Writing collaboratively with colleagues who share your research or scholarly interests can be one of the great joys of academic life. The benefits of coauthoring are tangible and subtle: we often produce higher quality manuscripts and proposals than we would if writing solo, and writing with others can be so much more fun than writing alone!


Coauthoring a document with others can also be challenging, complete with unexpected delays, content negotiations, and stylistic compromises. Depending on how well we know ourselves and our partners as writers, the process of coauthoing a highly structured, high-quality document can also be highly mystifying at times.


While we cannot demystify all collaborative writing issues here, we can share two pre-strategy steps and a couple resources for your journey.


For now, we will take for granted that you and your coauthor(s) have an agreed-upon writing project with an agreed-upon target for submission.


You may be thinking, our first steps are to plan and to strategize by divvying up tasks, arrange a project timeline with benchmarks, and decide upon our communication, drafting, and revision approaches. If you are, you are very smart, but you have skipped a couple crucial pre-strategy relational writing steps.


Take a step back and start instead with a writing-centered or meta-writing conversation to get to know colleagues as writers:


Step 1. Ask each other questions about what most influences your current writing processes, practices, and preferences:

  • What types of reading and writing you each enjoy? Answering this question helps coauthors understand the types of writing styles and interests that have influenced them (may even have an influence on their word choice and style choices).
  • What are your top writing pet-peeves? (do not limit to grammar issues–consider process, practice, and reviews) Answering this question helps coauthors better understand where to take care of their colleagues.
  • Are you most often a before-deadline, deadline, or post-deadline writer? Answering this question will help coauthors understand the place of deadlines, timelines, and work pressures in the collaboration.
  • Describe your current projects and workload. Addressing the constraints on each other’s time helps coauthors to be realistic in writing project planning and in supporting each other along the way to successful submission.
  • How comfortable are you in talking openly about your writing background, experiences, opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses? Most of us can feel uncomfortable or vulnerable when talking about who we are as writers or about our writing challenges. Whether you or your coauthors feel comfortable sharing openly or feel more reserved, it is great to hear each other so that you can expect to touch base with one another in ways that are mutually supportive.


Step 2. Listen actively and nonjudgmentally to your colleagues’ responses. Be curious. Listen to learn about your writing partner(s), to hear about who they are and about how they came to write as they do–the good, the bad, and the lovely.


The primary goal of this two-step meta-writing pre-planning conversation is for you to better understand each other so that you can glimpse how you might best write together.


Most of us want to focus first on the writing product, on the outcomes so that we might devise plans on how to submit our work for publication, funding, or recognition. Focusing on writing products is important, for sure, but the products will be the result of a successful collaboration between people. People who are smart, skilled, complex, challenged, and many other categories of uniqueness who may occasionally mystify us.


These steps need not take much time. Only as long as it takes to talk and listen to your partner or team. What would that be? 10 minutes? 15?, 30? Not much more time than a conversation. And, you will save so much more time over the length of your project by better understanding how to work with each other.


If you’d like to learn more about collaborative writing practices and processes, CSU Writes has multiple options for you across the career-span:


This semester (S22), we have FACULTY Writes collaborative writing workshops:

APR 12, 12-12:50 Collaborative Writing I: Simple Rules

APR 20, 12-12:50 Collaborative Writing II: Writing across Differences



Over the summer, we will offer a month-long workshop intensive for faculty mentors who write with their graduate student mentees. Email for more information: csuwrites@colostate.edu.


And, next fall (F22), CSU Writes will offer workshops GRAD Writes collaborative writing workshops for graduate students.


Until we meet then, may your writing together be brief, frequent, low stress and highly rewarding.