AKA Editing Taken to its Outer Limits
This aspect of Wherewithal’s work generates the most questions from people. People always have questions about ghostwriting. Where does the subject’s voice end and my contribution start? Do I feel any discomfort knowing that words I’ve written will be attributed to someone else? How will I get credit? Then, most urgently, who have I ghostwritten for?
I won’t answer that question here but I can say that ghostwriting is really best thought of as really aggressive line-editing. The inputs are interviews, transcripts, additional research, and a lot, a lot of good questions.
It’s the ghostwriter’s job to work through the kinks and tangents of the answers to come up with a readable structure and thematic threads. Over time the ghostwriter gets a sense of the subject’s voice when speaking casually and translates that into something that works on the page.
Just plunking down what a person said verbatim rarely works. Most people don’t speak in full paragraphs. People stop, start over, correct themselves mid-sentence, trail off without finishing a sentence, pause, start a completely new thought. The ghostwriter soaks all this in and tries to convey the same energy on the page, but cleaner, more disciplined.
Who hires ghostwriters? Busy people with successful practices. Writing a book requires a lot of unspoken-for time, and they don’t have that. They are often skilled at negotiating a wide network of friends, colleagues, associates. This leads to “too much going on.” Hiring a ghostwriter forces them to slow down a bit and assess (while still enjoying the feeling of being productive). A ghostwriter helps them make sense of it all.
A ghostwriter is in that sense not merely a wordsmith but also someone who perceives patterns, systems, order in chaos, and what’s been left unsaid.