"Success rests in having the courage and endurance and, above all, the will to become the person you are, however peculiar that may be." - George Sheehan
I recently discovered sparkle running skirts. Today as the dog and I ran through our neighborhood I wore a multi-colored skirt with attached shorts and a matching tech shirt. I felt like a middle-aged woman parading as a little girl, but I'm practicing being the person I am. I need to practice this with writing as well.
Deep into the revision process of Twenty-Six Point Freaking Two, my memoir about running, I realized I'd need to show more of myself than I'm comfortable with. The book is subtitled, "The Memoirs of an Emotionally Unstable, Middle-aged Marathoner." The current draft has plenty of middle-age stuff and the beginning shows my mental health challenges, but a beta reader confirmed my fear that I'd lost the mental health thread halfway through. It was there in the first draft. I found it embarrassing and took it out. Now I need the courage to put some of it back.
The "emotionally unstable" part makes the book special. The mental health angle, I hope, will catch the eye of an agent and editor and differentiate my book from the other health and fitness memoirs on the bookstore shelves. For the book to do this, I'll need to show how peculiar I am and reveal some secrets I've kept hidden. It's terrifying and necessary. I'm afraid people will turn away. But I owe it to the book and to myself. And I owe it to the reader. The subtitle makes a promise. And nothing pisses off a reader more than a promise unfulfilled.
How do you keep your promises to your readers even when it's terrifying? I'd love to hear about it.