Monday, April 4, 2011

"Ghostwriting - A Collaborative Experience" by Colleen McCarty

In school, we were all taught not to cheat. Don’t look off someone else’s paper, don’t pay someone else to write your essays, don’t copy and paste something from Wikipedia into your book report. We all know cheating is wrong. To a lot of authors in the past, the word ghostwriter was considered dirty because it felt like cheating. It feels as though, if you use a ghostwriter, you are being inauthentic. It feels like paying a nerdy kid to write your paper…it feels icky.

We at EMG are not in any way condoning cheating, but we do feel that the ghostwriting process is, quite often, misunderstood. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some authors who will pay a ghostwriter for a manuscript that the “author” will have no hand in producing, put their name on it and say, “I wrote that!” That’s not the kind of ghostwriting experience we are talking about here.

We deal with a lot of clients who know that they have an important, meaningful message inside them – but they simply lack the technical expertise to put it on paper. In this case, we recommend using a ghostwriter. The process looks much more like a meaningful partnership rather than having someone else do your homework for you. There’s no guilt or shame in the fact that not everyone can write. In fact, we’d much rather you embrace that fact and let us help you produce the quality book you envision instead of attempting to do it yourself when you’re not comfortable in the writing arena.

A true ghostwriter must possess the talents of a great actor, a great artist, and a great writer. Through interviews with the author, reading the author’s notes, blogs, post-its – anything and everything that helps them see how you tick – the ghostwriter begins to write through your voice. They put themselves in your position, as a great actor does with an intense role, and they create the book as if they were you.

You work together, chapter by chapter, producing your work. If something doesn’t feel right or sound like something you’d say, scrap it. No hard feelings here.

Sure sometimes along the way, a ghostwriter may add some flare and details to enhance the reader’s vision of the story. The truth may be “I first saw my wife at the movie theater,” and the ghostwriter will pen, “there she was, standing in line at the theater. Her red dress lit up ever so slightly by the lights from the marquee…” She is still your wife and she is still at the theater, but now the reader is engaged by the visual effect. Think of your ghostwriter as a collaborator on telling the greatest story in the world…yours.

By Colleen McCarty
Co-Owner, Expert Message Group

Colleen McCarty also represents Presenting Matters, specializing in Business Communication/Presentation Training, Speech Coaching and Media Training. Visit the Presenting Matters blog at

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1 comment:

Magaly Guerrero said...

Thanks for this post Colleen, I'm a ghostwriter and there are times when I run out of patience while trying to explain to people that the job is not as easy as one might think. Writing is difficult, period; and to write in someone else's voice is even harder. But I enjoy it very much and when I see my words enhancing a scene in a good piece of writing, I feel proud, even if I can't tell people about it lol