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  • Writer's pictureJudy

March 3, 2024: Collaborative Writing

Collaborative Writing is defined as “the process of creating a written product as a group”.


         It is not something I have much experience with as a writer, since I do not co-author. All of my published books have been written by me alone.  That is not to say I have not gotten feedback and guidance, which have focused my revisions and always made my writing better. But the day to day drafting and creating I do is solitary and within my total control.


         I have thought a great deal about collaborative writing lately though, as it has become an issue in the Student Writing Club that I sponsor at my elementary school.


         Students desperately want to collaborate with their friends when they are writing, yet they do not know how to navigate the challenges and nuances that arise during the process.  Disagreements, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and frustration have become the norm for many of these collaborating students.


         So, I have been doing a bit of research regarding collaborative writing.  How does the process differ from individual writing?  What approaches seem most effective?  What tips might help my budding writers?


         I have found a great deal out there. Much is not applicable to 9 or 10-year-old collaborators who are working on narrative pieces together.  Most seems to focus on professionals who might be collaborating on a nonfiction project on a topic within their area of expertise. Dissertations, research articles, and that kind of thing.


One of my favorite finds though, was The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin. They had a list for how to establish Harmonious Collaborative Writing. This jumped out at me because some of my young groups of writers were anything but harmonious lately. And I found the tips applicable to my young authors.


-       Establish ground rules

-       Respect your co-authors

-       Be willing to argue respectfully

-       Use word processing software that enables collaboration


As I looked at this list, I realized that the first one was the only one we were not doing and that we had not discussed.  The fact that we had not established ground rules had also impacted how they used the word processing software that allowed for collaboration. Which in hindsight, was often the source of the conflicts.


As I worked with several of our collaborative teams this week on setting those ground rules, I realized that each group was different and needed to set rules that they felt were critical.  We kept ground rules to just a few.  Students who were working on a play together set different ground rules than the students working on a narrative story.


Even without focusing explicitly on collaborative writing strategies, teams found their way to establishing the strategy that worked best for them and their genre.   While there are more, my writing teams found that these three strategies worked best and each group selected the one that they wanted to use:

-       Single writer: when one student writes for the entire team

-       Sequential: Each member is in charge of writing a specific part (in sequence)

-       Parallel Writing: Each student in charge of writing a specific part and it is done simultaneously.


I am happy to report that our after school Writing Club meetings have become more peaceful, patient, and productive!

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