Would You Rather
Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?
My tongue is quite rounded so I don’t think it would be too effective as a writing implement. On the other hand, I have two left feet, which is problematic in its own way. There’s really no good answer to this one. I guess I’d go with tongue. That way I could savor every word, and besides, it would encourage me to be pithy and concise.
Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?
Sheesh, I’d happily opt for either one. A bestseller could set you up for a long time, whereas a string of moderates would keep your career ticking steadily along. I think I’d prefer the moderate success. As long as each book does well enough for the next book to happen, that’s good enough for me. Of course, I’d also like to, I don’t know, own a house someday? So get back to me on this one. The answer might change in a few years.
Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?
Who cares what they think after you’re dead? I’ll take the ego-boost during my lifetime, thanks.
Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?
Without. Starting every sentence with a conjunction would drive me nuts, whereas forgoing them entirely would require me to come up with some stylized speech patterns a la Spartacus on TV. This is workable and might even be fun.
Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?
Either one would make me insane. I respectfully refuse to answer.
Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that compromises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?
Oh, hell, the former I suppose. But the older I get, the more appealing the other choice gets. The way I see it, though, it’s impossible to deliberately write a crappy book. People write what they are compelled to write. I may think Harlequin Romances are shit, but that doesn’t mean I could write one. If I tried, there would be enough of me in it that it would be some unholy offspring of Dave Maine and Harlequin, and I would probably end up sort of liking it in some twisted way and it would bomb anyhow.
BTW, for a fictionalized illustration of this quandry you should all go read Erasure by Percival Everett, which is hilarious and infuriating in equal measure.
Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?
Plot twist. You can get over a plot twist, other stuff happens, whatever. But a character you have to live with for the entire book, years possibly, and then s/he lives on afterward too. So if you hate them, you’re really making your life difficult. I mean you’re going to dream about these people.
Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?
My blood. I hate tattoos and anything that involves marking up my (already-not-so-great) skin. Blood, on the other hand, you regenerate, so…
Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?
Okay, this is a tough one. Neither is too terribly appealing to tell the truth. I suppose it’s better to keep the end of the world (the subject of my first book) in the pages of a novel rather than out here in reality, but then again, most of my books take place in settings where I’d really rather not be… Kind of a coin toss here, they both have their advantages and (especially) disadvantages.
Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?
Well I did the first, in my original manuscript of The Book of Samson, and that was a blast. I mean, I did use some punctuation—periods—but nothing else, and paragraph breaks, and that was it. My agent and editor threw that out and inserted paragraph indents, although there are still no commas or quotation marks or anything. It was a blast to write, gave a very different feeling to the momentum of the story, and I’d think about going back there again. As for giving up the letter E, yeah, those kind of tricks don’t appeal to me much. I guess you have to be French.
Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?
Teach it. I don’t want schools to ban anything. (Which doesn’t mean I think Lolita should be taught to 7th graders. I just don’t think it should be banned.)
Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?
Bring it on, Dylan. Make me sweat, for all the wrong reasons.
Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?
Speaking. That way I could sound oblique and brilliant, which is something I have trouble with right now. I think if I only wroke in haiku, nobody would read me at all, even my mom. Come to think of it, I’m not sure my mom reads me now.
Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or only the BLANK series?
Well, I don’t know what the Blank series is, so I’ll go with that.
Would you rather critics rip your book apart publically or never talk about it at all?
I have some experience of both of these things, and I think it’s better to be scorned than ignored. On the other hand, getting scorned isn’t a lot of fun either. This is one of those questions that seem to have an obvious answer—negative attention is better than none at all—but frankly that response is a little glib. I do think that it’s better to be reviewed badly than not reviewed at all, but neither of these experiences is enjoyable. The choice is much tougher than many people would have you believe.
Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
I already have a voice in my head narrating everything! It’s been there my whole life. I thought everybody had this (?) but maybe not. Anyway, I’ll stick with what I know. I have trouble enough with Twitter already.
Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?
I’d rather be lying down, but I’d probably worry that it was bad for my heart, so then I’d go with standing on tiptoes. This wouuld not be easy for me; balance isn’t my strong suit, and I’m one of the clumsiest people I know. So the chapters would be short. Hey! It might be a way to get me to write “sudden fiction” or whatever that nonsense is called.
Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?
I’d have to go with naked. It would be mortifying, but mostly for the audience.
Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well?
Probably the latter. Even a tired storyline can be elevated by strong writing on the sentence level, whereas it’s just frustrating to read something potentially good that is hampered by weak writing, clichéd phrasing and so forth. Of course, it’s most satisfying to read an excellent story that is written well, but that doesn’t seem to be an option here.
Here's David's response to Mason Johnson's question: If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, what would you rather die from: stab wounds from a pen, or stab wounds from a sword?
Pen. They'd be smaller, but deeper, and I wouldn't suffer as long.
Check back next week to see what Andrew F Sullivan would rather
and see his answer to Mason's question:
Would you rather have your novel turned into a comic book aimed at 12-year-olds, or turned into a Starz “adults only” miniseries with lots of gratuitous nudity and violence?
David Maine is an old-fashioned pen-on-paper writer who adds his musings to the endless aching howl of the internet.