Writing with Collaborators
When writing substantial documents, and sometimes even brief ones, you
will have to work with others. In writing, as in any group endeavor, collabo-
ration can be challenging. These challenges include noticeable and distract-
ing variations in writing style, the mechanics of managing and tracking each
other’s changes, and occasionally negative interpersonal dynamics.
The severity of these problems increases as the team size grows because
the number of interactions between people increases. In fact, the growth of
the number of interactions is exponential. To see this, let n be the number of
people in the group. The number of pairwise interactions is given by
Equation 10.1 can be visualized in Figure10.1.
Of course, any one of these interactions can become toxic. I have experi-
enced collaborative writing projects with one or more co-authors, including
absentee co-authors, and a mix of cooperative, uncooperative, and encour-
aging partners. I have also edited many books, journals, papers, and other
projects involving dozens of contributors at a time. I have learned that the
challenges of large writing projects are manageable if you approach them
with a positive attitude and a willingness to compromise. You will have to
manage egos (including your own) and share credit, even when credit may
not be due.
Tools such as Wikis, a special kind of website with access control mecha-
nisms and version control, may be employed to help manage the group
writing process. But in the end, completing large collaborative writing
projects is not about tools—it is about managing schedules, expectations,