Whatever Wednesday: Ghostwriting
Now, some people may be wondering what the heck is ghostwriting. I am going to explain that and share with you how I sort of fell into ghostwriting after my husband moved me to Europe. Today will also be a great day to see how many people actually follow my blogs and really know what is going on with Stephen Burckhardt.
I should start out be explaining that I have a degree in communications from Wichita State University in Kansas and have worked for magazines, newspapers, online services, and even had a short stint in broadcasting. When my husband moved me to Denmark in 2014, I was really not prepared to find work in a foreign country, especially since I did not speak Danish. Since I had done work online before, I started searching for communication jobs for which I could "telecommute," essentially any work from home jobs.
I found some great sites that connected me with people looking to hire bloggers, P.R. staff, and there were even many people looking for ghostwriters for books. I started taking odd jobs with which I was comfortable. I worked as a social media manager for an indie movie company in California. I wrote short advertisements, and a few other things.
You should know, I have always had this dream in the back of my head of writing books one day. However, after having an accident in 2002 that resulted in several brain surgeries in 2004, I was not totally confident in my ability to do that well anymore. Now, some of you might be thinking (though I think most of you know now), this sounds an awful like Stephen Burckhardt's story. You would be correct, stick with me on this.
I started seeing ads for ghostwriters on the difference freelance sites I was using and decided to take the leap. When you ghostwrite for someone, they tell you what to write, you write it, they pay you, then they publish the work as their own with their name as the author. You get no credit for the work. Most even require a confidentiality agreement so you can never tell anyone you are actually the person who wrote the book. Luckily, the people who hired me did not ask for that so I am able to advertise the books in my portfolio of work. However, I do not and will not make any more money off of those books beyond what they originally paid me.
The first job I decided to accept was to ghostwrite a booklet about essential oils. I had just left a job in the US where I was a manager in a health food store where I was in charge of the natural health and beauty products, part of that was essential oils. Over my years in that job, I learned a great deal about essential oils and their uses. It seemed like a perfect fit for my first try at writing a book. I had a great deal of experience researching a subject and writing an informative piece about it. This one would just be a lot longer than I had produced before. We had some trouble with formatting because of the program I used to write it in and the program they used to layout the booklet, but other than that, the client was happy with my work and it has been well received on Amazon. With my success with that first attempt, I decided to try something in fiction.
I found a client who was looking for someone to write a very short western novella. I grew up watching westerns and spent time living on a ranch. I had first hand knowledge of animals, tractors, and how to handle different kinds of guns. I have a second degree in forensic criminology and had been planning to be a firearms and tool marks examiner. I have deadly aim and can even reload shells. Plus, my Granny always loved westerns. I thought she would like that I was writing one. Once again, the job seemed like a good fit for me. The client gave me a word count and a simple prompt and the rest was up to me. This time we discussed writing formats first and avoided the formatting issues. Once again, the client was very happy with my work and the book has been well received on Amazon.
I enjoyed writing the western much more than I ever imagined I would. Since I had managed two short books, one in fiction and one in non-fiction, I felt I was ready to give it a try under my own name. However, I was still nervous about doing a bad job. I continue to have trouble with words and communication due to my neurological conditions. I have found I have trouble using conjunctions and I tend to stutter when I type. I often find I often find (<--) things like this in my writing.
To throw in another challenge to my writing, in 2015 we moved to Germany. Eventually the computers I had brought with me from the US died and I had to buy new ones here. The American keyboards and Germany Keyboards are not the same. I can set them for the English set up but then the keys do not match the letters printed on them and I have to type by memory or I can leave them set for German and they match what is printed on the keys but they are not where I am used to them being on the keyboard. To really mix things up, we just bought a refurbished Mac from a German shop and it came with an Italian keyboard which is not like German or English set ups so I am working on a German keyboard and an Italian keyboard while typing according to the English keyboard set up. It makes for interesting typos. I do love a challenge.
Because of all of these obstacles I was facing, I decided to take a pen name. Since I had so much fun writing the western, I chose to make my first book a western novella, that is how The Into the West Saga Serial began. I finished my first book in the serial after my Granny passed away. She never got to see this series but I like to think she would have liked them. Each one is dedicated to her memory.
When I started writing The Into the West Saga Serial, I thought if I hid behind a pen name and used my father's photo to represent my persona it would give me a safety net. If I did a horrid job, I could just walk away from it all and no one would ever know it was really me. But now the books are doing well, even winning awards, and very few people know it is actually me who is writing them, kind of a catch-22.
Slowly but surely, I have been revealing it to more and more people, that I am in fact, Stephen Burckhardt. If you go to my website www.DianneBurckhardt.com you can see Stephen listed as a pen name for me. Everything I write about Stephen's life is true for me except the fact that I am female and my "better half" is a man. While my husband does want to stay as anonymous in my online life as possible due to his job, I also chose to only refer to him by initials because I do not know of any culture where the name Pedro could be used for a female. There was no way to spin that to fit my Stephen Burckhardt persona.
Ghostwriting turned out to be a great beginners guide for me to make some money while I started to figure out how to become an indie author. Since then, being Stephen Burckhardt has been a great learning experience to help me grow and improve as a writer. Everything about this adventure had been fun and educational. It has its stressful moments too, like trying to build my following, getting an email list of active followers, trying to get people to leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble Booksellers, or just to interact with me and comment on my posts. The struggle is real and ongoing! There is so much more work behind the scenes than most people realize beyond just writing my stories, but I would not have missed this for the world.
If you want to check out some ghostwriting opportunities for yourself why not check out the Noomii Career Blog where they list the 8 Best Freelance Ghostwriting Jobs Online in 2018. I realize that is two years old, but all of the sites listed are still great resources to test the waters in a new freelance venture.
Quarantine Boredom Buster
I love painted rocks and I know right now this could be great moral booster for the people in your community. Paint a few rocks and drop them around your neighborhood as you go for walks. You could make someone's day with just a little time, some paint, and a few rocks.