Ghost Writing versus Co-writing

Ghost writing seems dishonest to me, even when disclosure is clearly visible in a book’s acknowledgements. I admit this is a personal thing. Surely a good idea has the right to be shared, even if it takes someone else to do the telling, right? Right?

Then again, who should be given public acclaim for the story – the source of the idea, or the one who records it? What about in co-authoring situations?

Image by Digitalart

Author James Patterson has written 71 novels in 33 years, and according to Wikipedia, “as the world’s best-selling author, his novels account for one in seventeen of all hardcover novels sold in the United States; in recent years his novels have sold more copies than those of Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined.” He is said to have earned $84M last year, and released ten books. In one year! How can anyone be that prolific?

Patterson openly acknowledges that he works with “a stable of co-authors.” An Irish Times article last Saturday said, “Rather than writing his own books alone, Patterson links up with partner writers to deliver the manuscripts. He justifies it on the basis that he is more skilled at coming up with the intricacies of the plots his books demand than he is at crafting sentence after sentence. This method means that he can churn out book after book.”

There’s no dishonesty intended. In an earlier Times interview, Patterson said his co-authors usually write the first drafts and he works on the next ones. The book covers are blazoned with his name, but the co-authors’ names are also there, albeit in a much smaller font. No deception there. Co-authoring, or franchising an author’s brand, is a well-established, legitimate business model.

But I no longer enjoy Patterson novels the way I use to. At one time I devoured them. Now, after two or three mediocre reads, I don’t snatch up his books, and it’s taken me a while to realize why.  It has to do with what writers call “voice”. Voice is what distinguishes our writing. Our choice of words and the way we link them together is unique and personal.

As a reader we may prefer contemporary novels or more literary ones in a wide variety of genres, stories that are character-driven or plot-driven, but whatever we read, it’s usually the author’s voice that transports us from page one to the end. There was something about Patterson’s voice that made his stories appealing to me, but I’m not hearing it in his co-authored books, and that’s disappointing.

Ghost-writing and co-authoring may be legitimate ways of producing a book, but I still prefer the authenticity of an author’s own words.

What about you? Do you feel gypped if you discover a book wasn’t written by who you expected? Are you more affected by how a writer tells the story, or by how the plot is developed? 

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(I’ve posted the winner of the draw for Jody Hedlund’s book this morning, but it’s over here on Tuesday’s post.)

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The Lupin’s Ambiguous Beauty

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Drifting down hillsides and along the edge of highways, in wild meadows and domestic gardens, spikes of lupin spread rich gifts of purple, pink, white or yellow. These ones were beside our campsite near the summit of Allison Pass.

Like the cheery yellow buttercups I wrote of earlier, the lupin’s beauty is deceptive.

Although popular as ornamental garden plants, many varieties can also become invasive weeds.  Lupinus is a genus in the legume family, and fixes nitrogen from the air to fertilize the soil for nitrogen-loving crops like broccoli, cucumbers, spinach and squash. In the wild that excess of nitrogen can cause the demise of many native plants that would otherwise grow in the poorer soil. With their full range of essential amino acids, lupins in some locales are even being grown as an alternative to soy. A couple species are cultivated as forage, but at the same time, lupin seeds infected with a particular fungus, can poison livestock.

Ambiguous beauty. It reminds me of red herrings in mystery stories – seemingly innocuous objects or comments that are seen as helpful clues in a crime, but they mislead.

Despite their negative aspects, I can’t bring myself to dislike lupins. I still nurture a few plants in an unruly corner of one garden bed. When they bloom, their beauty brightens an otherwise dull spot near the edge of the woods. A flash of azure and indigo, sometimes a hint of white.  Surely a whim of God brought them. Surely it can’t hurt to let them stay.

Do you have flowering weeds or wildflowers that grow unbidden in your garden? Do you root them up, or let them be? Why?


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Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land. [Solomon 2:12]

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The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice,
and blossom as the rose. [Isaiah 35:1]

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 The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart. [1 Samuel 16:7b]

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Writing Advice Worth Remembering

Aspiring novelists are always looking for good advice to help guide them on the journey towards publication. I’ve read more books on the craft than I can count, but I’ve seldom read anything quite as succinct and astute as the words of author Richard L. Mabry in his recent interview with Jennifer AlLee.

When asked about the most important piece of advice he could give to a fledgling writer he replied,

“Every day, ask yourself, “Who am I writing this for?” If you’re doing it because you feel God’s leadership in that direction, that’s wonderful. If you’re doing it because you have a message, and the printed word is your pulpit, write on. If you’re doing it because you want to see your name in print, get a copy of the phone book.”

I chuckled and then read on to find just about everything else a writer needs to know neatly summarized in his next paragraph:

“Seriously, if you’re writing for the right reasons, then learn the craft. Attend conferences if you can afford them. Study good books on writing craft. Read the work of excellent writers, so you’ll recognize good writing when you see it. And then write, write, write. Have one book going all the time. Keep querying, so when one book garners nothing but rejections, you’ll have another option ready.”

He ended with a sentence that every Christian writer needs to remember:

“One final thought. God will change people with your writing, even if it only changes one person—because writing will change you.”

This is one savvy writer! He writes “medical suspense with heart” and his first novel, CODE BLUE, has just been released. Do I need to say how much I’m looking forward to reading it?

Book Giveaway – Last Chance

Just a reminder: tomorrow morning, Friday at 9:00 a.m. PST comments will close on the draw for Brandilyn Collins’ EYES OF ELISHA, a Christian murder mystery. Check out yesterday’s post for details and if you’ve never read one of Brandi’s books and would like to be in the draw, just add a comment. I’ll post the winner’s name at noon tomorrow.

EYES OF ELISHA: A Book Review and Giveaway

Author Jeanette Levellie and I made a deal. She had committed to reviewing EYES OF ELISHA for Brandilyn Collins but then discovered it wasn’t her “cup of Starbucks”. What to do? It was a dilemma solved by finding someone else who met the same criteria that had initially won her the book, and I ended up being that person:

  1. I had never read a Brandilyn Collins novel before;
  2. I agreed to review it on my blog; and
  3. I will pass it on to someone else who fits ( 1.) above.

If you’ve never read a Brandilyn Collins novel before and, after reading my review, think you’d like to read EYES OF ELISHA, please leave a comment with your name before 9:00 a.m. PST this Friday, February 12th. I’ll make the draw and post the winner’s name at noon Friday.

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I’ve explained before that I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction. I’m just not into the syrup and slop that characterized my first experiences. Granted, that was decades ago and more recently I’ve found a few Christian authors whose novels I do enjoy. Brandilyn Collins has just become one of them.

From the back cover of EYES OF ALISHA I read, “The murder was ugly. The killer was sure no one saw him. Someone did.“ This didn’t sound like a typical Christian novel to me… and it isn’t.

Like many of us, Chelsea Adams is a Christian living in a secular society where violence happens and visions handed down from God are viewed with skepticism. When she experiences a victim’s last moments in a terrifying vision, Chelsea is compelled to report the murder to the police, but they have neither a body nor evidence of a crime. Using her vision as a guide, she locates the body and an investigation begins that puts more lives in jeopardy, including hers.

Brandilyn Collins manages to combine high suspense with Christian values, treating both with convincing honesty. There is no simplistic moralizing or Bible-thumping evangelizing, just faith, everyday realism, and a nerve-jangling mystery.

I’d rate this a strong four out of five and recommend it to anyone who loves an exciting story. And if you haven’t read any of Brandilyn’s novels and think you’d like to read this one, just let me know. I’ve already provided the review so if your name is drawn you get to sit back and just enjoy the read.

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EYES OF ELISHA

Zondervan (2001)

ISBN 10: 0-310-27532-6

ISBN 13: 978-0-310-27532-9