Working with an editor isn't like working with a critique group. A critique group helps you learn how to drive a car. By the time you're working with an editor you're already a race car driver. An editor is like the crew chief for your race team; they make sure everything goes smooth on race day. They fine tune the mechanics, provide guidance on your strategy, and work with the pit crew to contribute to your success. They're on your team and you're working toward the same goals, but you're the one driving.
For The Place Between, I had two editors. Cobalt City is a shared world full of superheroes and deities with general editorial oversight provided by Nathan Crowder. He made sure everything fit within the world continuity, including stories not yet published. He also answered questions I had about the world or established characters and provided research materials I needed about it. I like Norse Mythology and I knew there was already an established avatar of Thor along with the method of how one becomes his avatar. But I also knew that this character, Cole Washington was ill-fitted for the type of story I wanted to tell.
“Does Cole Washington have a daughter?” I asked Nate.
He had a daughter named Tera, and Nate saw no reason I couldn't make her the new avatar of Thor. I wanted to tell the story of Tera learning what becoming a superhero means for her and about what she thought she knew. When Tera's father has a near-fatal heart attack during an attempted mugging, Thor's powers pass to her. There was already an established avatar for Loki; the anticape TV pundit Lyle Prather, but I needed additional interference. So I did what any completely irrational writer of tricksters would do, I asked to add a second Loki to the equation. Which believe me, had me talking fast to justify, but Nate eventually let me do most of what I wanted with the addition of some world-restrictions.
Caroline Dombrowski worked with me to improve my first submitted draft. She noted some holes in the story structure and expressed confusion about inclusion of a few incidents whose purpose seemed completely self-evident to me. Apparently not everyone walks around with as much information about Norse Myths in their head as I do, and that was something that needed to be addressed for the reader to fully appreciate.
The solution she suggested and I immediately loved, was adding additional information in the form of excerpts of fictional written material taken from the world but not directly from the narrative--newspaper articles, website entries, even store advertisements. Alone each of these bits of information is just a single block, but in the context of the story they stitch together to form a quilt of additional information that deepens the story and the world. It's a technique I've always admired and long tried to emulate without success. The first time I read the full manuscript with them in place I was amazed at how well they worked together. When I got Caroline's comments complete with the places she'd laughed out loud, I knew I'd nailed it.
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Read an excerpt (PDF).
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