People can enter your life in any number of ways, influence your life likewise, and leave you struggling to express your thanks sufficiently. That’s Jackie. Who’s Jackie? My writer self would tell you that, at this moment, she’s my lone beta reader, though not my first. She’s also a friend, but I think that came later. Once upon a time she was a business acquaintance, but that was before.
Before she became invaluable.
My long, agonizing quest for a Beta who was both insightful and epitomized my audience was longer than the journeys my protagonists make in my novels. Someone who wanted to read my unique take on fantasy fiction was like finding gold, gold I can’t believe I found.
As I mentioned, in the beginning ours was a business connection, though our personalities meshed from the start. Too, she’d patiently listen to me ramble on about my writing and encourage me to continue, but I was hesitant to ask her to Beta read given our association was professional.
When we met well over eighteen months ago it was a dark period for me as I struggled with minimal feedback, always wondering if I was refining junk no one would read. In other words, writer doubt. Jackie was actively supportive and encouraging, always willing to listen and—was it possible?—caught up in my taletelling. Too, there were her insightful comments that would always stop me in my tracks. She wasn’t a writer, but she got it.
Yeah, I can be pretty thick…
I’m an INFJ. Sometimes it takes me awhile to catch up. I knew she was a big Harry Potter fan and read a lot of dystopian. My Riparia novels have elements of both, though they aren’t YA. Still, a year ago while working to define my perfect reader I discovered I was describing Jackie.
Eventually, I asked if she’d be interested in reading a short story (Prolongation, as it happens). She jumped at the opportunity with enthusiasm, giving me her I’ve-been-waiting-for-you-to-ask-me-that-for-six-months face.
Yeah, I can be really thick.
She struggled with Deep 3rd briefly (it remains a rare POV), but liked the story. More important, she absorbed the world like a sponge. In quick order I became amazed by her awareness of plot and theme and insight into the characters. There was the time she told me she couldn’t see the airship, that it was fascinating, but she wanted more. Another time she choked on her words talking about the same scene that I’d cried while writing.
Jackie’s feedback renewed my belief in my vision for a unique fantasy world populated with real people, and her insights told me I was capable of connecting with readers. After she’d read ten short stories that were the better for having her read them, and while I was still polishing the first Riparia novel, Trust in the Forgotten, I asked if she’d be interested in reading it?
No hesitation. Yes.
Last weekend, over coffee, we talked for hours. Some of the time was catching up, but most was about the novel. I spent much of the time with my jaw slack, not just because she loved it, but because she got it, because she continually recognized that certain moments were probably going to be important later, and because she had insights that even I didn’t have.
She wants to read Bk2.
So this was my little tribute to Jackie, who entered my writing life at a critical time and has made me a better writer. She’s beta reader gold, and if you’re lucky enough to find someone like her to read your work—don’t let them go.
Thank you, Jackie, and happy birthday (really, everyone, her birthday is today).