Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Just Call Me Casper

I read on a writers’ site recently that 80% of all books on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list at any given moment are ghostwritten. I don't have any way of verifying that figure, but it certainly makes one pause to think.

The writer who manages the site is a ghost herself. She says she doesn’t mind doing the work – she gets to meet and work with a lot of interesting people who “matter” -- but she does mind not being able to tell anyone what she’s written.

Though I’ve done ghost work, I’ve been very fortunate that my celebrated co-authors don’t mind sharing a little bit of credit and allowing my name to appear (in small print) next to theirs on the cover.

It’s true, I like to help other people get their projects out. I like to be able to help someone with something to say find the proper way to say it in order to reach a reading audience.

It’s also true that I like to be able to say, “I wrote that.”

I’ve just finished a short project, however, where I won’t be able to say that line. I wrote a piece for a very important Someone Else to approve, as if it were in that Someone Else’s voice.

I spent a lot of time researching the person’s voice, speech mannerisms, and sentence construction. I read things the person had actually written, and paid special attention to interviews the person had given. I also spoke to people who knew the person well, and gleaned some specific, personal details.

What I wrote, however, ended up being a fun creative exercise. I took a little license and threw in a few literary flourishes. I think the piece reads smoothly and honestly. And I have to say, I’m quite pleased with it.

The Someone Else I wrote it for has read it and approved it – changing only a single word. It’s a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, I am thrilled that the person likes it and is willing to claim ownership.

On the other, now that it’s officially Someone Else’s, I can’t tell anyone that I wrote it.

It all comes out in the wash, I suppose. It’s not about taking credit for a thing. It’s about creating something worthwhile in the first place.

The New Book Begins

I started transcribing Dr. Warson’s notes for the Rider’s Back Book yesterday. Fought cold meds and a particularly nasty headache to do it, but made some real progress.

Dr. Warson has a real way with words. Years of clinical dictation have taught him to enunciate and to not speak too quickly. His tapes are easy to transcribe, and a joy to listen to.

Furthermore, he has a very orderly way of thinking and an engaging style of speaking. If this keeps up, the book will write itself. One can only hope.