Category Archives: ghostwriting


Lessons from a ghostwriter

The work of a writer can take on many forms. Whether it’s articles, nonfiction, short stories, fiction or some combination of all of the above (thinking of Stephen King, Ann Pratchett, our own David Morrell and many others). But I think it’s safe to say all writers do one thing over anything else – they write.

So I found this article in PW interesting as it is written by a ghostwriter or collaborator who had worked with several authors on their own nonfiction projects, and then she decided to write her own memoir. It’s a bit of an unusual hybrid to have a ghostwriter penning a memoir, but it worked for her, and she learned some things about her own work from working with others. The lessons she offers are worth reading because she shares what she learned about her own life from writing about other people’s lives, and how she applied it to her own work.

I think there is takeaway here for writers in general. Especially her last idea that you are responsible for your own story, not other people’s reaction to it. That is such a widely applicable concept as a writer because so much uncertainty and fear exists in putting your work out there for others to see. Even seasoned authors sometimes complain that they can’t handle a bad review, or they feel terrible when they see a negative comment about their book on Amazon. We’re all just human, after all. And it takes real guts to write, and share your work with others. Bravo to Sarah Tomlinson and to all authors for overcoming their insecurities and sharing their work with the rest of us.

Take a look and see what you think. Any other tips you can share for improving your own writing from working with others?


Literary Spirits

Halloween is just around the corner, and as usual, it’s only increased my appetite for ghost stories. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and had my own paranormal experience while at my grandmother’s house. That incident seemed more likely due to my overactive imagination than supernatural forces, but it only increased my fascination with the specters, ghouls and the like. Two books in particular, though, solidified my love of all things macabre: A House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and its many sequels, by Alvin Schwartz with art by Stephen Gammell. The former made me sleep with a light on for the days I spent reading it–I swore I could hear ticking! And the latter was the most passed-around book in second grade and one that terrified me even in broad daylight. I’ll admit, I’m pretty easily frightened, but I have a feeling those books will be terrifying children for years to come.

What got me thinking about all of this, though, was a list of haunted restaurants here in LA, which then got me searching for a list of haunted libraries. And I found it! It’s helpfully broken down by region, so there’s sure to be one near you. It turns out I have a handful to go see right here in Southern California, and I’m going to go exploring my next free weekend. Sadly, the one I most one to go to, the Brand Library in Glendale, is closed for renovation. Here’s hoping the spirits stick around through all the construction noise!

Do any of you have haunted library tales or favorite scary books?


To ghost or not to ghost?

Last Thursday, I read a piece in the New York Times about celebrities like Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian, Nicole Richie and Hilary Duff  who had  “written” or “were writing” novels.  Of course, everyone knows these women are using others to help them (or maybe do all of the work) but these writers are anonymous—they are “ghosts.”  This made me think of others who use ghosts.  Robert Ludlum, for example, who long ago passed away, has “written” many novels since his death.  Eric von Lustbader is universally acknowledged as the writer of his books, giving a new, ironic spin on the term “ghost writer.”

And this is true of many other authors—those who are published writers and those who aren’t writers but who want to “write” books.  I often wonder why these authors don’t just acknowledge those who are helping them rather than keeping them under wraps.  The writer does an enormous amount of heavy lifting and deserves credit for their work.

Of course I work with many collaborators and sometimes they ghost and sometimes they openly collaborate.  I feel it is extremely helpful to the collaborator/ghost writer’s career to be acknowledged publicly for the hard work that they do.  Ultimately, book publishing is a collaborative business.  It takes a village, to paraphrase Hillary, to bring a book to life and I think acknowledging all the people involved can only make for a better experience all around.

I would love to know what your thoughts are about this.  Does it bother you to know that a book has been ghostwritten? Do you think ghostwriters should be openly acknowledged?


Literary ghosts

by Miriam

The subject of ghostwriting seems to be in the air right now. The recent New York Times profile of James Patterson pulled back the curtains on something that was a fairly open secret within the industry: Of the 620 books (give or take) that Mr. Patterson publishes every year, most are collaborations in the loosest term of the word. As Andrew Crofts points out in his rather passionate defense of the practice, if it’s not the oldest profession, ghostwriting has certainly been around since writing utensils began to be used to make literature instead of just grocery lists.

Two new films, Roman Polanski’s The Ghost and L’Autre Dumas, starring the great Gerard Depardieu, deal with the notion of authorship and literary collaborations and I’m intrigued by what they have to say. For agents, a good ghostwriter is a huge asset to one’s client list. Generally excellent writers themselves, they are able to put their egos aside and use their skills as literary entrepreneurs. They are usually able to multitask, are very organized and meet deadlines without the sturm und drang that can drive editors (and sometimes agents) to the nearest bar. And their services can command very nice money.

So, why do we still feel a little disappointed when we find out that a favorite author had more than just transcribing help? Do you?