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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Co-Authoring is like Co-Leading a Group

Giveaway Alert: Writer's Guide to Creating Rich Back Stories is up for grabs at K.M. Weiland's blog! See yesterday's post for two more opportunities to win different guides! I'm also over at Jordan McCollum's site, so pop over!

I had a really great group experience yesterday at work. I normally lead a parenting class by myself, and yesterday invited an Associate Social Worker intern to co-facilitate the group with me.

This was a big deal, because I've not had the greatest experience with co-leaders. You either gel or you don't. And when you don't gel, you're reluctant to stick your neck out there again. There's so much that goes into the co-leader relationship and actual facilitation.

It got me thinking that it's got to be like co-authoring a book. I've been approached to do so, and I'm actually eager to work on it when the time is right for both of us. But I can imagine you either gel or you don't.

The factors that go into co-facilitating a group are similar to those that would go into writing a book. Read on and be amazed.

1) Style

Group leaders, like authors, have different styles and ways of interacting. Some are more directive, others passive. Some procrastinate on getting the group materials together, others have the chairs arranged in a perfect circle ten minutes prior to group starting. Some are flexible, others are dominating.

How co-authors approach a book would be crucial. I would think a plotter and a pantster are going to have a harder time working together than two plotters. Two pantsters can work together fine too, just so you know. Jack Kilborn wrote a quite gruesome little ebook with Black Crouch called Serial. They way they wrote this book was they each sat down and thought of a serial killer for chapters one and two, and then quickly bounced back and forth for the remaining chapters to conclude the book (horrifically, I might add--it was kind of like a literary version of Fear Factor.) There was no outline and it worked....although I couldn't eat anything for a day or so.

2) Pacing

Good counselors know that group process can take a while to be cohesive. They know this and expect it. Others get impatient. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with silence or tears. Perhaps they can't quit looking at the clock and thinking, "We've GOT to get through this material in the next five minutes!"

Knowing when to probe and when to sit back is a skill that's honed after years of experience. You can do damage if you push too hard or you could do the client a disservice by enabling them to continue in a downward spiral.

Co-authors have to have a sixth sense in knowing when to do the same with each other and with their mutual characters. Since they are interacting on the page, pacing is crucial. One author's chapters wouldn't need to read so differently from the other. Literary fiction has a different pace from chick lit and thrillers definitely go at a different pace from romance. When do you push? Which author will do it? Which will sit back and give the reader a chance to breathe? (Or, as in Serial, give them no chance?)

3) Personality

Last but not least, the co-leader's personalities need to work well together. Notice, I didn't say need to be the same. If you haven't had a chance, you should grab my Writer's Guide to Personality Types (only $3!) from my store. In it, I talk about the personalities that mesh well together and those that don't.

There is more at stake in a therapeutic group with hurting clients if the group leader's personalities don't mix than when co-authors don't jive. Most co-authoring happens in different locations across the globe, not sitting side-by-side. But little things can be annoying and add up quickly, making the experience less than pleasant unless you've had the foresight to hash things out before.

Q4U: What about those of you out there who have co-authored? Any words of insight on how you weathers the process? What would you never do again? What could you not do without?

1 comment:

elizabeth mueller said...

I would SO love to co-author with someone. I've been looking for someone for years, but no one seems ready for that. The reason I want to co-author with someone is because I love sharing ideas and the close companionship that develops from doing so.

I have co-authed with my sister once upon a time and with a few friends of mine, but it just fizzled out.

You know, I am a great pantser, but I plot, too. I do one or the other, depending on my mood.


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