Co-writing "Shutdown"

Silvia and her friend Tasmin are co-writing a sci-fi short story and this is how they're doing it

What is "Shutdown" and what's this project

Shutdown is the working title of a short sci-fi story that I (Silvia) and my friend Tasmin are co-writing. In this file I will be documenting our process of collaborative writing in real time in hopes it will be useful for whoever is interested in doing something similar.

Why are we writing a book together?

Tasmin's intentions:

  • Has been writing fiction for a long time but never successfully co-wrote with anyone and would like to try

  • Wants to explore collaboration, trust, and letting go of creative control

  • Wants to write without pressure to publish, just for fun

Silvia's intentions:

  • Has been writing nonfiction for a long time and wants to explore fiction for creative purposes

  • Excited to work with tasmin because of her expertise in fiction

  • Curious about the meta: What are ways to create together and build relationships by making things together?

How this project started and how we're collaborating:

  • Tasmin invited Silvia to co-write a story

  • We decided on the genre (sci-fi) over text messages

  • We are meeting face to face once a week on Wednesdays for 1h30 to build foundations (storyworld, structure, plot coherence, etc.)

  • Then during the week each of us works on writing their individual part of the story

  • There are 2 main characters and we each write from one of their POVs, alternating chapters

Face to face writing sessions — Documentation

Session 2 (3rd Mar 2021, ~2h)

We discussed research we made at home, got clearer on the premise and story world details. We defined the basic points of relationship between main characters. We discussed meta: how we want to work, our intentions for writing together, tools to use, when to meet (once a week).

Character development:

  • Defining their relationship with each other

  • Defining personalities: traits, values, history

  • Physical appearance: we used Pinterest to get inspired by real portraits and chose a few as a starting point


  • Timeline (When is the story happening? How long after the event that determined the big premise? What is the actual year?)

  • What are the main events that led up to the current time in the story line?

  • Where does the story happen in the real world?

  • How do the main characters fit in that world?


  • Continue building each of our characters, namely:

    • Core values

    • Personality

    • History and place in the story world

Session 1 (24th Feb 2021, ~1h30)

We mostly brainstormed freely and explored different threads, focusing especially on defining the premise and general idea of the book.

Questions we asked each other to get the process started:

  • What kind of sci-fi do we want to write?

  • How are we going to be writing together?

  • What is the main premise of the story?

  • Who are the characters and what is the relationship between them?

  • What is the message we want to convey?

  • What are the dynamics?

  • What is the journey/goal that moves the story forward?


  • Research some scientific questions needing to be answered for a coherent story world

  • Brainstorm message of the story

  • Think about communication tool for co-writing

  • Brainstorm working title ("Shutdown")

  • Brainstorm characters (character sheets)

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