What Is Collaborative Writing? Everything You Need to Know

What is collaborative writing? Learn more about what it is like to complete a writing project with other team members.

There are a lot of group projects that people complete at all levels, and some are asked to complete group writing projects. This is called collaborative writing, and it involves brainstorming, writing, revising, and publishing writing projects with the help of other group members.

Many moving parts happen during collaborative writing projects, and multiple writers are typically employed to complete different tasks. For example, one person might be responsible for the first draft, while another might be responsible for the editing process. One writer might have the authority to go in and change something that another writer has written. This writing process can be helpful in certain situations. What is involved in finishing a project?

Collaborative Writing Example

One of the top examples of collaborative writing in action is the process of creating Wikipedia entries. These are articles that multiple people write, then edited by admins, followed by changes suggested by various readers. This is a collaborative writing environment where individual duties are demarcated between different groups of people.

Every writer has equal abilities and authority in the perfect collaborative writing environment. They can engage in writing, editing, adding, removing, and changing various parts of the project. Successful collaborative writing leads to publishing a final product that is as accurate as possible. That is what happens with Wiki articles.

Different Types of Collaborative Writing?

Group work comes in many shapes and forms. Collaborative writing is no different. There are several different types of collaborative writing, and some of the most common types include:

Single Author Writing

One of the most common types of collaborative writing is called single-author writing. In this type of writing, one person represents an entire team that works together to produce written work. For example, multiple people might work on files in Google Docs. They might be responsible for writing their work, sending it to an editor for proofreading, and then publishing it under one person’s name. It looks like individual work, but in reality, many people play significant roles in getting the project done.

One of the most common examples of this type of project is when multiple people publish blog posts for a lawyer, but based on the website, it looks like the leading lawyer is responsible for doing all of the work. This also means that the person whose name is on the final product is responsible for the accuracy of the facts that get presented. You might also be interested in our explainer on what is mapping in writing.

Sequential Single Writing

Another common type of collaborative writing is called single sequential writing. This type of project occurs when a group of writers works on a single area of the writing project, but they all take place in a sequence. This means that one person works on the first part of the article and then passes it to the second writer to work on the next part of the article.

Peer review takes place because the second writer can change the work of the first writer. For example, one person might be responsible for brainstorming. Then, that person might pass an outline to the second writing team member for the next writing task, which might mean putting together a rough draft. After that, the next writer will be responsible for the writing style, ensuring that the right tone is struck. Finally, a fourth writer might be responsible for ensuring all of the publication requirements are met.

Parallel Writing

Parallel writing is similar to single sequential writing in that members are responsible for different project areas. The difference is that different parts of the project are handled simultaneously. For example, when the first part of the article is outlined, it might get passed to the next writer to take the research and complete a draft; however, the first writer might be responsible for outlining another portion of the article while the next writer is working on writing the first portion.

In this case, collaborative learning is also necessary because the first writer might take the feedback from the second writer and use it to create a better outline for the next portion of the assignment. This could expedite the process of getting the article finished. There are also a lot of collaborative tools that could be used in this situation to make the process easier.

Reactive Writing

Another one of the most popular collaborative writing strategies is called reactive writing. This type of collaborative writing process occurs when different team members go through different projects that are completed by different team members and suggest changes.

This is where Google Docs can be helpful because someone can comment on the doc in real-time, making it easier for one co-author to “react” to the work that has been written, suggest changes, and ensure everyone knows what is happening before the project is finalized. This type of division of labor is beneficial because it ensures the final document is credible. With so many people sharing their information, the final document is more likely to be accurate and represent the group’s opinions. This is one of the most common types of collaborative writing, mainly when an editor is involved.

Mixed Mode Writing

The mixed mode type of collaborative writing is a blend of the above. For example, a group of people could work face-to-face on a group assignment to put together a rough draft. Then, the entire team might pass the document to another group of people who react to it.

There might be some personal writing, but every group member works on it in real-time to produce a final draft. Different team members might have specific tasks assigned to them. Still, once they finish their tasks, they become reactive members or learners, working with others to complete the project as quickly as possible while ensuring the final draft is as solid as possible. This is one of the most common types of collaborative writing and is great for learning.

Different Types of Engagement In Collaborative Writing

For collaborative writing to work as well as possible, it is critical to ensure that everyone is as engaged with the rest of the team as possible. In general, there are two ways to ensure everyone is engaged with the project as it unfolds. They include:

Turn Writing Engagement

The first type of engagement is called turn-writing engagement. This type of writing takes place where there are multiple authors who each contribute to different sections. They suggest changes and additional modifications. Then, they check the sections, implement the suggested changes, and publish them. This type of engagement is called turn writing because each writer takes a turn before passing it to the next team member. Everyone takes a turn, and everyone has a voice.

Lead Writing

The other type of engagement is called lead writing. There might be a specialist who is given a piece to compose. For example, a scientist might have a research project that has to get published. They will write down their thoughts on the topic but give the piece to another writer to ensure the voice and style are great. Before the piece can be published, the assignment is given back to the expert, who reviews the changes and ensures the information is still accurate. Again, they will voice their thoughts to make sure the information will have the intended impact on the reader before publishing it.

Top Tips for a Strong Collaborative Writing Process

Even though collaborative writing can be a great way to complete a writing project, there are also a lot of challenges along the way. Everyone should follow a few tips to make sure the piece goes as smoothly as possible. Some of the top tips to keep in mind include:

Communication Is Critical

One of the most common reasons why people have trouble during the collaborative writing process is that they do not communicate with one another. Particularly in the current environment, there are a lot of people who work remotely. If group members do not communicate well with each other, they will have difficulty figuring out when something is ready for their review. This can lead to delays and scope creep during the project, leading to a sloppy finished product. Therefore, it is helpful to use a communication tool, such as Slack, to make it easier for people to stay in touch during the project.

Be Clear About the Roles

Speaking of communication, it is helpful to ensure everyone knows their role. Sometimes, a project can get going, but many people do not know exactly who is responsible for what. As a result, some people might end up working on the same part of the project, leading to confusion in the group. Then, there are other areas of the project that might fall through the cracks. It might be helpful to use a project management tool, such as ClickUp, to make it easier for people to see the deliverables.

Create Specific Deadlines

It is not unusual for a collaborative writing project to be turned in late because people do not know what the deadlines are and when different parts of the project are due. For example, the group might only see the final deadline, but if someone does not pass the project to the next person fast enough, the next person might not have adequate time to do their portion of the project. That is why it is helpful to set deadlines for the individual pieces, not just the final project.

Know Who To Go To For Help

When a collaborative writing project gets going, it is critical to ensure everyone knows who to go to for help. With many people in the group, some members might not know who to call if they need help. Ensure all relevant contact information is shared and group members know who the next person in line might be. This could be an excellent place to start if someone needs help with a portion of the project, and it can reduce the phone (or text) tag people play.

Use Real-Time Collaboration Tools

Finally, with every collaborative writing assignment, it is critical to use real-time collaboration tools. If the document has to be saved and emailed before the next person can start working, it is hard to know the most recent version of the project. So instead, use real-time collaboration tools that allow multiple people to work on the file simultaneously. Then, people know what version of the project is the most recent one (because there will only be one), and they can see who has made what edits to the file.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!