Separating the Ghostwriter from the Author

Last Updated on August 11, 2016 by Michael Brockbank

Recently, I’ve been working on publishing a few short stories on Wattpad. So far, it’s been a great deal of fun as I’ve been entering small contests based on various themes. I wasn’t halfway through my first story when I realized that I was still focusing on AP style writing. It was almost like I was writing a piece for a client rather than myself. It looked as though I was having a hard time separating the ghostwriter from the author.

Differences Between Ghostwriting and Authoring Your Work

For the most part, the similarities between ghostwriting for a client and writing a piece of pure fiction are present. You need an even flow of readability to avoid confusing the reader and obviously grammar will play a role. However, there are some differences that can make creating your own piece a bit confusing. Here are a few of those differences I came across when composing my first story.

Second-Person Writing

Most clients I write for want content that is written in second-person tone. This is when you use terms like “you” and “your” with the content. I was about 1000 words into my story when I realized I was writing this way. I wanted a third-person format and found myself putting the reader into the material. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if that is what you’re trying to accomplish.

Present and Past Tense

In the first story, I was going for past tense. Unfortunately, I found myself mixing past and present quite often throughout the work. For example, I was using “was” instead of “were” in a few places. A lot of clients want content written for the here-and-now. Past tense often plays into passive voice, which statistically doesn’t perform well in a blog. It’s not the same when someone is reading a novel based in a past-tense format.

Oxford Commas

When I first started writing for clients, it took me a while to learn how to separate Oxford and AP comma styles. For instance, AP style commas don’t exist before the word “and” when creating a list. This is called a serial comma, for those who are unaware. Oxford style, which many publishing houses use, implements the serial comma. I know this is a small difference, but I bet an editor would go nuts over my work putting commas all over the place.

Content Structure

To write for websites, it takes a great deal of changes in content structure to improve the performance of a website. Here are just a few things that ghostwriters need to learn when creating content for clients:

  • Keeping paragraphs below 150 words
  • Separating points in the content with headers
  • Making sure the reading level is easy
  • Proper use of keywords
  • Keeping sentences below 20 words total

It’s not the same when you’re writing a novella or putting together a book. Separating the two styles of writing can be difficult at times when all of these points have been drilled into your head over several years.

Building a Story Line

For the past four years, it’s been the client who has provided a subject for me to write. For instance, they would send requests for 800 word articles about a plugin in WordPress. I’ve spent so much time in this frame of mind that I found it difficult to come up with my own idea for the second story, Predator and Prey. I hope I can somehow retrain my mind and come up with my own topics in the future. Perhaps I am simply making too much out of this issue, though. I might have just been stumped because I have been exhausted over the past week-and-a-half from working and attending the county fair.

Claiming Your Work

One of the biggest differences between ghostwriting and authoring is who gets the credit. Instead of completing a blog post for someone who is going to put their name on the title, you are the one accepting responsibility. This can have both positive and negative aspects, depending on the writer.

Positive
All credit for the piece goes to you. If a story or novel you wrote goes viral, it’s the Internet that sees your name. No one can take away that level of success when you’re writing pieces for yourself.

Negative
If the majority of people don’t like your work, it’s your name they see. If I complete a blog post that is sub-par and doesn’t perform well, I’ll never know it. Someone else put their name on the piece. Now, it’s my name and reputation that can be affected if people don’t like reading my stories.

To some degree, it takes more bravery to create a piece you claim for all to read than it does to simply hand over a blog post to a client.

Separating Your Skills as both Author and Ghostwriter

One thing I found to be helpful is taking a moment to reset your mind. Sit in front of your computer and focus on being an author. Concentrate on what you need to use in order to create a story rather than a blog post. Take a few deep breaths and visualize your story coming to life. That’s how I wrote Predator and Prey. After the first line came to me, the rest flowed like a raging river. I completed the whole thing in a few hours.

Editing
Don’t forget to edit your work. Before I uploaded the short stories located in My Published Works, I re-read the material several times. This will help you identify errors while giving you a chance to make sure the ghostwriter didn’t add a few lines of his or her own. I spent several hours scrutinizing the content before I was confident that I was done separating the blogger from the novelist.

The Money
If your primary form of income is from ghostwriting, like mine, it can be difficult to not think about the money. Unless you’re given an advance from a publishing house, it can be difficult not to think about writing for “free.” For instance, I don’t make money on any of my stories in Wattpad. A small part of me says that I could have spent that time writing for clients and getting paid instead. However, I’m using it as a tool to fine-tune my skills while boosting my online reputation. By the time I am ready to publish something for sale, I might have a better experience.

You Can Do Both

I’ve developed myself as a ghostwriter. By spending years honing my abilities for online content, I have increased my knowledge exponentially since I started. Now, it is time to fine-tune my abilities as an author. Under the surface, there may be an author in you waiting to come out. Take the chance and try separating the ghostwriter from that novelist. You may find you have more to offer the world than some blog post about golf cart parts.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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