Tips for Collaborative Writing

The image most people get of writers is people sitting alone in a freezing garret wresting with the agony of getting just the right words down in the perfect order. The image is of poor, pitiable people striving to exorcise their psychological demons (sometimes with the help of vast quantities of alcohol or drugs). collaboration quote
When we think of these tortured souls, we think of writers like Edgar Allen Poe or Sylvia Plath.
The truth is that most writers end up working in a collaborative atmosphere. They work with clients, subject matter experts, and researchers. Usually, the end product is the result of the efforts and input of several people. So, the old paradigm flies out the window.
One of the most essential skills for a writer is to be able to work with others. Anyone who has worked on a group project for school, work, or as a volunteer knows that clashing personalities and objectives can come into play. If we’re not careful, they can doom any project.
So, how do we avoid making our collaborative writing undertaking into a replay of the sinking of the Titanic? Here are some things we need to keep in mind when we are collaborating:
Diplomacy: The greatest thing about working as a group is the diverse perspectives people bring to the table. The hardest thing about working as a group is the diverse perspectives people bring to the table. The trick is to remember that everyone has valid ideas. We all need to consider other viewpoints when we work together, but we need to pick and choose the ones that get us to our main objective. Getting people to participate and help attain the end product in the most effective manner requires a lot of tact sometimes.
A Sense of Humor: Working on a project shouldn’t be all giggles and “yuk yuks.” On the other hand, it shouldn’t be as serious as a church service. Sometimes we just have to be able to laugh a little at ourselves and what we do to make things go more smoothly. We all work better when we enjoy what we’re doing.
Agreement on Objectives: Everyone working in a group needs to agree upon and understand the objectives of the work. When people lose sight of the desired end result, they start wandering off into other areas where they may feel compelled to protect their “empire.”
Recognition: It is vital to recognize the skills each person brings to the project. As writers, we often want to control the whole process. We look at our writing as if it is our baby. We’re very protective of it. When we recognize the talents of those we’re working with, we realize we need to give up some of that control to get a better outcome. We need to trust in the process and our co-writers.
Revision: Sometimes it is beneficial to have the strongest writer in the group create the first draft just to get something concrete down. But it is essential that everyone who is part of the collaborative process takes part in revision. I can tell you from personal experience that there are few things more gratifying or satisfying than the excitement of a group of people working together to make the pieces all come together into a final, excellent product.
The point is, collaborative writing is the norm more than the exception. You don’t think James Patterson churns out all those books each year all by himself, do you?
The trick is to make it the most productive, effective, and satisfying experience possible.


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