Monday, September 6, 2010

What Makes a Good Writing Partnership?

Collaboration. What makes it good? What makes it bad? How can we tell the difference?

My last story prescription (posted 9/5) blithely recommended co-authoring as a cure to procrastination (especially for women authors, lured by the siren-song of family and laundry). Writing in relation demands that we honor a colleague as well as the work, and I think for some people, that is much easier than feeling "selfish" on a solo project. As Anjali so rightly pointed out for that last post, co-writing also gives me courage to take on projects I might be afraid to tackle alone (There's safety in numbers, after all, check out this lice-picking French family pictured above).

Then I got to thinking:

Is it more important to collaborate or to find the right collaborators? Can the right collaborator at one point of time/for one project be the wrong collaboration for another?

So I thought I would just riff a little: What are the qualities I genuinely value in my writing and editing collaborators?

1. Good humor - things don't always go right, deadlines don't always get met. it's good to laugh about it with your collaborators.
2. Friendship/care/love - I enjoy collaborating with people who care about me as a person as well as a colleague
3.Generosity - I think collaboration is best approached with a good deal of generosity. I don't think I could deal with a collaborator who wanted to make sure we were doing 50/50 work ALL THE TIME. I think reality is you go do what you can when you can - making sure to catch the slack some times because you know there will be other times (your kids are sick, it's your anniversary, your boss just screamed at you and you're having a Very Bad Day) when you need your partner to pick up the slack.
4. Flexibility - I mentioned in my earlier post that one collaborator, Marsha, would come up to work at my house because I had small kids and erratic babysitting. It wasn't a 50-50 thing at all, she was MOSTLY schlepping up to see me. I appreciated that deeply, and tried to make sure that I was similarly flexible to other needs of hers. My current collaborator Karen, just finished some edits for us while I was coughing and feverish last week. I would happily do the same for her (see points #2 and 3 above).
5. Enthusiasm -I have a lot of energy for things about which I am passionate - including my writing. I can imagine it would be really hard to work with a collaborator who was sluggish, or low energy, or a pessimist.

What are the qualities you seek in a writing partner?


  1. I am a recent convert to freelance writing (yes, yes the writing bug! It bit me too!) from a full-time software engineer's profession.

    Sadly, I have been working on my own since the start (which was in March this year) and haven't had a glimpse of how good a writing partner can be. I so wish I can co-author a book with a like-minded one. So much! Grr.

    Love this place, btw. Great work! :)

    (Live Blog:

  2. Thanks Brown Eyed! I hope you find a writing partner soon too -- hopefully in a writing group or some other professional organization of people writing the sorts of things you do?
    Keep visiting - more fun stuff on the site to come!

  3. I agree heartily with your qualities above. I'd add that a co-author needs to have a similar sense of passion and commitment to the project at hand. Perhaps that goes without saying... I think of one of us had only been half-hearted about "the girls" and their detective agency, this project would have fluttered to the floor quite quickly.