On Making Yourself Cry

On Making Yourself Cry (While Writing I Mean!) – Tales from a Blurry Eyed Writer

I often make myself cry when I am writing – and no, not because I’m stuck, or the writing’s not all it should be on that particular day (both which happen sometimes I’ll admit) but because I genuinely upset myself.

Writing Amy Green 4 was a tissue-fest. One of the main characters, Bailey, has a très sad back story and telling his tale got to me sometimes. And yes, I’m a bit softie most of the time anyway, I cry at a lot of things – films, telly, sad things people tell me. I think a lot of writers wear their hearts on their sleeves to be honest. You have to be able to emphasise and really feel what your characters feel on a daily basis or you can’t write good characters, it’s as simple as that. And life can be pretty tough sometimes – and even in books for young readers, you have deal with some seriously sad stuff. So no wonder we’re all so emotional, us writerly people.

This morning I wrote a chapter of The Shoestring Club, my adult book for 2012. It’s nearly finished now and I’ve been dreading writing this scene since I planned the book. I don’t always plan books so carefully, but this one I did as I have a tight schedule next year writing-wise – another adult book to write and an Amy Green, plus another children’s book (possibly), so I wanted to keep tight reins on the book, hence the detailed chapter by chapter plan. And actually, in this case it’s worked really well. And no, I don’t think it has taken from the spontaneity of the book. There are still plenty of surprises in this book, both planned and unplanned.

Anyway my main character, Jules (Julia) is talking to someone about her childhood and the death of her mother (Jules was only 9 at the time) and I found myself sobbing, wiping my eyes with my sleeve and trying to type through the tears. Not easy I can tell you. Then once I’d finished the scene I went back over it several times, deepening the dialogue, giving some of Jules’s thoughts as she’s sitting there, crying herself, and adding some back story snippets of her talking to her dying mother. It’s still not perfect, it needs work, but emotionally it’s pretty strong stuff. And it’s only taken me fifteen years of writing to get to that point! Nothing really. My books are going to be so amazing in another fifteen years! Seriously! Because these days I don’t shy away from scenes that are difficult or upsetting or intense – I just go for it. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t and then I cut the scenes and rewrite, or leave the scene out altogether. But when it works, it’s magic.

So pour your own emotion all over your page. Image you are your character, let their feelings wash through you and make yourself cry. Go on, I dare you!

I wish you all, as always, good writing days.

Yours in writing,

Sarah X