Editors’ Notes: Advice for Successful Collaborative Writing

Sundog Lit’s annual Summer Collaboration Contest is open for submissions until Aug. 31, so we thought it might be helpful to provide some tips for getting those works completed! Check out our editors’ top tips for collaborative writing below.

Find a common inspiration point—a theme, idea, quote, plot, character, etc.—to work with. Work asynchronously. (Use Google docs, send emails or letters, make an exquisite corpse.) Edit synchronously.

—Jennifer Huang, Assistant Poetry Editor

Write with someone whose work (or being) you admire. You’ll be more comfortable with the process and happier with what you create.

—Hayli May Cox, Assistant Nonfiction Editor

Focus on your separate strengths. If one person is great with dialogue and the other person is better at description, for instance, don’t be afraid to hew close to those things. This is the beauty of collaborating–each person doesn’t have to do it all.

—Melissa Wiley, Nonfiction Editor

Collabs are a powerful time to ask yourself “Where do I lack where someone succeeds?” Partnership is about chemistry, so try to perfect a balancing act while writing a piece. Or you could do that questionnaire from the Times to marry and be one entity if it’s just way too much. Whatever works.

—Amber D. Dodd, Assistant Nonfiction Editor

I think collaboration is delicate and daring! Our main publishing models still endorse the power of singular artistry, but I think collaboration is a powerful place to embrace influence, not only with the live person you could be writing with but also with artistic ancestry. My advice would be to find a partner with whom you share a common something—experience, wound, existential question, curiosity, skepticism, joy—and delve in together. I’ve always been partial to the epistolary form, as I like the honesty of voice it seems to illicit, but I also think sharing a Google doc and imposing a kind of game or rule between you could help generate material. Imagine writing 250 words each and then promising to start your next 250 words with a bit of language the other last wrote. Shape and direction will come with what echoes!

—Carrie Chappell, Poetry Editor

Collaborative writing is like performing improv. Try to say “yes” to your collaborators as often as you can.

—Eric Rasmussen, Fiction Editor