This is going to be a new series of blogs over the next few months. One of the questions that I get asked a lot is, “what frustrates you most about being a writer”? I have a list….and first on that list is non-writers who don’t get what goes into actual writing.
I write novels but I also write for clients as well as many full-time writers do. (Gotta pay the bills while writing those books) While working on ghosting projects over the years I discovered quickly that non-writers simply do not understand the act of writing a book. Some of my clients think that I can magically produce a book after sitting down with them and interviewing them. Here is the thing…there has to be actual “WRITING” involved at some point.
My process looks like this when it comes to ghosting….I interview the subject over a series of months, collecting all the information possible regarding the project. If it is a biography then this happens a lot since the story is personal. I also collect whatever notes the clients has as well. Sometimes further research enhances the story such as researching the past of other characters of the book. While most ghosting authors will only use the limited information that a client provides them, I choose to do more research…I want the book to be good and as complete as possible.
After doing those initial interviews the writing process begins. I take the information collected, my own research and I begin to build the book. This part of the process is tough and often I put in many more hours than I have charged for. I am up all hours of the night for months building each chapter being careful to ensure that I capture the clients’ needs and desires within the book. I write, I re-write and then I edit. I send each chapter to the client for them to read and edit as well, adding stuff they may have just thought of…then I re-edit and write again. I do this one chapter at a time so the client is not overwhelmed and we can stay on task.
Finally we have a final copy at which time most ghost writers hand you the manuscript and say, good luck…but not me. I offer to help with the publishing process often formatting and helping with submissions and such. I have even helped some clients with public relations. This is a long process if you are doing it correctly. There are tons of ghost writers out there who will charge you $10,000 produce a manuscript and send you on your way but, I think that is kind of cruel. I believe that your story deserves attention and the time it takes to make it the best it can be.
So here’s the rub…some clients actually think that in order to produce a book I need to meet with them each week to go over the story for months, even years. They never consider that the book has to be put together and that takes me…at my desk…writing. While I really enjoy meeting with clients, at some point that ends and the book begins.
Several years ago I got taken by a client who used my desire to do a good job against me. The client, we’ll call her Valerie, hired me to write a series of short stories. The project began as a 6 month project and ended up taking a year because Valerie wouldn’t allow me to write it. We kept meeting each week and she kept talking about the same parts of the story over and over. I didn’t have a problem extending the contract until she chose to stop making payments until she got what she deemed was “enough” work. Being a person who chooses to believe in the best of people I continued to work on the project despite the lack of payments and, in the end, I delivered a completed manuscript and she chose not to pay me the balance; instead she published the book on her own and I haven’t heard from her since. I had no recourse because I had already given her the manuscript. I lost over $2500 on that project in terms of the contract, $4500 in terms of allowing her to talk me down on the cost of the project in the first place but in terms of time and actual work I probably lost hundreds of thousands. Personally, I lost a little faith in people over all and my feelings were hurt.
I work hard on the projects I take on and while I understand that each project is gamble for both the client and the writer….I like to think that people are basically good and that when it comes down to it they realize that I am honest and do the best work possible. But in terms of writers’ frustrations…this one is on the top of the list. I am, after all, a writer…I want to write.