Back to the topic of ghostwriting…
(So, like, if “Ghost” was ghostwritten, would that be redundant?)
Other than the proven ability to write a full-length book, what else makes a good ghostwriter?
First off, one must have no ego. None. I mean, the kind of person who has his own website/fansite with his face and name splattered all over it would be a bad choice if you were looking for someone without an ego, right? Uh …
The definition of egoless in this case is that you, the ghost, must understand subservience, and most of the women in my life or who have ever been in my life know one thing … I can really do subservient — to my eternal detriment.
As a ghostwriter, you go in understanding that, in most cases, you will get no credit whatsoever for your labors. Yes, yes, we try and try to get a cover credit of some sort, but again, that’s only kinda/sorta ghosting — collaborative writing most call it — not hardcore, whip-me-’til-I-bleed ghostwriting.
The other aspect of being of no ego is you must remember that this is not a perfectly equal collaboration. A smart client will lean upon and take advantage of the expertise of the ghost, but in the end, the client — the person whose name is actually on the cover of the book — has the final say in all debates.
For this, I have “Kerry’s Rule.” Yes, I have one and only one rule as a ghost. That rule is, “I give my opinion once. If you take it, fine. If you reject it, I will never mention it again.” This is widely appreciated because no one wants to work with a moody nag, and a successful ghost is not simply a good writer, he or she must also be enjoyable to spend time with.
Time, oh yes, time. The relationship between ghost and client can often be intense. For as long as the experience takes, you become privy to literally everything in your client’s life. You are an underpaid shrink. They cry on your shoulder, they tell you their darkest secrets — many of which are too personal to even be printed in the final version of their “tell-all.” You get drunk-dialed late at night. Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
You must be a good listener. But there is a specificity to that, which dovetails nicely with the whole egoless thing. The ghost must be able to pick up the tenor of the client’s voice and all of its eccentricities. A bad ghost is one who makes all of his clients sound like him. If I led you to a row of books and told you I wrote 3 of them and you could thumb through them and correctly discover the ones I wrote, then I did a bad job as a ghost. Every client speaks differently. They all use different phrases and speak on a specific intellectual level. You must capture this. In that way, I feel that my acting background has prepared me well for this gig. Every ghosting job is like being cast in a movie; finding the character and getting into character and staying there.