He played with the Styrofoam cup in front of him.

“That way?” she repeated. “You only feel that way when you’re drinking. And you’ve been drinking an awful lot lately.”

Edited

Cover playing 08She watched him place his order at the counter. He glanced at her several times, and his expression grew more concerned the longer he waited for his coffee. She wondered if he remembered anything from the night before. When he sat across from her, one hand on the mug, the other slowly rubbing his thigh, she decided to do what she should have done a long time ago.

“I have something to s—”

“Jessica.” He looked up, his brow bent with worry. “I’m sorry about last night.” He spoke softly, leaning close to her as he caressed her hand. “I was drunk and it was stupid. And I promise it won’t happen again.”

“You remember last night?”

“No. No, I don’t,” he said, “but I know I hurt you. You were angry. It was the first thing I remembered.”

“But you don’t remember why?”

He shook his head reluctantly.

“Joey,”—she tried to remain calm—“if you don’t remember what you did, how can you promise to never do it again?”

He toyed with the handle on the coffee mug. “Well, you could tell me and I could take it from there.”

A lump grew in her throat, and she found it difficult to say the words on her mind. Taking a deep breath, she decided to just spit them out. “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

His hand froze on the mug handle. The deep lines in his face told her she had hurt him. His eyes searched her face as if for sympathy or understanding. His lips moved, but his voice remained silent. He looked as if she had told him his best friend had died.

“I gotta go.” She rose.

He grabbed her hand, refusing to let her leave. “Jess, please,” he begged. “We can work this out.”

She fell back into the chair, avoiding eye contact and feeling tears well in her eyes. The stinging sensation in her nose made it almost impossible. She wanted to run, hide and not look back.

“Honey, what I did last night was wrong, but that doesn’t mean…” He hesitated, scanning the top of the table before looking directly at her. “It doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

She stared at him, trying to see the man who would say those words. Never before had he told her he loved her without a few beers in his belly.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he pouted. “You know I feel that way. No need in makin’ a big fuss about it.”

“That way?” she repeated. “You only feel that way when you’re drinking. And you’ve been drinking an awful lot lately.”

…until next Saturday

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4 thoughts on “Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 19

  1. Good points in here. I didn’t realize that those books have made “lip biting” so stale, but I completely understand how that happens. I’m now having that problem with the word “huge.” I can’t write it without thinking of Trump. Ugh.

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