I've learned over the past few months that being a ghost writer can be something of a perilous existence. Especially when it involves relying on another "editor" to interpret research and give guidance on how the book should be written.
In my latest taste of the many pitfalls of being the ghost in a writing relationship, I worked for a company where the owner essentially conducted interviews with me listening in and then interpreted how the book writ large should be written and how each chapter should be written. He is something of a subject expert in the topics we wrote about and when the content requirements are fairly straight forward, the process and relationship works well. He speaks with authors and does interviews and colates that information and relates it to me. I then write an outline and chapter and so on.
However, when complexity is added to the equation, the relationship falls apart. Complexity can also come in a number of forms such as the topic may be so far on the cutting edge that it is difficult for the author to adequately describe it as well as his vision for how it should be written making it difficult for this editor to adequately translate what needs to be done. Or the author simply lacks an adequate vision for the specifics of how the book should be written because he or she is not a writer and lacks that experience and expertise. Or the person playing the editor role fails to adequately understand what the author wants or simply does not listen well.
In my latest experience, it was something of the perfect storm of all of the above and despite my numerous attempts to express my reservations and concerns to the editor a year ago, he ignored me. He also failed to adequately understand what the author wanted. On top of that, in certain areas of the book the author did not have a fully realized vision for what should be written and in others he did not adequately explain what he wanted. Therefore, there was a massive disconnect between me--the writer--and the author. It was massively frustrating for me because the editor simply did not listen to me when I was saying we needed to take some time to make sure we were getting the information we needed in our research materials and interviews.
This created two significant issues. The first is that we did a number of interviews and focused on questions that did not reflect the guidance we had been given by the author. I mentioned this a number of times and was told not to worry about it. It also meant that the guidance I received from the editor did not reflect what the author wanted. I tried to have us do a detailed outline to give to the author as a way for that person to check with where we were headed, but again I was ignored.
Since my recommendations were not being taken, I figured that I was bringing up issues that had already been resolved during conversations with the author I was not part of. This turned out not to be the case and highlights another problem with the process.
In the end, I received poor guidance, but wrote to that guidance with the expected result of nobody being happy. I did, however, manage to ferret out what the author wanted for a few very key chapters; in one case even when the editor and another editor could not; by writing with the author's voice.
Unfortunately, I am being blamed for the issues with the book by the editor, which I liken to being thrown under the bus. He has said he still wants to work with me, but there are huge communication issues, there hasn't been any other work sent my way (though they have struggled due to the economy), and I am done.
The lessons I have learned are multiple--try not to work with a third person acting as a translator between me and the author, but if you do insist on being heard; make sure there is a common and consistent vision of what should be written and how it should be written; make sure communication occurs and flows easily; and if I am uneasy with how things are going, be the squeeky wheel, but in a polite and professional way.
The part that has upset me the most, though, is that I can't help but feel that I was fired for the above issues, which I didn't deserve.
Oh well, one more lesson for the writer's life.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.