A comment one often hears about a famous person’s biography, especially if they are a celebrity not particularly famous for academic prowess, is that the book was ‘really’ written by either a journalist or specialist ghostwriter under cloak of anonymity. The default belief of how ghosting works is that the celeb records his or her story into some recording equipment, hands it over to the journo, then returns to do their singing/football/baking a cake on TV or whatever, and a few months later a polished biog surfaces. Maybe some are indeed penned in this way, but by no means all,
Reality is infinitely complex. Yet business or psychology writers (and social scientists generally) want to create models of that reality. They dream of creating something perfect. If I’m working with them, I have to tell them that this is impossible. A good model aims to capture a big chunk of that reality, do so accurately, and be relatively simple: three desiderata, that pull model-builders in three different directions. The tension between the three (simplicity, precision and breadth) is known as Thorngates’s Impostulate, after a Canadian social psychologist, Warren Thorngate, who first came up with the idea in the 1970s. I
A search on the internet for ghostwriters doesn’t always yield the most flattering results. Because while many people recognise the worth in hiring a ghost to write what they aren’t able to, owing to time constraints or lack of expertise, others demonstrate suspicion. Some allude to a client’s ‘cheating’ in hiring somebody else to write on their behalf, some doubt ghosts’ skill set, in being able to echo their client’s voice or call themselves any kind of writer at all, while others question whether ghostwriters complete the work themselves, electing instead to outsource work to less well-established writers on a
After weeks of anxious anticipation, the email has finally arrived. In a matter of seconds you will find out whether your manuscript has been accepted by an agent or a publisher…or not. On first glance, your heart skips a beat. The email is longer than a one-liner (“not for us, but thanks anyway”) which is a good start. You immediately scroll down to the end, knowing this is where your destiny lies – the result of months or even years of hard work. The email ends kindly, but for you, devastatingly. Your manuscript is good, but just not good enough.
Working with a ghostwriter is a process that you, the author and the ghost you have chosen to work with set out on together. It will go on for some time and will have a distinct beginning, middle and end and it will be both enlightening and, hopefully, enjoyable. But that’s not all that ghostwriting has in common with therapy. Let me explain. The Beginning This is where you get to know one another and build up trust. You, as author, tell the ghost what you want and the ghost will tell you what’s involved in reaching that point, how