for the Writers

In Defense of Ghostwriters

Awhile ago Olivia J. guest-posted on my blog about concerns with the idea of ghostwriters, while I posted my defense of ghostwriters on her blog.

Check out Olivia’s reservations about ghostwriting, and then see why I think ghostwriting has an important place in the literary universe:

 

What makes ghostwriters the bomb-diggety:

Ghostwriters aren’t quite ghosts, sadly. But they’re still more or less supernatural in their capabilities! They’re the undercover secret agents of the writing world. The trained, the elite, the you-never-saw-it-coming – the ghostwriters 🙂

  • Us regular writers take years of writing to find our own voice
  • Ghostwriters are shapeshifters, finding the unique voice of each person they are writing for

 

  • Us regular writers mostly write something we’re passionate about
  • Ghostwriters use a magical spell to transfer your passion into their words. Your passion is infectious and as it seeps into them, topics or stories the ghostwriter may have never been passionate about are suddenly passionately written! Teamwork 🙂

 

  • Us regular writers might be considered semi-narcissistic – speaking of myself here mostly 😉 They devote their life to making their own dreams come true
  • Ghostwriters are fairygodmothers, passionate about devoting their lives to making others dreams come true. How cool is that!

 

  • Us regular writers are clumsy and walk into doors and walls and lampposts
  • Ghostwriters are also clumsy, but at least they float right through the objects. Or wait, is that just ghosts?

 

Why readers should care about ghostwriting:

Readers should be ecstatic to support the existence of ghostwriters. Not only do ghosts make for great stories, but *ghostwriters* make for great stories. More quality stories will exist for readers when non-writers choose one of these three options:

1)      share their story in a medium they’re skilled and passionate in

2)      have the passion and take time to gain the skill of writing before putting the story out there

3)      hire a ghostwriter to marry their passion and knowledge of the content with the ghostwriter’s passion and skill for writing

 

The problem with ghostwriting:

Now here’s the horrid part about ghostwriters – as awesome as they are, they don’t get the credit. Hit the NYT bestsellers list, win the Pulitzer prize, get a movie deal – everyone applauds the author (the person who hired the ghostwriter.) The ghostwriter is, well, ghosted. They generally can’t even say they wrote it, because they *officially* didn’t.

 

 

So why does the person who hired the ghostwriter get to be the author? Why do they get credit?

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Scratch that. Ideas don’t cost a thing, in fact, us writers can’t turn them off. So no, a ghostwriter isn’t needing the idea from the author. But what we call the author, the person who hired the ghostwriter, they contribute much more than the idea.

The person called the “author” is in fact the author because it’s their brainchild, their knowledge, their story, their platform, their audience, their marketing, their voice, and their passion.

The ghostwriter alone generally won’t have all those things to get the book into the world as the book actually is. If the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it may miss the knowledge of the topic or the direct experience with the story. Maybe if the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it wouldn’t reach as large an audience. Maybe if the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it wouldn’t have that unique voice, style, or tone. Maybe it would just lack passion.

So on that note, mad props to the author for making all this happen!

 

How to fix the discrepancy:

I get it. The author deserves a lot of credit for making this book happen. And also, the ghostwriter deserves a lot of credit for making this book happen. It takes two. It most definitely takes great skill for a ghostwriter to take all the author has to offer and turn it into a quality book. And it most definitely takes the author to make the book happen in the first place.

Here’s my proposal, the main thing I’d change about the concept of ghostwriting to give proper credit:

On any ghostwritten book, have the front cover say “Written by [name of supernatural ghostwriter person], Directed by [name of person who had the vision to make the book happen]”. We already do this for movies: listing actors, directors, producers, and all myriad of workers in the credits. Just do that for books with ghostwriters too – give them some credit for their kickbutt magical powers 🙂

 

What do you think?

What say you? Do you think ghostwriters as an entity should just be called “authors”? Or do you think ghostwriters have their place in the literary universe hidden behind the scenes? Share your thoughts in the comments, check out Olivia’s counter-argument, and join the convo 🙂

 

for the Writers

13 tools for editing your book

As I began editing my story, I asked a bunch of writers – either that I personally know or through Facebook writers groups – what tools they use when editing their book.

I was shocked that most didn’t have a plan or a tool…they just wing it!

I’m sure most of us would like a plan of attack. And so I give you:

Tools to edit your book

Best part: Most of these are free!

Disclaimer: I have not used most of these. This is what either other authors have recommended to me or I have found through extensive googling.  But they look great! Take what you can use and make your plan of attack. Less willy nilly…but don’t ditch the willy nilly….We all need that too 😉

 

1) Microsoft Word shortcuts – ❤ My favvie!

This writer was thoughtful enough to list out each step of her editing process and all the shortcuts or steps she takes in Word to find and fix these common errors. This is the most practical item I’ve found in my search. Use it!

2) 25 editing tips – checklist

Woohoo, I love checklists. I know where to start, what to do, and when I’m finished 🙂

3 & 4) Developmental edits – list of questions here or here

These are called checklists, but more like a list of questions to ask as you edit. Includes questions on plot, character, dialogue, style, etc. Very thorough, so if you want to catch every nuance, this is the list for you. I think I’d read my manuscript 50 times to catch all these questions haha 🙂

5) Proofreading checklist – PDF

I list editing software below, but you want to check things yourself too. For readability, grammar, punctuation, spelling – here’s that checklist.

6) Natural Reader – text to speech

Does not require download, just copy and paste your words into the website to hear your story read to you – a great way to catch errors you might accidentally gloss over if you read it silently. It’s bold claim is that it reads it in a “natural” voice, hence Natural Reader.

Also available as a free download to read from PDFs, Word, and offline.

Paid version with more features also available.

7) Readable – readability grades

Free, with premium paid version also available. Copy and paste text in, then see various grade levels on the right. Also notes adverbs, passive voice, cliches, and lengthy sentences and words.

8) Hemingway app – readability and editing

Copy and paste into the website to see grade level for readability, adverbs, passive voice, and hard to read passages. Best part: all these are color-coded 🙂 Note: in my brief test-run, spelling errors got the squiggly like Word, but punctuation errors weren’t mentioned.

9) Text Analyzer – see which words you over-use

Do you constantly say everything is “glorious” in your novel? I mean, it’s a glorious word, but you don’t want to over-use it. Copy and paste your text into this website to see which words and phrases are most common in your story. Obviously “the” and “and” and major character names will be prominent, but what else do you say that may be too much?

10) Ginger – editing software & text to speech

Just download it to your device. It’ll check spelling, grammar, and more. As far as I can tell, it’s free.

11) Grammarly – editing software

This is more popular than Ginger, at least in my circle. Whether that means it’s better or not, I can’t say. This is also a free software download.

 



*The below cost money but were recommended to me by other writers. You might want to check them out 🙂 *

12) ProWriting Aid – editing software

Free version for up to 500 words at a time. Annual cost of $40-45 if you want to edit more than that at a time.

13) EDITS System – lecture

Costs $22. Lets you know what you need to edit where.


Have any recommendations of your own? Comment below with what tools, tips, or tricks help you tackle book editing 🙂

 

Musings of a Creative

When a character stalks an author…

Julia. I have neglected Julia far too long and she’s appearing everywhere. Haunting me in the people I meet, the clothes I wear, the stories I hear.  It’s funny how the pieces of a person just fall into your lap when you’re busy attending to other things.

maggie-schoepke-shattered-photo
Photo courtesy of Maggie Schoepke. You can follow her anime blog at teatimewithsenpai.wordpress.com

 


 

It started with Julia. No, not my character, a real person. She was sitting just a couple rows in front of me and I wanted to take a picture, because it was her, it looked just like my Julia. But it’d be weird to sneak a picture of a stranger in such a small room where it’d be noticed, even weirder to explain my stalkerish tendency. So I resolved to simply catch her full name during introductions and look her up on Facebook or Instagram because all the modern teens have those. And then it happened: she introduced herself as Julia. This really was my girl! Scarless, no blemishes to be seen, but a Julia that looked exactly like my Julia nonetheless.

Then the moment of truth came: Julia had left the building and I went to look at the sign-in sheet (which was available for all attendees to email each other. I wasn’t a total stalker. Others were copying the list as well.) And darn it! this girl’s name may as well have been Julia Smith. I searched Facebook and Twitter fruitlessly, for there were thousands of results and no mutual friends to bump the right one to the top. I’d lost her!

As a side note, I totally hope I encounter her again this year at the same lecture, and then I will fiercely force my friendship on her by taking interest in her work or something. And hope I don’t get a restraining order as I all too quickly ask for a group selfie 😉 I’m not a creeper really!

Sigh. This is what happens when a writer encounters their character in the real world. As if I’m not mad enough without this pull towards insanity…


 

Next came the story. There’s a book already out that sounds scary like my character, only with real life happenings and not paranormal urban fantasy. Some sort of teen angst Julia drama book. And I suddenly worry that I’m losing my chance, that someone will take her story from me and publish it so much faster than I ever could. Sure, every story has been told and it’s just a retelling, but Julia’s story is all mine and I don’t want to share.


 

Then came the Julia. Not my Julia or the Julia lookalike, but another Julia, one looking to join our writer’s group. How would this Julia take it when I read a story about her namesake falling to little bits in front of her? I don’t quite know, but she shockingly seemed okay with it when I summed up the story in forewarning. But with the name Julia semi-regularly on my tongue and referring to someone other than my character, it hearkens me back, back to the Julia I’m supposed to be living life with, or writing life with I suppose. Julia doesn’t like to share my attention, and her name is her name and my lips can’t utter it without regarding her specifically. My stories don’t deal in the most self-denying characters.


julia-dress-lularoe

Most recently, it’s shown up in clothes. What would clothes have to do with Julia? But then there was the LuLaRoe craze. The outfits with names of people – Carly, Joy, Irma, Randy, Cassie, Ana, Nicole, Mimi, and – you knew it was coming – Julia. And suddenly the Julia is covering my newsfeed, as if my real-world encounters weren’t enough. Social media brings up Julia like the plague, only a plague of fashionable comfy clothes (Woot woot!).

And once again, I feel the beckoning. I could wear her clothes in honor of her. But I have to sit with her too. I can’t just have her in my everyday life without taking the time to chat and tinker and understand what’s going on in her head and in her world. Her story needs to be out there for the world to see, like all the other Julias that are invading my life. I have to share this space with my Julia, the one and only most important Julia. Characters don’t want to share with the real world. Authors are demanded to live in the fictional universe until the character releases their grip, and balance is not something my characters will understand. Would yours? Does anybody understand balance when it comes to someone else’s life?


 

writing

 

So on that note… World, meet Julia. My Julia. You have all your Julia’s out there, and they’re just wonderful and I like encountering them. But there’s my Julia too.

 

She’s a little broken, a little unsure. But she’s got a story she’s ready to tell. And I’m busy writing it.

 

 


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Musings of a Creative

When a murderer won’t shut up at 3am

Have you heard of “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler”? by Vladimir Nobokov. Very interesting book, written in the second person. Saying “You do this, you do that.” Not “I” or “he”, it’s about “you.” And “you” pick up a book at the bookstore, start reading and get enthralled in the tale, then suddenly realize the second chapter is a different story than the 1st chapter, so you return it to the store for a correct copy that doesn’t have the publisher’s error. Only the bookstore accidentally gives you a different book entirely. And so on the story continues with all these story snippets and “you” just trying to get your hands on an actual copy of the original book you wanted in the first place. Innovative story, not your usual thing.

Okay, so I’m not gonna go so far as to compare my own meager writing to world-renowned Vladimir. (Tangent: Doesn’t that sound positively vampiric? Great vampire name…) But my short story I’m working on is similar-esque. Very meta like Vladimir’s… but unlike Vladimir’s, my story has a narrator that’s a murderer telling the reader how the whole murder went down and “you” have to figure out what happened and who the murderer is. It’s like a quirky meta mystery thing.

Why am I writing this short story instead of my work-in-progress urban fantasy novel? Because I had a murderer stuck in my head, and goshdarnit, a chatty one at that. I couldn’t get quiet all night, furiously scribbling the notes and begging the murderer to shut up. Welcome to writer life! Talk about a sneak peak. So I promised this murderer a short story if I could just get back to my actual work-in-progress soon.

But I will say, it’s exciting to stretch my writing out of my comfort zone, figuring out clues and red herrings and second person and meta story. It’s so fun! 🙂 You’ll hear more about this project I’m sure in the coming months – hopefully to be available for you all to read!

 

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName: Cont.

What other factors do writers think of while considering a pseudonym?

Last week I wrote a brief synopsis of how I came up with my pen name. Inspired by a couple great questions from Josh in the comments, this week I wanted to bring up 3 things writers think about that we have little or no control over.

1) “Keep Your Hand Book at the Level of Your Eye”

Last week I mentioned not being hidden next to a big author name, like Neil Gaiman or George RR Martin. But there’s something else writers think about in terms of shelving, and that’s the hope that our book ends up at eye level. Perusing a shelf, a reader is more likely to catch great books at eye level than above or below.

Sure, we could come up with a pen name that slots our book at eye level on a local bookstore shelf perhaps, but with all shelves being different and constantly changing, writers don’t really have control over this one.

2) Creepy Stalkers, the Torment of the Famed

Many novels, movies, and even real-life instances in the vein of Stephen King’s “Misery” have got a melodramatic writer (and face it, we’re all melodramatic) wondering about their own kidnapping, torturing, and escape right before death in some unlikely but clever fashion.

But if us writerly types could be reasonable for a moment (I know, I know, boooooring….), the likelihood of that is slim. Even slimmer considering that I would probably be able to identify less than a handful of writers if I crossed paths with them in real life. Let’s face it, even if we’re a popular author, we’re recognized more for our words than our faces.

Even if kidnapping were a possibility for you…a pseudonym will more than likely NOT save you. Everything is public nowadays, everyone is findable with the thorough records of the interwebs. You can’t hide, unless maybe you’re a mountain man or Amish or recluse or something maaaaybe.

For your own protection, skip the pen name, try jiu jitsu instead 😉

3) I Thee Wed

For us single gal writers, we of course think about our potentially impending name change. Not only do we have to decide if we’re keeping, changing, or hyphenating our surname; we have to decide what we’re doing with our author platform name as well. Talk about pressure.

If we change our name to match the new hubbie, there’s the potential of confusing or even losing our current following to the change. If we take the new hubbie’s name but use our maiden name for the author platform, legal issues and payments and such will be more complex with the two different names. Then of course there’s ya know, the whole hubbie and what he thinks deal, as well as the general “what do I want?” dealio. So many questions.

And of course, the whole process from the last post would have to be re-done with the new hubbie’s last name if the pen name changes.

And don’t get me started on autographs. I’ve already determined it’d be most convenient to marry someone who’s last name begins with an S, since my signature is scribbled enough I might be able to get away with keeping my same signature then.

Okay, I’ll stop with that ramble now. You see, pen names aren’t so simple. But that’s some of my thoughts. What are yours?

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName?

To pen-name or not to pen-name – for any writer, that is the question.

There is a lot of factors that go into choosing between one’s own name or a pseudonym, and I thought I’d give you a brief sneak-peek at the process.

(Writers: Kristen Lamb has a post discouraging use of pen names in most situations. Rachelle Gardner has a post on problems to consider if using a pseudonym.)

So how’d I decide on mine, on keeping my own name, but adding the middle initial?

Step 1 – Default Setting

If you can’t find a really really good reason to use a pseudonym, you should be using your own name. That’s the default. I thought I might have good reasons until I read the blogposts mentioned above. (Writers: read those if considering a pseudonym.)

Step 2 – Google That Name

I googled myself. You know what comes up when I google “Amy Sauder”? Not me. “Amy Sauder – Peoria area photographer” shows up. That’s right, there’s an Amy Sauder, also in Peoria, also an artist, who has a perfectly legit photography business. Seriously, check her out.

With someone else topping the google charts, I can do one of the following:

  • compete for “Amy Sauder” space on google by creating alot of internet content with great Search-Engine Optimization
  • rely on readers to type “author” when googling me and photography clients to type “photographer” when googling her (a completely legitimate option that many choose, and it works)
  • find a different name so she has her google space and I have mine

Step 3 – Devil is in the Details

Sharing google space is not enough reason to choose a pen name.

With a pen name, everything is more complicated. Marketing is more complicated, because you lose the audience you already have with your own name. Paychecks and legal documents are complicated. Remembering the little details – like how easy/quick signing an autograph is with a chosen pen name – is complicated. I toyed around with pen names, sure. But it didn’t seem like a good option even still.

In order to avoid the sharing of google space and to avoid using a pen name, I tried my middle initial.

What happens when you google Amy L Sauder? Well now, you have a whole bunch of me, though not much popped up at all when I originally googled it. “Amy Sauder, photographer” still tops the google “Amy Sauder” charts – and I’m there too a little lower – but if you remember the L, I fill that space mostly.

Picture a Bookshelf

The final step, at least that I’m discussing at this point.

Imagine a bookshelf….where’s your book fall on the bookshelf? Usually books are ordered by genre and then by author’s last names.

In an ideal world, I don’t want my book crowded out and hidden next to the Stephen Kings or James Pattersons of the world. Can I see a place for my book under my name on the shelf? You bet I can! No overcrowding here.

And so, Amy L Sauder was born. And in the grand scheme of things, I think I might actually like it more than just Amy Sauder.

What’s In Your Name?

What about you? Do you have a pen name? Do you think you’d use a pen name? What are your thoughts, ideas, questions? Let me know in the comments!

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