Ghostwriting is one of the most fascinating aspects of the publishing industry, but also one with very little information available about it — particularly from those involved in the process: writers and publishers. In our blog, we want to pull back the curtain and dispel some of the popular misconceptions, ultimately giving publishing professionals a real insight into ghostwriting. Today, we interview a Fantasy Ghostwriter about their projects with Relay.
How did you first begin ghostwriting? What was the primary attraction?
Ghostwriting is something that fell into my lap completely by surprise! I had a friend who was a ghostwriter who knew that I was looking for a writing job to help supplement my income while I also pursued my own personal publishing projects, and she asked me if I would be interested in applying. I’d always been incredibly intrigued by the idea of ghostwriting, but had never really looked into the specifics or done any research to see what sort of jobs were available. Once she mentioned it, however, I immediately went of a research spree and quickly discovered that ghostwriting was exactly the type of job I was hoping to find.
The primary appeal of ghostwriting for me was the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented and knowledgeable people in the industry, while also having the chance to grow as a writer and hone my personal skills. Publishing under your own name comes with a significant amount of pressure and expectation, but ghostwriting allows you to focus solely on the joy of creating and that really appealed to me. I ended up applying for the job, and here I am, one year later and going strong! I have currently ghostwritten three books for Relay, and I am working on a fourth. I absolutely love my job, and I am so grateful to that friend for introducing me to this incredible world of ghostwriting.
What is the biggest misconception about ghost-writing?
I think a lot of people assume that ghostwriting is a super secretive operation that is really difficult to tap into. I also think they consider it to be one of those taboo topics that no one talks about — almost like a top secret mission or something. I understand why people might think this, but nothing could be farther from the truth! I think most people outside of the book industry don’t realize just how big of a role ghostwriting actually plays in the publishing world. Some of the most beloved books out there were written by ghostwriters, and readers are always really surprised by that fact. Ghostwriting is far more prevalent than people realize.
What do you find are the biggest challenges of ghostwriting?
For me, the biggest challenge of ghostwriting has been the fast pace. When dealing with my own personal writing projects, I am incredibly slow. I think this is likely because I second guess myself a lot. Whatever the reason, I am a turtle writer in real life. However, ghostwritten books tend to be on a much tighter schedule and require the writer to complete the book in a few weeks’ time. This was hard for me at first, but I’ve learned to rely on my team and to just have fun. This makes it much easier to meet those quick deadlines and to feel good about the work I produce.
Are there any unique challenges for your genre?
Writing high epic fantasy can be particularly difficult due to level of worldbuilding, but for me, one of the more unique challenges in my genre comes from dealing with the large, battle-like action scenes. Writing action sequences has always been somewhat arduous for me due to the fact that the scene choreography and timing needs to be so precise, but when you throw dragons in the mix, it becomes all the more challenging! Not only do you have to consider the fighting style and movement of the human characters, but also the way a dragon fights on land and in the air. You also have to consider the ways in which both human and dragon wield the weapons at their disposal, both individually and together. And then of course, there are always scenes with humans fighting atop dragons, which can add another degree of difficulty.
Like I mentioned, it’s all about the choreography of the scene — who’s fighting who, where the various players are, what blows are being taken, etc. — and with so many different elements at play, a scene can quickly become chaotic if you’re not careful. To combat this, I’ve discovered that drawing diagrams helps me keep things straight! It’s also a lot of fun to plot out each battle before I start writing. It’s like a game to see how much trouble I can get the characters into before they ultimately achieve their goal. I used to loathe writing action scenes altogether, but this is definitely an area that I feel more comfortable in now thanks to my ghostwriting experience.
What’s the #1 thing you look for in a publisher/client?
I think the most important to look for in a publisher or client is clear communication and expectations. Everyone has an important role to play and it’s important that everyone is on the same page. Thankfully, Relay has a wonderful system in place, and I feel very supported in my position as a writer. It’s a fantastic place to work!
How do you find working from an outline and someone else’s vision?
When it comes to my own particular writing style, I am very much a hardcore outliner. I like to have the whole picture in my head before I begin drafting, and I find I am much more efficient when I have a solid outline to work from. So naturally, the ghostwriting process totally appeals to me. I love the thorough and well developed outlines that I’m given, and honestly, it makes my job as the writer so much easier.
As far as working with someone else’s vision goes, I really enjoy the challenge of it. So much of the publishing process boils down to collaboration, and I think it’s a lot of fun to take someone else’s concept and outline and bring it to life, while also putting my own unique spin on it. It’s important to stay true to the outline, but Relay is really wonderful about giving the writers a bit of artistic freedom. I really thrive within the framework Relay has established for their writers, and I enjoy the process immensely.
How does the writing process for a ghostwriting project differ from your own personal projects?
The biggest difference and perhaps the most obvious is that when I am writing my own project, it’s entirely my own brain child. I am the one who comes up with the concept, the characters, the world, etc. I have complete ownership over my ideas, as well as the interpretation of those ideas. Ghostwriting, however, is all about collaboration and working together as a team to create a wonderful product. No one single person can claim ownership over the project.
I also find ghostwriting incredibly liberating in the sense that it doesn’t come with as much personal pressure or expectation. When I’m ghostwriting, I get to fully immerse myself in the world and the characters, and I get to just really enjoy the whole creation process. With my own projects, I often suffer from imposter syndrome and extreme self-doubt which can hinder my progress and steal my enjoyment. Ghostwriting allows me to do what I love without constantly having to second-guess every move I make. If I do come across issues, there’s a whole team behind me to support me and help me trouble-shoot the problem. I really love the confidence it’s given me as a writer.
How do you deal with not having your name attached to a book?
Honestly, this is not an issue for me at all. Every book that is produced is a team effort. There are so many instrumental people involved that it would be impossible for me to feel any sort of claim over the book. It’s not my world or my characters — I’m just the lucky one who gets to bring them to life! Think about it like this: when a baseball team wins the world series, it’s not about the individual players. It’s about all of the players working together to achieve a common goal. The same is true of ghostwriting. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have an extreme amount of pride in the books I write. I do! I am very proud of the books I’ve ghostwritten thus far, and those characters are very near and dear to my heart.
Do you have any advice for writers interested in ghostwriting?
Have fun with it! It’s such a unique process and there are tons of opportunities to learn and grow as a writer and a professional. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but the main goal of a ghostwriter is to write a story that readers will enjoy, a story that takes them on fantastical journey! If you enjoy what you do, that will translate into your work. So enjoy yourself!
If you’re interesting in ghostwriting fantasy, please review our current open positions.