Ghostwriting to Hone Your Craft

Updated on December 12, 2017
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Cherie Mitchell is a full-time writer who has ghostwritten over 150 Wild West e-book romances. She now writes under her own name.

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Getting Paid For Your Writing Lesson

Ghostwriting, the act of creating written works anonymously and receiving no attribution or recognition for the work, may seem an odd choice for a writer hoping to make a name for themselves in the competitive world of book publishing.

But what if you put the lack of kudos aside and looked upon the activity as a paid lesson in writing?

Finding Writing Jobs

A few years ago I gave up a corporate career in order to become a fulltime writer with the end objective being that I would write and publish successful books. Words enchant and enthrall me and I could think of nothing I’d rather do with my days. However, how was I going to make enough money to pay the bills?

First things first. I created several online profiles on freelancer sites, LinkedIn, and my own website. I’ve learned a lot about business during my years in the corporate world, I have an excellent memory, I’m a great researcher, and I have the ability to string words together in both a professional and creative manner, and these were the skills I chose to highlight in my profiles.

Before long I was contacted by a publisher seeking a writer to ghostwrite a series of Wild West romance books. I accepted the assignment with no knowledge of the genre (1800’s mail order brides) and little clue as to how to create a series as I’d never written one before.

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Learning From Your Assignments

The first assignment required me to write just two books which allowed me to test the waters. I Googled everything I could about the era and those long ago mail order brides (who really did exist) and I began to write. Looking back now, those first two books weren’t great. I failed to capture the characters properly and I certainly did not manage to build any kind of authentic atmosphere. However, the publisher appeared happy with my work and he sent me another assignment.

A few months later I was asked, by the same publisher, to write a pilot book followed by a 12-book series centered around a late 1800’s widow who opens an establishment to groom young ladies for the future roles of brides and homemakers. I embarked on this project wholeheartedly. The idea was fun, the length of the series gave me the opportunity to build strong and recurring characters, and I could introduce many different plot twists.

At around the same time, the publisher began to send me feedback from beta readers and some of the feedback was in fact very useful. A good beta reader comments on the character, story flow, any discrepancies in the plot, and whether the ending is satisfying. Unfortunately, there are also many bad beta readers out there who believe the story should be written differently to reflect their own personal opinion or who argue that facts in the book are wrong without stopping to check with Google first. All my research is carefully checked and I found these comments to be the most aggravating of all, but I tried to be objective and I took what I could from the feedback.

Using Feedback To Your Advantage

Fast forward another few months. The publisher was sending me very regular work and I’d learned to produce these little books very quickly. I now understood what the reader of the genre wanted and I now had excellent general knowledge of the era from all of my research. One day I idly Googled the name of one of my series, expecting that the publisher would have changed it before he published the books. I was amazed to find the books listed on Amazon with their original names and many positive reviews.

Intrigued, I searched for more of “my” books and I read several of the reviews. I tucked away what I learned from the reviews – ie, which of the characters were most popular, which of the heroes resonated most successfully with the readers, and which of the plots had the largest amount of positive reviews. I added this knowledge to what I already knew and I kept writing, producing books which proved to be even more popular with the fans of the books.

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More Than Monetary Gain

I have now ended my contract with this publisher but I have gained so much from the experience. I have gained the assurance that my books have a receptive audience and I have gained the ability to effectively and quickly produce a successful plotline. And I’m now an expert on 1800’s Wild West arranged marriages!

I’ll be honest. The money you receive is not fantastic for a beginner ghostwriter. You are expected to put in a lot of work (plots, characters, research) for no recognition.

But what I gained far outweighs the cost and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to develop further as a writer.

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