My (Very) Brief Stint as a Ghostwriter

calvin-hobbes-writers-block

For a good while I was really interested in finding a job that involved creative writing to be my day job when I’m not working on my novel. I love writing, I reasoned, so it only made sense that more writing can only be good.

It turns out that may not be the case for me.  I certainly have every hope to be able to quit my day job to work on novels full time, but working on projects that are not my own doesn’t seem to work very well for me.

So, here’s the story:  A couple months ago, I got an email from the Utah workforce services website.  I had used the site a few months prior to try to find a job (my wife and I moved at the end of the year).  Part of it involved inputting desired fields, so naturally I put in writing.  Move the clock forward, and I’m reading an email stating that there is a creative writing job that had just been put onto the site.  I put off checking it out for a few days, feeling quite content with my new job (a credit union teller), but curiosity won out.

The job was for a company that hires writers for a variety of book projects.  The company then owns the rights to the books and tries to sell them to publishers.  The posting specifically mentioned fantasy, mystery, and sci-fi projects, so I thought the job might be right up my alley.  After emailing back and forth for about a week (making sure, for example, that I wouldn’t be doing something like signing over the rights to my own writing projects) I got an interview set up.  At that interview I was told that the company had openings for writers of a few projects, but only one of those projects was fiction.  The rest were for a nonfiction project dealing related to business, drawing lessons from a wide variety of people or things depending on the project.  My interviewer told me that, if I was willing, that I could be hired on for one of those books and then could be moved to a fiction project when another opened up.  The pay was by page, and the nonfiction project paid a little more per page than the fiction projects, so I told him that should be fine– fiction definitely was more up my alley, but I thought that writing for money would make me content to matter what I was working on.  Plus, the company was expecting a minimum of 10 hours of work a week, which I thought would work out fine with my job and my own writing.

I wish that were true.  About a week later I was sent a project, partially complete, that I was to finish over the next few months.  I set to work, but the topic– lessons from the richest men in history– didn’t interest me, and in spite of my best efforts, the level of research I had to do on each individual I had to write about resulted in my production rate being far too small.  I was ideally supposed to be producing around 3 pages an hour, but I was realistically doing only half that.  That meant low pay for a lot of mentally strenuous work.  I quickly felt frustrated with the project and that frustration spilled over to my other creative projects.  Simply, by the end of my time spent writing I either didn’t have time to work on Dark Art or just was too burned out to do so.

Also, I was sad that with how the writing job was setup I had no real part in the business side of publication.  The material I was producing could very well get published in a year, or ten years, or never– and I wouldn’t hear anything about it unless I stumbled upon it at a bookstore while passing through a section I don’t peruse.  I took the job hoping to get a better feel for what I’ll be dealing with when my novel is complete and publishable, but that wasn’t going to happen.  I also hoped to gain some connections in the industry, but once again I just emailed my material to one person, who made sure it got edited and that I got paid, so networking was out, too.

I lasted one pay period– two weeks– and was glad to get out.  It was a good experience in terms of learning what ghostwriting can be and learning that it is not for me.  I suppose I’ll be working something less exciting than writing until I can find a way to go full time as a novelist…

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Usually these sorts of odd jobs are great windows into the publishing world, but they can also be a dead end in disguise. It sounds like you found the right path. Please continue to work on your novels!


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