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Writing is the process of creating quizbowl questions, with the individuals who write questions being called simply writers. After a question is written, it is typically passed on for editing; the editor can be the same person, and in fact editors typically also write. Writing is a very technical process which requires writers to balance concerns of difficulty and importance with personal flavor and creativity.
Writers are an essential part of the quizbowl community - with most sets having about a dozen packets of twenty tossups and twenty bonuses, roughly 500 questions need to be written for any given tournament. The long history of packet submission and housewrites means that, historically, many players found themselves becoming writers as they continued their careers. More recently, it has become much more normalized for active players to not do any writing.
Jerry Vinokurov penned an in-depth guide to writing questions on the forums and it is reproduced on the wiki here: How to Write Questions.
The primary aim of writing is to simply produce questions; even a poorly-written question is still technically written. While one can write for projects other than mainstream tournaments (like vanity packets or for studying purposes), the bulk of writing down today is ultimately a product which others pay to play. This leads to the secondary aim of writing: to produce quality questions.
Integral to the writing of good questions is an awareness and adherence to the principles of "good quizbowl": that questions should be fair, consistent, and reward knowledge. Almost always this means producing pyramidal questions which start hard and get easier, curating clues from legitimate sources absent of factual errors, and avoiding trivia.
Writing can be broadly interpreted to include all steps from the creation of a question to its inclusion in a packet. However, many of these are typically considered separate and split among different individuals during set creation.
- Main page: Editing
Editing is generally considered to be separate from, but closely related to, writing. Indeed, in most situations editors are a dedicated role, but one that is expected to write the most questions in their category.
There is no clean split between which considerations are considered part of writing versus editing. At minimum, editing involves reading over a question to verify that it meets standards, but a well-written question may require no editing at all. On the other end of the spectrum, an editor may need to totally rewrite a question (or simply replace it, which is effectively the same).
Proofreading is the act of reading through questions to check for errata like typos, factual errors, formatting issues, or problems with feng shui. Olivia Murton and Ophir Lifshitz are known for their work as proofreaders on many of the projects they have worked on.
Questions are typically intended for use in formal tournaments, whose mirrors must be centrally coordinated and payment must be processed. Additionally, they are often produced in groups to handle the number of questions that are required. The logistics required to orchestrate these moving parts and ensure overall quality is non-trivial and is often considered an additional non-writing aspect of creating a set.
Historically this has been the domain of the head editor, but is often considered the lowest priority among other responsibilities like enforcing overall set difficulty and acting as subject editor for what is often a large chunk of the distribution. In an attempt to remedy the problems that stem from neglecting these aspects of production, sets have begun to move towards having dedicated team members for handling these tasks.
The standard compensation for questions is somewhere in the range of $4 per tossup, with bonuses typically worth slightly less. Organizations like NAQT can offer flat rates, with bonuses for things like writing in high-demand categories, high volume, and consistency. By contrast, housewrites tie their compensation to the profit of the set, which is determined by mirror fees and, thus, the number of teams which play the set.
The payment for question writing is sufficient that dedicated writers with sufficiently high pay (e.g. NAQT high volume writers) are capable of deriving the majority of their income from writing - nevertheless, the average writer will not reach minimum wage. It is not unusual for inexperienced writers to take upwards of an hour per question, which translates to around $4 an hour. This is not an unusual situation - despite high gross pay, many editors make significantly less per hour due to the additional time required, and other essential roles like readers and scorekeepers are merely reimbursed for travel (if compensated at all). The fact that only a small minority of the community makes significant money from quiz bowl is a reminder that it (like other hobbies) is driven largely by volunteers.