Full Circle Communications

May 2011
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ease in writing?
"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Note he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just as dance lessons can help get you around the floor more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two to improve your writing.


Co-Authoring Without Going Crazy  


co-authoringIf two heads are better than one, why is it twice as much work to co-author or co-write a book or other project with someone else than if you do it yourself?


Dealing with another person's quirks (and the other person dealing with yours) can slow a project down, but it can also result in a richer final product.

Here are five areas to consider to make the process go smoother. No right answers to the questions--just some ways to make the arrangement work or to decide it may not be such a great idea after all.


1. Confirm that co-authoring makes sense.


Co-authoring implies that two (or more, but let's stick with two here) people have a reason to share a writing assignment. Why are you considering it? Do you have complementary areas of knowledge so working together is a value-added idea? Will the other person's involvement guarantee a better chance of publication or acceptance by your target audience? Do you have the same level of passion and time for the project--or, if you have unequal amounts, is that okay? In other words, make sure you both agree that co-authoring is the best route before you start. Be honest. 

2. Define your roles.

Is there a first among equals, in terms of who has final say about what to include in the final project, or any conclusions that will be drawn? If not, how will you resolve disagreements? What happens if one of you thinks the other is not pulling his or her weight?

3. Get organized.

How will you share the researching and writing? One person can make a first pass, then the other go through it. Or you can divvy up chapters, if they cover discrete topics. Will you have regular meetings? How will you share research and interview notes and pass drafts back and forth for critiquing?

4. Put aside egos.

Critiquing and revising each other's work will be tricky. What if you make a suggestion and your co-author disagrees? How will you deal with hurt feelings?

5. Consult a lawyer or at least have an agreement in writing, depending on the project.

You do not need legal advice when you are co-authoring a report for your nonprofit, but you may for a book that you hope to sell. How will you divide your (hoped-for) revenue? How will you deal with requests for reprints, speaking engagements, or other spillover activity?

It may be that you cannot work out these five issues successfully. If not, better to know at the outset and not when you are enmeshed in a distressing situation.

What Worked for Two Co-Authors

Merianne Liteman and Sheila Campbell were friends and occasional professional collaborators when they wrote a book, together with Merianne's husband, called Retreats That Work.


They still work, socialize, and even co-authored a second edition. When I asked them what made the arrangement work, here's what they told me:

  • We liked each other and admired one another's areas of complementary expertise from the start.
  • We were working on something we were both excited to be working on and we thought we had something to contribute to.
  • We wrote an overall outline of the book, and each of us had discrete areas of primary responsibility for writing about what we included in the outline.
  • We started off writing on laptops in the same room, where we could talk things over on the spot. And we traded off sections when we got stuck.
  • That deepened our trust in each other, which then allowed us to work separately later.

Get in Touch! 

Do you have a book, website, or blog to share with other readers?

Do you have a question related to writing or editing I can cover in this newsletter, or suggestions about how I can make future issues more useful to you or your colleagues?

Please let me know.

Full Circle Communications, LLC / Alexandria, VA / 703.212.0349