I’ll be blunt with you: Writing is a group has more pitfalls (in my opinion) than upsides. I’m not going to deny the fact that writing in a group can be easier and more enjoyable, but don’t rush to write in a group. There’s a few prerequisites that should be considered first.
First of all, don’t go off into the blue with a bunch of random writers. Don’t get on Reddit and ask strangers to join a collective writing project with you. First, contact friends, writers that you know. Don’t go and jump in with a bunch of strangers: teh project will be doomed to fail.
The reason for this is that writing is something that takes a lot of work and soul, and sometimes you can’t communicate effectively with your writing team. It’s good to talk to your writing team not as a coworker but as a friend. Keep this in mind when seeking out fellow writers.
And second, when choosing other writers to go on your project, never sign on with someone whose (in your opinion) writing skills are worse than yours. Use your head on this one, and be scrutinizing. I know how much you’d like to be kind, but this is not the time for that. If you plan to write a successful work, lesser skill will only drag you down.
If you have accidentally gotten into a project with writers of lesser ability, DO NOT help them out of their plight. Let them puzzle it out themselves, and get yourself out of there. Hanging around such people is literally a waste of your time. Always stick with people who are right around your writing caliber or slightly above. They will allow you to thrive.
Note: I am not endorsing pride here. I’m not preaching, but pride on the team can get you into serious trouble. Size up your colleagues wisely and honestly, but if you are better, don’t let the fact be known. Just leave. Surround yourself with writers you can express your admiration for so that you will not be ashamed. Be humble.
Then the number: don’t choose to few or too many writers to help. At least have three other writers on the project (so a total of four) and don’t have more than five others (so no more than six). Anything under or over will cause you to trash ideas or not get enough of them.
Treat your friends like assets, and gather the very best team you can get. If you don’t have good writer friends, just go out to eat with them instead. If you don’t have enough writer friends, go shopping with them. Never start a team writing project until you and all of your friends are ready.
This next part is crucial. Email the chosen colleagues (once you know they’re interested) with what kind of book you have in mind, first. Don’t go off on a vague ramble in which you casually mention something about a “project”. Be direct and concise. Tell your friends exactly what kind of book you want to write, but leave room open for revision.
Don’t make the pitch too nuanced, but tell your friends that you want to write “a fantasy novel” or “a sci-fi story”. Don’t say: “A sci-fi novel in which the main hero is an X, and blah blah blah blah blah about the hero, and blah blah blah blah blah about the plot…”. Be specific, but not TOO specific.
Then, once all of your cohorts agree, then and only then can you start. Then, get together on a zoom or skype meeting, or even on Google Chats and have a brainstorming session. You could even do it in person. Get down to business and do a few serious hours worth of quality brainstorming time. Organize the best thoughts on through notes. Get the main idea of the story (main characters, plot, and so on) in that one session.
Get through that, and you’re basically finished. I recommend doing 1500-2000 word chapters, as those allow bite-sized portions of writing as well as reading. Go on a rotation: the first turn is Sally’s, then Mike’s, then Eve, and so on. Or you can have an elected next-chapter-writer, and hold a vote.
All these things should be decided on a general basis. Where the consensus leads, you should follow. Be affable and agreeable. Kind and forgiving. Be willing to forget the tresspassings of your writers-in-arms. Accept your colleagues’ ideas, critique them, and be honest.
Good luck, and happy writing!
One thought on “Writing in a Group”
I think there’s some value in working with writers who aren’t as skilled as you (to be fair I don’t write on the same projects as them, we each work on our own projects and help each other work out plot holes, character issues, etc). You can still learn from them (ie, what NOT to do), you can both give each other encouragement, and it’s always good to have a second set of eyes on whatever issues you’re working on in your WIP. Still, thanks for the thoughts and advice!
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