Two Drops of Ink styles itself as “The literary home for collaborative writing.” I have thought a great deal about the use of this slogan and why its use is so important. I congratulate Scott and Marilyn for adopting this slogan and making it an ethos by which Two Drops of Ink lives by.
What does collaborative writing mean? A thought that would spur further thought, consideration, and some investigation.
As a little historical context, I encountered Marilyn on a general writing site several years ago. Through her, I got to know Scott. I have not met either in person, yet, we have built an online relationship. Such relationships are the way the modern world works. People join forces because of common interests.
Collaboration is not the first thing in mind for the average writer. Should it be? The process isn’t one of working together on a single story (although it may be). It is more about working together toward a common goal. Having many people contribute diverse types of material, all keeping readers interested. There are distinct types of stories — from writing advice to memoirs, poetry to blogging. All add value to the online world.
Not every reader will read every piece, some cannot get their head around specific writing advice, while others are not into memoirs. But that is the joy of a site as diverse as Two Drops, there is variety to experience and learn from. The range is intriguing enough to become a regular reading home for anyone.
Over the last couple of years, Two Drops of Ink has evolved. Of this, there can be no doubt. Not only has there been the migration from the blogger platform to WordPress, then on towards twodropsofink.com, and of course the move to independent hosting and other changes underway. Every day, it grows to new heights. The awards received have been ample proof of that.
There is a strength that collaboration brings to people from diverse backgrounds, together, each focused on a common achievement. As time goes on the number of contributors will grow, the number of readers will grow, and the success will also follow.
What is writing success? I love this question. It is so flexible.
For the inexperienced writer, it can mean putting their thoughts down in four paragraphs (full of spelling and grammatical errors). Encouragement is necessary for even this modest amount. It is a point from which they can start and can grow. But, they must share a willingness to grow.
Much to Consider
They will probably not think about weak verbs, prepositional phrases, or ponderous nouns. It is a massive step to start writing. Such lessons come with experience.
Every writer needs to be aware of their next steps along the path to success. Marilyn Davis correctly points out “self-doubt, fueled by additional constructive criticism and the individual emotionally reacts, not solely to the criticism, but from the old baggage, hurts, and wounds (are) combined with this new criticism.”
Noelle Sterne makes the point: “our ‘mistakes’ are part of our writing evolution and lead us, eventually, to what we do think so we can experiment and correct criticism.” No matter how well you understand the English language, you will make errors when you write. I know every writer may complain, “when do I have time to edit my blog post?” But, everyone must realise that checking and editing is an essential part of the writing process.
I recall most of my working life and how everything was all about “the team.” I have been a team member, led groups, and managed teams. Each gave distinct experiences, yet each reinforced the value of the team. There may be many teams within an organization.
Teams that provide the opportunity for people to work together and achieve success in the steps along the way.
Collaboratively, we can help writers grow. It mirrors the same spirit from teams. I receive regular requests from writers for help improving a particular piece. It is good to give your opinion and help other writers grow. That is a part of the spirit of collaboration. Even experienced writers often need advice like, “How can I strengthen this sentence?, or, Which paragraph is best to lead with?” — all valid questions. All provide learning points.
A Call for an Opinion
Each is a call for an opinion. When giving advice, we should understand that is all it is, advice. It is based on personal opinion. The person asking the advice is free to take it or leave it. Ignore it or take action on it. It is easy to give advice, but much harder to change your work and embed someone’s advice.
Where can a writer turn for advice? That is an important question. The answer, it can only be to other (more experienced) writers.
As a reader, I would never pick up a Stephen King novel, the genre fills me with dread. As a writer, I am aware that he has much to offer in the way of advice for fellow writers that we should pay attention to. The words are as relevant for non-fiction writers as fictional ones.
King gives some anecdotes about the lessons he learned as a young writer. These are available at Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully. Here I focus on two points:
- Be self-critical – If you haven’t marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job.
- Evaluate criticism – Show your work to people… Listen carefully to what they tell you. Smile and nod a lot. Review what they say. If they each tell you the same thing about one facet of your work. A plot twist that doesn’t work. The character who rings false. Stilted narrative, or half a dozen other possible flaws – change that facet.
Some blogging experts state that spelling and grammar are not necessary pre-requisites for a powerful blog. But, Marilyn Davis makes the point “eventually, if the writing is sound, they will attract an audience.” I agree with her assessment. The first stopping point to attracting an audience shows itself in writing style. Writers who create pages that are easy to read, give valuable information, have white space and show a good understanding of the language are more likely to succeed.
Support, Encourage, and Promote One Another
Don’t sit alone. Bloggers need to collaborate to get their writing widely known. Davis espouses the policy “support, encourage, and promote one another.” Your reach will be wider when you see other writers in your specialty as allies rather than competitors.
Have you found someone that writes about the same subject matter as you?
Most bloggers have. It triggers a range of emotions from jealousy to envy, from love to hatred. All are unnecessary. You have found other people having common aims. That should be a positive. Truth is, too many people see it as a negative or someone to eliminate or surpass. Hardly part of the philosophy of support, encouragement, and promoting one another.
A better approach may be sending an email…
… Dear X,
I encountered your blog recently and noticed that you and I share a passion about… My blog, called Y.com, is where I write about similar concerns in our industry. I would like to talk further about the possibility of some form of loose collaboration. Perhaps we could occasionally swap stories, or let each other’s audience know about the other’s site…
This would at least open a dialogue, perhaps leading to something further in the future. What is the worst that can happen? They say “no.” When that happens, move on and find someone else to work with.
Sharing is Caring
Sharing is another way that it is possible to connect with other writers,
Marilyn Davis again tells us a home truth… “Too many writers, bloggers, and website owners do not understand the value that they receive when they share articles or provide links to other people.” It is easy to see that in sharing someone else’s work they benefit. But you also benefit as well.
A few months ago, I encountered a blog that had some useful information. Tweeted a few of their posts as I continued to read their site during the week. Subsequently, I added it to my list of favourites (and I continue to go there today). I had also made some comments on their pages. This led to a curious, delayed, effect. Several weeks later I had people read many posts and comment back.
But Sometimes we need More
It would be nice to think that if Mary writes her piece and she tells Joe about it (among others). He tells 6 people, and each of them tells 6 people, etc., etc., and the word spreads. within a few days, hundreds have read her post. The idea being that word of mouth, or word of social media, lets everyone in the specialisation know about the work. It would be nice, but it has more in common with an idealistic world than the real one.
People love to help, but they cannot always do so. The day Mary publishes her work, Joe is away and finds it impossible to tell anyone about Mary’s work that week. That is the reality.
For true collaboration, writers need to consider cross-linking each other’s pages. It would be good to think that writers with a common aim can work with each other, but that can often be a challenge. It takes effort to make it a reality. One approach is to write posts that examine the other person’s work. A better approach is to co-write a series that joins both sites together in a common goal. New readers are then introduced to both sites.
Collaboration is possible and the type of community built around sites like Two Drops of Ink is essential to writers. It is a model that should be adopted in other specialties. Writers with similar interests coming together and sharing their work for common advantage.
Monthly Contributor: Peter B. Giblett
Peter B. Giblett shows people how to turn their Blog into a powerful resource. Helping them communicate more effectively, using the power of the written and spoken word. He discusses social media, because of how it can help bloggers and small business’ grow.
He is a freelance editor and writer. Has a background in business and technology management. English born, now living in Canada. He’s an Alumni of both City University (London) and University of West London. Entrant and winner of National Novel Writing Month 2015, a novel he is currently editing. He runs his own blog, GobbledeGoox.com.
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
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