for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Guest Post: How Ghostwriting is Hurting the Book World

Olivia J has agreed to share her concerns about ghostwriting here, and you can check out my defense of ghostwriting on her site. What a fun collaboration ❤ Read the posts, then join the convo 🙂

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say,” -Anais Nin
 
The picture that started it all:
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This launched me and Amy L Sauder into a debate on ghostwriters, so here we are. 

Ghostwriting, or, more generally, ghosting, is not a new concept in the art world. Even Mozart himself was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthier, more famous men of his time. This process involves Person A creating a work, or even doing a varying amount of collaborating on a work with Person B, but then Person B getting credit. Sometimes this includes Person A’s name in smaller print on the front of the book, or not being included at all. Regardless, ghostwriters are paid for their work.

However, I have some criticisms, as per usual.

(For clarity, I’m going to be talking about ghostwriting concerning books.)

1. Exploitation of the Ghostwriter

Sure, ghostwriters consent to what they are doing. However, it still takes an amount of . . . castration to get very little or no credit on something you worked on. It strips away the integrity of the author. By no means am I talking about truly collaborative works, where two authors write a book together because that’s an entirely different process than ghostwriting. 

How ghostwriting exploits the author is that it takes away the beautiful creative control of the author: it strips the author of what they do best. By having a shadow, by having someone to always answer to, this confines the author. It confines the author even further because these authors sign contracts to write so many books for someone, or to have certain requirements when they write. There’s nothing more hellish that I can think of than putting a cap on the creativity of writing, by controlling and stifling an author. 

Don’t get me wrong, ghostwriting can be a way to launch the author into the publishing sphere, but rarely do I believe that that’s all an author should aspire to be. 

2. All About The Money

The problem is that by slapping a popular name on the cover, it appeals to the pervasive consumerism and fame obsession in this society. By having ghostwriters, it allows famous people to sell books, regardless of whether they are telling good stories. It only adds to the tasteless, bland array of fiction. James Patterson has so many books out because people pick the book up with his name on it and expect the same thing. Name recognition or fame should not sell books, even though publishing has become a toxic industry. 

FullSizeRender (10)The reason that authors like Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, etc. use ghostwriters is because of the high demand for their books. Or, rather, the types of stories they tell. This only indicates that these books sell because they have their names on them, not because of the title, cover art, or actual content inside, which is absolutely despicable. The promotion of ghostwriters only promotes writing as a business, not an art form. There should be a happy medium between the business of bookselling and writing as an art, but ghostwriters are not the way to achieve that goal. In fact, ghostwriters only push the flow further into the toxic business sphere. 

3. Cheapening of the Craft

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Sure, everyone can write a book, but maybe not well. This is not to discourage anyone from writing a book if they so please. But what ghostwriting does is that it cuts out a significant chunk of the struggle, the art of writing. 

People like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Zoe Sugg, and other celebrities don’t write a significant chunk of their books; however, they can still claim to be an author of a book. It takes all of the blood, sweat, and tears out of writing. Every ounce of pain, of late nights you’ve spent writing, every blank page, every scrapped draft all becomes for naught because someone who only pitched some ideas for a book is now credited as an author. 

Another problem is that celebrity (fiction) books combine two types of people: writers and non-writers, and this can create disastrous results. Sometimes, what the celebrity/non-writer wants to create or wants to happen isn’t exactly good concerning the objective parts of fiction. This leads to books on the shelves that aren’t the best they can be. Art should always be about making the best the individual can get, always improving. But by allowing half-assed work on the shelves just for money only cheapens writing itself. 

By allowing ghostwriting to populate the scene, it almost degrades the hard work and art that others create, just because someone had enough money.

~

Granted, there are exceptions. Autobiographies are one, because biographies are more of a historical account than a creative work. Biographies, and other nonfiction, don’t conform to the same genre conventions that art or novels do, which is where the problems arise with ghostwriters and books. 

Maybe I would consider ghostwriting, just for the money. But never, under any circumstances, would I make that my career or the only creative work I was writing.

Tread lightly, fellow authors,

~The WordShaker


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Olivia J, The WordShaker is just that: a word shaker. She is a writer, artist, creative extraordinaire, and skilled in the ways of procrastination and being too blunt. She’s going to be a loving wife, mother, published author, speaker, and professional adventurer someday – and whatever else God has in store for her. Olivia has had three short stories published in her high school’s writing journal, and received merit awards for her art in numerous art shows, started and fosters her own creative writing club at her high school, and plans to go to the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Social Media Links:

Instagram: @olivia.j.the.wordshaker

How awesome is this Wordshaker!? 🙂 What do you think about ghostwriting? Does it add or detract to the literary world? Check out my Defense of Ghostwriting on her site (don’t forget to follow her while you’re at it!), then join the convo in the comments below.

for the Writers

13 tools for editing your book

As I began editing my story, I asked a bunch of writers – either that I personally know or through Facebook writers groups – what tools they use when editing their book.

I was shocked that most didn’t have a plan or a tool…they just wing it!

I’m sure most of us would like a plan of attack. And so I give you:

Tools to edit your book

Best part: Most of these are free!

Disclaimer: I have not used most of these. This is what either other authors have recommended to me or I have found through extensive googling.  But they look great! Take what you can use and make your plan of attack. Less willy nilly…but don’t ditch the willy nilly….We all need that too 😉

 

1) Microsoft Word shortcuts – ❤ My favvie!

This writer was thoughtful enough to list out each step of her editing process and all the shortcuts or steps she takes in Word to find and fix these common errors. This is the most practical item I’ve found in my search. Use it!

2) 25 editing tips – checklist

Woohoo, I love checklists. I know where to start, what to do, and when I’m finished 🙂

3 & 4) Developmental edits – list of questions here or here

These are called checklists, but more like a list of questions to ask as you edit. Includes questions on plot, character, dialogue, style, etc. Very thorough, so if you want to catch every nuance, this is the list for you. I think I’d read my manuscript 50 times to catch all these questions haha 🙂

5) Proofreading checklist – PDF

I list editing software below, but you want to check things yourself too. For readability, grammar, punctuation, spelling – here’s that checklist.

6) Natural Reader – text to speech

Does not require download, just copy and paste your words into the website to hear your story read to you – a great way to catch errors you might accidentally gloss over if you read it silently. It’s bold claim is that it reads it in a “natural” voice, hence Natural Reader.

Also available as a free download to read from PDFs, Word, and offline.

Paid version with more features also available.

7) Readable – readability grades

Free, with premium paid version also available. Copy and paste text in, then see various grade levels on the right. Also notes adverbs, passive voice, cliches, and lengthy sentences and words.

8) Hemingway app – readability and editing

Copy and paste into the website to see grade level for readability, adverbs, passive voice, and hard to read passages. Best part: all these are color-coded 🙂 Note: in my brief test-run, spelling errors got the squiggly like Word, but punctuation errors weren’t mentioned.

9) Text Analyzer – see which words you over-use

Do you constantly say everything is “glorious” in your novel? I mean, it’s a glorious word, but you don’t want to over-use it. Copy and paste your text into this website to see which words and phrases are most common in your story. Obviously “the” and “and” and major character names will be prominent, but what else do you say that may be too much?

10) Ginger – editing software & text to speech

Just download it to your device. It’ll check spelling, grammar, and more. As far as I can tell, it’s free.

11) Grammarly – editing software

This is more popular than Ginger, at least in my circle. Whether that means it’s better or not, I can’t say. This is also a free software download.

 



*The below cost money but were recommended to me by other writers. You might want to check them out 🙂 *

12) ProWriting Aid – editing software

Free version for up to 500 words at a time. Annual cost of $40-45 if you want to edit more than that at a time.

13) EDITS System – lecture

Costs $22. Lets you know what you need to edit where.


Have any recommendations of your own? Comment below with what tools, tips, or tricks help you tackle book editing 🙂

 

for the Writers, Musings of a Creative

I murdered for you & I’m not okay

in my book. I should probably clarify that.

But isn’t that a beautiful blogpost title? 😉

I finished the first draft of my quirky meta murder mystery!

Honestly, it happened so fast. I thought I’d be agonizing over the last couple scenes for days. And I just whipped them out and suddenly that was the last sentence and I felt like there should be so much more time in it, but nope, that was definitely my last sentence of the story.

Murder doesn’t take as long as you’d expect.

So I was on a celebratory high. For about 2 hours.

Then came the pits. It wasn’t the murder part. I can kill off characters okay, with maybe a teardrop if I’m super attached. It was the writing part though. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I could ever make my writing what I wanted it to be.

I was worried I would be the writer that wrote but never got good enough to publish.

Or worse, I published and everyone would hate it and I’d regret having that in my publication history.

Or worse, I published and think it’s awesome and people are too nice to tell me that I just added to the public slushpile.

I’m discouraged. Kinda terrified really.

I’m thinking of edits and beta readers and ways to put my story out there in the world for all you lovelies, and it’s like THE REAL DEAL.

So if you could send some encouragement my way, I would be so appreciative.

Now back to editing so you all can enjoy the fruits of murder 😉

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: how my reading affects my writing

Last week I shared my top 10 books and their commonalities. Now you get to see the top 3 elements that are in more than half of my favorite books.

*Props to Maggie Schoepke guessing there’s a supernatural element in my fav books.
I don’t specify it that way here, but that’s definitely related to these.*

Are you ready? 🙂

The halfway point: Huge cast of characters forced together towards a common goal

  • 6 instances in 5 books

A slew of characters stories intersecting towards one common goal. Often by force, involuntarily, or unwittingly. Often that means multiple protagonists, multiple storylines (see above), etc. If you like stories that span many different characters and their own stories being intertwined, half of my reading list is for you 🙂

 

Very prevalent: Two different worlds

  • 8 instances in 6 books

This element ties in well with the above one, so it’s no surprise that it pops up again and again. Two different worlds doesn’t necessarily mean fantasy (although there is that in my list.) I have so many different genres in my list of favorites, but this theme came into play in different ways: fantastical world, parallel universe of the real world, psychological world versus real world, dual timelines, two perspectives of the same story, etc. If you want to see things from more than one lens, you might like some of my favorite books 🙂

 

The most common element {brace yourself…}: Blurred line between what is real & what is not

  • 11 instances in 7 books

If you choose to read one of the books from my list, you will statistically speaking likely see this element in play in some way 🙂

 

Though I have so many different genres represented in my favorites, there is a blurred line between real-world and not-real-world in many of these. Sometimes it’s a magical universe or an alternate reality. Sometimes the reader is unsure if it’s all in the character’s head: dream, imagination, or madness. Sometimes the story leaves the reader questioning if something magical is going on or if there’s a logical explanation that’s hidden. Sometimes there’s 2 different realities and no idea as to which one is real. Many of my favorite stories leave the reader unsure – sometimes until the end of the story, and sometimes the question is never even answered. If you want to question reality, my favorite books list might be for you 🙂

 

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This reminds me:

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Did any of the above sound familiar?

Three of my favorite TV shows share the above elements to some degree:

  • LOST
  • Heroes
  • Vampire Diaries

 

 So I think I’m onto something here 🙂 

 

Now that I have my list of all the things that I really love in books (and also apparently TV shows) and how that may affect my writing style…

What I tend to write – #MyWriteDNA if you will:

I write quirks, obsession, madness, misfits, strangers, and unbelonging. I write bigger than life stories….where small nuances change everything. I write community. I write to connect: characters to each other, disparaging ideas, and narrator to reader. I write awe and surprise and emotion and detachment. I write stories of questioning realities. I write lies and truth. I write the horror between the lines. I write unease and tension. I walk the line between reality and enchantment. Magical realism. Hope, crushed and fulfilled.

 

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: My top 10 books

Ahh, the dreaded question: “What’s your favorite book?”

Rachel Giesel was kind enough to expand it to “What’s your top 5 favorite books?”

I’m taking part in a free online course to figure out my writerly DNA – analyzing who I am, what I read, and what I write to come up with who I am as a writer. #MyWriteDNA if you will. And because I have a website for such a time as this, I thought I’d share with you my favorite books and their themes that contribute to my writing style.

Top 5 favorite books:

  1. The Map of Time (sci-fi series by Felix J Palma)
  2. Arena (speculative fiction by Karen Hancock)
  3. Night Garden (magical realism by Lisa Van Allen)
  4. Then and Always (romantic suspense by Dani Atkins)
  5. Inkheart Trilogy (fantasy YA series by Cornelia Funke)

Because I had a top 10 and somewhat-arbitrarily decided on a top 5 from that list, I give you….

The runners-up:

  1. The 13th Tale (gothic suspense by Diane Setterfield)
  2. Sinner (spiritual thriller by Ted Dekker)
  3. Godmother: the Secret Cinderella Story (modern fairytale retelling by Carolyn Turgeon)
  4. The Shadow Children series (dystopian YA series by Margaret Peterson Haddix)
  5. The Book of Lost Things (fantasy quest by John Connolly)

 

After I picked my favorite books, I analyzed them. I wrote down any elements of the story that immediately popped to mind, be it themes, style, characterization, plot points, etc. These are elements so prevalent that I remembered them off the top of my head, so there may be even more commonalities I’ve forgotten 🙂

 (Note in regard to spoilers: To avoid blatant spoilers, this section will not call out specifically which books have which elements. Of course if you read this section, you will know that any of the above books have some of these elements, but you won’t know which ones. None of these elements are along the lines of “The main character dies at the end” or something hugely spoiler-y. If a main character dies at the end of one of these books, well, I won’t be the one to tell you, muahaha.)

 

The small stuff:

Okay, so this isn’t very small. That more than one of my favoritest of favorite books has these elements probably makes it noteworthy, but it’s still less noteable than what you’ll see in my next blogpost. Anyway, here’s a snapshot of some commonalities:

  • 1 book has an investigative reporter. This is just one book, but that’s a key part of my work-in-progress, so I thought I’d include it in this list 🙂
  • 2 books involve a quest
  • 2 books have the theme of the power of words or story
  • 2 books have a small political change that greatly alters everything
  • 2 books are allegorical, but not preachy
  • 3 books have a noteable narrator – unreliable and/or chats directly with the reader
  • 3 books have romance as a prevalent sideplot – not the main deal, but still a deal
  • 4 books break the 4th wall (haha, 4 & 4)
  • 5 books are of epic proportions, involving an entire world
  • 5 books have changing alliances and deal with the question of who to trust

 

So there’s a snapshot of what I like in my reading and my writing. My next blogpost shows the top 3 elements that were in over half of the books on my favorites list, and then I also include what that actually looks like in my writing.

Any guesses as to the top 3 common elements? First to guess correctly in the comments gets major kudos from me and a shout-out in next week’s post 🙂

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for the Writers, Musings of a Creative, Showcasing other Creatives

The story of how I became a storyteller

Today I am stoked to welcome my creative friend Maggie to the blog. Enjoy her post and share your own storyteller journey with us in the comments 🙂 


 

mags2The story of how I became a storyteller goes all the way back to when I was in first grade. Life was easy back then. Days were filled with coloring book pages and thinking blocks, both which helped light way to my passion for creativity. It didn’t take much to amuse me in those younger years. I would sit in front of the doorway of our house, battling harsh sunlight and racking my brain for the perfect solution to an imperfect array of building blocks. It was there where I constructed the first of many masterpieces. And it was there where I used to proudly gather pastors and patrons under the safety of makeshift sanctuaries. When I was not playing church, I could be found scribbling away my free time. Occasionally, if the mood and temperature was just right, drawings of helpless horses and terrifying wolves would come to life.

These are my earliest memories of visual narration. While there inevitably must have been more instances in-between, it was not until my fourth grade year that I really reunited with my roots as a storyteller. In a new town with some new friends, I strung together countless episodes of a recess superhero saga. I was featured as “Ice Princess,” a kick-butt heroine who welded magnificent powers similar to that of Disney’s Snow Queen.

mags1Later that year when my days were not as filled with Frozone imitations, I found myself able to pursue other activities such as jump rope and church picnics. This is how, in short, I met one of my long-term running best friends. We instantly bonded over Littlest Pet Shop, and together configured names for hamsters and lizards alike. It was not long before we decided to take this obsession with small animals to a whole new level. Together, we crafted a story inspired by an episode of Pet Stars, one of the most interesting and entertaining shows at the time. Perhaps even more unique though, was the story we produced as a result of the series. It centered around a dog who could do math and used his abilities to tutor those in need. One of his primary pupils was his owner, the ever-troubled and renowned actor, Josh Hutcherson.

Fast forward a year or so. I had dropped stories of ridiculously cute celebrities and division-doing dogs. I exchanged them for two starkly different twin sisters and a set of handsome, case-cracking brothers. Crime-fighting protagonists and justice-serving plots came easy to me. All-too-easy, if you ask me. Considering my obsession with Franklin W. Dixon at the time, it was really no wonder. His writing was fresh and cool, and I was young and naive and didn’t care much if my stories were just like his.

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With my writing skills in check, I took the liberty to adopt yet another form of storytelling. In the simplest sense, this medium was play acting. My co-writer and I found ourselves continuously drawn to the idea of hashing out different scenarios in real-life. It was through these exercises that we were able to establish most of the credibility for our story as a whole. It felt risky and unnatural to embody the live’s of other characters. However, I found peace in knowing this was exactly the sort of thing the March sisters did in Little Women.

After a while the theatricals lost their touch as did the stories that formed them. Eventually, I let myself venture onto “greener pastures” (if you could call them that). It was here where I allowed myself to experiment with other fables; but they only managed to hold my attention for a small time. I struggled with developing full-on plots and fleshed-out storylines. For this reason I once again turned to a new medium. The philosophy I soon adopted read as follows, “If I couldn’t tell a story with words, I would do so using pictures.” As a result, photography became my new and improved mode of storytelling. Through the medium, I discovered editing as a niche of mine and used that skill to create fantastical images of my little sister performing mundane tasks.

I came out of the phase with a few mentionable awards and direction for my life study, but this was not enough to dampen my desire for the mastery of new things. In the spring of 2014, I put my thoughts online for the first time. Thanks to some pretty effective feedback, I have been an active part of the blogosphere ever since. Over the years, blogging has taught me an enormous amount, but I would argue that storytelling as a whole has taught me even more. If it wasn’t for long afternoons spent with friends on the playground, I would have never learned the value of imagination. If it wasn’t for mishaps in writing, I would have never discovered my love of photography. It was through these experiences that I realized the importance of not limiting yourself to one specialty. With constant experimentation and the desire to learn, one can readily produce items of worth. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t stop trying. Live vigorously. Accept failures. And maybe just, maybe you’ll create something amazing along the way.

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mags

Maggie Schoepke is a Graphic Design Major and bonafide Japan-lover. She spends her time outside, preferably under the shade of a weeping willow and the appeal of a melancholy tale. When not having a good cry, Maggie enjoys pursuing art, writing, and above all, her Divine Creator. When asked what annoys her the most, she will probably reply with the tacky saying, “There are never enough hours in the day, but always too many days before Saturday.”

 

You can find more of Maggie’s musings at https://teatimewithsenpai.wordpress.com/ 

for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Lessons from a 6-Year-Old Blogger

That’s right, there’s a 6-year-old in the blogosphere. Check out ghostinthecloset.wordpress.com for the kid’s writing. I read every single post. And there’s alot you can learn from a 6-year-old.

  1. It’s okay to have an incentive…this kid is in it for a Kindle.
  2. Keep it simple, short and snappy…it doesn’t have to be long and eloquent to keep someone’s attention.
  3. You can write about your life…Don’t know what to blog about? What’d ya do today? What’d ya like? What got ya thinkin? What ya up to? Seriously, just blog.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff…grammar/spelling errors? No biggie, just write!
  5. It takes others…The kid isn’t all on his lonesome. His mom helps, she blogs herself, she encourages, she is of course offering the incentive Kindle. He’s not doing this alone. We can’t either.

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