Do I need a co-writer?
Updated: Aug 10
Writing is usually a solitary hobby. Essentially it’s just you transferring what’s in your head onto a page. But what if there are two of you working on the project? Do you need a co-writer?
Writing with someone else can be very productive if you have overlapping skill sets or different natural approaches to a topic.
I’ve recently co-written a book Breastfeeding for Dads: The guide for truly hands-on fathers with my friend Claudia Pfeiffer. Claudia works as a doula and alternative health practitioner and has helped many men flourish as new fathers when they are given specific roles within the new family unit. These roles can help make breastfeeding easier for Mum.
Claudia approached me with the idea of a short, funny book that would quickly give dads the information they needed to rise to their new challenge. She chose me because we have worked together before, I have a psychology/ science background, she liked my writing style, and because she wanted her tips to be written from a male perspective.
The only issue was that she lives in Germany and I live in the UK. Oh yes, and her preliminary draft and thoughts about the book were all written in German.
Working with a co-writer
These problems were easily solved. We worked on documents in a shared drive and the magic of new technology meant that I could run Claudia’s work through a translating tool that gave me the essence of her work. It also helps that Claudia has excellent English skills!
The book grew online as we added to each other’s work, made tweaks and suggestions and researched further specific items.
Did we agree on everything? Nope.
We agreed on the majority of the content and came to consensus on the rest of it. I’d say the unwritten rule was that we would only continue to challenge something if it was important to us. There was no ego involved, but lots of compromise.
Advantages of co-writing
The old cliché of ‘two heads are better than one’ applies to many aspects of writing; ranging from writer’s block to a specific turn of phrase that adds sparkle to the text.
It’s easier to hit deadlines as you get encouragement from your co-writer. It can also kill procrastination if you know someone else is waiting for you to do your bit!
If you are writing for profit you get another person who will be focused on marketing the book, complete with a different range of contacts and friends. It’s true you have to share the revenue, but marketing can be the hardest part.
Getting further feedback from the Calne Wordfest Writers group
Whilst Breastfeeding for Dads was a co-written project I also got essential feedback from the other members of the Writers group. The book is funny. It has ‘dad humour’ and dad jokes. There was a very fine line to tread between poking fun at situations and crossing the line into sexism.
The book also covers the tricky situations after the birth when the dad may have to organise or restrict visitors - even close family members - to protect Mum and the breastfeeding process. Having feedback from a range of people at all sorts of stages in their life really helped to avoid giving offence to people who are important to the new family unit.
The Writers group also gave all sorts of feedback from speeding up the introduction (that had too many jokes) to extolling the perfect treat of a scone with cream and jam for a breastfeeding mum. The book has been much improved by group members' feedback and encouragement.
So if you don’t feel you could work with a co-writer, at least consider joining a writers group to get extra input and sparkle into your work!