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 romance ghostwriter about their projects with Relay.
How did you first begin ghost-writing? What was the primary attraction?
A fellow writer friend mentioned Relay to me, and I was intrigued by the possibility of stepping into the ghostwriter role. Bringing someone else’s vision to life seemed like a fantastic writing challenge — was I capable? And would I enjoy it? Relay’s genres are adjacent to what I write under my real name, and even though Relay’s central tropes are different, I thought ghostwriting could be a good fit for me.
The primary attraction was getting out of my comfort zone and stretching as a writer! I think it’s easy to for authors rely on doing things the way they always do — from the nuts and bolts of the writing process to the types of characters we lean on — but I think you learn more and grow when you try new things. Of course, I suffered from a little bit of imposter syndrome as I began my ghostwriting journey since I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take on this new role. Happily, I’m two books in and loving every minute of it!
What is the biggest misconception about ghostwriting?
I think there’s a misconception that ghostwriting is a secretive basement-dwelling industry filled with sweatshop writers churning out story after story. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! My situation is probably common to most ghostwriters; I’m a traditionally published author with two nonfiction books and two novels under my belt as well as ongoing freelance writing work for a variety of sources.
I give my ghostwritten stories the same care as my traditionally published works — they’re my “book babies” too! I find that ghostwriting works well with my writing schedule, and I really enjoy doing it. Plus, my fellow writer friends think my side gig is super cool — there’s absolutely no stigma with other people in the book biz!
What do you find are the biggest challenges of ghostwriting?
Honestly, I don’t have too many challenges with ghostwriting, but if I had to pick one, I’d say it’s when a plot point doesn’t align with how I think the story should go. I get invested in my characters and if the outline writer has a different idea for something the character says or does it can be tough for me to adhere to the plot as written. Luckily, I’m able to connect with the outline writer and my editor to work through any sticking points. Sometimes I see the light after a conversation and write what’s suggested, but in other scenarios I’m able to plead my case and have changes made.
For example, in a recent book outline the main character’s career had two distinct parts that were each complicated enough to exists as independent full-time jobs. I thought that it wasn’t possible for her to successfully (and realistically) manage both aspects, so I suggested that we focus on one career and drop the other part, and the outline writer agreed. I was able to make the change and I think the character and story are more realistic now.
Are there any unique challenges for your genre?
When I write my traditionally published characters, I’m usually familiar with nearly everything about their lifestyles — I write what I know. However, my ghostwriting with Relay has introduced me to many new worlds requiring quite a bit of research! I’ve always loved cowboys (I mean, who doesn’t?) but to craft realistic backdrops for my characters I now find myself researching things like horse breeds, different types of fencing used on cattle ranches, farm equipment and rodeo slang! It might seem like this lack of familiarity could be a challenge, but the truth is I love doing deep research dives and learning more about lifestyles that are unfamiliar to me! I’ve learned so much about cowboys, horses, ranching and life in Texas that I think I’ll be planning a research trip very soon!
What’s the #1 thing you look for in a publisher/client?
I think clear communication is the most important aspect of a good ghostwriting relationship. Every part of the writing process requires straightforward, easy to understand communication, from the scheduling of projects to the feedback given on what’s turned in. You can’t be an effective team if any part of that process is broken. I feel fortunate because Relay sets the standard for excellent communication, clarity of deliverables and timely, easy to understand editorial critique. It feels great knowing that I’m supported on every step of the creative process — I feel very lucky to work with Relay.
How do you find working from an outline and someone else’s vision?
This probably sounds strange coming from a creative, but I sort of love it because it’s teaching me to be a better writer! Most writers fall within two distinct writing styles; pansters or plotters. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants and plotters plan out every aspect of the book before they begin. I’ve always been a pantser, so I thought that I might bristle at the constraints of writing from an outline but whoa — it’s amazing! It’s great to sit down to write and know exactly where the story needs to go in each chapter, rather than taking a stab at something, writing a few hundred words then finding out that it doesn’t fit with the rest of the story. I find I write much more quickly with the outline provided.
That said, Relay outlines allow for some artistic interpretation as well! I’m able to inject creative flourishes that make me feel like the story is truly mine alone to tell. Descriptive details, like the design of a wedding dress or the flavor of the wedding cake, as well as secondary characters are just a few fun ways I inject some of my perspective and personality into the work.
Writing with Relay is making me revisit my pantser ways … I’m starting my next traditionally published book and while I don’t see myself doing a full Relay-style outline (let’s be honest- that’s a lot of work!), I will definitely give more thought to the structure of the story before I dive in.
How does the writing process for a ghostwriting project differ from your own personal projects?
Writing for Relay is much more straightforward than writing my personal projects! Sure, I have to do a little more research to inform my Relay stories, but once I sit down to write it’s a smooth path to hit my daily word count. When writing my traditionally published books I usually have a basic idea as to where a chapter needs to go (again, I’m a pantser) but I don’t have a strict structure to support it. I’m starting my next novel and thanks to my work with Relay, I’ll be able to deal with troublesome story points in advance, which will hopefully keep me from needing to do multiple edits. I love that the Relay story arcs are so clearly planned out, and I can see the progression from chapter to chapter.
I never expected to learn so much while writing with Relay, but it’s been an education in the best possible way. I really enjoy both in the process of writing from an outline, as well as immersing myself in the worlds I normally wouldn’t have a chance to visit.
How do you deal with not having your name attached to a book?
Surprisingly, I have no issue with it! It might sound weird, but I feel like I have so many stories within me that I’m perfectly comfortable writing books that I can’t claim as mine. There are tons of ways to tell a story and I’m lucky that I get to use ghostwriting as one of my methods.
I love the anonymity because it allows me to experiment with my writing and create scenarios that might not show up in my traditionally published books. For example, my other books hover at a PG-13 rating and I enjoy heading into rated R territory in my Relay books! Now I’m ready to infuse my traditionally published books with more spice because of my exposure to those types of scenes in my writing for Relay — now it feels natural to write those steamy, passionate scenes now!
Do you have any advice for writers interested in ghostwriting?
Let the story tell the story! Ghostwritten books usually follow tried and true plot points and the writer’s job is to make sure that readers are taken on a journey they know and love. And more importantly, you should love the story you’re writing! Let your affection for your characters inform every aspect of your writing. Even though ghostwriters are “adopting” someone else’s stories, we should love them as much as the ones we birth!
If you’re interested in learning more about ghostwriting with Relay Publishing take a look at our open positions page.