I originally conceived MASSOLIT as a successor to Schindler's Lit (2013). I wanted to write my own set to help encourage more regular difficulty opens. But I had another goal of exposing myself to more literature, and so I determined that I would read everything I was writing on and clue almost exclusively from the works themselves.
I chose a distribution that would have a foundation in core works and authors but would allow me some space to try some new things:
- 4 American
- 4 British
- 4 European
- 4 World
- 2 Other American
- 1 Nonfiction
- 1 Whatever I Felt Like
Stylistically, I wanted to be able to write clues evocatively. I wanted my early clues to be such that parts of the work that any readers would remember but sources such as Wikipedia might not pick up on. At times I felt this worked really well (the Bierce tossup stands out to me), but if there were times it didn't, please let me know. I found that 800 characters per tossup was just about right to be able to describe clues richly while still being economical.
The first question I wrote for this tournament ended up being its most controversial. I wrote a tossup on Bob Dylan in the spring of 2014 after reading Tarantula, which I had found on my grandpa's bookshelf. I figured I'd try to see why Bob Dylan kept getting nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. So, I slogged through that terrible poetry collection, which, frankly, should have been enough to deny him the prize. But I also read about the aspects of his songbook that nominators cited and tried to include them in the question (I did put the lyrics of Idiot Wind in there, didn't I?). Anyway, when he actually won the prize, I got an email from former IMSA captain Sabrina Lato with subject line You wrote a lit tossup on Bob Dylan, right?.
- Sabrina: "Now there's going to be a flood of them..."
- Me: "I just hope it's not too passe by the time this set gets played."
- Sabrina: "Amazing how insensitive the Nobel Prize committee can be to the needs of ordinary question writers..."
I don't think the term "passe" applied, but it elicited groans in both Skype mirrors.
That first tossup was written in Spring 2014. The last tossup was written a couple hours before the first Skype mirror in May 2017. So, all in all, I spent a little over 3 years on this project. It was a lot of work, mostly a lot of reading, but it was also very rewarding. I found a bunch of new authors that I'm looking forward to reading more of, and also a bunch of authors I know not to read more from. I'd love to take that journey another time around, but 3 years is a lot of time for one project, and so I'm not sure I will. But I'd really like to see some other people do it :) If you've got any questions about the process, this is the place for them.