Lynne Hunt has been my beta reader/crit buddy for The Second Realm since episode 3, back in February of 2012. I'd initially planned to try to get a different test reader for every episode, which quickly proved both impractical and misguided (not only was The Second Realm not the instant, overnight literary revolution I'd hoped for, but as a serial it was quite useful for a reader to have read all the episodes, not just one random chunk from the middle of it). I got the vague idea Lynne might be the perfect person for the job when she instantly identified the episode title, A Hole in Her Mind, as a reference to Babylon 5.
"Yes," I thought, "this is someone I can trust."
And trust I could. Since episode 3, Lynne has fielded everything I've thrown at her. Some 280,000 words of the main series, various side projects, a number of other things I've written and wanted a second opinion on. When I've emailed her saying 'I really needed to ask you about this last week, can you get back to me yesterday?', which has happened far more times than it should have, she's done everything short of actually bending time to help me out.
Sartre argued that we only ask people for advice when we know what they're going to say. I'm normally a fan of the man, but working with Lynne has proved him dead wrong on this point. She's been consistently as incisive as a surgeon in identifying the weaknesses of my first drafts - weaknessesd I'd never in a million years have spotted myself.
The Second Realm is stronger for Lynne's attention, but I am also a stronger writer. There can be no better lesson than having someone follow you through your own work for a long period of time, pointing out - precisely but never harshly - its weaknesses. For a long time, for example, I had a pathological inability to start stories without a page or two of waffling. Lynne called me on it every time, until I finally started editing my own first pages before sending them to her.
It hasn't all been criticism, either. People somewhere in the world are definitely reading The Second Realm (it passed 9000 total downloads on Smashwords last week), but Lynne is the only one I hear from regularly. Writing can be a lonely process; Lynne has made it less so. Intimidating as feedback can sometimes be, I always look forward to an email from her; her enthusiasm for and dedication to my little project has been heartening and profoundly moving.
Of course, it's not all about me. Lynne is a fine writer in her own right; I've been lucky over the years to have a sneak peek here and there at her work. She has nothing for me to plug at the moment, but you can be damn sure you'll hear of it when she does.
And as if that wasn't enough virtue, she's also a keen charity fund-raiser. Last time I met her in the real world, she was having her head shaved for charity whilst simultaneously hand-cooking a bajillion pizzas to feed the crowd assembled at her house for an annual charity party she hosts. As someone who can barely manage 'take pizza out of freezer, remove packaging, put in oven', I found this awesome just as a feat of domestic organisation, never mind the hundreds of pounds raised for a local hospice charity.
Lynne, you're one of the finest examples of humanity I know, and I'm honoured to have had the benefit of your wit and wisdom these past three years.