Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Things I've Learned From Ghostwriting

I think I have done this before, but I remain convinced that ghostwriting has taught me some important lessons about my own writing, so here are a few of the more important ones:

  1. Everyone has a big idea, even if it is the same as quite a few other people's. The question is more what you're inclined to do with it. (I know I keep saying this. It's still true. At some point, I'm going to get around to running a very specific blogfest to prove it, with the same story written a dozen different ways).
  2. You can write more than you think. You really can. A thousand words a day? Ha! I once produced a YA novel in just under two weeks. And no, it wasn't rubbish. In fact, because it happened to be the piece that caught my imagination, it is probably one of my better ghostwriting efforts. This isn't about boasting, because there's certainly nothing special about me. My point is that you probably could too.
  3. The marketing side of things matters. How many copies would these things sell with my name on? Probably not nearly so many as with a better known author's name on, who promotes the books extremely well.
  4. Your voice just happens. I am, I suspect, identifiably me in all my own writing. The thing is, notes of the same voice come through even when I'm ghostwriting. And the same is true of almost every other writer. It's why all these sporting biographies read so similarly. The point is that, well, you know all that time you spend trying to develop your voice, to force it into the right shape? It will happen anyway.
  5. There are always boring bits. I've had people say that this must be a great, exciting job. Invariably, it coincides with the moment when I'm struggling to put together the most awkward bit. The bit that bores me just to think about, but which is still absolutely essential. Everything has boring bits. Even writing.
  6. Structure is important. The ghostwriting jobs that go wrong are the ones where the client sticks down a structure and you get on with the work without at least checking it, let alone arguing about it. Yet get the structure wrong, or the characters, and things can fall apart even if you're writing well.
  7. Get the work done. There is nothing like having to finish something to get paid to put writer's block in its place.
  8. Craft and inspiration. I am not inspired for every word I ghostwrite. I doubt anyone is. I doubt, moreover, that anyone is inspired for every word of their own work. The trick is to put together enough craft to be able to put together good work until inspiration decides to show up again.


Jessica Bell said...

The reason why someone would hire a ghostwriter to write fiction BOGGLES ME! That's weird! I know it's common for autobiographies etc, but fiction? A little insight?

Tina Lynn said...

You just handed me a hefty bowl of conviction. I've been a bad, bad writer.

Donna Hole said...

And here I thought the life of a ghost writer would be more glamorous.

Hmm; still beats getting up and going in to the office every day.