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"What is the first book that made you cry?" and other questions.

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

What is the first book that made you cry?

Wow, I hope no one is expecting me to be profound here. I find that difficult outside of my books, which often use analogies to get me there. I need to be deeply embedded in the process of writing to reach that place. IRL, I'm usually in an analytical and problem solving mode. (What about you, readers?)

So... the first book that made me cry? I can't really recall. Possibly The Little Match Girl, which may seem trite as you read, but as a poor girl who lived far into the North, I knew what the inevitable outcome would be, and didn't want it to go down like that. Which it did (it's too late to spoiler this). I still think about that book, and I have professional artwork of that story that helps me keep that little, fictional girl alive, at least in my head. Nowadays, you can see me acknowledge the tall odds, and the fact that there is no one coming to rescue some little girls, in the novella Wings & Justice, which, of course, has a very different outcome for its hardened criminal and villain.

If there was an award -- let's call it The Sobbies -- I'd say my personal record is held by the Dragonlance series. As a big fan of Raistlin Majere, I was constantly frustrated by this antihero -- he could have turned it around... buti didn't want to. I found that exhausting. However, if you're saying what I think you're saying, I fully agree his rather dim twin brother, though caring, wasn't quite bright enough to stop and redirect Raistlin. No shade on the guy, but damn. It was ultimately too much of a barrier and disappointment for me to go on reading in that series, as happens from time to time. Another example of this was DeathNote and the fate of L , which stopped me cold. I was, by then, an experienced reader and more infuriated and simply done reading, and I think most DeathNote fans know exactly when. This is complicated by the fact, I think I might have been born tired of grimdark genre, and I deeply dislike the "Major character death will make the book profound" fad or trope. For me, it's the characters working through the plot that give a book meaning. I find most major character deaths a kind of stage trick, and the outcome manufactured emotion. Stir real emotion in your readers. It makes the book more worthwhile, in my opinion. Endless gloom is not for me.

Oh! And the Queen of The Sobbies has to be comic books -- specifically DC comic books. I long ago reached the point of no return with those. It was more tears of pure frustration back when I was still reading. I snarled over the flash-in-the-pan plots, and what was horrendously out-of-touch writing. Rife with 'Kill the women and children, they're devices' and 'POC die first', I gave up on them. But... not before I read just about every Batman Detective book and sorted out that my favourite Legionnaire was The Triad.

This slump appears to continue into the DC movies I watch infrequently and which have, as of last official update, sworn off movies with women leads (I'm out). (By the way, this does not apply to Wonder Woman. I will show up for Wonder Woman.)

Best good comic book cry? Plume Comic by K. Lynn Smith. Straight-up chef's kiss!

fig. The amazing Jeff Echevarria - Artworks for Sale & More | Artsy. The Little Match Girl.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

This will be unpopular, but... that's okay.

There are two 'big traps' that aspiring writers fall into -- like Scylla and Charybdis lying in wait for Greek and Roman ships full of scribes. The first thing aspiring writers do wrong is listen to other aspiring writer's advice. Hear me out! Because a person has a large TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, or any social media following... means little. If they haven't published, and haven't had success, it is best to wait on their opinions until they do. Aspiring writers are better off, instead, listening to industry mavens who have established a track record and who are, after a period of following them, reliable, trustworthy, and doing what they're trying to do. I, for instance, like Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Jane Friedman for this.

Looking cute on TikTok while reading Save The Cat (a book I couldn't even get through, full disclosure) is not enough. Failing that, find your people who have graduated from University courses for Publishing. They tend to either know their stuff, or know someone else who knows their stuff via their network. I have graduated from a Publishing Masters led by Dune author Kevin J. Anderson. I know my stuff, and still don't feel qualified enough to give advice that could derail a writer's career. Opinions, by the way, are not advice.

Second big barrier: The attitude. That attitude -- you know who you are -- is going to keep you sidelined. In writing and publishing it is important to keep an open mind, value growth and change, and be a try hard -- videogame epithets about being a sweat lord and try hard aside. You have to dig in and try things. Often you need to write every day. You need to publish a lot. More than anything, you have to be honest with yourself and stop making excuses. Excuses don't meet deadlines. Some aspiring writers can whinge about having to write to be a writer. One never hears the same of doctors who have to see patients to be a doctor. Writers write. So be honest and write.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

fig. aryanagolchin on Facebook.

Oh boy.

A resilient ego helps writers. You must maintain a healthy ego.

As a warning, I'm not sure I have a valid opinion on this topic. As a neurodivergent, I don't experience some of popular nigh-pseudoscientific trends such as 'Imposter Syndrome'. But I'll try to answer this within my limited scope.

As a writer, there are times you will receive harsh reviews, even hatred, for and over your books and writing. Jealousy, toxicity, performative outrage, even self-righteous mobs are all a real thing for authors. You may get death threats. You may be called names. It's possible to be cancelled -- we've all seen this. Don't let fear block your ears to real and important feedback, and don't open yourself up to attack and assault while you're not wearing armour, either. Bullying and mental abuse are real and can have serious negative outcomes. Don't let people abuse you because you wrote a book that didn't suit them.

fig. Image by awsloley from Pixabay.

As a neurodivergent I've probably erred on the side of protecting myself quite a lot. This is partly because I don't have many resources to spare when it comes to intrusive and unkind behaviour, and partly because a writer should never welcome someone else into their head. Other people aren't writing and cannot write your books. Having outsiders in your writing space changes the writing people came to you for! In this case, you need to act out of loyalty to your readers, and love of what you, alone, can do. Keep the writing space between your ears open, filled with music and good things, and honed for invention. I believe this is especially critical for 'Discovery writers' who 'Write into the dark' like I do. A Discovery writer (sometimes called a Pantser) must trust themselves without reservation. Starting the book, they don't see the ending. They draw on their notion of what should be in the novel they're writing, and all the other books to invent the next line. There are a lot of instances where one invents something and hopes it will connect to the plot later. It will connect. If your inner writing space is clear and you trust yourself.

I believe overblown egos have elements of arrogance, insecurity, and inflexibility (at the very least) and everyone has these elements. These elements won't help you get words down and follow up with publishing. Grittiness will. I'ts also important to step aside and come at publishing with humility. Publishing will be hard. You will be tested. Sometimes, especially when things go wrong and wrong and wrong, you'll break. Once in a blue moon, though, you'll be able to reach out to a reader in the dead of night. And you would be shocked at how little Reader-time it takes to fire up the jets again. Readers rejuvenate authors. They remind a writer exactly why they do such lonesome work so hard. If your ego is flagging -- which I honestly think is much more likely for an author -- talk to a reader. Thanks for the questions and thank you for reading!

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