Ghostwriters are the illicit side of writing. Prostitutes of the written word, if you will. Authors don’t like to admit they’ve used a ghost — it’s a bit like admitting they can’t do it themselves.
But that’s drivel. Time and skill-set play a big part in why a celebrity, businessman, politician or Joe Public with a fascinating story might ask the help of a ghost.
We can’t all be good at everything, can we? I’ll admit that I find the ideas part of writing my biggest challenge, which is why being a ghost is my own personal heaven. I don’t need to bring the ideas, I need to bring knowledge, writing skills and the ability to draw the details of an idea out from my ‘author’.
For some of my clients, I am their online voice, the voice that talks to customers, and quite often the whisper that puts down the words to push Google rankings up!
For other clients, I am a muse, a tutor. We talk and mull over how a piece of writing could work, what is missing and what the author needs to focus on to find their voice. And then, when they’ve done the writing I bring my invisible pen and chivvy, neaten and tighten in a process that can even take months until we find the exact voice, the exact tone and the exact narrative structures.
The fun of being a ghost is the worlds that you find yourself in. I live my writing world up scaffold towers, cleaning houses and offices, building loft extensions and as a journalist in Palestine — I never know where my next piece will take me. Each client is different, and my role as ghost, or writer, or editor, or whatever you want to call it, differs dramatically.
While I do a lot of writing for other people, I consider myself a writer rather than a ghost at the moment. But over the next couple of months, my study and research will focus on what it means to be a ghost and what legal, practical and ethical challenges there are to overcome deep in the business, with an eye on moving more in that direction within my own writing career.
In the spirit of sharing, of informing (and of getting my MA) I’m just off to buy a domain name where I’ll stick all my research, interviews and hand-me-down advice about the world of ghostwriting. It’s a secret world, and understandably so, but won’t it be lovely to just peek in through the keyhole?!
While you’re waiting for me to get my finger out, there are two eye-opening novels about how a writer’s day-to-day life can be turned upside-down by being a ghost: The Ghost by Robert Harris and Ghosting by Jennie Erdal.