Writing collaboratively is something that I see attempted quite often. A lot of people do callouts online for people to help write their book because they have a fantastic idea but don’t have the skills or knowledge to bring it to life.
This is not writing collaboratively. This is hiring a ghost writer, which is a very different beast.
Writing collaboratively is where all people involved do the work together. It is a very interesting thing and something that I’ve only dabbled in, but I know others that have partaken in it. It can be a fun project if it’s done well and there are a few points that need to be nailed down to achieve this.
This is different from the planning of your book. This is project planning. You sit down together—literally or metaphorically—and work out exactly what needs to be done from the start to the finish of the project. You need to have every part of creating your work itemised.
Who’s going to be doing what? This is one of the most important aspects of writing collaboratively. Are you writing a chapter each? Will one of you write all the dialogue while the other writes everything else? Are you both going to edit the whole thing or will you both only edit each other’s parts? Generally, it may be best if the roles should be divided up as fairly as possible.
Decide the Future of the Project
You know what you’re going to be creating and who’s going to be doing what, but what’s the next step? Are you writing a novel together and publishing it? Great. Is one of you holding the copyright or are both? How are the royalties being split? This part needs to be written down and signed by all parties involved. People fall out—it happens—and you don’t want to be at the end of the project, have an argument with your collaborator, and then have them take the whole book and remove your name from it. As a joint creator you have joint ownership of the copyright and the royalties made, but you need something to prove it. A simple contract between everyone saying that your project is a joint enterprise by those involved and that royalties should be split equally should suffice, but if in doubt seek legal advice. Then, if any shenanigans do happen, all parties have a relatively good level of legal protection.
You need to plot the project out pretty thoroughly. If you’re each writing different sections, then that can’t happen cohesively without a robust plot decided beforehand.
Only now do we get to the actual work of doing the writing and the editing and all the normal things that go into writing something.
The only question left is: should you do it? The answer is: you should if you both want to. It’s complicated and it adds a fair amount of hurdles that aren’t there when you’re writing on your own. It becomes much harder to make sure that there’s a consistent voice throughout the project and that the style of writing isn’t all over the place, but these aren’t insurmountable and can, generally speaking, be cleaned up in the numerous edits that will take place. I cannot stress enough that you need to do all of the planning and preparation before you start writing or even think about writing. Make sure that everyone is pulling their weight and be very wary of request for collaborations from people who just have an idea and can’t write the thing themselves. But, if you’re prepared and it’s done properly, there’s no reason why it can’t be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
© 2019 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.