Why do you answer some questions, and not others? (Such as, well, mine!) And why do you answer some questions moments after they appear, while other ones take weeks?
— Various Readers
My assistant Chad transcribes all the questions on three-by-five note cards, then shuffles them exactly three times. I take the stack and begin spinning clockwise for approximately twenty-two seconds, at which point I throw all the cards in the air. The question that ends up closest to me — without actually touching me — gets answered.
Actually, it’s not nearly so elaborate. Whenever an interesting question comes in, either from firstname.lastname@example.org, Ask a Writer on IMDb, or as a comment on a previous post, I flag it as a potential question to answer later. Sometimes, “later” translates as “right now,” but usually there’s a delay of at least a week. Sometimes more. Sometimes never.
There’s no malice or forethought. I simply answer whatever question I find most interesting at the moment. These questions tend to fall into two categories:
Things I have an easy answer for, such as formatting issues, questions about past projects, geeky stuff.
Things I never thought about, like whether pitch-fests are worth the bother.
The biggest backlog of unanswered questions is “career advice”-type questions. Some of them are really interesting. One reader wrote a script that attracted the interest of a C-list actor a few years ago. Now that same actor is A-list. How should the writer re-approach him?
Good question! I don’t know. And that’s why I haven’t tried to answer it yet.
I really do read every question that gets sent in. Here’s my criteria for whether something goes in the “consider” or the “pass” pile:
- Does the writer have a grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation? If not, they need more help than I can give them.
- Have I answered this question, or one very much like it, before? If so, they should just look at the previous answer.
- Would a decent percentage of site visitors be interested in the answer? Some questions can be so specific that it’s unlikely anyone else would care.
There are currently 21 questions flagged to be answered. Realistically, I’ll never get to all of them, because new questions will come in that catch my attention. That, and the whole screenwriting career I do on the side.