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Is Collaborative Writing on the rise? And Making the Most of It

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There’s no disputing that social media has disrupted and changed, perhaps forever, the way we receive and deliver information. It has also changed how we read—and because of this, I think it goes without saying that it has influenced our stylistic choices as writers. But another phenomenon seems to be emerging, beyond style and digitized text: the rise in collaborative works.  In the television and film world, multiple collaborators on any one project is nothing new, but then, most of those writers work in one room, spit-balling ideas off of each other. But it’s hard to imagine making this work in the novel writing world when we’re scattered across the globe. Yet it’s happening, and we very likely have social media to thank for this.

We’re all so much more accessible, for one, but we also have the ability to work “side by side” and “simultaneously” via Google Docs. (Some tell me they work in a joint Scrivener account or via a single Word Doc emailed back and forth as well, though that sounds cumbersome to be honest.)

Social media is certainly one of the big instigators, but collaborative works might also be popularizing because of other factors. For example, authors have been forced to become entrepreneurial. In doing so, we have realized the essential need to work together with others to promote our works. Two heads really are better than one in this case. Another factor in the rise of collaborative novels, is our need to find new ways to break into the increasingly tight book market. When you fuse the audiences of two authors together, you’ve doubled your reach. More and more of us are seeing the value in this approach.

Collaborative works can be seen problematic from a sales standpoint, however, as it encourages the book glut, one of the bigger problems in the industry. After all, many of us are now writing twice the number of books. Some publishers are also hesitant to pick up these works because the contracts become more complicated, as does the editorial and sales process. Still, perhaps all of this buddying up is bringing a wonderful array of new and unique projects with fresh voices.

In fact, from a writer’s standpoint, collaboration carries quite a few pros and cons, so you choose to go down this road, it’s important to weigh all the factors. For example:

The positives of collaborating

But there’s always a flip side, so let’s look at…

The challenges of collaborating

 

And just for fun, here are a few collaborative writing teams, I’ve noticed of late:

Hazel Gaynor & me

Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie

Beatriz Williams, Karen White, & Lauren Willig

Then there are the two-people writing teams who publish under one pen name like Liv Constantine, authors of The Last Mrs. Parrish. And finally, there are the large, multi-person teams who write novels (not anthologies!) together like the History 360 team. I recently co-wrote a French Revolution era novel with the History 360 team with five other authors. It was insane and fun, and one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on.

I’m curious about your thoughts on this trend and about collaborating in general. Do you think there’s a link between social media and collaborative writing projects? What about indie publishing and self-publishing? Do you think these aspects of the publishing business have contributed to this phenomenon? Is this a good or bad thing? Would you ever try it?

About Heather Webb [1]

Heather Webb is the international bestselling and award-winning author of 6 historical novels set in France, including her latest Meet Me in Monaco and Ribbons of Scarlet. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was a Goodread’s Top Pick, and in 2018, Last Christmas in Paris won the Women's Fiction STAR Award. To date, Heather’s books have sold in over a dozen countries worldwide and received national starred reviews. As a freelance editor, Heather has helped over two dozen writers sign with agents, and go on to sell at market. When not writing, Heather feeds her cookbook addiction, geeks out on history and pop culture, and looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.