Now that I’m revising my travel memoir, I spend a lot of time looking at scenes and paragraphs that make me uncomfortable and asking myself: should I really include this?
That’s because in my first draft, I included everything. I included details that were embarrassing, that I wouldn’t even want my mother to read. I was able to do this because no one was going to read them. It was my only first draft.
But now I’m preparing to share my manuscript with five fabulous friends who have offered to serve as guinea pig readers. Now, if I leave those embarrassing pieces where they are, other people will read them.
And so I’m having a little bit of a panic attack. Every once in a while, I’ll send a paragraph to my best friend from journalism school or my critique partner and ask, “Are you sure I should include this? The reader is not going to think I’m totally lame? You’re absolutely positive you’re laughing with me and not at me?”
This morning, in response to one of my e-mail panics, critique partner Peggy wrote this response. Another reason why she’s awesome:
I know that revealing something so personal makes you uncomfortable, but small things like that help make the reader LIKE you even more. They don’t want to read about a superwoman, they want someone real, with flaws and quirks. That is one of the first things you learn when writing fiction, to give your main character a flaw. Nothing too horrible, of course, but why do you think Hugo gave Quasimodo a hump?
Good for you to be willing to be open. You will be happy you did.
I know she’s right. Nothing that I’m writing about is “too horrible.” When you read the book, you might even pass over those parts without realizing they were embarrassing for me to reveal. But to me, exposing my personal feelings and habits is horrifying. Scary. So scary, in fact, that I vow not to think about it for the rest of the day after I finish this blog post.
But I will tell you this: I have not removed a single embarrassing paragraph. Not one. Why? Because they make the book interesting, and as Peggy pointed out, they’ll help the reader like me.
You’d better not laugh at me when you read this book.