Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 22

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: 435

Edited: 379

Difference: 56

 

Dust, Unsettled

Chapter 05 continued

Original Story

horse in forest“That’s only $15.00,” replied the man behind the table. He was of average height and his middle-age belly seemed grown from a beer bottle. [I now prefer to write out simple money amounts like this: fifteen dollars.]

“Yeah, I’m just looking,” said Jessica.

“That picture is from Arizona. It was found in an abandoned shack, probably built by settlers a hundred years ago. We had to piece the frame back together, but as you can see the picture is beautiful.”

“Yes, it’s very nice.” Her eyes fell to the foot of the picture where a small, tan coloured, suede bag laid. “What’s this?” She picked up the sack that was big enough to hold about ten play marbles. The suede was quite worn along with the two foot long strap wrapped around it.

“This is a medicine bag,” answered the man with a twinkle in his eye. “This strap here allows it to be worn around the neck, like this.” He unwrapped the strap and placed the medicine bag around Jessica’s neck. It fell to the end of her rib cage and she opened it as she felt something inside.

“The Indians filled these bags with magical powders and used them to fend off evil spirits. This particular one though has magical powers all its own.”

Jessica stared at him, wondering why a man of his age would tell such a story. Was he crazy? She gripped the light orange, oval stone she pulled from the medicine bag. [Light, orange, oval—we don’t need all this information at once.] The surface was a little rough, almost like a cat’s tongue and its weight was lighter than its size suggested. “Like a porous sponge rock, she thought. But it was solid without holes or cracks. [I decided to make the stone heavier than it appeared instead.]

“That stone is the source of the power. The Blackfoot brave who found this stone in a hidden valley cave could perform many magical feats that benefited his family for over two centuries. It is said that the Indian brave lived to be 256 years old and it’s all because of this stone.”

Jessica felt the silence he tried so hard to create, even though his story was so far from the truth a child would have found it hard to believe. “So how did you get your hands on it?”

“Now that is a story.” The man shook with laughter. “A young cowboy and I were playing a game of poker in Amarillo, and I would have to say I was beatin’ the spurs off him when he called for one more hand. He had no money left so he threw on the table that medicine bag. He told me of its magic and, well, as you can see, I won the hand.” [I tightened this dialogue to make it more direct.]

Edited

Cover playing 08“That’s only fifteen dollars,” said the man behind the table. He was of average height and his middle-age belly seemed grown from a beer bottle.

“I’m just looking,” said Jessica.

“The picture is from Arizona. It was found in an abandoned shack, probably built by settlers two hundred years ago. We had to piece the frame back together but as you can see, the picture is beautiful.”

“It is very nice.” A small, tan-coloured sack at the base of the picture caught her attention. “What’s this?” She picked it up; it was big enough to hold five small play marbles. The suede sack and the strap wrapped around it was worn.

“It’s a medicine bag,” said the man with a twinkle in his eye. “The strap allows it to be worn around the neck. Like this.” He uncoiled the strap and slipped it over her head.

She felt something inside and opened it.

“The Indians filled these bags with magical powders and used them to fend off evil spirits. This particular one has magical powers all its own.”

She stared at him, wondering why a man his age would tell such a story. Was he crazy? She gripped the orange stone she pulled from the sack. The rough surface felt like a cat’s tongue. Its size suggested it should be lighter.

“The stone is the source of the power,” said the man. “The Blackfoot brave who found it in a hidden valley cave could perform many magical feats that benefited his family and tribe for more than two centuries. It is said the Indian brave lived to be 256 years old and it’s because of this stone.”

Jessica felt the silence he tried so hard to create, even though his story was so far from the truth a child would have found it difficult to believe. “How did you get your hands on it?”

“That is a story upon itself.” The man shook with laughter. “A young cowpoke and I were playing poker in Amarillo, and I was beatin’ the spurs off him when he called for one more hand. He had no money so he threw that medicine bag on the table. He told me of its magic and, well, as you can see, I won the hand.”

…until next time.

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3 thoughts on “Editing a western romance novel “Dust, Unsettle” 22

  1. There’s no better way to understand how to tighten a story than having someone show you this way. Great! I remember the first time I read two passages of the same story and could actually see the difference for myself. It was as if a lightbulb had gone off!

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