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.
Many times over the past twelve years, I’ve been asked, “How do you do it?”
The it referred to is the amount of words I can write in any given time frame. Usually, my answer is, “I don’t know. I just sit and write.” Or “I’m addicted to writing and easily inspired, so can’t help but write every day.”
But perhaps there is more to this answer.
On Friday night, my co-workers and I watched the wind, rain and snow storm sweep across the Atlantic Canada on the Weather Network. Supper had been busy, but as 9 o’clock neared, business dropped off; people didn’t want to leave home for a pizza. Still, the odd order came in for delivery. The driver would return, wetter than before, commenting on the wind and the rain.
We all knew the temperature was predicted to drop, and we all hoped it would wait until after we closed. But it didn’t.
Around 12:30 am, the temperature at the airport was still at 7 degrees Celsius, where it hung most of the evening. By 12:45, I noticed it had dropped a degree. By 1:00 am, it was zero. We stepped outside to check the conditions. The rain that had created large pools of water on the roadway and had gushed up through man holes had turned to snow, flying in the high winds as if late for an important dinner date.
By the time we closed around 2:20 am, the roads were covered, door knobs were frozen and white-outs lurched in the shadows created by the street lights. The 17-minute drive home on the rural roads of Nova Scotia was going to be a wee bit longer tonight.
With the cars cleaned off, and one final customer who blew in as we were locking the door served, we started our journey home. Right about now, some drivers might have been gripping the wheel with white knuckles, peering through the windshield into the dark night and wishing to be anywhere but there.
That was me last winter. But after driving through so many storms, getting home from work or getting to work, I don’t feel that way any longer. One might say I have been conditioned for the road conditions.
Instead, I settled into the driver’s seat, heard I’m a Wildflower by the Janedear Girls on the radio and turned it up. I was instantly transported to a summer’s day where I was running through wildflowers in barefeet. The snow-covered roads melted away and the white-outs conditions disappeared.
Mind over matter: if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
I put my speed on 40 km/h and by 2:50 am, I was pulling into my driveway, safe and sound with no extra worry lines.
Although skill has a lot to do with arriving home safely in a snow storm, there are many things that contribute to success: good winter tires, a well-operating vehicle, proper windshield wipers, winter boots and mitts in the back seat and a cell phone just in case.
Writing is a lot like driving in a snow storm. Some skill is needed, but other things contribute to success: a good dictionary, an eagerness to learn, a willingness to accept advice, books on various aspects of writing, keen eyes and ears, ability to wear another’s shoes, endurance, writing groups and workshops.
Not everyone begins with all these items in their tickle trunk, and for even those who do, they may not find the ability to write consistently. However, by utilizing these tools over and over again, a writer conditions himself to write more and more often. Whereas writing two hours a week may have seemed daunting, after a period of condition, a writer may write two hours a day without breaking a sweat.
Training to hike ten miles, learning to drive through snow storms and writing regularly every day is all in the condition.