How Can I Tell Which Bits You’ve Written?

Typing away

As you may know I’m currently co-writing a book on feminism with my friend Kristin Aune. One of the questions a few people have asked me now is “how do you write with another person?” or as my parents put it, “which chapters will you be writing then? How are we going to know which bits you’ve written?”.

Oh… parents, bless em!

Well…. you won’t. It doesn’t quite work like that.

So how does it work, and why are we co-writing anyway?

Having a co-writer can be difficult, but it has its benefits. For one thing, I really respect Kristin. She has an amazing amount of knowledge about feminism and the state of women in the world, especially from an academic point of view as teaching it is her day job. She’s also written a lot professionally before, which means she’s probably a bit more used to all this than I am.

Writing with another person means that our book is (hopefully) not about one individual’s point of view but we can keep focussed on what we’re trying to do, which is to give as fair a representation of what feminists think as we possibly can.

For example, Kristin has recently sent me through her draft on feminist concerns about women in the sex industry and prostitution. As this is probably one of the most contentious issues we’re covering, I know we’re going to have to work very carefully and we’ll probably end up having a lot of discussions; but in the end, we’ll come up with a version that we’re both comfortable with.

The other good thing about having a co-writer is motivation. It’s easier to actually get stuff done when you know that there’s another person waiting for your work. I also find it much easier to write when I have something to work with and react to rather than a blank piece of paper – so when Kristin sends me the bits she’s written, it’s quite exciting.

So here’s how it works.

Kristin and I have sketched out our chapters and structure ages ago. We’re working our way through the chapters one by one, and our deadline is the end of October 2009.

drinking tea

First we discuss what main topics each chapter will cover, and then split then roughly between us. We each write a rough draft, and then eventually, with great trepidation and guilt for not having done a better job, swap these over with each other. We’ll make amendments and improvements to each other’s writing, and add in any extra information.

At this stage, the chapters are all pretty much in draft form. When we have them all in place, we’ll look at the book as a whole and try to smooth out the rough edges and make it seamless and smooth.

Kristin and I have noticeably different writing styles. By the end of the process of swapping and tweaking and smoothing, there shouldn’t be any strange jumps in style. It should read in one voice.

That’s the plan, anyway.

So sorry mum and dad, you won’t know which bits I’ve written!

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