Ghostwriting

by Priya Ramachandran

ghostwrite

Not many people know this yet but I’m trying my hand at ghostwriting. It’s one of many creative projects I’m juggling at this time.

I’m NDA’d so I can’t give details of who, what, when, where etc about the book or the person I am writing it for.

So far it’s been quite fun. I’m lucky that the person I’m writing this for sees my quirkiness for what it is, and embraces it. I’ve been told I should maintain my voice throughout the book.

I do all my interviewing over phone, Skype and email. I produce a chapter, I send it off. I get detailed revision notes. I get paid every week, at least for the weeks I’ve managed to turn in an invoice on time. It’s a shortish project, no more than a couple of months, so there’s really no room to get bored. I’m enjoying all of this.

But really, why am I saying all this? And sounding so thankful? Because I’ve had the opposite experience at least a couple of times. One time, I had this amazing magazine publisher who wined and dined me in Starbucks (ok, caffeinated me) and Omni Shoreham in DC. It was a large event with a coupla hundred people, so of course, I came away with stars in my eyes. He had me write up a bunch of stories, and I happily produced them. If he’s buying me, and a hundred other people, lunch in a big hotel ballroom, he must be some big kahuna, right?

Wrong.

He completely took me for a ride. I wrote all the articles assigned to me, and invoiced him. Every week, it was the same story. The check was with Finance. The person in Legal was on vacation for the next two weeks. It was posted last week. Was I sure someone was not stealing my mail?

Then it escalated to phone threats. Bit rich, no? You owe me money, and when I ask, politely, to be paid, I’m threatened. I complained about the guy at some job post boards, but ultimately, it didn’t seem worth the trouble for a couple thousand dollars. Seven years later, the checks have not yet arrived. Somewhere along the way, I learned the value of letting go.

Another time I was doing some writing for a startup. Same story there, except I did get paid for the first month’s work. The runaround was similar after that. I have no idea how I managed to work for four months more without getting paid. They must’ve had some very convincing stories, or maybe I had a specially knit dunce cap on.

In this case, however, the startup got bought over by a larger company, which ultimately paid me. It was great to come home to a check a year and half after the fact, but still… I actually have some amount of sympathy for the startup. I can understand bootstrapping. I wish they’d been more honest about their financial situation, instead of giving me a runaround.

Sooo… I’ve been burnt enough to be thankful for normalcy 😀

Ghostwriting is not without its drawbacks. There’s a part of me that feels a little like a surrogate mother. It’s like having a baby that will ultimately be someone else’s child. Maybe I can admire it from afar and feel proud that I was there at its inception, but that will be the extent of my involvement with it for the rest of its bookly life.

The bigger issue I’m facing nowadays is… I don’t feel like my tech writing, my ghostwriting, blogposts etc count as writing. I think I have to be writing fiction or poetry to feel like I’m actually writing.

I recently started creating cartoons for fun. Strangely enough, when I’m sketching, I don’t feel the same sense of disconnect I feel from other forms of writing. (I bought a new Adonit Jot Pro stylus, and the Sketchbook free app downloaded on my iPhone… My egg-yolk-ghostwriter attempt is created using these tools 😀 Wonder why I never thought of them before. Constance Brown, if you’re reading this, big thanks to you for suggesting Sketchbook! Now sarcastic little Grandma Moses, who sits in my head and tells me bad things that make me snicker, will get kicked out into her own little soapbox!)

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