4 Traps to Avoid When Co-Authoring | Write Brilliant
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4 Traps to Avoid When Co-Authoring

November 1st, 2017 by Cherie Lowe
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Have you ever thought about writing a book or blog or project with someone else?

A spouse? Friends? Ministry partner?

You may think, “That’s half the work!” But you’ll likely run into these common roadblocks along the way.

I’ve invited, Cherie Lowe, a Write Brilliant Academy graduate, and co-author of Your Money, Your Marriage: The Secrets to Smart Finance, Spicy Romance, and their Intimate Connection (Sept 2018), to share her secrets:

Going to law school, taking a trip to London with less than a month to prepare, paying off $127k in debt: the above endeavors all seem a little insane. Did I mention my husband Brian and I have done them all? But perhaps the craziest thing we’ve ever attempted before is co-authoring a book together.

Often a solitary pursuit, writing allows the autonomous soul to chart a path and pursue excellence. Penning words together? That can be a bit trickier. At the same time, co-authoring a work allows two voices to bring their unique perspectives and talents together to form a stronger piece. Whether ghost-writing, co-authoring, or even guest posting on another’s platform, smart writers must avoid these five common pitfalls to produce quality content.

Trap #1: Your Shared Audience is Unclear

You assume you’re writing to twenty-something urbanites. She envisions an audience populated by middle aged farmers. Before you even begin writing a single word, you both derail the process because your audience was not clearly defined.

How to Solve the Problem: Foundational to the Write Brilliant process, establishing your audience together as authors requires both parties to work together to identify several, key factors. Ask each other what your shared potential readers look like. What’s their educational background? Where do they live? How old are they? What are their spiritual, emotional, and relational needs? Clearly defining your audience before you begin working together smooths the path ahead. The Write Brilliant Academy gave Brian and I the tools we needed to know without a doubt who lived in our audience.

Trap #2: You Lack a Unified Vision

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” When your writing lacks a unified vision, it dies too. Whether you choose to write with one, shared voice or separate, distinct voices echoing back and forth, you need a clarity about where each chapter, section, and paragraph leads. If you don’t craft a shared vision, your words will fall flat.

How to Solve the Problem: Before we began each chapter of our new book, Brian and I developed two to three cornerstone sentences. We knew that this guiding thought would propel every other word written within the chapter. You need these statements like these for entire manuscripts, individual chapters, and sometimes even sections within the chapter.

Trap #3: Your Voice is Confusing For Your Audience

Wait, what? Who’s talking to me here? Your audience’s minds swirl with questions. Without a plan for voice, your message disappears rendering your work useless.

How to Solve the Problem: You must have a cohesive plan of action for the point of view of your shared work. Successful books have been written from both a shared voice and two distinct voices answering back and forth in divided paragraphs. You and your co-author must choose your preferred mechanism and then stick to it.

For our book, Brian and I chose to write the introduction and closing of every chapter together. Then, we wove together our unique perspectives in between. We carefully identified each section with signposts so that readers would know who was talking. If you go with a unified voice, it can be easy to slip into first person narrative. Do a search and replace function to identify where words like I, me, mine, and my may have slipped into your writing.

Trap #4: Your Communication Fails

No matter how harmonious your relationship, at some point co-authoring causes the most stable of individuals to meet an impasse. One party feels passionate about a particular subject area while the other sees it as non-essential. Or a simple misunderstanding snowballs into a stonewall.

How to Solve the Problem: Writing a major work together stretches your communication skills to their limit. If you’re not careful your working relationship (or worse, your personal relationship) fails. As often as possible, schedule face to face communication with your writing partner. Texting and emailing often leaves too much blank space on the page. Words can be misunderstood or misconstrued.

One-on-one time spent together keeps you from plummeting into failure. If physical space is a challenge, consider setting up a Skype meeting and when you work in non-writing shared time where you can build a stronger relationship. Go for a walk. Share a meal. Catch a movie. A firm relational foundation provides the essential keys to communication when the going gets tough.

Learn more about Cherie Lowe at queenoffree.net. Grab a copy of her book, Slaying the Debt Dragon, here.

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