I write significantly more words a year than I publish. For the last few years, I’ve easily reached a million words a year, often leaping and bounding over that desirable number without a second thought.
And yet only a fraction of those words are ones you’ll ever read. Why?
Because they belong to someone else.
I’m a ghost… and yet you can see (and hear, and read) me. A ghost always lingering in the background… whispering words into the ear of another author. Haunting them into writing the manuscript they’re ten weeks overdue on publishing… and then I go BOO!
I’m a ghostwriter!
(That’s not what a ghostwriter does… but it sounds kinda fun, doesn’t it?)
A ghostwriter is someone who writes—fiction, non-fiction, articles, pretty much anything that involves the written word—and is typically paid to transfer the copyright of their work to a new owner. In other words, the only recognition they receive is monetary. Their writing is instead credited to another person, most often the one who paid them in the first place.
I’ve worked as a ghostwriter consistently since February 2014, a couple of months before I graduated from high school. Since then, I’ve written many different things, all the way from tips for the parents of children with disabilities, to epic fantasy sagas, thrillers, and paranormal romance.
I’ve been working as a full-time writer (although I was part-time while I was in university) since before I graduated high school. Even back then, when I knew I wanted to be an author but didn’t really know how to become one yet, I knew enough about the publishing industry to realize that it was unlikely I’d go full-time off my own work right away.
Sadly I’m not quite at that point yet either, all these years later… BUT I’m getting close! (It’s actually in the cards for 2023… who would have thought? But that’s a topic for another day.)
In any case, ghostwriting became my saving grace!
I figured there wasn’t a lot of chance of me selling one of my own books to a publishing house at 17. It’s happened quite a few times in the past… but it’s a competitive industry, and I was never going to assume I would be one of the snowflakes to make it through hell, but I still wanted to write books. I spent most of high school and middle school writing and reading, immersing myself in worlds made by other people and, of course, my own.
That was when I found out about ghostwriting. I don’t recall the specific details about what happened, but I found a site that connected writers with clients, and just a couple days after signing up and finishing my profile, I had my first job.
This was in February 2014, just a couple of months before I graduated high school. After my first job, I found another, and another… and another.
Most of them were writing various forms of fiction, some of them weren’t. Some of them were fantasy, some weren’t. Over time I refined my portfolio to focus exclusively on fantasy and other speculative fiction genres—although that does include paranormal romance.
After doing quite well for myself for two years, that was when I really decided to take this writing thing seriously and go to university.
It was time to broaden my horizons a little… and start planning to write my own books.
To this day, it’s kind of amazing, but inevitably frustrating, that I can sometimes write twenty books in a year, and only one or two of them will be mine. It’s not abnormal for me to write over 40,000 words in a week, with less than a quarter of that belonging to one of my books. Often I write on tight deadlines that require that kind of output every week, one book after another after another, a demanding pace that takes away so much time from my own projects.
Alas, that’s what pays the bills… but could you imagine how many Yumihari Books you’d get to read if I could put that many words into one of my own books every week?!
(We could have the whole Wyvern Wars Saga done in two years instead of six!)
That might sound insane to you, but that’s really just how things usually go around here. I average between 7k and 10k words a day on my focused writing days, and depending on what I’m writing, that can take a whole day to write, or other times I top out at 3k/hour and finish with half a day to spare.
So what does one a day as a ghostwriter look like?
I wish it were as glamorous as you’re probably thinking, but there’s nothing that special to it.
I wake up. Sometimes at 8 am. Other times it’s 10 or 11 (and more recently, 1 pm), usually make a cup of coffee or, lately, a tea latte. After that, I’ll have breakfast, meditate to clear my head, and then get straight to writing.
Some days are like any other job where, by the end, I feel the satisfaction of a job well done—a sense of accomplishment for sticking to my guns and making progress. Making it through the day and getting to go back to life.
But sometimes I finish a day and I’m ready to tackle the rest of what the world has to offer. Sometimes I just want to go to sleep halfway through my writing quota (and sometimes I do, because it’s usually better to just give in than resist and write crappy words for the rest of the day). And so on.
When I’m balancing the edge of burnout, which happens more often when I’m not able to dedicate time to working on my own books enough, it can become a battle to keep words flowing. Sometimes they come out in spurts of a thousand at a time, other times my pace is sustained over an hour or two but not particularly extraordinary in speed.
Other times each word is like picking teeth, and I’m spitting out one sentence in between flipping to Facebook or Reddit or looking at my phone and praying for a legitimate distraction to keep me from writing.
The thing about a creative profession is that it’s really hard to maintain that creativity when your head is cloudy. Depression, anxiety, stress, they’re like beachballs being tossed around in the brain, or against the body, causing mental and physical bruises that can make creating anything a more painful process than it should be.
Sometimes, the only thing that really makes it possible to make any progress in a day is that I have the foresight before starting a book to outline the whole thing, and the series, so I know where things are going beforehand. I don’t have to think. I just put my hands on the keyboard and I let my instincts do the work.
It’s always satisfying when sitting down for an hour, pumping out a big chunk of the manuscript, brushing off my hands and getting up to get a glass of water before sitting down again and continuing on. But that’s assuming I can get into the groove, which doesn’t always.
Sometimes, I just need to veg out on the couch and binge-watch Shameless or Vikings, because that’s a mood.
The best part? No one knows if I skip a day except for me. 😉