Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 20

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: 410

Edited: 339

Difference: 71

Dust, Unsettled

Chapter 05 continued

Original Story

“I’m sorry. I’ll try to cut down.” Joey saw no change in her brown eyes and added, “No, I will quit drinking. I’ll quit for you. I promise.”

Jessica laughed at his words, trying to relax herself. “Joey, do you remember what I asked you last night before I left your apartment?”

He thought a little, but slowly shook his head that he had forgotten.

“After you tried to sleep with me, I asked you if you would ever marry me. And do you know what you said?”

Joey moved in his chair, mumbling, “I tried to make love to ya?” He shyly looked away, pretending to watch the people in the mall.

“Yeah,” said sighed, “but I didn’t let you.”

He quickly looked back at her, a little puzzled at the way she spoke. “Did I try and force you?”

“Yeah.” Now Jessica felt uncomfortable.

Jess, you stopped me in time. I mean, we didn’t, did we?”

“No,” she coldly responded, “and we never will.”

“What? Why do you say that?”

“Because of your answer to my question. I asked you if you would ever marry me and you said, what does marriage have to do with anything. People sleep together all the time and never get married.” She stopped, unable to say anymore.

Joey was a little lost for words himself, but after a minute of silence, spoke. “Jess, I am a little young to get married. I’m only twenty-five, and you’re only twenty-three. I haven’t thought about settling down, yet. Maybe someday, but not right now.” He paused for a minute, then, “But when I finally do settle down, I always thought it would be with you.”

She swallowed hard, saying, “Joey, I don’t love you the way you love me. I wouldn’t marry me if you asked.”

Jess what are you saying? You can’t mean that?”

“It’s true. I don’t love you. You’re more like a brother to me. You’re a real good friend, but you’re not the right one for me.” Jessica choked on the final words, wiping away the tears before they fell. “I’m sorry, Joey.” [There are only two people in this scene, and once you identify them, you never (seldom) have to use their names again because they are female (she) and male (he), and by this point in the story, readers know who they are. However, iin the original I used their names 14 times. Using names unnecessarily puts distance between the characters and the reader, so I’ve reduced this to three and they are in dialogue.]

“No. I’m sorry. You told me the truth. You’ve always been honest with me.” He stood as his eyes grew glossy. “I hope you find what you’re looking for, Jess. I wish you the best,” his voice was hoarse by the time he finished speaking. Joey kissed the top of her head, then quickly disappeared into the crowd. [I find emotional scenes like this are better if less words are used, so a lot of dialogue was removed.]

Edited

Cover playing 08“I’m sorry. I’ll try to cut down.” He looked desperate. “No, I’ll quit. I’ll quit for you.”

She laughed, hoping it would relax her nerves. “Do you remember what I asked you last night before I left your apartment?”

He slowly shook his head.

“After you tried to sleep with me, I asked you if you would ever marry me. Do you remember what you said?”

He moved uneasily in his chair and whispered, “I tried to make out with you?” He shyly looked away, pretending to watch the people in the mall.

“Yeah,” said sighed, “but I didn’t let you.”

He eyed her curiously. “Did I try to force you?”

“Yeah.” Now she felt uncomfortable.

“Jess, you stopped me. I mean, we didn’t, did we?”

“No,” she said coldly, “and we never will.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you said sleeping together had nothing to do with marriage, that people do it all the time and never get married.”

He played with the handle of his mug again, staring at his coffee as if it would give him the right answers. “I’m too young to get married, to settling down.” He looked up. “But when I’m ready, I always thought it would be with you.”

She swallowed hard. “Joey, I don’t love you the way you love me. I wouldn’t marry me if you asked.”

“You can’t mean that?” He looked as if she had slapped him in the face.

“I do. I don’t love you like it will last a life time. You’re a real good friend, but you’re not the right one for me.” She choked on the final words, wiping away the tears before they fell. “I’m sorry.”

“No. I’m sorry. Sorry for both of us.” He stood as his eyes grew glossy. “I hope you find what you’re looking for, Jess.” His voice grew hoarse. As he kissed the top of her head, he whispered, “You know where to find me, if you don’t.”  He walked away quickly and disappeared into the crowd.

…until next Saturday

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6 thoughts on “Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 20

  1. I notice you dropped the ages. I think this is the first time you mentioned they were 25 and 23. I had pictured them as younger. An 18-year-old talking about marriage and a 23-year-old talking about marriage put a different slant on the story, at least from the perspective of someone from my generation.

    1. Up until about 15 years ago, my character descriptions contained everything: age, eye and hair colour, height, weight, shoe size…you’d think they were completing a police report for a missing person. When I stumble upon the original draft of my first fantasy, I’ll write a post about it.

      I removed the ages because I didn’t want to be that specific. They appear to be young, but not too young. Both visit a tavern and have visited bars in the past, so that puts them over 19 (since there is no talk about sneaking in under age). Back in the 80s, it was illegal for anyone under 19 to visit taverns night or day. Now those under 19 can visit up until 9:00 pm (I think that’s the cut off).

      But they are too young to be thinking about buying a home, having long-term careers and kids. Not that a twenty-year-old can’t think about that.

      It’s not that Jessica wants to get married now; she just feels that Joey never wants to get married, and that doesn’t sit well with her. She’s looking for a commitment that he’s not willing to give. Not that I think it would matter since she truly doesn’t love him. She’s in ‘like’ with him.

      Thanks for the comment, Art. Nowadays, I don’t add ages unless it’s very important to the story. Otherwise, readers can guess at the age.

  2. I know this is your baby so I hesitate to write this. Still, knowing you can always delete my comment, I’m going ahead with this:
    Having Jessica and Joey talk about the night before and just calling it “making out” doesn’t give the passage the punch that “making love” socks to the reader. I think using the term, making love, will put a powerful impact on the scene.

    Just my opinion though.

    1. Don’t hesitate, Glynis. Writing can only improve when things are pointed out. I’ll make a note of this for the next round of edits. This exercise is getting the original typed into the computer (it was all written long hand) along with the initial edit. My writing has improved drastically since I wrote this almost thirty years ago.

      Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment.

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