for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Guest Post: How Ghostwriting is Hurting the Book World

Olivia J has agreed to share her concerns about ghostwriting here, and you can check out my defense of ghostwriting on her site. What a fun collaboration <3 Read the posts, then join the convo 🙂

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say,” -Anais Nin
 
The picture that started it all:
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This launched me and Amy L Sauder into a debate on ghostwriters, so here we are. 

Ghostwriting, or, more generally, ghosting, is not a new concept in the art world. Even Mozart himself was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthier, more famous men of his time. This process involves Person A creating a work, or even doing a varying amount of collaborating on a work with Person B, but then Person B getting credit. Sometimes this includes Person A’s name in smaller print on the front of the book, or not being included at all. Regardless, ghostwriters are paid for their work.

However, I have some criticisms, as per usual.

(For clarity, I’m going to be talking about ghostwriting concerning books.)

1. Exploitation of the Ghostwriter

Sure, ghostwriters consent to what they are doing. However, it still takes an amount of . . . castration to get very little or no credit on something you worked on. It strips away the integrity of the author. By no means am I talking about truly collaborative works, where two authors write a book together because that’s an entirely different process than ghostwriting. 

How ghostwriting exploits the author is that it takes away the beautiful creative control of the author: it strips the author of what they do best. By having a shadow, by having someone to always answer to, this confines the author. It confines the author even further because these authors sign contracts to write so many books for someone, or to have certain requirements when they write. There’s nothing more hellish that I can think of than putting a cap on the creativity of writing, by controlling and stifling an author. 

Don’t get me wrong, ghostwriting can be a way to launch the author into the publishing sphere, but rarely do I believe that that’s all an author should aspire to be. 

2. All About The Money

The problem is that by slapping a popular name on the cover, it appeals to the pervasive consumerism and fame obsession in this society. By having ghostwriters, it allows famous people to sell books, regardless of whether they are telling good stories. It only adds to the tasteless, bland array of fiction. James Patterson has so many books out because people pick the book up with his name on it and expect the same thing. Name recognition or fame should not sell books, even though publishing has become a toxic industry. 

FullSizeRender (10)The reason that authors like Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, etc. use ghostwriters is because of the high demand for their books. Or, rather, the types of stories they tell. This only indicates that these books sell because they have their names on them, not because of the title, cover art, or actual content inside, which is absolutely despicable. The promotion of ghostwriters only promotes writing as a business, not an art form. There should be a happy medium between the business of bookselling and writing as an art, but ghostwriters are not the way to achieve that goal. In fact, ghostwriters only push the flow further into the toxic business sphere. 

3. Cheapening of the Craft

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Sure, everyone can write a book, but maybe not well. This is not to discourage anyone from writing a book if they so please. But what ghostwriting does is that it cuts out a significant chunk of the struggle, the art of writing. 

People like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Zoe Sugg, and other celebrities don’t write a significant chunk of their books; however, they can still claim to be an author of a book. It takes all of the blood, sweat, and tears out of writing. Every ounce of pain, of late nights you’ve spent writing, every blank page, every scrapped draft all becomes for naught because someone who only pitched some ideas for a book is now credited as an author. 

Another problem is that celebrity (fiction) books combine two types of people: writers and non-writers, and this can create disastrous results. Sometimes, what the celebrity/non-writer wants to create or wants to happen isn’t exactly good concerning the objective parts of fiction. This leads to books on the shelves that aren’t the best they can be. Art should always be about making the best the individual can get, always improving. But by allowing half-assed work on the shelves just for money only cheapens writing itself. 

By allowing ghostwriting to populate the scene, it almost degrades the hard work and art that others create, just because someone had enough money.

~

Granted, there are exceptions. Autobiographies are one, because biographies are more of a historical account than a creative work. Biographies, and other nonfiction, don’t conform to the same genre conventions that art or novels do, which is where the problems arise with ghostwriters and books. 

Maybe I would consider ghostwriting, just for the money. But never, under any circumstances, would I make that my career or the only creative work I was writing.

Tread lightly, fellow authors,

~The WordShaker


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Olivia J, The WordShaker is just that: a word shaker. She is a writer, artist, creative extraordinaire, and skilled in the ways of procrastination and being too blunt. She’s going to be a loving wife, mother, published author, speaker, and professional adventurer someday – and whatever else God has in store for her. Olivia has had three short stories published in her high school’s writing journal, and received merit awards for her art in numerous art shows, started and fosters her own creative writing club at her high school, and plans to go to the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Social Media Links:

Instagram: @olivia.j.the.wordshaker

How awesome is this Wordshaker!? 🙂 What do you think about ghostwriting? Does it add or detract to the literary world? Check out my Defense of Ghostwriting on her site (don’t forget to follow her while you’re at it!), then join the convo in the comments below.

Exclusive Content, for the Writers

13 tools for editing your book

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for the Writers, Musings

I murdered for you & I’m not okay

in my book. I should probably clarify that.

But isn’t that a beautiful blogpost title? 😉

I finished the first draft of my quirky meta murder mystery!

Honestly, it happened so fast. I thought I’d be agonizing over the last couple scenes for days. And I just whipped them out and suddenly that was the last sentence and I felt like there should be so much more time in it, but nope, that was definitely my last sentence of the story.

Murder doesn’t take as long as you’d expect.

So I was on a celebratory high. For about 2 hours.

Then came the pits. It wasn’t the murder part. I can kill off characters okay, with maybe a teardrop if I’m super attached. It was the writing part though. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I could ever make my writing what I wanted it to be.

I was worried I would be the writer that wrote but never got good enough to publish.

Or worse, I published and everyone would hate it and I’d regret having that in my publication history.

Or worse, I published and think it’s awesome and people are too nice to tell me that I just added to the public slushpile.

I’m discouraged. Kinda terrified really.

I’m thinking of edits and beta readers and ways to put my story out there in the world for all you lovelies, and it’s like THE REAL DEAL.

So if you could send some encouragement my way, I would be so appreciative.

Now back to editing so you all can enjoy the fruits of murder 😉

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: how my reading affects my writing

Last week I shared my top 10 books and their commonalities. Now you get to see the top 3 elements that are in more than half of my favorite books.

*Props to Maggie Schoepke guessing there’s a supernatural element in my fav books.
I don’t specify it that way here, but that’s definitely related to these.*

Are you ready? 🙂

The halfway point: Huge cast of characters forced together towards a common goal

  • 6 instances in 5 books

A slew of characters stories intersecting towards one common goal. Often by force, involuntarily, or unwittingly. Often that means multiple protagonists, multiple storylines (see above), etc. If you like stories that span many different characters and their own stories being intertwined, half of my reading list is for you 🙂

 

Very prevalent: Two different worlds

  • 8 instances in 6 books

This element ties in well with the above one, so it’s no surprise that it pops up again and again. Two different worlds doesn’t necessarily mean fantasy (although there is that in my list.) I have so many different genres in my list of favorites, but this theme came into play in different ways: fantastical world, parallel universe of the real world, psychological world versus real world, dual timelines, two perspectives of the same story, etc. If you want to see things from more than one lens, you might like some of my favorite books 🙂

 

The most common element {brace yourself…}: Blurred line between what is real & what is not

  • 11 instances in 7 books

If you choose to read one of the books from my list, you will statistically speaking likely see this element in play in some way 🙂

 

Though I have so many different genres represented in my favorites, there is a blurred line between real-world and not-real-world in many of these. Sometimes it’s a magical universe or an alternate reality. Sometimes the reader is unsure if it’s all in the character’s head: dream, imagination, or madness. Sometimes the story leaves the reader questioning if something magical is going on or if there’s a logical explanation that’s hidden. Sometimes there’s 2 different realities and no idea as to which one is real. Many of my favorite stories leave the reader unsure – sometimes until the end of the story, and sometimes the question is never even answered. If you want to question reality, my favorite books list might be for you 🙂

 

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This reminds me:

636028406905523050-1310144539_supernatural pic

 

Did any of the above sound familiar?

Three of my favorite TV shows share the above elements to some degree:

  • LOST
  • Heroes
  • Vampire Diaries

 

 So I think I’m onto something here 🙂 

 

Now that I have my list of all the things that I really love in books (and also apparently TV shows) and how that may affect my writing style…

What I tend to write – #MyWriteDNA if you will:

I write quirks, obsession, madness, misfits, strangers, and unbelonging. I write bigger than life stories….where small nuances change everything. I write community. I write to connect: characters to each other, disparaging ideas, and narrator to reader. I write awe and surprise and emotion and detachment. I write stories of questioning realities. I write lies and truth. I write the horror between the lines. I write unease and tension. I walk the line between reality and enchantment. Magical realism. Hope, crushed and fulfilled.

 

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: My top 10 books

Ahh, the dreaded question: “What’s your favorite book?”

Rachel Giesel was kind enough to expand it to “What’s your top 5 favorite books?”

I’m taking part in a free online course to figure out my writerly DNA – analyzing who I am, what I read, and what I write to come up with who I am as a writer. #MyWriteDNA if you will. And because I have a website for such a time as this, I thought I’d share with you my favorite books and their themes that contribute to my writing style.

Top 5 favorite books:

  1. The Map of Time (sci-fi series by Felix J Palma)
  2. Arena (speculative fiction by Karen Hancock)
  3. Night Garden (magical realism by Lisa Van Allen)
  4. Then and Always (romantic suspense by Dani Atkins)
  5. Inkheart Trilogy (fantasy YA series by Cornelia Funke)

Because I had a top 10 and somewhat-arbitrarily decided on a top 5 from that list, I give you….

The runners-up:

  1. The 13th Tale (gothic suspense by Diane Setterfield)
  2. Sinner (spiritual thriller by Ted Dekker)
  3. Godmother: the Secret Cinderella Story (modern fairytale retelling by Carolyn Turgeon)
  4. The Shadow Children series (dystopian YA series by Margaret Peterson Haddix)
  5. The Book of Lost Things (fantasy quest by John Connolly)

 

After I picked my favorite books, I analyzed them. I wrote down any elements of the story that immediately popped to mind, be it themes, style, characterization, plot points, etc. These are elements so prevalent that I remembered them off the top of my head, so there may be even more commonalities I’ve forgotten 🙂

 (Note in regard to spoilers: To avoid blatant spoilers, this section will not call out specifically which books have which elements. Of course if you read this section, you will know that any of the above books have some of these elements, but you won’t know which ones. None of these elements are along the lines of “The main character dies at the end” or something hugely spoiler-y. If a main character dies at the end of one of these books, well, I won’t be the one to tell you, muahaha.)

 

The small stuff:

Okay, so this isn’t very small. That more than one of my favoritest of favorite books has these elements probably makes it noteworthy, but it’s still less noteable than what you’ll see in my next blogpost. Anyway, here’s a snapshot of some commonalities:

  • 1 book has an investigative reporter. This is just one book, but that’s a key part of my work-in-progress, so I thought I’d include it in this list 🙂
  • 2 books involve a quest
  • 2 books have the theme of the power of words or story
  • 2 books have a small political change that greatly alters everything
  • 2 books are allegorical, but not preachy
  • 3 books have a noteable narrator – unreliable and/or chats directly with the reader
  • 3 books have romance as a prevalent sideplot – not the main deal, but still a deal
  • 4 books break the 4th wall (haha, 4 & 4)
  • 5 books are of epic proportions, involving an entire world
  • 5 books have changing alliances and deal with the question of who to trust

 

So there’s a snapshot of what I like in my reading and my writing. My next blogpost shows the top 3 elements that were in over half of the books on my favorites list, and then I also include what that actually looks like in my writing.

Any guesses as to the top 3 common elements? First to guess correctly in the comments gets major kudos from me and a shout-out in next week’s post 🙂

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for the Writers, Musings, Showcasing other Creatives

The story of how I became a storyteller

Today I am stoked to welcome my creative friend Maggie to the blog. Enjoy her post and share your own storyteller journey with us in the comments 🙂 


 

mags2The story of how I became a storyteller goes all the way back to when I was in first grade. Life was easy back then. Days were filled with coloring book pages and thinking blocks, both which helped light way to my passion for creativity. It didn’t take much to amuse me in those younger years. I would sit in front of the doorway of our house, battling harsh sunlight and racking my brain for the perfect solution to an imperfect array of building blocks. It was there where I constructed the first of many masterpieces. And it was there where I used to proudly gather pastors and patrons under the safety of makeshift sanctuaries. When I was not playing church, I could be found scribbling away my free time. Occasionally, if the mood and temperature was just right, drawings of helpless horses and terrifying wolves would come to life.

These are my earliest memories of visual narration. While there inevitably must have been more instances in-between, it was not until my fourth grade year that I really reunited with my roots as a storyteller. In a new town with some new friends, I strung together countless episodes of a recess superhero saga. I was featured as “Ice Princess,” a kick-butt heroine who welded magnificent powers similar to that of Disney’s Snow Queen.

mags1Later that year when my days were not as filled with Frozone imitations, I found myself able to pursue other activities such as jump rope and church picnics. This is how, in short, I met one of my long-term running best friends. We instantly bonded over Littlest Pet Shop, and together configured names for hamsters and lizards alike. It was not long before we decided to take this obsession with small animals to a whole new level. Together, we crafted a story inspired by an episode of Pet Stars, one of the most interesting and entertaining shows at the time. Perhaps even more unique though, was the story we produced as a result of the series. It centered around a dog who could do math and used his abilities to tutor those in need. One of his primary pupils was his owner, the ever-troubled and renowned actor, Josh Hutcherson.

Fast forward a year or so. I had dropped stories of ridiculously cute celebrities and division-doing dogs. I exchanged them for two starkly different twin sisters and a set of handsome, case-cracking brothers. Crime-fighting protagonists and justice-serving plots came easy to me. All-too-easy, if you ask me. Considering my obsession with Franklin W. Dixon at the time, it was really no wonder. His writing was fresh and cool, and I was young and naive and didn’t care much if my stories were just like his.

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With my writing skills in check, I took the liberty to adopt yet another form of storytelling. In the simplest sense, this medium was play acting. My co-writer and I found ourselves continuously drawn to the idea of hashing out different scenarios in real-life. It was through these exercises that we were able to establish most of the credibility for our story as a whole. It felt risky and unnatural to embody the live’s of other characters. However, I found peace in knowing this was exactly the sort of thing the March sisters did in Little Women.

After a while the theatricals lost their touch as did the stories that formed them. Eventually, I let myself venture onto “greener pastures” (if you could call them that). It was here where I allowed myself to experiment with other fables; but they only managed to hold my attention for a small time. I struggled with developing full-on plots and fleshed-out storylines. For this reason I once again turned to a new medium. The philosophy I soon adopted read as follows, “If I couldn’t tell a story with words, I would do so using pictures.” As a result, photography became my new and improved mode of storytelling. Through the medium, I discovered editing as a niche of mine and used that skill to create fantastical images of my little sister performing mundane tasks.

I came out of the phase with a few mentionable awards and direction for my life study, but this was not enough to dampen my desire for the mastery of new things. In the spring of 2014, I put my thoughts online for the first time. Thanks to some pretty effective feedback, I have been an active part of the blogosphere ever since. Over the years, blogging has taught me an enormous amount, but I would argue that storytelling as a whole has taught me even more. If it wasn’t for long afternoons spent with friends on the playground, I would have never learned the value of imagination. If it wasn’t for mishaps in writing, I would have never discovered my love of photography. It was through these experiences that I realized the importance of not limiting yourself to one specialty. With constant experimentation and the desire to learn, one can readily produce items of worth. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t stop trying. Live vigorously. Accept failures. And maybe just, maybe you’ll create something amazing along the way.

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mags

Maggie Schoepke is a Graphic Design Major and bonafide Japan-lover. She spends her time outside, preferably under the shade of a weeping willow and the appeal of a melancholy tale. When not having a good cry, Maggie enjoys pursuing art, writing, and above all, her Divine Creator. When asked what annoys her the most, she will probably reply with the tacky saying, “There are never enough hours in the day, but always too many days before Saturday.”

 

You can find more of Maggie’s musings at https://teatimewithsenpai.wordpress.com/ 

for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Lessons from a 6-Year-Old Blogger

That’s right, there’s a 6-year-old in the blogosphere. Check out ghostinthecloset.wordpress.com for the kid’s writing. I read every single post. And there’s alot you can learn from a 6-year-old.

  1. It’s okay to have an incentive…this kid is in it for a Kindle.
  2. Keep it simple, short and snappy…it doesn’t have to be long and eloquent to keep someone’s attention.
  3. You can write about your life…Don’t know what to blog about? What’d ya do today? What’d ya like? What got ya thinkin? What ya up to? Seriously, just blog.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff…grammar/spelling errors? No biggie, just write!
  5. It takes others…The kid isn’t all on his lonesome. His mom helps, she blogs herself, she encourages, she is of course offering the incentive Kindle. He’s not doing this alone. We can’t either.

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for the Creatives, for the Writers, Musings, My Creative Projects

Do You Have a Book in You?

If you’ve ever wondered if you could write a book, should write a book, or if you’ve dabbled with writing and wondered if it’s worth a shot to pursue it more seriously, I have news for you!

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I have a new FREE online class to help you answer these questions:

–Do I really have a book in me?

–Can I write a book?

–What’s the process?

–Is this really something I want to take on?

–What am I taking on?

I’m give you a brief overview of the writing world and help you decide if and how you fit into that. This isn’t supposed to be the end-all-be-all decision-maker, but I hope it gets you going in the right direction, whatever that may look like.

This free course has approximately 30 minutes of online material that you can go through at your own pace. After this course, you will have a more firm grasp of what you’re getting into when you sign up to become an author.

What are you waiting for? Sign up now here 🙂

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for the Bookworms, for the Creatives, for the Writers

Huffington Post Isn’t the Only Problem

Writers (and creatives in general) are up in arms about getting paid.

A Summary of the Discussion thus far:

Kristen Lamb has recently been posting about the problem with Free. She started by urging writers not to diss Amazon while promoting used bookstores, since Amazon actually pays authors and used bookstores do not.

She then speculated on what this Culture of Free is going to do to authors going forward.

Finally, she honed in on Huffington Post, a platform that is proud of not paying authors while making millions off of their work. 

Kristen Lamb isn’t the first or the last to call out Huffington Post. Wil Wheaton, Chuck Wendig, and Porter Anderson all have great posts about this issue.

This conundrum doesn’t just pertain to writers, but to artists in general, with artists being more vocal about deserving better pay – Taylor Swift pulling her music off Spotify, Ally Burguieres demanding reimbursement for Taylor Swift’s use of her artwork, or hula-hoop performer Revolva turning down an unpaid opportunity to perform on Oprah’s tour.

We Need Exposure….and Pay!

It’s the way of the world. It’s been the way of the world, and it’s only increasing. Exposure is important. All artists need exposure to live. But we don’t just need exposure to live. We need pay too. We need food on the table and a roof over our heads.

Plumbers and scientists and doctors and teachers and engineers, they all need exposure to live too. If no one knew about their skills or reputation, they wouldn’t be hired and they wouldn’t make it very far. But they still get paid. They still need paid.

What Can Artists Do?

You need exposure: That’s what Marketing and Brand and Advertising is for. Work for free if you want, but let it be on your terms. When you offer free. When you’re not being asked by a highly profitable company to work for free. Don’t give in and work for free, because “you have to” or because “that’s the way the world works.” Stand your ground for artists everywhere.

What Can EVERYONE Do?

Stop supporting the system. The system that says artists have to work for free to be truly authentic. Bullcrap!

Consider boycotting Huffington Post, now that you know the problem. Speak up about it being a problem. Many don’t know. Don’t share or Retweet or click the Huffington Post links that are exploiting writers for their own gain. Don’t perpetuate the cycle. Huffington Post can’t survive off of unpaid labor if no one supports their site any longer.

Most importantly: Stop with the Huffington Post mindset!

  • Stop assuming you can get free labor from artists.
  • Stop asking for them to write, edit, design, draw, paint, play music, or perform for free.
  • Even friends. You have artist friends, great! That doesn’t mean you get free stuff, that means you should support them in their art – pay them for their work, and I’m not talking about buying them a coffee (although coffee is a nice bonus!)My sister is a cosmetologist – I don’t ask her to work for free though; I pay her MORE than my usual tip, because I especially support her work. I want her to prosper with her talent!
  • Artists, walk the talk – don’t ask for free labor from other artists when you know you hate that.
  • Maybe your artist friend offers to help you for free – AWESOME! That means they’re willing. Don’t ask for free, but of course you can accept a free offer.Here’s the kicker then though – pay them in exposure. Brag on them, share their work, give them exposure so that they can get paid the next time around. Anytime I receive free assistance from an artist who offered, I try to remember to post their work on social media, tag their website, mention their expert work. Because artists need exposure too.

Always pay an artist – at least with exposure, but preferably with money as well.

We can stop this cycle. We can pay the artist what they’re worth. We can stop expecting free handouts. We can demand what we’re worth and plan to pay a person what they’re worth. We can refuse to profit off of exploiting another human being.

Let’s not be Huffington Post; let’s be better.

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for the Writers, Musings

Why Writers Won’t Pay for Your Idea

Excuse me while I burst your bubble.

You hear someone’s a writer, throw your idea for a book at them and say, “You write it, we’ll split the profits.” Or maybe you have a writer friend and give them an idea to add to the story then ask how much of the profits they’ll give you to use it.

Either way: big no-no. Do NOT insult a writer by trying to find out how much money you’ll make from them. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be mentioned in the Acknowledgements section.

You know why?

Because EVERYONE HAS IDEAS. 

Say that with me: EVERYONE.

Writers aren’t looking for ideas. We’re looking for time to write down all the bajillion ideas we have. You don’t get paid for having ideas, you get paid for implementing them. The idea isn’t copyrighted, the physical manuscript or electronic file is.

Even if a writer uses your idea, you don’t get paid. In fact, everything a writer has written is gleaned from ideas they gain through living their life with many many people, and they just can’t pay everyone when they hardly get paid themselves.

 

To publish your idea, you have two choices:

1) You can write the book yourself. 

Don’t worry, there is a second choice.

 

2) If you want someone else to write your story idea, you actually can. It’s called a ghostwriter. You *pay* them – that’s right, they don’t pay you, YOU pay THEM – for their time, energy, and talent. They don’t need an idea, but you need a writer.

 

I know, it sucks, the thoughts of you kicking back, relaxing, and watching the money roll in from a book-to-film bestseller…..but alas, it costs first, either your time & energy or your dollars.

 

 

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