Collaboration Considerations

July 13, 2016

I just finished reading Face Off, a collection of eleven thriller short story collaborations edited by David Baldacci, and that made me think about writer collaborations.

If you’re thinking about working with another writer, here are some things you might want to consider.

  • Working with another writer can help you improve your writing.
  • Working with another writer is a good way to tackle larger projects (note how often James Patterson does this).
  • Working with another writer can be challenging since each author brings his or her own perspective to the project.
  • Working with another writer can be challenging when one writer starts to lose enthusiasm, misses deadlines, or gets side-tracked with another project.
  • Working with another writer can be challenging when egos get in the way, emotions run amuck, or interpersonal communication breaks down. Be sure you both understand there will be disagreements because both of you come to the project with different ideas, perspectives, and experiences. Your challenge is to figure out how deal with these disagreements while working together.

Before you sign a contract to work with another author, consider these tips.

  • Determine how comfortable you feel with the other person. Be honest about how much you trust that person, how committed that person is (as well as how committed you are) to working together on the project.
  • Consider how well you work with others. Be honest about your past success in group work in school, on committees, or even on sports teams.
  • Decide who will do what on the project, including the work beyond putting words on paper. By that I mean who will conduct and document research, whose name appears first on the work, who will help in marketing, what editor(s) you’ll work with to make sure the finished project reads as if it was written in one voice (something my college students often failed to do with group projects they turned in), etc.
  • Come to some agreement on how you and your co-writer will divide project expenses and income.
  • Figure out how to deal with what will happen if one of you isn’t able to finish the project for some reason. It could be health, family emergency, financial changes such as if one of you needs to find a different job, or any number of unforeseen things that occur in life.
  • Include a paragraph on how you will handle disputes that may arise if you both become deadlocked on an issue. It’s hard to have two people act as equal leaders in any human endeavor, so you may want to clarify who makes which decisions and what to do if the other writer absolutely cannot  accept a decision.

Collaboration can be rewarding, but you need to take a few steps to make sure you and your writing partner are on the same page. Happy writing!