I also have been working on "Once and Future" using what the editors recommended. We have some differences of opinion I need to work out (they think I have no form, I think I do), but I'll deal with that later. My story is convenient in the way I can easily rearrange the form if I have to. This week I strengthened my characters, making them more consistent, and did a little world-building. The story is a science fiction and while it made sense to me it didn't to the readers. I had to emphasize what kind of technology the world in the story has as well as what powers my protagonist Martha has. For the record, she CAN change the future, but only because she can see what actions in the present will spark that future. I had to make that clear.
Some of the writing was kind of annoying but it yielded some pretty good work. Some flecks of gold in the dreary gray of February, you might say. Here's a few samples of my improvements:
Martha stepped forward and General Drakesson’s eyes widened with fear. Martha could see decades-old stories flashing through his mind, stories of the power of a Changeling pushed to the limit. Let him fear. This arrogant general, used to getting his way, had forgotten who he was speaking to and needed to be reminded.
She took another step forward as her presence swelled to fill the room and Drakesson stumbled and fell, hand raised as if that could protect him. She spoke, her voice thunder. “I am your Changeling. Do not think you can threaten me! I will not help you do this evil thing!”I added some threatening aspects to Martha's character. Changelings, especially Martha, are feared and respected by the people. When Drakesson asks for her help in his seducing of her best friend, Martha is not happy. This is an improvement over the original because it shows Martha's power and forces Drakesson to respect, if not fear, her. It sets Martha apart as someone very different and powerful.
Can good come from evil? Martha holds the infant in her arms. His blue eyes are his father’s, his dark hair his mother’s. He cries like he knows his mother will not survive his birth, like he knows his father will never know he lives.
“His name is Allan,” Ellie says with her last breath. “Take care of him.”
No one else will, if Martha does not. If he knew, that fool Drakesson would not recognize this boy as his son and heir. Not when his blood has been polluted by his mother’s inferior genes. Yet despite his common genetics this child is the first hope Martha has had for over a hundred years that the future could again be bright.
The boy, Allan, sleeps and now so does Ellie. Martha looks at the mortal remains of her only friend and holds the child tighter. “I will,” she promises.This is a short but complete scene. In the first draft I had Martha simply promising Ellie that she will care for Allan. Now, I explain why General Drakesson will not care for Allan, necessitating Martha's involvement, as well as show some of Martha's motivation for taking on Allan. Her friend has just died, Allan is a hope for the future as well as the last Martha has of her friend. It shows more of Martha's ability to love, which isn't as visible in other parts of the story. It makes her more human, even as the last sample I showed makes her more alien.
So, that's how I'm making the story better. It's still a work in progress, but I think it's better than it was a week ago. In the coming week I will keep writing (if I don't go nuts over my thesis defense) and we'll see if I dig up any more gold.