Every author has their own preferred environment and process for writing, which makes it especially challenging for teams who must consider the preferences and proclivities of both writing partners. While this makes it difficult to lay out a one-size-fits-all set of writing best practices, there are common pitfalls to watch out for.
Here are some tips and tricks to help writing partners get the words out and keep on top of the material.
1. Set up a regular routine
You will be astonished by how quickly a week, two weeks, or even a month can evaporate without any progress being made on your book. Set a schedule for collaborative sessions, independent writing, document review, and revision. Most people find that they have a preferred time of day for this type of activity, especially when writing independently. It’s best to honour these preferences and not fight against them. If you are at your best in the morning, set your alarm to wake you up earlier and commit to writing for 90 minutes before the day begins. If you are more productive after dinner and your kids’ bedtime hour, be sure to put boundaries in place around television, social events, and other family obligations.
2. Choose a collaboration tool and stick with it
That could be Dropbox, Google Docs, iCloud, or another tool. The main thing is to store and share documents consistently in the same place. You’ll also want to use a video conferencing platform if you’re not able to meet in person. There are a number of free, convenient options available, such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype.
3. Use tracked changes wisely
Tracked changes is essential for any writing collaboration, but it can become unwieldy when lengthy discussions are taking place in the comments. Cleanse your documents of resolved comments regularly. Once a decision has been made, delete the comment thread. Eliminate tracked changes related to formatting, which can bog down a large document.
4. Be diligent about version control
Use a consistent naming convention for all of your files, so you can see at a glance which version is the most current, and who touched it last. A helpful arrangement is to have a dedicated project folder for your work in progress, another one for old / outdated files, and a third one for final versions that have been submitted for editing, or approved to move on to the next editorial stage.
5. Keep detailed notes from all of your brainstorming and working sessions
Whether one person takes all the notes or each person takes their own and then shares them with one another, it’s imperative for writing partners not to rely on memory to recall what was discussed and decided. Take notes. They don’t have to be spelled properly or expressed in sentences, but they must capture questions, answers, decisions, and actions that need to be taken, as well as by whom and when.
No matter your inclinations, the two of you will find it much easier to work together when you agree on a clear and organized process. Consistent documentation of your discussions is also key. Once you have that nailed down, everything will run much more smoothly, leading to a completed manuscript in no time.
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