by Shirley Crowder
From time-to-time someone will comment on how difficult it must be to collaborate with another writer to create a book.
Guess what? It isn’t!
In addition to the collaborative efforts with my life-long friend, Harriet E. Michael, I have collaborated with another writer on one book and a different writer on a chapter in a book. The process of working together has been great!
The next thing people want to know is how we work together when you and the collaborator do not live in the same city.
For my first collaborative creation, my collaborator was in New York, I was in Alabama. Harriet lives in Louisville and I live in Birmingham. Although Dr. Howard Eyrich lives in Birmingham, when we did the bulk of the writing for our collaboration, he was in New Zealand for an extended period of time.
Email and shared documents are a great way to collaborate. Just be sure you work out the system and you both understand how to work in and save documents. Telephone calls can help also. Harriet and I usually see each other at least twice a year at the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference and our annual Nigeria Mission Reunion. With our first collaboration, we met in Nashville for a weekend when we were getting close to completing the manuscript.
There are several essentials when considering collaborating. Both writers:
- must be Christ-followers.
- need to share very similar theological beliefs and understanding. If these are too dissimilar, the final manuscript may be choppy, inconsistent, and confusing in its presentation of biblical truth throughout the book.
- must pack away their ego and ask the Lord to give them a teachable, humble heart.
For Christ-followers it is important to remember—whether writing alone or collaboratively—the ultimate goal for our writing is to glorify God.
Practically speaking, there are a few things that help make the collaboration process work well.
- Pray for each other.
- Agree in advance who will write what portions.
- Leave your pride behind.
- Have the person with the most expertise in Word compile, make changes in, and maintain the combined document.
- Be sure to turn on “tracking” so it is easy to see what edits the other person made.
- Defend/explain why you think something you wrote should not be changed. If a disagreement in the interpretation or application of a passage arises, each of you take time to pray asking the Lord to help you understand and apply the passage as you study it again. This is one of the places that sharing similar theological beliefs comes into play. This is also where a humble and teachable heart comes into play.
- Pack away your ego—again.
- Explain why you think something the other person wrote should be changed.
- Speak the truth in love.
- Pack away your ego—again.
- Be flexible—be prepared for rewrites, edits, and delays. It is often difficult for a writer to see that his or her explanation or description is confusing, misleading, or inaccurate. That’s why having a collaborator is so helpful. They can point out these things and help you with rewording and rewriting
Based on my experiences of collaboratively creating a book, I’ve come up with a basic process that you may find helpful in your own collaborative creations.
1. Be sure the essentials mentioned early in this blog are in place.
2. Determine the structure. For devotionals, how many chapters and how many devotionals per chapter.
3. Toss around ideas for the overall series theme and then a sub-theme for each devotional book.
4. Determine who has the most expertise in combining everything into one master document.
5. Choose who will write what.
6. Combine each collaborator’s writing into the master document.
7. Write and add all the other parts of the book: Copyright page, Dedication, Introduction or Preface, Table of Contents, Chapter Title Pages, make notations of illustration placement if there will be any, Indexes and Appendices as needed, Collaborator Bios, and listing other other books by the authors.
NOTE: If you are self-publishing you will need to create the copyright page. If you have a publisher, they usually create this page. However, you will need to provide them with information on the versions of the Bible you have quoted.
8. Before sending the collaborative creation to your publisher, I suggest you have someone read through the entire manuscript and help catch needed edits and rewrites.
9. Both collaborators then need to go through the entire manuscript cover-to-cover and make comments, edits, and suggestions throughout. Then each collaborator will make changes or rewrites on their portion of the document. As you work together, you read and edit each other’s work. The changes you each make in the other person’s writing will help give the book a more consistent writing style and presentation.
10. Make the final edits in the master document and send the manuscript to the publisher.
11. Both collaborators need to gather other information the publisher needs for the book.
12. When galleys are received, both collaborators need to go through the manuscript and make notes of needed edits. This is where Harriet and I often find things in our own writing or the other person’s writing that we communicate about and determine the best edit or rewrite to make.
Admittedly, there are portions of this process that can be tedious, like galley corrections. When you get stuck, your collaborator can help make suggestions that jump start your thought processes and make completion easier.
AND it is exciting to see collaborative creations come together! For me, the best parts of collaborative writing is having someone to work through the difficulties, share the excitement of seeing your collaborative creation come together, and share the celebrations of all the blessings you receive!
Have fun and don’t forget to laugh at yourself!
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