ghostwriting

The ghostwriter's nightmare scenario

The ghostwriter's nightmare scenario

Ghostwriter characters don't make it into fiction very often, but when they do they always seem to find themselves in jeopardy. 

In the 2010 Roman Polanski film The Ghost Writer, Ewan McGregor plays a ghostwriter working for a former British prime minister. In the end he knows too much and ... it doesn't end well. 

In the Netflix series House of Cards, Paul Sparks plays ghostwriter Thomas Yates who, after struggling to extract a decent memoir out of the president, fails to keep his professional distance, you might say. It takes a while – three seasons in fact – but it doesn't end well for him either.

And now we have Australian writer Richard Flanagan's latest novel, First Person, in which the narrator is a ghostwriter hired to author the memoir of a notorious conman. The story was inspired by Flanagan's own experience, very early in his career, of ghostwriting the autobiography of fraudster John Friedrich in 1991.

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Hiring a ghostwriter? Here's what you're paying for.

Hiring a ghostwriter? Here's what you're paying for.

One of the first questions I get when someone enquires about my book writing services is, understandably, 'How much will it cost?' To which I respond, 'How long is a piece of string?' Well, not really. At least not in those words, though the sentiment is the same.

While I completely understand that a potential buyer needs to have some idea of cost, the challenge for a ghostwriter is that we can't afford to lock in a price that is unrealistic, and there are *a lot* of variables that determine how much work will be needed to write a book.

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Donald Trump's co-writer and the ethics of ghostwriting

Donald Trump's co-writer and the ethics of ghostwriting

There's been some interesting debate in the ghostwriting community over the last few weeks since The New Yorker published an interview with Tony Schwartz, co-author of The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump in 1987.

In the interview, Schwartz pulls back the curtains on his time with Trump, essentially to make a case that the Trump he worked with is manifestly unsuitable to be president of the USA.

Debate has arisen from a perception by many who feel that Schwartz has broken a golden rule of ghostwriting by speaking out.

There's a reason why ghostwriters are so-called. We are 'ghosts' in the sense of being invisible.

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#BorderFarce. Shooting the messenger 101

#BorderFarce. Shooting the messenger 101

Inept. Unfathomable. Hopeless. I’m not sure my thesaurus has enough words to describe the complete and utter shemozzle that was last week’s Border Force debacle, aka #BorderFarce, in Melbourne. The coals of this event-that-wasn’t have been well scraped over by now but there is one aspect of the story that deserves a little more fanning.

It has to do with writing or, more specifically, writers writing on behalf of other people.

The fuel of this issue was a media release issued by the Australian Border Force on the morning of Friday, August 28. Australian Border Force is the new militaristic name of what used to be Customs and Immigration – the people who work in airports and ports making sure that people entering Australia have permission to do so via their passport and/or visa and don’t carry potential nasties in their luggage. Presumably the name change is designed to make visitors to this country that little bit more wary of trying to enter without having their paperwork in order, lest they incur the wrath of the Force.

But I digress.

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Writing a book? Dig deeper for a better story

Writing a book? Dig deeper for a better story

I’ve just finished watching the excellent television drama House of Cards – the US version starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood. If you’re into politics, it’s a must see.

During the third and final season, one of the subplots involves a writer, Thomas Yates, who is commissioned by Underwood to write a biography of him. In many ways it’s a poisoned chalice for Yates. The book is always intended as a puff piece.

Nevertheless, there are some interesting interactions between subject and writer across a number of episodes – interactions I think many ghostwriters and biographers could relate to.

A theme that ran particularly true for me was Yates’s challenge in getting any level of detail out of Underwood.

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Getting past 'I'm not a writer'

Getting past 'I'm not a writer'

Earlier this month we spent a fantastic weekend at the iconic Port Fairy Folk Festival (which, by the way, is much more than banjos and tin whistles). Once again I found myself in awe of the songwriter’s ability. Never mind the music: how do these people come up with such clever lyrics? I could never do that.

Or could I?

I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but when I was at school (when telephones still had dials and were definitely not ‘smart’) writing was not my thing. I struggled with creative writing and writing analysis and never seemed to be able to find the right formula to keep my English teachers happy. In my last few years at school, English was the subject in which I achieved my lowest grades.

These days I’m a professional writer so I’m probably not meant to tell you that.

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How to sort yourself out as a writer

How to sort yourself out as a writer

Some years ago I stumbled upon a piece of software designed to help writers of books to, well, get the job done. That application is now central to everything I do as a writer and ghostwriter: books, blogs, articles and speeches. I cannot imagine being able to do what I do without it.

Sound like a big rap? I can confidently say that Scrivener, the software in question, deserves it.

Scrivener is difficult to describe until you’ve used it. A good way to think of it is like having a separate desk for every project you are working on.

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Improve your writing in one easy step

After Melbourne author Anh Do won a few prizes recently for his book The Happiest Refugee, there was a bit of media eyebrow-raising when it came to light that Do had had the assistance of a ghostwriter in putting together his book. The unspoken implication seemed to be that perhaps Do’s award-winning credentials should be questioned for his having had this assistance. There is something odd about writing. Perhaps because we all learnt to write at school, and because there is no special equipment required, it is common for people to feel guilty about seeking help – or even a second opinion – on their writing. It’s a guilt few would feel about getting help with a computer problem or a presentation.

But writing is not easy.

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