The Value of an Editor

One of my key alpha readers is author Shari Risoff who is also an internet buddy. Because of our friendship, and the writers’ need for ongoing encouragement, she gets the privilege and/or horror of seeing my tentative drafts. In one of my first scenes she picked up on something, highlighting a single word to draw it to my attention:

The meeting place had been chosen carefully: an abandoned rat-infested industrial area. There were a warren of access lanes but only one main road in and out, both ends now blocked by police.

I couldn’t see the problem; to me it was correct as far as I knew, but she noted that were is plural while warren is singular.

Definition of warren:

  1. network of interconnecting rabbit burrows.
  2. a densely populated or labyrinthine building or district.

Given that the first definition of warren refers to multiples itself, I still wasn’t entirely sure. So I asked friend, award winning poet, master wordsmith and quintessential nice-guy, Thom Sullivan. He not only confirmed the error Shari had spotted but also tinkered skilfully.

The meeting place had been carefully chosen: an abandoned rat-infested industrial area. It was a warren of access lanes with only one main road in and out – and both ends now blocked by police.

As he explained most graciously,

With “chosen carefully” the reader “sees” the action (the choosing) then has to impute back the quality of it being done with care. By reversing it, the adverb tells them in advance to “see” whatever action comes next as being done with care – so the reader sees the whole image immediately.

It was interesting for me, (a complete non-poet) to see how a poet is so exacting and  precise in word choice and placement. It definitely enhances the writing, but is something that would be near-impossible on a novel length piece of text.

The best I can hope for is to be mindful of these things in the future. I am most grateful to both Shari and Thom for their help.

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