Ok folks, here we go again!
Let me start off by saying that I have been working with a writing partner for the past four years and collaborating long before that. I know a thing or two about how to find harmony within a partnership, and which collaborative writing tools you should check out for the purposes of writing with someone who may or may not be in the same room as you.
I’m going to begin by giving some advice on how to find a writing partner, and then outline some key aspects of working with someone else, and finally round it all off with some recommendations for collaborative writing tools. My hope is to give you advice and resources to refer to when you need them, and to get you to think critically and curiously about whether a writing partnership is right for you.
So, let’s assume that you’ve decided you want to try working with someone else. But where do you find a writing partner, assuming you don’t already have a plethora of talented writers at your disposal?
There are actually a few different answers to this question. The first is, obviously, among your friends (if you have any writerly friends that is). This can be a great option because usually these are people you already trust, who already know you, and who you know you get along with.
The downside to this one is that not all partnerships bring out the best in both parties, and it can be a lot more intense creating something with another person than it is just hanging out and chatting. You want to be sure that you’re not sacrificing a wonderful friendship for the sake of a writing project. That said, if you think your friendship can handle it, then go for it!
Second, you can go online and search for someone to collaborate with. There are so many writing groups out there where you can connect to other writers – I’ve found several just by scrolling through social media and joining discord servers. (By the way, if you aren’t familiar with discord, I highly recommend checking it out, it is a really useful platform for organising groups).
I will drop a few links below, but don’t forget to check out The Plottery’s Novel Plotting Academy where you get access to a community of like-minded writers and so much more! You can also find local writing groups just by doing a quick google-search!
Once you’re part of a group, then it’s time to start interacting. Reach out to people if you can, and ask if they’d like to write with you, or if they’d just like to give feedback on your work, in return for your feedback. This can be a scary process, because often these people are complete strangers. It may take some time to build up enough trust to share your writing with them, or to write something with them. But I promise, once you find the right fit, it is worth all the stress and struggle.
So, now that we have some idea of how to find a writing partner, the next step is figuring out how to work together. Collaboration is a two-way street, and you both must be willing to traverse it.
The key to finding harmony in your writing partnership:
- Figure out a process that works for you. My writing partner and I have a response style that works for us, and it took us a little while to figure out what that was. For now, we’re engaging in the dreaded “head-hopping,” when we write dual-perspective narratives, which we will then fix in later drafts.
- Trust each other, and only offer feedback when it’s asked for. Nobody likes unsolicited advice, and this kind of thing can cause all sorts of friction if you’re writing together.
- Brainstorm together. Working through the kinks in developing a plot or character together can be a wonderful way to get to know one another and how you both work. It can also be great for sparking new ideas and solving problems.
- Don’t over-edit. Especially when you’re working with someone else, remember to put your inner editor to the side and just keep writing. You’ll get more out of it that way, I promise.
- Have fun and remember to laugh lots! Writing is fun and it should be as fun with a partner as it is by yourself. If you find yourself dreading writing, maybe it’s time to examine whether this partnership is really serving you or not. But on a more positive note, if you’re having a blast and can’t wait to get back to it, then you know you’ve found a great fit.
On to collaborative writing tools! For a long time, my partner and I were using Google Docs, because it allows you to share documents with one another and write in “real-time,” seeing one another’s responses/additions instantly. It also allows you to have headings, which you can reference in a little sidebar and click on to go anywhere in the document that you want (for example, a specific chapter.) In addition to this, it’s free. While we enjoyed Google Docs, there were some security issues that didn’t make us feel comfortable continuing to use it, so we made the switch over to WriterDuet.
WriterDuet is another “real-time” collaborative software, originally designed for screenwriting. However, they do have a “book template” which allows you to write pretty much as you would in Google Docs. It is a powerful tool which we’re still exploring, but it has many different capabilities, and saves constantly inside the app, just like Google Docs. It also has outlining, feedback, and statistical features. The only downside is it isn’t free, and there’s a bit of a learning curve when you start out using it.
Another tool is FirstDraftPro, which also allows for that “real-time” collaboration. It also has outlining and feedback features like WriterDuet, as well as “structure templates” and “focus mode,” and allows you to work in dark mode. It is also, unfortunately, not free.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, and Google Docs is a great tool if you aren’t as concerned about security and need a free option. I used it for many years and loved it.
Alright, so I promised some links to other writing groups as well, so here are some more options if you’re looking for an online writing group where you can meet other writers and collaborate!
Honestly, I think everyone should try out writing collaboratively at least once. It’s immensely helpful and forces you out of your comfort zone in most cases. Hopefully you found at least some of this post helpful, and as always please feel free to like/comment/share! I hope you find a writing partner who brings out the best in you, and vice versa.
Written for The Plottery
Jules (she/they) is a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent writer and aspirant book dragon who has been in love with writing since they were six years old. They are just as likely to wax poetic about philosophy or comedy specials, and they dream of someday escaping to a cabin where they can entertain their imagination, surround themselves with books, and hopefully gaze dramatically into the rain from a cosy window seat. They have their own blog chaoticallyinclined namely @jules.m.sherwood on Instagram.