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 05 continued
Jessica instantly tried to control her emotions, feeling all eyes were on her. She dried her eyes with her jacket sleeve and headed for the nearest exit. [I often have characters drying their eyes in their sleeve (it’s a habit of mine), but I’m working at new ways to dry wet eyes.] Down one of the service entrances, she swiftly walked, hoping to avoid any maintenance workers. She reached the outdoors and released her emotions.
The boxed area was deserted of people and the only view Jessica had was of the brick walls of the mall, the sky and the dumpster.
“Why did I let him go? Why did I have to tell him the truth?” [Here is a great example of how a sentence can be reduced by word count and be made stronger. In the previous sentence, there are two verbs. Sentences need only one verb, so if it has two or more, look for ways to reduce the number. You can’t and shouldn’t always do this, but in this case, removing ‘have’ will shorten the sentence and give it more impact: Why did I tell him the truth?] Jessica cried. “Now, I have no one.” She stopped, wondering why she felt hurt by Joey’s departure. “Maybe I do love him. No,” she admitted quietly. “I hurt because Joey isn’t the one I love. But,” she sighed, “what if my true love never comes and I have to spend the rest of my life alone because I couldn’t be satisfied with Joey? I’m sure sleeping with him wouldn’t kill me.” She kicked a rock against the brick wall. “But that’s all it would be; sleeping together; fucking. There would be no love making because there is no love there. A life of loneliness would be no more painful than a life of pretended feelings where a heart would die from lack of true love. I don’t want to be hollow inside. I am glad Joey left. Maybe we can be friends when the blood settles, but I don’t want him. I don’t want him as a husband. I don’t want him as a lover.” [All this can be summed up in few words.]
Jessica took a deep breath and gripped the door handle, ready to face the world and hoping she was strong enough for the wait ahead. She confidently walked the narrow corridor to the mall and felt comfort in the many strangers surrounding her. Walking along the tables, she examines the displayed merchandise with more interest than before. She looked through a half dozen music discs, but found nothing to her taste. A pair of brown suitcases stuffed under a table amongst some cardboard boxes, catches her eye. Maybe she could take a trip or move somewhere else for a while. [Some is a weak word. Often times you don’t need it at all. At other times, it is better to use a specific number: Some hawks flew over. – Eight hawks flew over.]
“Excuse me, how much are the suitcases?” Jessica enquired.
The middle-aged woman sitting behind the table, eating a hot dog, looked her over. “Ten dollars each.”
As Jessica walked away, she hoped her eyes did not open too wide from the shock of hearing the price. You could almost buy a new one for that. A little further along, she found a table of antiques and worn house hold goods. She studied a framed picture with interest. The picture is of an Indian brave leading his horse through the desert with mountains growing from the horizon. [And so begins the part where this becomes a western romance.]
Feeling all eyes on her, Jessica tried to gain control of her emotions. She dried her eyes with a napkin plucked from the dispenser in the centre of the table, stood and looked for the nearest exit. The service door she pushed open led to an area boxed in on three sides by brick walls. It contained several dumpsters but thankfully no people.
The ache in her heart made her wonder why she broke up with Joey. “Why did I tell him the truth?” she mumbled. Why did she feel this swell of emotions? “Maybe I do love him.” She walked in circles thinking about this. “No,” she said slowly. “I hurt because Joey isn’t the one I love.” She kicked a rock against the brick wall. “I can pretend I do.” Deep down she wished she could, but all the wishing in the world wouldn’t change anything; she didn’t love him.
She took a deep breath and gripped the door handle, prepared to face the world as single. As she entered the Sunday Market, she took comfort from the many strangers surrounding her. She did not have to pretend amongst people who knew nothing of what had happened.
Walking along the tables, she scanned the displayed merchandise with more interest than before. She looked through a half dozen music discs but found nothing to her taste. A pair of dusty brown suitcases stuffed under a table amongst cardboard boxes, caught her attention. Maybe she could take a trip.
“How much are the suitcases?” she asked.
The middle-aged woman eating a hotdog behind the table looked her over. “Ten dollars. Each.”
As Jessica walked away, she hoped her eyes did not open too wide in shock. She could buy a new one for that price. Further along, she found a table of antiques and worn household goods. She admired a framed picture of an Indian brave leading his horse through the desert with mountains on the horizon.
…until next time.