This is a quick addendum to yesterday’s blog post about editing disasters, to show you an example of when things go right.
Recently I sold the short story “White Hart, Black Knight,” to Uncanny Magazine. It’s a story about my character Eddie LaCrosse, inspired by an Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain. When I turned it in, the editor very astutely pointed out that all the characters but one were men, and the lone female character went unnamed. This was true to the Medieval source material, but since I was writing neither a history nor an actual Arthurian story, I was certainly not bound by it. The editor suggested not only naming that previously nameless character, but changing some of the others to women, to create a more balanced and inclusive world.
Author/filmmaker Nicholas Meyer is fond of saying, “Art thrives on restriction,” and I believe that’s true. Set boundaries, and you’re forced to be creative within them. In this case, those “boundaries” were the editorial suggestion, which actually opened the story up in new ways. My frankly generic king became a far more interesting queen, and one of my two valiant brother knights became an equally valiant sister knight. As a result, the story’s world became more interesting, truer to the egalitarian spirit of the Eddie LaCrosse novels, and just plain better overall.
(However, neither the editor nor I caught that I still referred to the queen, who had originally been a king, as “sire.” Luckily we caught that at the page proof stage.)
So remember that editors are your collaborators, cheerleaders and friends. They have the same goal you do: to end up with the best possible version of your story.