Downith asked what motivated us. It seems that we are all motivated by fear, but I discovered as I tried to decide how to respond that I was also motivated by ambition. This isn’t a surprise to me; after all, I swore I would have a book by the time I was 35 (er, I didn’t). I went and got an MFA so that I could publish.
I don’t think this is either yucky or selling out. I’ve worked in the publishing industry and know well that books are often a collaboration between author and editor. I have never been Emily Dickinson (who, by the way, also sent her poems out to be critiqued), one who wants to self-publish. I think the “purity” of one’s own writing is bullshit. I believe in editing. I believe that some rough edges should stay while others should go. I believe that the last stage of writing is editing, at least a little, for audience.
Lionel Shriver talks about women and ambition. It sounds like a dirty word to some of us. But why are we doing this if we don’t want our work to see the light of day? I’m as uncomfortable marketing myself as the next introverted former English major, but will I do it in order to get this book that I’m working on to sell? Yes, yes I will. Will I feel guilty about it? Hell no.
I want my beta readers to tell me when I’m getting away with shit. I want them to tell me I’m full of hot air. I want them to tell me where I’m humming like a turbo jet. I want them to tell me how badly I’m fucking up. I want them to tell me when I hit it out of the park. Because I want this book to leave my computer. I want it to be a trade paperback. I want to beg for blurbs. I want to read at my former bookstore. I want to read at my former grad school. I want it to be on a pile on the front table of independent bookstores. I want Sarah W.’s dad to read it for Christmas. I want to make my sisters cry. I want the bookseller to place it in a reader’s hand and say “You’ll love it.”
What do you want?