WRITE: The Accidental Ghostwriter, Part I
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“What kind of ghosts do you write about?” Someone once asked me that question after she heard that I was a ghostwriter.
Some of you know that although my business cards say, “Book Doctor/Writer/Editor,” quite a bit of my work is ghostwriting. What does that mean? I write for others. I take their messages or stories (via interviews, printed or audio materials, or a rough manuscript) and turn them into books. Their names go on the covers, mine (generally) doesn’t. I prefer the term “collaborative writer” since I wouldn’t have a book to write without the author’s message, and he/she wouldn’t have a book to sell without my writing. But true collaborators generally share cover credit. So far, I’ve been more hidden than not–hence the “ghost” part of the term.
A friend wrote the other day to ask another, more common question. “Why do you ghostwrite? Why don’t you just write on your own?” Because so many people have asked me this, I decided to turn my answer into a blog post.
I ghostwrite, first of all, because God has led me to do so. I call myself an accidental ghostwriter because I never set out to become one. I’ve loved to write since my early childhood (I blogged about that in February). After I came to know Christ in college, he told me he’d use my writing someday. That’s why I went to seminary for a theology degree and took as many writing classes as the school offered (one). As a pastor’s wife and homeschool mom of five, I then took a long hiatus from publishing. I kept writing and writing because writers write, but I didn’t pursue publication.
From 2000-2005 my writing dream took a more visible form. I wrote and published a number of homeschool articles and sermon illustrations. A dear friend and professional editor mentored me as I took on some editing work. But I knew God wanted more, and I prayed about my next steps.
In August, 2005 I became involved in a prayer project for a young man who was critically ill. The day he died, I volunteered to help his parents get his passionate message of surrender to Christ out in any way I could. I had no idea what that would entail, but that offer became I Would Die for You (Revell, 2008). This project is the one that has brought me all the rest. It became a Young Adult bestseller, earned back its modest advance, and is now in its fourth printing. I’m so grateful God used me to help extend this young man’s story and message.
Today, I ghostwrite because: a. I believe God has equipped me for this work. b. I enjoy serving others who have a message or ministry to share but lack the ability to write effectively. c. Ghostwriting allows me to do what I love to do. The authors I serve have people who want to buy their books, and God has given me the ability to write them. Together, we make a great combination. And finally d. Ghostwriting has helped build my writing resume and brought me an income at the same time.
I do write “on my own” in the sense of taking on non-ghostwritten projects. One of my current books-in-process is a true coauthored work in which a friend and I will each write half. I also write and edit for SUSIE Magazine for teen girls. In my monthly column, I’m a “dogwriter.” There, I write in the voice of editor Susie Shellenberger’s dog, Obie. One of the favorite parts of my week is editing Walker Moore’s weekly Rite of Passage Parenting column in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger.But I also write other articles for SUSIE, for Homeschooling Today and (as time allows) for other publications.
My work as a collaborative writer/ghostwriter has allowed me to write, write, write; have an income; and build relationships in the publishing world and beyond. But I don’t see it as less than writing “on my own.” Instead, I see it as something God has equipped and prepared me to do.
When I teach at the Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference next week, I’ll share some of these thoughts and more. And in another WRITE blog, I’ll answer some common ghostwriting questions. Just don’t expect to learn anything about ghosts.