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Ghosting The Story

Ghostwriting is a very silent but vibrant subculture within the freelance writing community. It is rarely discussed, this rather covert business of writing for those who pretend they have authored a book, but the front matter acknowledgements such as ‘with’ or ‘as told to’ are the dead giveaway references signalling the existence of a silent professional in the background. Naturally in the industry of literary image building for the famous and/or wealthy as well as the sometimes unknown but topical, discretion is key if you wish to succeed,  amply rewarded with  a healthy clientele. Let’s be honest, freelancers must hustle and compete with other hungry writers for even the most meager assignments, but in contrast, ghostwriting opportunities are plentiful as long as your ability to remain anonymous and competent exists. 

Times have changed for writers, but that is a given with the robust growth of the internet. Add to that the explosion of celebrity culture and the insatiable public appetite for details of even the most innocuous account of their lives, and we writers have a veritable feast before us. Gritty memoirs that readers devour at an incredible rate are keeping many writers employed and well compensated financially for their labor.  Add to this the self publishing phenomena that has altered the terrain in this business forever and you have an enormous and very lucrative niche for good writers to fill. The only caveat?  Not taking credit for your writing and allowing someone else to own your words publicly. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if awards and accolades are in the offing for the faux writer, however with experience your need for credit vanishes, replaced by a quiet pride in your work. 

 There are very few in the business of ghostwriting who are as successful and  forthcoming about their profession as Andrew Crofts, author of Confessions of a Ghostwriter, a memoir of his career as a story teller plying his trade in the shadows. His candor and wit will be an eye opener to  readers and an honorable nod to writers who work as behind -the -scenes authors. Having been a ghost writer, I am delighted that at long last someone has finally taken up the task of  acknowledging just how complex this sort of authoring is. Unlike a novelist who creates and toils alone with an uncertain publishing outcome, the ghostwriter’s task is more complex, socially involved  and collaborative. Diplomacy and the ability to rearrange a jigsaw puzzle of a story until all the pieces fit, isn’t an easy undertaking. As if that weren’t enough, you have to breath fire into it,  keeping it interesting for the reader, all while recreating the voice of the client throughout the text. It takes a little bit of alchemy and a great deal of self restraint to write in a voice that isn’t a character you have created while banishing your own style to the nether regions for the duration of the assignment. This is probably the most difficult aspect of ghosting a book and your success hinges on this singular ability. Getting inside the head of your client is the secret to this, as well as  trusting your gut instincts about the true heart of the story.

I am currently at work on my own novel and at times the going is rough and lonely. The vast expanse of your book’s future spread out over 250 plus pages, with success or failure waiting to make their appearance, can be damn daunting. Either way, for good or ill, your name is attached to the very public outcome.  However, the anonymity of ghostwriting frees you from this very real fear and insecurity of the literary crash and burn scenario. I think it is precisely this emotional liberty and lack of pressure that allows a creative latitude that is often the perfect platform for some of  the best work many writers will ever commit to paper. 

Below is an interview with Andrew Crofts about the his ghostwriting experiences, via singularity