As Chris Uggen pointed out on the Twitters, it’s easy to disappoint your coworkers. Whether it’s producing actual Swedish Fish when a candy-mergency arises in a late-night writing session or dropping the ball when it’s your turn to write the lit review, there are just so many opportunities to co-write badly. Here’s my very quick editorial advice should you decide to undertake a co-authored project:
- Be sure everyone really has the time and inclination.
- Set intentions about who will do what—particularly who will take care of the final read and smoothing of the paper. One author needs to take charge of smoothing over the seams and making it an easy read that doesn’t feel like three separate papers fighting for control. Ask an RA to take over getting the bibliography right and consistent to avoid tedium and scrappy references.
- Stop worrying about author order.
- Have skype, phone, or in-person meetings regularly and write up a quick summary to share with the group right afterward. Be sure that you’re all on the same page (and in the same journal).
- Enjoy the MadLibs fun times that will occur when you let others bring in their own tangents, their own random inspirations, and their own misfit sentences that can be plugged into the article at will. Helping form ideas into real through-lines is fun work and a productive process, whether it ever results in an article or project at all.