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Friday, July 12, 2013

The art of team writing

Writing stars, I've always thought of the typical writer as a loner type. It's me and the page against the world – that kind of thing.

While writers do need a certain amount of time alone to dream, plan, and write, too much time alone is not a good thing. Having a social life is good for the soul, and it's good for your writing as well.

Where I've drawn the line in the past, however, is working with others on writing projects. The concept of "team writing" or writing as a social activity is strange and unnerving to me. Disagreements are bound to come up, and I don't like confrontation. I'm all about peace and love. Also, when you write, you must become naked, and who wants to expose their vulnerable selves to the world? Not me. Oh hell no. 

"Teamwork is better than isolation, especially for a columnist." Allan Sloan

Recently, however, I've begun to warm up to the idea of team writing. In a recent corporate job, I worked with an extraordinarily talented and dedicated team of writers, and we often had to support one another on projects. I learned that team writing is not such a bad sport if the members of the team are all committed to the project, have a strong work ethic, are skilled in their areas, and really get what being on a team is all about. 

I will always prefer writing as a solo adventure, but to stretch myself, and to tell the truth, increase my creative output, I've decided to work with others on certain projects.

The team mindset  

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford

I only played one team sport in high school, and that was volleyball. Since I'm not naturally a team writer, I've had to learn a few things to make these relationships work.
  1. Choose your writing partners well. Make sure temperaments and skill sets complement one another.
  2. Understand that there will be times when you will disagree. All involved must be able to express ideas openly and honestly without fear of censure or reprisals.
  3. Establish ground rules for respectful communication, e.g., no abusive language, etc.
  4. When brainstorming, allow juices to flow. Don't criticize. All ideas are allowed during brainstorming.
  5. A production plan should emerge out of brainstorming sessions that includes activities, deadlines, and accountabilities – in other words, who's responsible for what and when.
  6. Climb mountains and swim seas to meet deadlines. Keeping deadlines is really important. Communicate if there has been a snag, but keep delays to a minimum.
  7. Communicate as much as possible to prevent misunderstandings.
  8. Understand that listening is as important as talking.
  9. Never, ever let your co-writers down.
At some point, critiquing, a.k.a. editing, must take place. Who will be responsible for editing, and can the other team member(s) accept what can sometimes be a harsh review? This is a really sticky issue that has gotten me into trouble more than once.

Since I'm such a newbie at team writing, I would love to hear from writers who have more experience at this type of working relationship. Can you maintain a friendship while working together on a writing project? I'd also love to hear what didn't work so well and how problems were resolved.

Donna Marie

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