10 Tips For Successfully Writing With Friends, Because Having Company Can Actually Be Inspiring Instead Of Distracting

In an ideal writing universe, we’d constantly feel productive. Netflix would never beguile us into binge-watching Friends instead of editing our short stories. Our poetry wouldn’t seem trite. Joan Didion would laud all of our dizzying journal entries, and Tina Fey would be itching to punch up and star in our half-finished screenplays. And above all else, writing would always feel as fun and as easy as hanging out with a good friend.

Fortunately, writing can feel like hanging out with a good friend, especially when we choose to write with other writers. As we all know, writing is an inherently, solitary practice; a writer tacitly commits herself to being alone. When we choose to collaborate with friends, however, writing becomes a social event. It’s as if your “Seamless for one” suddenly becomes into “brunch with the gang.”

While writing with others can alleviate loneliness, provide extrinsic motivation and, most importantly, spawn innovation and creativity, collaborative writing obviously has its drawbacks. Writing with others — especially with friends — can initially seem like a good idea… until you and your alleged “co-writer” are scrutinizing each other’s word choices while plotting each other’s literary demises. This is a thing, I swear.

Here’s a list of tips on how to bypass those collaborative-writing pitfalls to ensure that you and your co-writer remain productive and civil. And, yes, it involves snacks.

Best Friends Don't Always Make for The Best Writing Partners

The most successful writers actually write. Pick someone who, above all, has the time to work with you. Your best friend, who is a great a writer but is more focused on her 16-hour day job as an engineer at NASA, might not make the best writing partner. (But you should make sure she is on your apocalypse survival team.)

Don’t Just “Bounce Ideas Off Of Each Other”

Sure, you can act as springboards to generate potential plot lines or character details, but it’s more important to come prepared with your own ideas rather than relying on your partner to paint your “blank canvas.” Too much “bouncing” warrants little direction.

Plan for the Future, But Don't Get Crazy

Before anyone puts a pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard — it’s important to make sure you’re on the same proverbial page in terms of what you want to and, more importantly, can accomplish. At the beginning of each session, establish goals that you can realistically complete in the time you have and how each of those tasks contributes to your finished product.

Give Yourself Enough Time To Write... and Don't Build In Time to Procrastinate

Because if you have an infinite amount of time to write one short story, you and your writing partner know you’ll spend most of it weighing the pros and cons of going for that MFA.

Assign Homework and Do It (Hey, At Least It's Not Math!)

Weekly “assignments” provide extrinsic motivation. They structure subsequent writing sessions. And doing your homework allows you the opportunity to personally internalize your collective work without someone constantly asking do you think this sounds good? Accountabilibuddy, baby!

Even If You Can't Explain How The Cloud Works, Use The Cloud and SAVE EVERYTHING

Or use Google Drive. Create a Dropbox folder. Get a rolodex. Just keep everything in one, accessible place. And no matter what you write — even if it’s acid rain that will never fall from The Cloud — SAVE IT. No, this isn't necessarily about writing with friends. This is being a smart human being writer person. But it's THAT IMPORTANT, OK? Good, glad you're coming with me here.

It's OK To Be More Than Writing Partners

Don’t fight the fact that you and your writing partner are friends who like to do things together other than write. Carve out time in your writing schedule to rehash the weekend, to take a walk, to ruminate over Serial . Just know when to stop watching old SNL sketches and get back to work.

Remember: You Could Do This By Yourself

But you've chosen not to. That means you have to respect and at least try to empathize with your writing partner’s point of view when she offers it. And if tensions get high, remind yourself why you wanted a partner to do this.

Even If You Don't Write Your Chef D'oeuvre On The First Try, You Still Can't Quit

Just because you’re writing with someone else does not change the fact that writing can be a slow, tedious process. It might take a few tries to figure out how to meld your individual writing styles into a cohesive, well-oiled machine. Stick with it and figure out how you can benefit from each other’s writing habits.


Snacks. Snacks. $N@cKz. And that’s that.

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