Hello SEers! Gwen with you today to wrap-up the discussion on co-authorship. John Howell began with an overview, and you can find his first post here. I continued the following week by focusing on shared vision. You can check it out here. Then last week, John zeroed in on writing coherency. That post is linked here.
When talking about co-authorship, I’d like to underscore a comment made by most co-authors: it’s great fun and the story comes together in unexpected and potentially stronger ways than if it had been conceived and written by one person.
At the heart of a good writing partnership is communication. Isn’t that true for any relationship? The difference is that with a writing partner we’re usually limited to media such as phone or email or zoom. In-person exchanges are rare.
Writers must find a way to create a shared vision if there is to be one story. Take, for example, the graphic below. You and I can look at the same mountain but see different things. You might analyze how you’re going to reach the top, while I might be drawn into a mystical silence. Somehow, we must bring together our two ways of seeing.
Simple enough, right? But hold on, I like my mystical experience and I want it in the story. You like climbing mountains and you’re not willing to let it go. So, what do we do?
When you reach a divide such as the one above, you’ve begun the work of co-authorship. To resolve the differing points of view, the writers will need to set aside their egos, their need to control the outcome, and strive to find a middle ground. So how do you do that?
There are four techniques that can assist.
- Commit to talking through differences. Each writer brings their strengths to the partnership, and it is a rare apprenticeship to work with a person who may have a vastly different approach to writing. It requires listening – often intently, to grasp the partner’s mindset. Once understood, negotiating the idea becomes a simpler task because our vantage point has been stretched wider which makes a discussion much easier.
- Clear up miscommunications quickly. It’s inevitable that there will be misunderstandings. Accept that fact. The important point is that when it occurs, you take the time to ask questions, clarify, and talk through the situation. If you are patient and unravel the blockades, you will have peace of mind, you will have grown through the process, and your book will shine.
- Laugh about mistakes. John and I laughed a lot as we wrote. He was often the first to laugh, and his lightheartedness was freeing. Life is too short to spend the moments worried and distraught when we can adopt a healthier perspective and accept that mistakes are part of life. Co-writers need to remind each other to pause, take a deep breath, and find the humor in the situation.
- Maintain contact through social media. Often writers refer to their WIP as their “baby.” Well, for co-writers this sense of ownership is just as strong, but the “baby” is co-owned. By maintaining regular contact, writers can share their progress, their investment, their fears, hurdles, and life. This might seem excessive, but if you are working on a project together in which you are depending upon on another person, a simple exchange can bring peace.
A co-writing experience is an immersion into a different style of writing. Begin with someone you trust, tighten your writing seatbelt, and enjoy the ride. You’re in for an experience of a lifetime. I can assure you that when you reach your destination, you’ll marvel at the outcome, be surprised by what you’ve learned, and grateful for having discovered a lifelong friend.
I’d love to know your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions on this topic. Let’s chat.