Adam Reger | Pittsburgh Writer

Pittsburgh writer, editor, and ghostwriter

Tag: craigslist

Free Box, Installment #1

Here is a new feature I’ve been meaning to roll out for some time now. Last spring I had the idea to generate tons of ideas for novels, stories, and films every day, with the intention of starting an “idea factory” wherein I’d then contract writers, via elance or Craig’s List, to flesh out those ideas.

For various reasons—chief among them a reluctance to spend my money this way and a writer’s proprietary feeling toward his ideas—my idea factory closed down. But since then I’ve revisited some of my ideas and realized they’re not at all bad, and that for the right person they might be helpful. I’ve also noticed that I have plenty of ideas for other things, in fields like business, that for various logistical reasons I am never going to put into action.

So I decided to create a space on this website where I can put these things out, free to anyone who wants them: a “free box,” like you’ve probably got at work, or in your apartment building, or like I used to find in my dorm buildings while at college.

No strings are attached to any of these ideas, although I’d like to ask that if you find something here that is useful to you, you let me know (and especially if it ends up turning into a finished product of some kind). And if you take one of my ideas and turn it into a multimillion-dollar feature film, it would certainly be appreciated if you threw some of the royalties my way.

Anyway, here it is, Free Box Installment #1:

-Hoboes. Period piece. Bank heist: hoboes versus railroad bull and small-town sheriff who shot lead hobo down years earlier. Comedic but tense (in the vein of O Brother Where Art Thou?). Fading of hobo era—new high-speed trains are making it more difficult to jump onto trains. Ragtag bunch of hoboes pulls off big heist.

Haymarket-style detective story. Bomb is thrown, anarchist is wrongly accused. Amid outrageous bias, one honest cop discovers the truth, has to navigate tense 1880s climate along the way.

-Prison break. Dad has to escape to see his son play in the Super Bowl. Twin plotlines of father and son.

-Man who can walk through walls. Dishonest man uses this for evil, then good.

Storage Wars-type guy—a locker buyer—finds an urban treasure map supposedly leading to a famed treasure long since thought to have gone missing. Maybe shot in reality show fashion, with other contestants becoming involved along the way.

-Man in need of money goes on a game show—like either Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune—and competes using a special system he worked out using hours and hours of tape on that show. (Invent a show to suit the plot; base it on that “Whammy” show guy. [I meant Michael Larson, who successfully “cheated” on Press Your Luck in the 1970s.] He has to not only compete against other contestants but has to outsmart producers who know something is up. (Would need to differentiate it a bit more from Slumdog Millionaire.)

Harlem Globetrotters versus Washington Generals story. Crushing anguish and effects on team of losing every night, discrepancy between good guys on-court and off. Bad News Bears-type story, with Generals rallying to win one (and then being booed vigorously). [I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug my own short story here, “The Night the Washington Generals Beat the Harlem Globetrotters,” in cream city review.]

-Zero energy moment is reached, when there’s no more oil or coal. People think they’re ready but they’re not. Documentary style, following human-power impresario, solar proponent, wind person, etc. OR: when the lights go out, terror over uncertainty, no internet (no electricity), a serial killer is stalking the city. [Note: I have never seen the TV show Revolution but this sounds somewhat similar from having watched the promos. I definitely wrote this idea down at the end of last May, so please, NBC, do not sue me.]

There you have it, the first installment of Free Box. Not the greatest ideas in the world, but what do you want? They’re free.

Another Great Writing Opportunity

Following up on this earlier post about a great (read: terrible) “ghostwriting” opportunity, here’s an ad I came across on Pittsburgh’s Craig’s List for fiction writing assistants.

As you’ll see, this sweet opportunity involves taking the ad-poster’s outline and . . . well, writing his/her novel, it appears. The successful candidate will have excellent grammatical skills, write quickly, and be able to make revisions quickly.

Okay, so it’s a ghostwriting gig. The person who posted this ad has an idea but isn’t good with words and just wants to pay someone to write it up. So let’s scroll down to the bottom where it mentions pay and see how much . . . Oh. Oh my. “Compensation: no pay.”

I won’t go on, because you probably get the picture. This crumb doesn’t mention anything about the successful applicant getting course credit, because he/she either doesn’t care or hasn’t thought that far ahead. What may be most audacious, though, is that applicants are asked to submit not only 1,000 words of writing but to spend additional time writing a 500-word statement asking for this person’s consideration. Does the poster think this is an attractive offer? Maybe he/she should mention literally any benefit the writing assistant(s) will derive from this arrangement.

My post about the ghostwriting gig was rather light-hearted, but this ad irked me so much I actually posted a response on CL. Was I too harsh? I don’t think so. It never fails to annoy me when I peruse CL or elance and see the rates people consider fair for writing (or editing or proofreading). I’m inclined to say that writing is not day labor, but that’s a faulty comparison because people have a better sense of the effort and skill involved in day labor. And I doubt you’d ever see someone get day laborers to build a patio or spread gravel around a driveway for no money by calling it an “internship.”

Update: Some time after I posted this, the person who posted the original, offending CL ad must have come to his/her senses (or, maybe, was adequately shamed by my response) and yanked the ad. So, you’ll have no luck following the link above. I imagine I’ve given a decent enough impression of the gist of the ad from the above takedown, however.

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!