Losing can be winning

Are you getting that weird feeling?
Are you getting that weird feeling?

Do you ever get a weird feeling somewhere around the pit of your stomach? I’m talking about something that ranges between an imperceptible tingle and a full-on lurch depending on what triggers it. I’ve heard it referred to as a feeling of dread, a nervous twinge, abject fear, a premonition, or plain old shitting oneself.

Looking in the rear view mirror in the middle of a totally absorbing conversation and seeing a cop car with its light flashing will always do it for me. There’s usually one clear expletive that will ensue from such a vision, and it ain’t oh, darn.

Last week I had my own intestine chilling experience when I posted a profound question in Twitter (I realise Twitter and profundity is a contradiction) that I’d contemplated for half an hour. As I hit enter I realised my question was sans question mark. How stupid, I thought. I’m supposed to be a writer. My next thought came quite logically (and practically), As if anyone would notice. But, yes, they did. And did I go through their tweets to check their grammar? I mean, would I?

Barking up the wrong tree
Barking up the wrong tree

The question of how long to spend editing can be a thorny one for a ghostwriter. Some published works have been known to take anything between one to ten years to complete, with some tomes enduring hundreds of editing sweeps during the writing process, and authors agonising for months over a single sentence.

Time is money to a ghostwriter, and because it’s the client’s money we’re talking about here, any unduly protracted work has to be avoided. Barking up the wrong tree is sometimes part of the writing process, particularly when research is involved. But knowing when to stop sniffing around that particular piece of flora and head off in a more appropriate direction comes only with experience.

Ghostwriters have to be prepared to lose words, and sometimes unexpectedly. For example, in the middle of a project a client approved 10,000 words I’d written for her. It was a part of the book that dealt with a truly terrible time in her life. Having never verbalised the experiences before, she had found the interview, however informal I tried to make it, a fairly rough ride.

The tears released her
The tears released her

A week later she called again to say thanks and to inform me that she’d read the material over and over and had wept buckets. Now, for the first time in her life, she felt she could forgive and move on. She added that the words had brought about a healing that she had never imagined possible, and rather than include them in the book where they would be likely to reopen old wounds for the people involved, she preferred to see them excised forever.

Sometimes to have a win-win, you have to aim for lose-lose.

And, talking of losing, how much is that traffic fine again?

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4 Responses

  1. I was actually wondering how you handled that? It must hard having to wade through someone’s emotional stuff, write about it for them, only to have them say leave it out?

    I’d be pinged right off…….but then patience is not one of my qualities!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Belinda. I don’t actually find it a matter of patience, more that it’s part of the process. The book experience can be quite cathartic on many levels than just getting it out there. And it’s great to include everything in the first draft and then have the option of taking stuff out. I think my patience may be tried by a client wishing to keep adding in. Luckily that doesn’t often happen.

  2. Thanks for answering Ghosty…it’s very interesting how it all works! Now I understand!

  3. Thanks for the comment, Belinda. I don’t actually find it a matter of patience, more that it’s part of the process. The book experience can be quite cathartic on many levels than just getting it out there. And it’s great to include everything in the first draft and then have the option of taking stuff out. I think my patience may be tried by a client wishing to keep adding in. Luckily that doesn’t often happen.

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