Woman peeking around corner, looking sheepish

So, the other day I mentioned to my hubby—who is also my technical guru—that one of the online forms at Compose didn’t seem to be working.

As he prodded into both of my sites, he also discovered a glitch in the contact form at Write It Sideways. In fact, there were hundreds of email messages I hadn’t received from my readers, and they were sitting there in my system.

Some of them were more than a year old.

How could this happen? How hadn’t I noticed?

I suppose there were a number of factors: I was still receiving dozens of messages every day that related to my writing and editing work, but they were coming directly to my email address, not through my contact form. I hadn’t been updating Write It Sideways regularly, so I figured naturally I wouldn’t be receiving as many queries. And, I was still communicating with readers who would write to me by replying to my email newsletters and announcements.

In any case, here I was, staring down hundreds of messages and wondering what to do with them. I ended up going through every single one to be sure I hadn’t missed anything important.

Here’s a breakdown of how I handled the email problem, and this will also be an explanation of sorts in case you emailed me and didn’t receive a reply:

Friendly Personal Letters

I drafted a cut-and-paste reply I could send to those who had written me nice letters about themselves, their writing, and how my site had helped them. Every time I came across one of these, I read it in its entirety, then replied with this auto response, explaining the situation. I always appreciate people taking the time to write to me.

Friendly Personal Letters with Complicated Questions

Sometimes I’ll get the type of letter I outlined above, but it includes an in-depth question about the craft of writing or how the writer can accomplish some task. These questions are almost always difficult to answer in one paragraph or less—many would take pages. Therefore, I read and appreciated each of these notes, but this time around I did not reply to them.

Straight Questions

I have always received a good number of questions from those who don’t seem to be regular readers of Write It Sideways. Questions like these:

  • “Can you teach me how to be a writer?”
  • “I wrote this book. How can I get it published?”
  • “I’m writing this 300,000 word literary-fantasy-horror-sci-fi-western-romance novel. Well, [Name of Character] just [did something crazy and amazing] but now [I have this huge problem I can't seem to fix]. What can I do?”

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