Writing With a Collaborator—The Joy of Headlines

My work with clients is essentially collaborative writing. People come to me with piles of raw materials—anything from published blog posts to notes scrawled on napkins—and we transform them into a publishable manuscript.

To avoid misunderstandings, however, let’s carefully define collaborative.

Some aspects of the writing process are inherently un-collaborative (if there is such a word). These tasks require isolation. I refer mainly to the act of actually placing words next to each other in a coherent order—sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph.

Many people find the prospect of doing this to be terrifying. I can’t blame them. This aspect of writing is hard work. I don’t know any sane person who can do it more than a few hours per day.

Fortunately, other phases of book creation are inherently collaborative—a chance to emerge from your lonely writer’s garret and bask in the warmth of human company.

One of these is the process of brainstorming a table of contents for your book as described here. As with other types of brainstorming, the presence of other people often increases the range of ideas and raises the overall energy level.

Here’s the key: Think of a table of contents as a series of headlines that “announce” the sections of a book—just as a newspaper or magazine headline announces the content of an article. Effective headlines are short—usually 10 words or less. For this reason, you can easily sit down with someone, bang out a few, and polish them together.

Writing headlines is a high art, and there’s a ton of resources at your disposal if you want to learn more. Head over to Copyblogger and start with this. May these suggestions be a ticket to hours of happy collaboration.

Image by susanvg, Flickr Creative Commons

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