Friday, February 1, 2008

Academic writing - working with co-author

It is my own fresh experience and lessons after working with someone together on a writing project. Finally I submitted the final but it is a lot of thoughts after this working process. It was not really a happy experience, but I am still hoping for a happy ending, in which I can only know in June.

We two are together writing a proposal. He was very busy and traveling when it was due. In the morning I was ready to submit the proposal, I got an email from him saying he was really not happy. The main reason was because I replaced part of his text with mine, since I don't feel his writing make enough sense to me... ... I was not happy either. Anyway, do not want to focus too much on the details, just want to share with you what I learned from this process. Maybe it would save you from some bad experience in later time. One thing is necessary to keep clear from the beginning: this applies to a co-authorship between persons with similar experiences. If you are working with a much respected person, stories might be different.

1. Discussion is never too much. When you want to work with someone, discussion with the person about this work is all the time the best way to make things clear. The biggest lesson of mine is that I realized very late that we do not share the same value in judging some issues. What happens in the writing process, is his trying to delete my words that he felt too biased. On the other hand, I do not like his words the same way around.

2. Read the person's work before hand, and decide whether you would like it or not. I actually read his work in which he asked for my comments, I did give quite some comments, and I knew I did not like the kind of work he was doing. But all these did not warn me enough to stop working together on a proposal, since I felt the topic was also my interest. The writing process became a battle of both our interests: he wanted to pull it towards his expertise and interest, and I wanted to drag to my direction. It is quite a painful battle. Really, you need to get to know this person well, and like his work.

3. Write together and exchange with comments. It is better to write upon an agreed structure, and exchange between with added writing and comments. You need to give reasons on why you like or do not like some part of the text. Bluntly delete other people's writing effort is all the time hurting to the other party.

4. Stay open between each other. In the writing process, if you seek advice or comments from other people, do share it with your co-author.

Now I am writing on this, it seems that I just made so many stupid mistakes in writing up an three pages proposal. It is a little piece, but it does give chances for all these little stupid problems to occur. We thought it was small, we thought it might be easy. Then it turned out to be the worst co-authoring experience I have had. Maybe you will never come across situations like mine. Be careful if you do.

The image is from here.

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