Collaborative Writing: Five Reasons to Give it a Try

Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Category: Writing

We've been friends since we met at school aged 16, and together we've co-written three Young Adult novels (Lobsters, Never Evers and our new one, Freshers, which came out this August). We write alternative chapters - Tom writing the male character and Lucy the female character - and, apart from the occasional argument about whose jokes are better, it's great fun. Here are five reasons we think you should give collaborative writing a try...

It helps with deadlines

Freshers book cover
If you're writing your first book - or indeed any book that you've not been given a concrete deadline for - it can often be difficult to find the willpower to keep going. Writing with a partner solves this problem instantly because there's always someone else urging you to hurry up. When we wrote our first novel, Lobsters, we both had full-time jobs and giving up our nights and weekends to work on chapters was often frustrating. But you'd keep slogging away because you'd promised your partner you'd send them something by Sunday. Plus, they'd given up their previous weekend to finish a chapter, so you'd feel bad if you didn't finish yours. You're not just letting yourself down, you're letting your friend down, too - and this constant feeling of guilt is a weirdly effective way of getting a manuscript completed.

Two heads are better than one

Having a writing partner means having another writer, another editor, another sub-editor and another person to bounce ideas off - all rolled into one. When you're struggling with writer's block, or you've hit a wall with your plot, talking it through with someone who's just as invested in the book as you are is INCREDIBLY helpful.

It strengthens friendships

You've got to pick someone you know well and feel totally comfortable with

Choosing your collaborator is very important. You've got to pick someone you know well and feel totally comfortable with: i.e. someone you can give an honest opinion when something's not working. We've been friends since we were 16 years old, and our friendship has definitely been tightened by writing together. Even though we do disagree (quite frequently during second/third draft, to be honest) we mostly have a lot of fun, and since our books are very much based on our real lives when we were teenagers, writing together basically gives us the chance to sit around and reminisce about stupid things we've seen or done, or heard about over the years.

The pressure drops

It can be pretty daunting writing a book, and even more daunting having it published. Going through the whole process with someone else makes it automatically 50% easier - everything from the terror of sending the manuscript out to agents, to speaking at literary festivals, to reading the first reviews; all of that pressure is halved when you're working as a pair. You're not going through it alone - and that's an extremely comforting thing.

It's way more fun!

You're not going through it alone

As any writer will tell you, sitting by yourself all day tapping away at a keyboard can occasionally be a pretty dismal and lonely experience. As such, writing with a partner makes things more enjoyable. During our second and third drafts - once the basic skeleton of the book is in place - we essentially just sit together in a room, eating Haribo and trying to make each other laugh. Which, as jobs go, is pretty good, really.  


Find more top-notch tips in our Five Things and How I Write blogs.

Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison met in the sixth form and have been friends ever since. Lucy is a school librarian at a girls school in central London where she gets most of her inspiration. Tom is a journalist and has written for ShortList, Time Out, Vice, talkSPORT, ESPN and Viz. They’re co-authors of the hilariously funny novels Lobsters, Never Evers and Freshers from Chicken House Books.