Silly Questions for Serious Writers

Silly Questions
for Serious Writers

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately in which authors who are on blog tours are asked a lot of serious questions about their craft, their process, their writing preferences.

Granted all these solemn questions are important to understand the hard work and dedication that it takes to be a writer, and others can learn a lot from the answers, but holy hell some of the questions make me want to snooze!

Yes, yes, there are no stupid questions, yatta yatta.

But everyone knows that the sillier the question, the more the reader catches a glimpse into the actual personality of the writer.

James Lipton was on to something when he added Proust’s (really Pivot’s) questionnaire to the end of Actor’s Studio:

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

(There is a great article about these questions if you’re interested in the backstory, here.)

So, I’ve come up with a list of questions to ask writers (or anyone really), to get to know them better. (I’ll fill it in myself for my next post.)

  1. What book or movie has made you pull your hair out, scream at the screen, jump up and down and generally obsess over for weeks on end until you start to see people rolling their eyes when you bring it up for the hundredth time?
  2. Speaking of obsession, what’s one thing you are or have been completely obsessed with?
  3. Name one thing you hoard or collect (come on, you know there’s something. Besides rejection letters, that is. 😉 )
  4. If your writing style were an animal, which would it be? (Are plotters elephants? Are pantsers meerkats?)
  5. On days when you want to say “Sod it all! I give up!” A) what would you rather be doing, and B) what helps you get back in the writing groove?
  6. My favorite way to procrastinate is…?
  7. Singing in the shower. Your thoughts?
  8. How would your children describe you?
  9. Food that you absolutely couldn’t live without and would fight tooth and claw to consume, even if that meant stockpiling it before Brexit, or hiding it from your significant other in a top secret desk drawer and not feeling an ounce of shame about lying about it when asked point blank whether you have any.
  10. Oh yeah, and tell us about your new book.

What questions do YOU want to be asked while on blog tour?

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YES! Quotes

I’m just going to put it out there–I love aphorisms. Ditty phrases that pump you up, make you smile, peel you off the floor when you’re down.

They’re like GIFs with words.

So I’ve decided to start listing some of my favourites so that I have some maxims to look back on any time I feel like life is the windscreen and I’m the fly.

(That’s windshield to you US folks.)

They’re my YES! Quotes, because that’s what I want to say when I read them.

Here’s two to get us started.

Enjoy.

YES! quotes

 

everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

 

 

 

Mona Lisa’s Forehead

Let’s imagine there’s a power cut at the Louvre.

You’re wandering the majestic halls for the first time and you’re hoping to see the Mona Lisa. You’ve heard all about this great painting and you are excited to finally see a masterpiece.

You somehow arrive at the Renaissance section (this Louvre place is huge), and there she is… at the other end of the gallery. This is it, your moment.

You advance.

Then the lights go out.

Da Vinci’s beautiful lady is somewhere in front of you but you can’t see a darn thing.

Of course you brought your keychain flashlight (motto: always prepared), which you power up and shine ahead of you.

And what you see is a forehead. An amazing forehead, mind you. An unparalleled hairline if you do say so yourself, but that’s it. The moment you’ve been waiting for and all you can see is the tippy top of Mona Lisa’s head.

Where’s the enigmatic smile? Where’s the impenetrable stare that follows you as you cross the room?

HOW DO YOU SEE THE BIG PICTURE?

Here’s where critique groups come in. (You knew I had to get to my point some day, right?)

For writers, critique groups are like an extra set of flashlights (okay, ‘torches’ for you Brits).

You may think your story is spot on brill (“A-OK” for you Americans) but maybe you’re just looking at a forehead. What if there’s so much more of the masterpiece to be discovered?

I know it’s scary to have your work read by others (What if they hate it? What it they’re mean to me? What if it actually stinks and they’re just being polite? Self-doubt much anyone?) But critiques can bring so much more to the table than what you originally wrote. Some of it might be as useless as Madame Lisa’s elbow but some might shine a light on that little part of the upper lip that curves delicately into a cheeky smirk. And KAPOW! You have a better book.

Dare I say….masterpiece?

So get out there and show your work to people. Heck, the postman probably has an opinion, right? You never know who might help you turn your spotty forehead into a Renaissance triumph.

(Too much? yeah, well, I’m just going to roll with it.)

 

xJ

Making Your Story “Less Lame”

George Saunders wrote the following paragraphs in the Guardian and I’m posting it here to remind us all how writing is all about re-writing. And how important it is to edit your own work rather than just assuming that the first draft is the final draft just because it’s written down. And how to add specific details to really delve into the minds of the characters.

(It’s not kid lit related, but relevant nonetheless.)

… “When I write, “Bob was an a**hole,” and then, feeling this perhaps somewhat lacking in specificity, revise it to read, “Bob snapped impatiently at the barista,” then ask myself, seeking yet more specificity, why Bob might have done that, and revise to, “Bob snapped impatiently at the young barista, who reminded him of his dead wife,” and then pause and add, “who he missed so much, especially now, at Christmas,” – I didn’t make that series of changes because I wanted the story to be more compassionate. I did it because I wanted it to be less lame.

But it is more compassionate. Bob has gone from “pure a**hole” to “grieving widower, so overcome with grief that he has behaved ungraciously to a young person, to whom, normally, he would have been nice”. Bob has changed. He started out a cartoon, on which we could heap scorn, but now he is closer to “me, on a different day”.

How was this done? Via pursuit of specificity. I turned my attention to Bob and, under the pressure of trying not to suck, my prose moved in the direction of specificity, and in the process my gaze became more loving toward him (ie, more gentle, nuanced, complex), and you, dear reader, witnessing my gaze become more loving, might have found your own gaze becoming slightly more loving, and together (the two of us, assisted by that imaginary grouch) reminded ourselves that it is possible for one’s gaze to become more loving.” …

To read the full article, go HERE .