Refining the Process
Collaboration methods and tools
It’s been about six weeks since Anna and I began collaborating on the pond novel project, and we’re starting to refine the process.
I remember listening to this So Many Damn Books interview with Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman about the book they coauthored (The Very Nice Box) and feeling like a Google Doc shared with another person would be a nightmare. Laura and Eve had a process — figuring out the plot a few chapters at a time and then alternating writing chapters — and it seemed to work well for them. But my thought as I listened last summer: I would never.
Fast forward to today.
I’m staring at the shared Google Doc that Anna and I are working out of, which is now 29 single-spaced pages. 😮 I’m a Scrivener lady at home, a Google Docs lady at work, so this change did, predictably, give me a little anxiety at first, but I have to say… I kind of like it now? At least for this type of project, where chapters happen in a set order. (With my solo projects, I’m constantly dragging and dropping chapters around because what is time?)
But there have been challenges.
The first is that Google Docs doesn’t have a built-in historical word count feature. I work best when I have a word count goal, so I needed a method for daily tracking. I decided to write in suggestion mode (Google Docs’ version of track changes) and then accept all changes at the end of each day after tallying the word count and noting it in my notebook.
This was working, until we ran into a new issue.
I write every day, but Anna reads and gives feedback at more like a weekly cadence. The first couple of weeks, the document was short enough that she could just reread from the beginning, but that quickly became untenable. Also, I frequently go back and add to or revise earlier chapters. We needed a way for Anna to easily see what had changed since she last opened the document, so we decided that I would keep all my writing in suggestion mode until Anna could read and review. Now Anna is the only one to accept changes.
I like this approach, but…
It sent me back to the drawing board on my word count tracking. I ended up installing an app called Writing Habit that puts a big word count tracker on my Google Docs screen and, more importantly, has a history feature that shows me my daily count.
Now we’re working out how and when we actually talk about the project.
Fall is busy, and it’s not always possible to meet up for a long working session every week. We’ve got a back-and-forth email thread going, and we started experimenting with using Whatsapp to send voice memos (which has the benefit of keeping book talk separate from the text thread we maintain for other friend stuff).
Any TNN readers ever collaborated on a writing or other art project?
Would love your suggestions!