Adam Reger | Pittsburgh Writer, Editor, and Teacher

Pittsburgh writer, editor, ghostwriter, and teacher.

Month: February, 2012

A bold reimagining of ghostwriting

Two of the more fun freelance writing projects I’ve done have been ghostwriting gigs. One was a novel and one was a children’s book, and in both cases I really enjoyed talking to the author, figuring out what he/she wanted, and then sitting down and delivering the product.

Periodically, I’ll seek out more ghostwriting work by looking around Craig’s List, sometimes advertising my services there, or doing a search for “ghostwriter” on Indeed.com, a job-listing aggregator that has saved me time before. The stuff you find in these places is, however, not often worth finding. At least on Indeed, a lot of it comes by way of elance and oDesk, marketplaces where writers (and others offering services) bid on the jobs posted. Finding an appealing job listed there is always an exercise in deflation, because the person offering the job, either from an understanding of how the marketplace works or from simple cheapness, doesn’t offer much money; the situation is worsened by the bidders, who undercut one another and drive the price down. I suppose it’s classic economics, but it’s always a tough thing to see. Invariably I end up thinking about how many books I could read in the time it would take me to write someone’s non-fiction book and be paid $300 for my trouble.

This is all background to introduce an ad I stumbled upon today, one that truly stood out from the crowd. While the job-poster gets points for forthrightness, surveying what I know about ghostwriting I must say that this is a new one on me:

“I want to buy your completed manuscript/novel” reads the headline; “You will sign over the publishing rights and will not be credited in the book. Essentially, you will become a ghostwriter for it. Once a relationship is established this could lead to more work with much higher pay.”

Yikes. I guess that constitutes a ghostwriting relationship. Except for the part where I wrote this novel for myself, to hopefully publish under my own name. You know, as part of my hopes and dreams. But I guess I could sell it to you and have you publish it under your or someone else’s name . . . I mean, that would at least spare me the hassle of wrangling with publishers and agents, right? Really, what’s the harm—and I’m sure it’s a decent wage, right? . . . The average bid is how much? $1,527? (as of publication time)

To be honest, I was intrigued by this proposal because I thought of the first two novels I wrote. Neither one has seen the light of day; neither friend nor literary agent has seen these bad boys. I’m not proud enough to send them out into the world under my own name. Why not unload them on this guy?

Because he/she wants the first three chapters for consideration, but “. . . be prepared to send over the entire MS on short notice if you make it to the next round.” Also, he ends the post with “Good luck!” So now it’s a contest? Where the prize is peanuts to take my novel and publish it under your own name?

The crazy thing is, I’m still not at all sure I won’t be doing this. If you opt to do it, fellow writers, good luck!

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New Fiction, Newish Book Review 2: On the Move

[Trivia question: What “classic” 80s movie had a sequel featuring the subtitle used in the title to this post? Answer at the end of the post. Hint, courtesy of the band Ween: “_________ was filmed at Woolworth’s / Boyz II Men still keeping up the beat.”]

I have a short story up at the Fourth River, a great literary magazine out of Chatham University that is now venturing into online territory. I’m very pleased to be part of that initial push, and to be published alongside Tina May Hall and Geeta Kothari. My story, “Woman in the Woods,” was written before I started graduate school and I worked on it most of the time that I was in grad school and a little beyond that, too. I submitted it for a (truly great and useful) exercise in Chuck Kinder’s fiction workshop wherein everyone submits a “crap story” at the outset of the class. No one is too put out to hear that their crap story is crap, and everyone’s defenses are lowered that much for the beginning of real workshopping. At the same time, the sometimes radical suggestions your classmates made for repairing the crap story were often brilliant, and of course you were desperate and detached enough to give them a try. At the end of the course you submitted a revision of the crap story; for me, at least, that draft was markedly improved.

“Woman in the Woods” is about the actor Bruce Campbell on the set of The Evil Dead, the classic 1981 horror film that launched the career of Campbell and of Sam Raimi, the director, Campbell’s childhood friend. Some particulars of the film’s plot are changed, and if you read the story you’ll see that it’s obviously fictional. But I tried to stay true to the sense of Campbell that I got from reading his autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. In particular, there is one passage that inspired the story: during the filming of Evil Dead, staying in a remote cabin in Tennessee, Campbell got a telephone call from his father in the middle of the night, asking if he (Bruce) had seen his mother. It was the first realization Campbell had that his parents were splitting up. The book was otherwise such a good-natured schtick-fest, and Campbell on the page was so jokey and upbeat, that coming across that passage felt like a weird, lucid view through the cracks into something Campbell was keeping hidden, or that he’d forgotten as it receded further into his past. The choice to cash in favors and take out loans to shoot this low-budget horror film (and one, moreover, that was decidedly unorthodox in 1981, including elements of humor) represented a huge risk, and I could never quite buy Campbell’s depiction of the movie shoot as a long, relaxed hang-out session, albeit one that featured 16-hour days of getting fake blood dumped on him. I suppose I’m projecting now, and was projecting when I first wrote the story, but I guess “Woman in the Woods” is an interpretation of what my own internal state would have been had I been in the middle of nowhere, betting my future (at least to some extent) on this movie. I would have been, in a word, stressed.

Anyway, enough about that. I also have another book review up at Hot Metal Bridge. It’s of Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station. I’m proud of the review because it’s the first one I’ve done for a book that I felt less than enthusiastic about, and I think I remained pretty fair-minded in writing about this novel. Leaving the Atocha Station is a decent book, and Ben Lerner is quite a writer. But he’s not a natural novelist, and it shows. However, the mix of textual and extratextual stuff going on with this book, which I at least skim in the review, is pretty interesting: Lerner is best known as a poet, and so a lot of the preoccupations of the novel are with writing poetry, its potential, ways to interpret it, what it gains and loses from appearing within the context of prose.

[Trivia answer here. If you’d like to hear the song lyric I alluded to above, and/or if you love Ween—and you really should—see here.]

New fiction, newish book review

Some new publications to add to the lists: I have a story, “Santo vs. Crushing Grief,” up at the Northville Review. It’s an “alphabet piece”; note the letter that begins the first word of the first sentence, of the second sentence, and so on, and you’ll see what I mean. Also, the story’s about Santo, of Mexican wrestling fame. Santo was a wrestler—a luchador, with one of those great silky masks that laces up in the back—who made the transition into starring in movies (just look at this amazing filmography!) in which he fought against werewolves, vampires, etc., as well as more prosaic villains like the Blue Demon (also a part of my story). I wrote it during my undergraduate studies and have always been really pleased with it, and I’m especially pleased the Northville Review, which I like a lot, took it.

Second, I wrote a review for Hot Metal Bridge of The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. That staggeringly, jealous-makingly great debut novel has been out for a while now, so you’re probably aware of it. But if you’d like to read my take, there it is. (I read The Tiger’s Wife while traveling in Germany and Italy this summer, and though the novel’s action is set a bit east of both places, it felt like a fortuitous turn of events; now, when I think of the novel, I think of a long bus ride from Rome to Florence as much as I do the novel’s striking images of a bombed city with exotic zoo animals running free among the wreckage.)