Ideal number of writers for a set

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the return of AHAN
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Ideal number of writers for a set

Post by the return of AHAN » Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:51 pm

As I'm searching for writers for a 4th iteration of the Collaborative Middle School Tournament, I was wondering what, in the opinions of the experienced writers here, is the ideal number of writers for a 10-packet tournament set? I solicited commitments for 10/10 or more from several people, but I'm concerned that some may not actually contribute at all. Is it appropriate to take commitments for 5/5? Or does that just result in too many different writing styles and the set becomes the quizbowl equivalent of the Tower of Babel?
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Re: Ideal number of writers for a set

Post by Deviant Insider » Sun Oct 07, 2012 9:24 pm

I'm not the intended audience of this post, but it's been 24 hours without people who know better than I do saying anything, so I'll answer anyways.

I don't think there is any reason to limit the number of writers. Sometimes it's good when a set is being written by 1 or 2 people to keep it that way for the sake of unity, but this set isn't going to do that. Once you have several writers, then the editors are responsible for bringing unity to the set. It doesn't matter whether several means 10, 15, or 20--the editors are going to have to edit it into shape, and somebody contributing 5/5 isn't going to make the set worse.
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Re: Ideal number of writers for a set

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:27 pm

On the contrary, I've been involved with some sets (particularly the first two incarnations of Fall Novice) where the large number of writers helped contribute to social loafing and a sense of general indifference to the project. If a single writer among a multitude thinks that they can just dash off 5/5 questions of any quality level and think they've done something, and that writer isn't getting any payment or anything for their effort, their questions may be bad enough that the editors actually take as long or longer to edit that question as it would take to just write one on their own. And that's if said single writer does anything at all. It'd be great if you had 20+ writers who actually gave a damn and put in effort to make their questions good, but I don't think anyone other than big agents like NAQT, HSAPQ, or PACE, who actually pay writers and have some benchmark quality standards for submissions, will ever get in a situation where 20+ people actually put in good effort. I've rarely if ever seen a non-company writing team complete a full-size set in which more than ten people cared enough to soldier through and get the set done. And it's often five or fewer.

You can invite as many people as you want, being hopeful that they'll all do what's asked, but you have to realistically expect most people on such an all-are-welcome writing team will disappear or do a terrible job. As you add more people, more such people will give your editors headaches and nightmares - more than you'd otherwise have with a smaller team of demonstrably dedicated people. One issue you'll have with your set, with its corps of largely new writers (or new to middle-school writing), is that it's hard to tell in advance who gives a damn and who doesn't - you don't know who the dedicated people are. So you'll probably find out during the process. Once you figure out who's reliable, have a contingency plan for getting the set done anyway when the few people who do care have to do way more.

Ideally, you'd have a better idea of who can write questions and who can't, and who's reliable and who's not, when determining how big a team to assemble in writing a set.
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Re: Ideal number of writers for a set

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:46 pm

I find that a dedicated core group of 3-4 people is the best model. Expanding it out further diffuses responsibility, forces you to just pick up other people's slack, and nets you questions of bad quality.
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