There’s a woman in my life, and she’s not my wife. I met her online, and we communicate by email. I hang on her every word. When I get a response from her, I analyze it backwards and forwards, and I think about what she’s saying. When I send her a message, it’s typically very long, and it’s filled with the best prose I can come up with. I put a lot of effort into those mails, and I wait anxiously to hear back from her. When she doesn’t respond, after a couple of days I grow frustrated. I need to hear from her. I need her approval. I need her help.
Now, just to be clear, she’s not my lover. I don’t know where she lives. I don’t know her real name and she doesn’t know mine. I have no idea if she’s married, or if she has kids, nor do I really care. What I care about is her feedback. You see, she’s my reader.
To a writer, there’s nothing more valuable than a reader that provides good feedback. And by good feedback, I mean telling you when you suck, but in a way that doesn’t drive you insane. My reader is fairly good at that. She points out both the positive and the negative. When she loves something I’ve written, she tells me. When she hates something I’ve written, she tells me to change it. She’s excellent with grammar. Knows my story and plot nearly as well as I do at this point, and gives me suggestions that are both valid and interesting. And she doesn’t charge a fee.
To be truthful (and I wouldn’t tell her this) I’d probably be willing to pay for her services if I could. I can’t, so it would be pointless to say so, but the value she adds to my work is priceless. She’s practically my editor, and if I ever publish this, I’ll certainly stick a thank you note in there. My wife and kids deserve the dedication for their toleration of my extended internal hibernation, but she deserves something more than a pat on the back. I wish my wife would read my work, but I haven’t even suggested it yet. She doesn’t read fantasy – or anything really other than “how to” books and the occasional magazine. I’ll probably give the story to my kids to read at some point, but as there are adult themes in it, I’ll wait until they’re older.
How about you? Do you have a good reader for your literature projects? Do you have someone to bounce your material off? Do you wait anxiously for their analysis and crave their feedback?
Good readers are like gold. I don’t buy gold. It’s too expensive, and it might crash at some point. But I certainly appreciate it when I come across it.