Getting real with ghostwriting

Getting real with ghostwriting

The term “ghostwriter” sounds rather eerie but it is appropriate in describing what the term and task entails. Basically, as the writer, I am invisible. Readers will see the writing but no sign of the writer. Your name, as commissioner of the work, will appear on the manuscript or book cover. Unless you want my name to be acknowledged or mentioned, there will be no mention of it anywhere on the manuscript. The work belongs to you and I will have written it for you, within the boundaries of your aims and instructions.

The hours and roles required as a ghostwriter can vary, depending on the subject. For instance, I am experienced in writing life stories about mental health challenges and  traumas; I am familiar with, and have lived and worked in, both rural and urban living environments; I am skilled in social history research and narrative creation; I am experienced in being a working mother and a mental health advocate at national and international level; and I have years of experience in mainstream and academic non-fiction writing. Therefore, I will feel at home in being a ghostwriter for you if your life has touched on any of these areas. However, if your story requires a lot of technical, scientific or engineering terms, for instance, I will need more time to research and ensure that I am conveying and translating the terms correctly into mainstream language, and in the right context. Accordingly, I favor requests for ghostwriting life stories that have a theme familiar with subjects that I know best.

What will I do if I am concerned about the ethics of the story you ask me to write? I regard ethics in ghostwriting with the same care and standard that I do in my normal writing projects where my name is out there for all to see, and I will convey any concerns to you as the commissioner of the story. My standards for credibility will not be lowered simply because there is no public mention that I have had anything to do with the work. I will know, and therefore high ethical standards matter.

For instance, employing a ghostwriter is not to be a means for making assertions about others that are untrue or libelous. It is not the answer if you are feeling bitter and want to get something off your chest and point your finger at others. A better solution is to release painful, pent-up emotions safely and without judgment in private narrative mentoring sessions before commissioning a ghost-writing project. This way, the process, as well as the completed project,  can be doubly healing and meaningful for you.

On the other hand, you may feel ready and want to reveal a secret and right a wrong that has been buried in the family closet for years and feel that its release will impact in a beneficial way on generations of loved ones and not-so-loved ones. Or you may feel you have been exploited in the workplace, and telling your side of the story through a ghostwriter is your way of recording your perspective, and balancing the ledger. Confidentiality and trust are vital ingredients for a story that will be considered credible and respectful.

It’s your voice, not my voice, so who has the last word on compelling questions of what is right and wrong? Who has the final say?

Usually, you have the last word because you are responsible for factual accuracy but if the ethical standards bother me, I will say so.

Before work begins, as your ghostwriter I will require preliminary discussions with you, the commissioner, on the nature and scope of the book. This is the time when we map out and sign an agreement about who does what. If you can’t remember the name of your first teacher and this is vital for the story, then we need to decide if you will find out, or you will pay me to find out.  If you have relatives around Australia and overseas who might be a valuable resource for the book, who will invite them to contribute their perspective, and hunt through their archives or old suitcases or shoe boxes full of memorabilia, and contribute to the work? Discussion and establishing clear methodologies on these things at the start will help the ghostwriting experience be rewarding for everyone involved.

The process of writing, and the content, must do no harm. Another priority is the establishment and maintaining of trust. Trust between you the commissioner and me as the ghostwriter is vital to not only allay anxiety and any other concerns but also to possibly lead to more revelations and sharing of material that could become rich sources of information for your story. Maintenance of trust is a vital factor throughout the entire research and book-creating process.

Besides meticulous scrutiny of the data, procedures are employed to uphold the integrity of the material provided in diary excerpts and other resource materials.  Records are compiled of all forms of communication, including diary excerpts, questionnaires, e-mail correspondence and transcripts of recordings made during phone calls, face-to-face meetings and online Skype interviews. As well, regular checking takes place regarding selections of text for inclusion in the work. This process importantly allows confirmation that the intention of, and meaning expressed within, the excerpts and written narratives have been properly portrayed and placed in context in relation to the individual experience. This participatory approach also enables the presentation and comparison of different perspectives on your chosen theme.

Constant attention to honoring objectivity, reliability, and validity usefully qualify and enable me to consider how to structure and write your book in the most effective way. Self-analysis and self-guidance, observation, reflexivity and recording, all play a part. When a draft of the manuscript is completed, you will have an opportunity to read it for factual checking and revisional purposes. Thereafter, a final draft will be made, and your book will be ready for you to take to a publisher or printer, and now you can prime yourself to celebrate its launch.

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