Yet another post on ghostwriting…

For some reason, as a small child I learned about ghostwriters (from where?  No clue), and instinctively learned to keep away from ghostwritten series.  I could spot one from a mile away.  Other than The Boxcar Children, and a few “horsie” stories here and there, I never read ghostwritten books because even as a kid, I could tell the quality wasn’t there.  I didn’t want to waste my time on something the writer didn’t care about, heart and soul.  So I spent my days reading Avi or Eoin Colfer instead.  And okay, The Boxcar Children too, but I definitely liked the ones written by the original author the best.

To me, something’s missing when a ghostwriter creates something, excluding perhaps autobiographies (I’ve never really read any so I don’t know).  Writing something in six weeks isn’t crafting something.  I won’t deny that it’s skillful, and probably a very interesting job, but it feels…cheap.  Churning out these books with little substance to unknowing children.  I mean, the Babysitter’s Club?  Sweet Valley High?  Barf-worthy.  They are fluff.  There are hundreds of children’s books out there written by the original author that are easy to read but contain…that higher something.

In an effort to explain what I mean by that, when I write fiction, though I rarely do, I’m invested in what I’m writing.  I love the words and the ideas, and I really care about the entire process.  It also takes me ages to write anything.  I could not see myself writing over a hundred pages in a month–I can barely write ten in that time.  But then again, those ten are good, on an amateur writer’s level, that is.  They have passion, and care, and soul.  Ghostwritten books lack that.  The idea is not the writer’s own.  He or she may be interested in the story, or interested in the audience that story will be read by, but I doubt many ghostwriters actually care that much.

When I was a kid, I hungered for quality.  I’m sure most people in our class grew up with the Harry Potter books.  Do you remember how excruciatingly wonderful it was waiting for each one to come out?  I wouldn’t have been that excited about The Babysitter’s Club releasing a new book.  Part of being a kid is that wonderful waiting feeling–the entire week leading up to Christmas, the last few days of school before summer starts, etc.

This is not to say that I’m demeaning a ghostwriter’s job.  I understand entirely taking the job.  I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to it myself, although I think I’d find it wasn’t a good fit for me.  I’m more opposed to the business of it all.  Sure, making tons of money is awesome, but at the expense of children?  Come on.  Quality over quantity, always.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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3 Responses to Yet another post on ghostwriting…

  1. Brett Roberts says:

    I’m gonna ignore that little insult towards ‘Sweet Valley High,’ one of the greatest masterpieces of literature ever published.

    Aside from that, however, I pretty much agree with you. I don’t think it’s demeaning to be a ghost writer, I mean, whatever pays the bills, right? But I do imagine there would be much more emotional satisfaction in publishing something and saying “Yes, I wrote that myself!” I guess it all depends on the person. For some, a job is a job, “Sure, I’ll ghost write this, whatever.” I would find it very empty, personally, and I would do a lot of yearning to publish something with my name on it that is MINE.

  2. Samantha Niemeyer says:

    Regardless, I feel protective over the writing market, because with the internet, television, and film producing so much meaningless discourse (although there are obviously examples where these medias are producing content of literary value), I want the publishing industry to take it upon itself to preserve higher thought, and I want it to demonstrate that there is still greatness to be discovered in the human mind, and it’s clearly not doing that with many of these ghostwritten series. I won’t say that all of these series are valueless, because I also enjoyed some of them (Goosebumps are still awesome), and I know many struggling adult readers who have benefited from the simplicity of the writing in series like these.

    So, these books have value in that they can help create avid young readers, which is the goal of educators. We forget that not everyone is a reader, even if they know how to read, and that children must be taught to read for pleasure before. Everyone moves at their own pace in growing an appreciation for quality literature.

    I believe what is alarming about the ghostwriters is that most of us who write and study literature believe that the written word is somewhat sacred, more sacred than a paycheck, and we had been assuming that others shared this opinion.

  3. Melody says:

    Hey now. I agree with you on some of these points, but don’t forget the value of just getting kids interested in reading. I thoroughly enjoyed Babysitter’s Club books and Goosebumps–heck, I still love Goosebumps–as early as first grade, when I was certainly too young for Eoin Colfer. I wouldn’t discount these series as having absolutely no literary value just because they haven’t been painstakingly crafted over many years.

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