In this series of articles, our admins aim to answer questions about anything related to comments/commenting, art and more! Here are our answers to Northstar170's question:
How do I approach co-writing? A friend of mine and I have decided to collaborate on a dramatized non-fiction story...We intend to give the book two perspectives on the matter this way, by alternating chapters. So how do we best go about finding a place to start?
suggests, "I've never worked on a story collaboratively; I've written a story or two and done other things collaboratively so I'll take a guess at how I'd approach such a thing.
The biggest hurdle to working together on a creative project is keeping everyone working toward the same goal. You'll each do your parts independently then trying to merge it all together later on. If all of those parts don't come together it can turn into a real mess.
Step one should be defining that goal clearly. Work together to come up with the themes of the story, the various plot arcs, and the major events that will happen. This will serve to give all the contributors boundaries to work within.
When each of you take assignments try to do them in order. It's hard to say what that order should be, but try to do related sections at the same time. If the stuff in one event references or coincides with another event have two authors do those at the same time, this way they can adapt to what the other person is doing. I'm sure you know what the cost is when you have to go back and redo a part of your story, try not to force that on your collaborators.
With that in place you'll want to establish a sort of contract that no one will step outside of those boundaries without informing the rest of the team. This doesn't need to be a written in stone and signed in blood thing; but you want to be sure that if you write a section where the characters discuss a mugging they witnessed and a collaborator changes that part into a bank heist you'll end up with a story that feels very sloppy when you read it.
To help it might be worth while to always get the collaborators to proof read your sections as soon as their done and before you start another chapter. You'll want the proofreading at some point, it'll keep them up to date on how you handled the events, and their feedback should really keep the tone of the book homogeneous. Things like character actions and dialog will need to be checked by the group quickly to be sure the personality is consistent throughout the book, or at least make sense give the character's arc across the story.
You'll also probably want to keep talking over the sections you're working on. A weekly status meeting is a bit much, but make the best use of your collaborators. If you can't decide how to resolve something or can't think of how a character might act, hit them up for ideas to get your imagination going. These little discussions could also help to keep folks motivated."
suggests, "Having very little experience with writing, not to mention co-writing, this is all very general advice and comes with the "take with a grain of salt because I'm totally out of my element" caveat.
That being said, I agree that the most important thing for you to do is establish the same goals. Depending on your writing style, it might be a good idea to block out or draw out the full scope of the narrative: what points you want to make, what general conclusions you might come to, what questions you want to ask and answer. That way, you have a clear game plan to work from.
Second, and it seems like you are already on track for this, make sure you two are constantly communicating. If you have questions, talk to each other. If you have a brilliant idea, talk to each other. Don't try to surprise the other person (unless you agree on that), otherwise it might catch your co-writer totally off-guard.
Other than that, just be patient with each other and have a good time. If you hit a road block, sit down with some good food and banter about silly ideas until you make a break-through.
This sounds fascinating, I hope all goes well and am looking forward to seeing the final product!"
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