Update: this just in! Writer-friend Jill, who I am nominating for the Kindest Human on Twitter Award, has a fantastic list of questions to ask a writer on her lovely blog, Slow Bloom.
Last week, I covered the don’ts. This week, as promised, here is a list of dos. If there’s a writer in your life, posing these magic questions will ensure that you don’t end up as a red-shirt in your wife’s sci-fi epic, a pox-ridden troll in your best friend’s fantasy series, or a dead body in your neighbor’s cozy mystery novel.
The Top Ten Questions to ALWAYS Ask A Writer
1) What’s the best book you’ve read lately? Unlike the dreaded “What’s your book about?” this question allows the writer, often an introspective and solitary species, to deflect attention away from herself, while identifying a key area of interest and opening the door to a conversation about her favorite subject–books. Writers love recommending books. Just don’t expect the ensuing conversation to be over anytime soon. And at least act like you’re writing down all the titles, authors, and editions.
2) What’s your opinion about the current state of publishing? Unlike “Have you considered self-publishing?” there’s no danger of this coming across to your writer as “The only way you’ll ever get published is if you pay somebody.”
3) What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled? Because we have Googled some crazy crap, y’all, and we are probably on every government watch and even a few that don’t exist yet.
4) What’s the one thing people don’t understand about writers that you wish they did? Because no one has ever asked me this question (and if you ask me now, that’s cheating. But go ask another writer. I bet you no one has ever asked her this, either.)
5) What’s your favorite team/pizza topping/TV series/pair of socks? Because occasionally–and I mean when the planets are perfectly aligned and environmental conditions are favorable and it’s a Tuesday–we do like to talk about things other than writing. I know, it sounds impossible. But it’s true.
6) Plotter or pantser? This one shows you know your stuff. This is a question that shows you care. Does your writer like to plot out everything in advance, sketching meticulous outlines and cramming notebooks with spidery handwriting and dubious line-drawings of maps and imaginary people’s faces? Or does she go, “Hey, I’ma write a book about this girl who is raised by ferrets in the wild!” and sit down at her computer and proceed to write a book by the seat of her pants? Writers talk about this sort of thing amongst each other all the time. Asking this question demonstrates your worthiness to join the inner circle.
7) How do you manage to look so buff whilst sitting around writing all day? A little flattery never hurts. And our finger muscles are seriously ripped. We’re talking hawt. I, for example, have worn the “N” off my “N” key, and my space bar, when viewed from a certain angle, is beginning to look concave. Bonus points for using “whilst” instead of “while,” because 85% of us are at least closet Anglophiles, and that’s a conservative estimate.
8) What’s the worst book you’ve ever read? Despite our projected auras of long-suffering intellectual struggle and profound concern for the future of the written word and the human race in general, we are after all only human, and occasionally we like to talk a little smack about Fifty…..um, things we didn’t like about this one book.
9) Would you like me to hang out with the kids/octegenarians/hedgehogs/etc. so you can get some writing done? This one is gold, peeps. Play this one right and you can sweet-talk your way right into our “Acknowledgments” page. And no, that is not a euphemism. I’m talking about the actual “Acknowledgments” page. Sheesh.
AND, the best and safest question of all time:
10) Would you like coffee or tea before I leave you in perfect solitude for the next three hours?