I've been a writer for most of my life; ever since I was old enough to pick up a pen.
In all the time I spent putting together essays, stories, articles, press releases, and a whole host of other content types, I've generally worked alone.
I'll sit down, do my research, pump out an article, put it through several rounds of edits, and boom - I'm done.
That is, I'll wager, how most people write - and they wouldn't have it any other way. After all, writing is something to be done alone; that's how the greats do it. You don't see George R. R. Martin sitting down with a focus group to write up each page of the next Game of Thrones novel, nor would you see Forbes' Michael Solomon entrust each paragraph of his articles to a different author. That's simply not how it's done...right?
Maybe; maybe not.
CMS Wire's Gerry McGovern has brought a very interesting concept to my attention - and in hindsight, it's actually something massive sites like Cracked.com practice already. It's something known as pair writing, and it's exactly what it sounds like. You're literally grouping up with one or more authors to collaborate on a single piece.
McGovern points at pair writing as one possible solution to a rather glaring problem in the world of content creation - an issue of quantity over quality.
"When we work with large organizations," he writes, "one of the usual outcomes is deletion of between 50 and 90 percent of the content. Much of this has never even been read once; it is estimated that there are some 14 million pages on Microsoft.com, and 3 million of them have never been looked at."
"Even the pages that are looked at are often of a poor quality," continues McGovern. "We test a lot of technical content and there is much room for improvement. Any new methods that could improve quality and reduce quantity would be very welcome."
Of course, McGovern does acknowledge that pair writing is probably going to meet a fair bit of resistance, especially from creative types. After all, for many of us, our writing is something precious; something important, vital, and most importantly, ours. Allowing someone else into the process taints it, it means that our work no longer belongs to us alone.
He's quick to stress, however, that pair writing isn't an 'either/or' deal. At the end of the day, all that's important is that you get the job done. Speaking of which...
A New Landscape of Collaboration
I'm certain many of you already have a rather negative image in your mind when I bring up the phrase "writing by committee." You're probably imagining a dusty old boardroom; clueless businesspeople gathered around a table bickering over what the next line in a particular article should be. Banish that thought - group writing is nothing like that.
You can thank businesses like Google for that one. As a result of platforms like Google Drive and Google Docs; as a result of online storage and cloud collaboration, it's entirely possible for one, two, or even ten writers to pool their efforts on a single work of literature - and this without interrupting the flow too much. Awesome, right?
Besides that, pair writing is hardly a new idea, according to McGovern.
"If content creation does go collaborative, then it will be following a trail blazed by science," he says, where "the web has facilitated an explosion of collaboratively-created content. According to a Thomson Reuters report in 2010, the average number of authors for scientific papers increased by more than 50%, from 3.18 in 1990 to 4.83 in 2010."
Pretty big hike, isn't it? And near as I can tell, the sciences are no poorer for collaboration. Why should content marketing be?
Should You Or Shouldn't You?
Alright. We've talked about pair writing, and some of the tools by which its made possible. Now, it's time for the million dollar question: is this something you should do on your own website?
I'd honestly advise you to at least give it a try. If it's not to your taste - if you or your writers balk at the idea of working directly with anyone else - then that's perfectly fine. On the other hand, if you're looking for a way to up the quality of posts on your site (and possibly make the content creation process a little more efficient in the process), then pair writing could be exactly what you need.
Image credit: Vanjagenije