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 chat with a Young Adult Dystopian ghostwriter about her projects with Relay.
How did you first begin ghost-writing? What was the primary attraction?
I’m relatively new to ghost-writing, having just completed my first trilogy. Before that, I’d written several Write-For-Hire books for younger children, and really enjoyed that. When I saw the opportunity to write for Young Adults, I was excited to give it a try. I love speculative fiction, and this was right up my interest ‘alley’.
What is the biggest misconception about ghostwriting?
I think the biggest misconception is that ghostwriting is a solo affair. It’s really a team effort — from the person who comes up with the idea, the one who writes the outline, the story writer, and the editors who help alongside. It’s a collaborative way of writing a book
What do you find are the biggest challenges of ghostwriting?
I think a big challenge is collaborating with writers who have different styles, and to try and match the vision for the story.
Also, as a speculative fiction writer, I am used to building my own world, characters and plot. In ghostwriting, I’m taking someone else’s idea and trying to do the story justice. There are different levels of detail that different creators feel the need to lay out — I’m very detailed in my world building, for example, so I expected that same level of detail in this collaboration. So, in preparing for the writing, there needs to be a lot of back and forth, questioning, clarifying, trying to work out all the nitty gritty bits of the world, so that it appears authentic and believable. Building upon the details as I write the books takes time and effort. This should be taken into account when negotiating the fees for writing.
Are there any unique challenges for your genre?
As I mentioned above, the biggest challenge for speculative fiction is the world building. The creators need to know so much more than what ends up in the story, in order to flesh out the characters and plot in a realistic way. The world has to be believable, character reactions and motivations have to be logical and real, so that the reader can connect to the stories, so that the characters stay with the readers long after they close the book. When I envision a world and its characters, I like to know everything, every backstory, down to what might be in the character’s pocket as they leave their home every day, for example.
What’s the #1 thing you look for in a publisher/client?
I want to be able to connect to the stories coming from a publisher, to see that I can contribute to their vision. There needs to be an openness to diversity in their stories, and hopefully, they’re committed to hiring diverse writers, to listen to comments about and avoiding character stereotyping, and re-centering stories to be inclusive to all readers.
How do you find working from an outline and someone else’s vision?
I enjoy working from an outline. I take some time to try to get into the head of the characters, so that I may do justice to the outline. And again, if there’s an extensive bible for the world building, that makes it so much easier to honor the original creator’s vision. This is where it’s very important to be able to collaborate with the outliner, or to be given permission to expand upon the world without veering too far off course from the original idea.
How does the writing process for a ghostwriting project differ from your own personal projects?
Obviously, my personal projects come completely from my own mind. The characters speak to me and I build the world to tell the story. There is a lot of pre-work before writing. Also, I tend to write without an outline, allowing me to discover the path and the ending of the story as I write.
In ghostwriting, there is an outline with details for each chapter and the ending — it’s all set out for me. Still, I like to take time to become invested into the world and to get to know the characters. Once I immerse myself into the story, I treat it as my own. If the character goes in a direction that’s different from how I see it, it helps to be able to talk it through with the outliner or editor to understand the motivation. For example, I’m very adamant about giving the main character agency. So, if I feel that the outline has the main character fading into the background, allowing others to move the story forward, I might suggest a change. I wouldn’t be the right writer for stories where the girl needs to be rescued from danger by a boy. I’d like her to do the rescuing, or finding her own way out of trouble.
How do you deal with not having your name attached to a book?
Well, I don’t consider it to be my book alone, since so many people are involved in the creation of it. So, I am not particularly attached to the idea of having my name on the book. If the books I write are enjoyed, and do well, I would hope that this could lead to more work.
Do you have any advice for writers interested in ghostwriting?
I would say it’s a good experience, especially as a ‘bread and butter’ method for making a living as a writer. It’s important to negotiate for the fees, as your time is precious — you’re giving up time to work on your own projects to work on someone else’s, so the fees should be worth that time. It’s more work than simply sitting down and writing to the word count — there’s a lot of time spent planning, and thinking. Editing and revision can also take up time. So, these are things to think about when deciding whether to do ghostwriting. But, from an experience perspective, ghostwriting is great for learning to write to deadline, to collaborate with others on a story. It’s also a great way to practice your skills as a writer and to learn to be a creative collaborator.
If you’re interested in learning more about ghostwriting with Relay Publishing go to our website.