How to Write Collaboratively At a Distance

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Denise Alicea

This blog was created by Denise in September 2008 to blog about writing, book reviews, and technology. Slowly, but surely this blog expanded to what it has become now, a central for book reviews of all kinds interviews, contests, and of course promotional venue for authors, etc

Most people write alone, but that’s not the only option out there. It’s also possible to write collaboratively, even remotely. With this process, two or more people join together to write one text. Generally, this is non-fiction, but it can be fictional work too. While it can be strange to do in the beginning, most people who give it a go find that it’s a valuable process — it’s like getting two writers for the price of one, essentially, with both writers bringing their best work. There has to be some rules in order for it to succeed, however. Below, we take a look at a few guidelines that’ll make the venture more likely to be successful. 

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Set the Roles

You can’t go into a collaborative writing project blind. If you do, you’ll quickly run into trouble. It’s much better to talk extensively before getting too deep into the idea. During this stage, you’ll define the roles of each writer. This will require some honest reflection, during which you determine what you’re good at and where your weaknesses lie. Once you’ve divided up the content and roles, you’ll have the framework from which the project can develop. If there’s an area where both (or all) writers want to take the lead, find a compromise — each writer will have to relinquish something at some stage.


Sharing Files


If you’ve ever written a book before, you’ll know that there is a lot of research, notes, drafts, and so on that occur before the final book is produced. When it’s just you writing, this is easy to organise (it’s controlled madness, but at least it’s yours). When there’s more than one person, and you’re not meeting face to face, it becomes more difficult. As such, you’ll be well served by setting up a system that allows you to share files with one another easily. These files can include drafts, but also notes, relevant other texts and videos, and so on. If the files are large, take a look at, and share the data via a torrent. You may want to password protect the torrent if it contains portions of your final text, however.


Give Feedback

It’s important to give honest feedback no matter what you’re critiquing, but it’s additionally important when your name is going to be attached to the project. When your writing partner shows you some of their work, it’s important that you’re hyper critical. You have to be strict because otherwise, you’ll eventually come up with an inferior work. The same has to be applied to you, too — tell them not to go easy on you when they’re giving feedback!


Stay Open

Finally, remember to stay open with these types of projects. You’ll have to give up some control, and treat it as an experiment. All going well, the project will take off, but it’s also possible that it’ll morph into something else entirely. Stay open and ready to change course should it come to it. 


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