For those new to my blog, the Hands that Mold series of posts is about the people in my life that have helped shape me into the writer I am today.
This post is about Vixen.
To start with, that’s not her real name, but in the interest of anonymity, she’ll be Vixen today.
I can blame meeting Vixen on Manda, who introduced me to a great series of books and its fan run fanfiction site. Vixen and I were both actively posting at the same time back then. I was looking for a new beta reader for my fics, and she was interested in one for hers, so we started swapping chapters back and forth and helping each other improve rough drafts.
In the process of all this, we also started emailing back and forth pretty regularly. We’d talk about all sorts of things. What strangeness I was dealing with at my job, or what she was doing in her training programs with the hope of landing a job in the near future. We also talked a lot about Aussieisms and Americanisms.
Vixen is Australian, so there were times when I’d have to explain what I meant when I used a word, or she’d have to do the same. One of the fun ones I remember was when we sent each other pictures to explain what a biscuit was.
Vixen and I exchanged work regularly for a couple years. I might not be able to pick out specific things she helped me learn to catch on my own like I can with other beta readers, but I know that my work improved over the course of our time working together. She was a huge fan of my fanfiction and excited about my original stories as well. She was a huge help during the editing process for Strong Fort Spathí.
We don’t email as much as we used to, and haven’t shared stories as much either, but Vixen still had an impact on me and my writing during a very important time for me. She helped me have the confidence to put my stories out there, and was never afraid to tell me when an entire chapter was easily summed up in a sentence and thus really not needed. I definitely needed a reader who would be that brutally honest with me back then, and I probably still need one like that now.
Have you had a beta that wasn’t afraid to share hard truths to make your work better? Or a pen pal you had to explain your language usage to? I’d love to hear about others’ experiences.