The Ghost on the Bookshelf – All about ghost writing
The ghost writer provides an interesting service to the world of stories. After all, a book is written by the ghost writer but someone else gets the credit. ‘The book just seemed to write itself,’ the author will tell the press and adoring fans. And, the ghost writer will sit in the wings, the Cinderella of the literary world.
What does it take to become a ghost writer?
Obviously, the ability to write is crucial, but these three things are just as important:
- The ghost-writer requires oodles of patience, empathy and the ability to actually listen to the author’s story and then translate it into a publishable book.
- The ghost-writer requires a special talent to write the story in the author’s voice. Discipline and an understanding of storytelling techniques are crucial tools for the aspiring ghost-writer.
- Ghost-writers need to deal with big egos but should not succumb to their own. Why? Because it is really difficult to sit back after giving birth to a story that hits the best seller list and the name on the cover gets all the credit.
Why do writers become ghost writers?
Writers need to eat and this is one way to make money. Ghost writers are paid a flat rate to write so if the book is a flop this will not affect the ghost writer’s pocket.
The ghost writer has access to different stories. The opportunity to work with celebrities and other interesting people is one of the perks of the job. Ghost writers get an open invitation to the lifestyles of the rich-and-famous.
Telling other people’s stories is exciting and creates a perspective on different styles of writing.
Seven Famous Ghost Writers and Authors
- Michael Robotham (Bleed for Me) was ghost-writer for ‘authors’ like Geri Halliwell and Rolf Harris.
- Carolyne Keen is as fictional as the teen sleuth, Nancy Drew that she was supposed to create.
- James Patterson credits his ghost-writers as co-authors on the covers of his books. Peter de Jongh (Shadows still Remain) and Andrew Gross (15 Seconds) were two of Patterson’s co-authors.
- John F Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, was ghost-written by his speech writer, Theodore Sorenson.
- Ian Fleming died while writing The Man with the Golden Gun so Kinglsey Amis had to step in as writer.
- RL Stine, author of the Goosebumps series, turned to ghost-writers to help him churn out the popular chiller series faster.
- The Star Wars book was credited to director George Lucas but was actually ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster.
Writers Write has a dinner with a ghost writing theme – The Ghost in the Machine – in Johannesburg on 29 May 2013.
If you want to learn how to write a book, and begin your career as a ghost writer, join our creative writing course Writers Write – How to write a book in June. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
If you’re looking for a ghost writer to write your story, email email@example.com for details.
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by Ulrike Hill
Ulrike Hill is a Business & Creative Writing Facilitator for Writers Write. She is the author of Tackling the Brickwall and co-author of Debbie Calitz: 20 Months of Hostage Hell (Penguin).
Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write – How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme – How to write for business, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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