How to Do Creative Writing with a Friend

Collaborating on a writing project with a friend can enable you to create a work together that neither of you could have done separately. Unfortunately, writing together can also lead to arguments, accusations, and the dissolution of your friendship, if you don't plan your project properly. The following steps list things to consider when you decide to write with a friend so that your collaboration will be successful, even if the project you write together on isn't.


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    Choose your collaborator wisely. Your reason for writing together should be that each of you brings something to the project that the other could not. If you're writing a space romance and one of you provides the knowledge of astronomical distances and rocket propulsion systems while the other provides the knowledge of human interaction, you probably have the makings of a good partnership. If, however, you have different, and strong, ideas on writing styles, you probably will spend more time arguing over writing than actually doing it.
    • The above assumes you're both new writers. Many times, writers who've been previously published professionally as solo authors are teamed up by their agents and may not meet face-to-face until they've signed the contract in their agent's office. Regardless of your previous level of writing experience, try to choose a partner whom you can respect as an equal.
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    Define what you each hope to accomplish by writing together. Even if you each contribute knowledge that the other collaborator can't, you also bring your own expectations and personalities to the project. Discuss ahead of time what each of you expects from collaborating on a writing project, whether it's simply to have the experience of writing together, to get published, to create a series of joint projects, or something else. You should, from the outset, want enough of the same things to make the collaboration viable.
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    Decide who has control over the content of the work. This means deciding whether the universe your characters operate in is only for this work and subsequent joint projects, or whether either of you can write stories in this universe alone or with another collaborator. It also means deciding what 1 author can do to the other's characters in that portion of the current work, whether 1 author can use a character created by the other in a project outside the collaboration, and certainly whether 1 author can kill off the other's character.
    • Also consider what happens to the universe and characters if either or both of you drop out of the project mid-way through. Decide whether either of you can resurrect the project at a later time alone or with another collaborator.
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    Decide how you will break up the work. Writing consists of researching, drafting an outline, drafting a book proposal (principally for nonfiction works) or treatment, writing, revising, editing, and if and when the book is published, proofreading the galleys. You can assign duties between you and your collaborator by task, specific areas of expertise (such as the astronomy expert handling astronomical research, while the psychology expert looks for psychological terms for the psychologist character to spout as needed), alternate chapters or drafts between you, and so on.
    • Regardless of how you divide up the other tasks, only 1 of you should have the responsibility for the final edit for this manuscript. You can always alternate this duty on subsequent manuscripts.
    • Also be aware that different authors have different opinions on how many revisions are necessary between creating the first draft and the final draft to be sent to a publisher. If you and your partner are used to working with a different number of revisions, you'll have to figure out a suitable compromise before starting in to write.
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    Develop a plan for dealing with creative differences as they arise. This is a catchall for issues that may arise while writing together that don't relate specifically to the universe or characters, such as the tone (lighthearted or serious) of the work.
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    Decide what order your names should appear in on the cover. Unless you add additional collaborators to future projects, you'll use the same order each time for the sake of consistency, so it's best decided now.
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    Decide whose agency represents the work to publishers and who deals with the publisher's representatives. If one of you already has an agent and/or has a working relationship with an editor at a publishing house, you'll probably have that agent market the work and have the collaborator who knows the editor deal with that editor. If you've both been published previously, you'll have to decide whose agent has charge and who deals with the editor on this book, assuming your existing solo contracts allow you the freedom to make this decision.
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    Determine who handles the money and how it's to be divided between you. Unless you're roommates, you'll have to decide which address the advance and royalty checks will be sent to if the work is published and therefore who pays the other collaborator his or her fair share. That "fair share" can be either a 50-50 split or divided proportionate to the amount of work each of you puts in; either way means keeping track of the amount of work you each do to avoid arguments later.
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    Put it all in writing. You need to create 2 documents:
    • A contract that covers ownership of the work and its components, the division of labor, order of credits, distribution of the proceeds, and methods of dealing with creative differences that may occur.
    • An outline to delineate the structure of the book, its number of chapters, and what is to be covered in each chapter.


  • Understand that as you work together, your needs may change, as may your individual circumstances. You should make provisions for making changes to your arrangement in the event either of you has to decrease your level of commitment in the event of serious injury or illness to you or someone you're responsible for.
  • Allow for the distinct possibility of the project taking longer than you planned to write it and that while writing it, you'll likely feel like you're doing the bulk of the work.
  • Don't rush into making the decisions you'll need to make before sitting down to write with a friend. Your friendship should be more important than seeking what may prove to be temporary fame.


  • Be aware that collaborative writings can often be harder to sell than works written by a solo author. Also, if 1 of the collaborators is less well-known that the other prior to starting the project, the same will likely be true after it is published.

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