Our guest blogger this week, the inimitable Ben Jeapes, has had several fine novels professionally published under his own name, and has ghostwritten many more – sometimes a single book, sometimes a whole series – on behalf of various clients. www.benjeapes.com
Terry Pratchett once hinted that bookshops holding celebrity author signings shouldn’t pass comment if the author spends an inordinate amount of time reading their own book as: “It may be the first time they’ve seen it.”
Is anyone really surprised to learn that celebrities might not have penned their own novel?
In the process of becoming well-known they will have picked up anecdotes and experiences that work well in a memoir but look even better in a fictional setting, unconstrained by harsh fact and libel laws.
But there’s no reason a non-celebrity novelist shouldn’t also use a ghostwriter. You’re just as much an expert in your own field as they are in theirs.
Most novels don’t get written because an author has an idea, starts writing… and the novel just sort of peters out. Maybe there’s a ‘what-if?’ idea that they want to explore, or they’ve had experiences that they think could be turned into a great tale, or they’ve met characters that are just begging for their own story. And… then what?
Here’s an idea for a novel. A British agent is sent to bankrupt a rigged casino game that is funding KGB operations in Western Europe. It would be so easy to have the agent turn up at the casino, win the game, the end. Three or four chapters, tops, and no one would ever have heard of James Bond, because that is the gist of Casino Royale.
In fact, there are three parts to a novel: the plot, the characters, and (often forgotten, until too late) the writing, setting the tone and character of the novel, all of which combine in dynamically varying proportions to express the idea.
Ian Fleming knew his story needed narrative drive, each chapter feeding into the next, taking the reader’s attention and interest with it. He knew that a story should be about the most important thing that has happened to the protagonist up to that point in their life (When did Sherlock Holmes ever say, “Watson, this one is a doddle compared to that case last week”?) so the Bond at the end of the book had to be different to the one at the start, and the readers had to care. En route, he needed to suffer setbacks to keep the readers interested. Meanwhile, Fleming drew heavily on his experiences of gambling and intelligence work for verisimilitude. The point where his experiences blurred into fiction is unimportant. What matters is that he made it feel real.
So, if you have the idea, but feel daunted by the rest – or you’ve given the rest a good try, but it just… doesn’t – then it’s quite reasonable that you might want someone who can help you sort it out and get it down on paper (to use an old-fashioned phrase, which still sounds better than ‘convert it into bytes’). Go back to that idea at the back of a drawer, dust it off, have a look… and get in touch to see how a ghostwriter can make it work.
- Ben Jeapes is the author of several ghostwritten series, which annoyingly make more than the several novels professionally published under his own name. www.benjeapes.com