Everything You Need To Know About Working With A Writing Partner
“Though writing is often thought of as a solitary pursuit, some notable authors have seen success by working with a writing partner, and doing so is a valuable experience that many writers experiment with at some point in their career.
Despite that, twice the authors can often mean twice the problems, and if you’re entering into a writing partnership, it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into and how to make your working relationship as stress-free as possible. Well, that’s why I’m here, so let’s get started.
Agree on realistic expectations
Creating art is an expression of personal voice and beliefs, which means partnerships tend to have a short shelf life. Generally, a partnership exists as the right course for a specific project, rather than the default way of working for two authors.
Appreciating this is the first step to a productive partnership – try and define your partnership one project at a time and spell out the level of commitment you expect. Are you going to be annoyed if it turns out your partner is also spending time working on their own stuff? If you’re trying to finish a project, you might be right, but that’s something they need to know about beforehand.
It’s also worth remembering that most writing partnerships don’t end up producing finished work. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise – most solo writing projects are never finished either, after all. It does mean, however, that you’ll be lucky if both partners decide to quit at the same time. It’s a good idea to try and stop this sad fact hurting your friendship and your project, so it’s usually a good idea to agree to work together for a set amount of time, with the option to renew the partnership if things go well. Not only does this mean one person is never abandoning another, but it makes it much less likely that a project will be left in the lurch. How you continue if one of you wants to quit is up to you, but it does bring us onto my next suggestion.
Make (a lot of) prior agreements
Here’s a cast-iron guarantee about working with a writing partner – the unexpected will happen, and it can come from any direction. Maybe your writing partner will quit halfway through, maybe they’ll have a brainwave one day and insist on a different (awful) ending. Maybe it’ll turn out they had a completely different readership in mind, or they want to bring in another partner, or they expect you to travel to them for every editing session, or they want to add/remove a bunch of curse words. It could be anything, and it could be a game-changer.
Some of these issues you’ll have to resolve as they crop up, but when you do, it pays to be armed with prior agreements. By this, I mean that before a word is written, you and your partner should sit down and write out an agreement. This should cover everything you see coming up, as well as (vitally) the spirit of partnership you’re agreeing to.
The spirit of your partnership is important, because it’s a rubric you can apply to situations you’d never expect. For example, you might be splitting things fifty-fifty. That means you have equal say, and your decisions will be made in the spirit of compromise. If your partner wants to remove all the curse words and you don’t, apply the fifty-fifty spirit and cut down on them where they’re not necessary.
Maybe things aren’t fifty-fifty – maybe one of you is the ideas person and one is the writer. Agreeing on that concept straight away might be handy later on, as there’s a clear implication for who’s in charge of what. Disagree on the ending? Ideas person probably gets the deciding vote, or at least more sway. Disagree on the dialogue? Writer’s ideas have precedence.
The great part about doing this before you start writing is that you can make potentially hard decisions in the spirit of friendship. What happens if one person is pulled away from the project? That’s a potentially fraught discussion, and one that’s way easier to have when it’s still a hypothetical.
Soon, I’ll touch on some common subjects of disagreement between writing partners, and how to handle them with ease, but this is the approach that will keep working for you – agree on whatever you can beforehand and approach the unexpected with a pre-agreed spirit. You’ll have to mean it when you agree, but if you do, you’re avoiding a ton of potential issues later on.”