Ghostwriter vs. Editor in Disguise

Ghostwriting generally involves content services or creating works of writing for a client who then takes ownership of the work as his own. This sort of agreement comes with the understanding that the writer will perform the bulk of the work with the client simply guiding how the final product should look. However, when a client has already written some version of a book or material that he then expects to be improved, things get a bit complicated for the ghostwriter. Fortunately, there are steps a writer can take to still “ghostwrite” the project.

First Steps

The first steps, and probably the most important, are to learn the voice of the client and to organize the material. If the client just cut and pasted a bunch of segments, then no worries. However, if the client has actually created and written a draft, then the ghostwriter will generally be expected to match that voice. The only way a ghostwriter will come close is by reading the draft first and understanding the client’s focus, tone and approach. While it won’t be a perfect match, the ghostwriter should be able to determine if he’s writing a simple easy reader or a highly technical manual.

In terms of organization, many clients’ drafts tend to be a personal brain dump onto paper or a computer. The ghostwriter is then obliged to make sense of it all, including moving pieces around to improve the flow. This is necessary before beginning any new writing as it helps the ghostwriter follow the structure later on instead of fighting against it. Good content organization also helps the material itself become a better read, which is what the client ultimately wants.

Clean Up and Research

The next step is to make the client’s draft grammatically correct. Additionally, if the work is non-fiction, this is the time to find all the necessary research and insert related citations. If sections need to be deleted, a ghostwriter should either use a strikeout approach with the font or cut and paste the removed parts to a comment insert instead. This allows quick repair should the client decide against the edit afterwards. It’s much harder to make an accurate repair comparing pages and pages of one revision to another.

Digging In

With all of the above out of the way, the ghostwriter can finally begin to write and improve the draft. With the client’s guidance and wishes in mind, the writer can develop the new book, adding and polishing material where needed. In this respect, non-fiction books are usually easier to improve from an original client draft. Fiction is harder because the ghostwriter has to rely far more on the client’s voice and direction, having far less to work with in terms of third-party research.

There will still be ongoing issues of voice, tone and phrasing as a book develops. Few ghostwriters can belt out a new book draft in the first try that leaves the client perfectly happy with the results. As a result, it’s important for the client to regularly review the work to provide sufficient input.

Ghostwriting does not follow a standard or set path of service. Sometimes, the ghostwriter has to be not just a writer but an editor, thinker, researcher and more. Ghostwriters work as hired hands for clients, and ultimately the customer dictates what he wants, paying for it in return. Understanding this fact quickly will help a writer adjust and deliver what a client wants with a higher level of overall quality.

Tom L is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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