I’ve been contacted by a few people recently about ghostwriting their novels. I’d like to take this opportunity to give a loud and collective, “No, thank you,” to anyone who is looking to have this type of work done, and if you read on, you’ll learn why.
It has been assumed that I won’t ghostwrite fiction for reasons rooted in envy (maybe I won’t be able to stomach seeing someone else get the credit for my work). Much to the contrary, the true reason is ethics. When I pick up a work of non-fiction, I assume that the author’s profession is that which is stated in the text and on the cover. When I pick up a novel, I believe that I am reading the work of a writer — someone whose cherished mode of communication is the written word, and whose knack for storytelling has been honed with exercise, sacrifice, and dedication to the art. Just as I hope that my surgeon is not a Frank Abagnale, Jr. wanna-be, I’d like to believe that fiction writers are just what they claim to be.
You’ll notice that even in mass media, professionals who put out non-fiction works are not called writers as much as they’re called authors. There is a difference. Authors author books. Writers write books. Both deserve proper recognition; however, this proves that the public does carry certain assumptions, one of them being that novelists are writers.
Even without the phone introduction or the email subject line, these people (those requesting that fiction be written for them) are easy to spot. They call the prospective works “fictional novels,” want the work done in a month, and/or cannot resist communicating in texting shorthand. These people don’t love language. They have no idea how to tell a story. They simply want a part of that dream in the sky that begs people to believe that anyone can be J.K. Rowling for $500 (Don’t even get me started with that).
I find fiction difficult, if not painful, to write; however, I know that if I keep working on it, I’ll get better. I think this is true of every writer, no matter at which mile marker they’re staring. I would beg those who want a novel written to at least attempt to learn the craft — to direct the passion they feel for the story they’ve devised toward learning to tell that story. A common declaration in many writers’ biographies involves a tough time in school with language, or a teacher who assumed they would never build a cohesive sentence. Toil accomplishes far more than talent ever will in this realm. I beg you, If you have a story to tell, take your paces, run your laps, do your push-ups…and tell it in your own words. Even if it takes a lifetime, it will be yours.
I think ads like this post’s heading are just as unethical as requests for academic writing (I admire Kana’s covert solution to her academic assignment). Of course, not everyone feels this way. That’s what makes us unique and keeps us thinking and evolving. If you have an opinion on this matter, I’d love to hear it. I feel compelled to understand why anyone would want another person to write fiction for them (barring greed).
I cannot imagine letting someone else write my novels for me. Not even if that someone were you, and I really like you and love the way you write! No, my stories are for me to tell. I want help with getting the final polish on a work, but not with the initial drafts, not even when the process of first creation is painful, exhausting, and frightening. I am glad to hear you draw the line at ghostwriting entire novels. I’d never considered ghostwriting from an ethical perspective, and I appreciate that you took the time to outline your thoughts here.
You can’t imagine it because you are the real thing; doing it for the right reasons. When you have time, respond here with a link to your work, please. Thanks!
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I don’t think I could bare the idea of anybody else writing my stories; then they wouldn’t be mine!
I’m the selfish kid who wants her stories to be hers until they’re ready to be released to the world and I certainly wouldn’t want to give up the experience of writing them! Where’s the fun in that?!
You’re not selfish — you’re the real thing. I will be spending some time over at your blog. Thanks for popping in.
I won’t ghostwrite novels, but I will help with the novel. I will essentially do editing, or help finish a concept that they can’t quite communicate clearly, but I wont write the whole thing cover to cover; if that means I get ghostwriting credit I’ll take it.
The ones who toss a basic concept out and say they want it written are the ones who give novelists, authors and writers bad names. Those are the ones who hired me in eighth grade do their science reports. Those are the people who don’t have an original idea in their head and just want to profit by someonelse’s ideas.
I think you’re right on. I should have mentioned that I have no problem with editing, reworking, etc. I agree completely.
Hello! Apologies that I’m responding years after your original post, but I found this after a Google search for “Ethics Ghostwriting Fiction.” Four years later, this practice is getting worse, not better. A freelance writer, I get roughly three to five requests A WEEK for people who want me to either ghostwrite their novels/screenplays or ghostwrite their academic papers. Because I also work as an editor, I used to counter-offer them my substantive editing (developmental) services. None of the requestors showed any interest in developmental editing, rather most wanted me to take a few bullet points and craft 60,000 word novels or theses! One woman, using her real name, real name of her professor and university, emailed me her academic assignment! Now, I’m so appalled by these requests, that I flag them on the marketing sites they’ve used to contact me.
So sorry for the delay, but just came upon this comment. This is a sad, sad state of affairs. Education and work ethic are becoming endangered species!