Ghostwriter Tales: What is a ghostwriter?

Stylish woman at the summer beach in a hot dayGHOSTWRITER TALES: What is a ghostwriter?
by Dakota Donovan

In my novel L.A. SLEEPERS: A Hollywood Ghostwriter Mystery, I differentiate between the “author” (the client who hires me) and the writer (me, as ghostwriter).  A passage from Chapter 1 of the novel describes this complex author/writer relationship:

My initial encounter with an author is a significant moment—an animal-like sizing up each other. I know if the prospective client hires me, I’ll become a combination confessor, psychiatrist, minister, sister, friend, enemy—someone who learns the person’s deepest, darkest secrets, or probes until the client reveals them, and it will be a wild ride, as the author loves, hates, resents, despises, and finally appreciates me. Both author and writer just have to hang on until the book is finished. This is my main advantage over other ghostwriters—I can make it through all the crazy stages and end up with a completed book. I have a high tolerance for confrontation.

Another passage from the novel illustrates pitfalls  of the collaboration (at least from the ghostwriter’s viewpoint):

If there’s one thing a ghostwriter never gets, it’s referrals—even if the book is a bank-account-bloating success. The “authors” I work with always take credit for the books—and even come to believe they’ve written them. As a ghostwriter, I’m very good—and this proves it.

So to net it out, the author is the individual who wants to capture his or her memoirs/ biography/fictional tale in a book (or screenplay), and the ghostwriter is the person who knows how to interview the “author” to elicit the stories and shape the material into a coherent, structured narrative.

To be continued…


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