Ghostly Writing—Why Do It?

claudette young

By Claudette Young

For many years I was a ghost. Yes, I was. I slipped in and out of the writing scene, leaving behind few traces of myself. And now, when others learn of this potentially lurid/sordid past, questions get fired my way.

It’s time to reveal how some ghosts begin and end writing careers by describing my own sortie into this profession.

A profession it is. Some ghost writers never write under their own name. They prefer anonymity. Hiding in the darkness, the mouse can be a lion—or a dragon. Fear of personal exposure keeps them tethered to contracts requiring them to never reveal what they’ve written or for whom.

Mine isn’t that tale, however. I wrote under my own name for many years. Academic, corporate project/press work, journalistic work, advertising, children’s literature, articles for writers, etc. I never kept to one form or interest. Then, one day, another writer came to me and asked a favor.

The writer needed help. She was overloaded with writing obligations and not enough time to fulfill them. She asked if I could write a coursework handbook for her if she gave me her notes. There was a time crunch involved, but she’d pay me for the haste.

Since she was one of my favorite people, I agreed. I didn’t have anything in contractual works right then and had the time. That handbook became my first ghost job. I still look back on it fondly. Other than the money, the best payment was when she told me she couldn’t tell my writing from her own. Still makes me smile.

It wasn’t long until the next job appeared—another writer. A mutual acquaintance of mine and the one I’d just worked for. Satisfaction comes in many guises and so do jobs. Writing in a new style, new syntax, was both a challenge and a pleasure. And there was the pitfall for me.

I’d worked as an ARC reviewer for a couple of specialized publishers for about a year when I was approached by one of them to take on another kind of project. I accepted that commission and went on to do others for them over the next  year or two before moving on to other types of writing.

I’d learned something critical about myself by that time. When I tried to go back to my own style, I couldn’t. It was no  longer there. It had been buried or obliterated by the overlays of so many other people’s styles through the years.

It’s cool to have my writing style compared to Andre Norton or Douglas Adams. Or even to have my poetry sound like Whitman. Unfortunately, the compliment falls far short after a while. I still don’t sound like me. I’ve lost a part of myself in other people’s voices.

When I recognized what had happened, I ceased all contracted ghosting. It was time to be myself and come out into the light again.

It’s taken me several years, much angst, many trials and false starts to get back a semblance of my true writing style. I still find myself slipping back into Douglas Adams occasionally. (His Universe is pervasive sometimes.)

As for perks of ghosting, there are some. But hassles arise too. Perks mean decent checks in the mail for work done. It means the possibility of never going without work, especially if you can hook up with a decent publisher.

The cons, though, can be many. Fighting deadlines, last-minute turn-around edits that should take days but are needed in hours, cranky editors, and lost sleep over insignificant details. All this and more comes with the territory. And never forget, your name does not appear as a by-line or on a cover.

Like I said, it’s taken years to come back to myself. I still do small projects, work on large ones, like novels and screenplays. I still publish, though I don’t market myself. I just don’t feel the need.

But, rebuilding the boldness and self-assuredness that were my hallmarks at the very beginning of my writing experience is more difficult than finding my true voice. That takes more work than anything else. 

I never wrote for fame or fortune. I wrote for me and any pleasure others gained from my words. I forgot how to do that along the way. Now, I must rediscover that path.

It’s my hope that any who choose to allow their words to paint pictures for others to explore can find and adhere to the writing path that best suits their needs. And, of course, enjoy each moment of their journey.

Sister’s 80th Birthday

Norma

My Sister Norma

My Sister’s Eightieth Birthday Party

by Marie F Martin

I received a call from my younger sister, Doris, that we should throw our oldest sister, Norma, a birthday party because we gave Mom one when she was eighty. Sounded reasonable to me. Then my younger brother came up with the idea of doing a video for her about things she pulled as our oldest sister when we were kids. The following story is one of my favorite memories.

By the time we were in the fourth and sixth grades Norma was a complete through and through tomboy and the controller of our small Montana country neighborhood.              Norma-nator should have been her name. I was always meek and shy which drove her out of her mind.

We didn’t lack for playmates. Next door in a long green stucco house lived the Grilley boys, across the highway were the Nelsons. They were old, but their granddaughter played with us when she visited. The three Horner girls lived on the other side and on top of Saurey Hill lived the Saureys. This bunch of kids were who we played with or fought with depending on Norma’s mood for the day.

I loved to swim and fish. Luckily, a creek was only a half mile away. We would follow a country road north until we came to a spot where the creek passed under the road, made a bend and went back under the road. This area was ours. We fished and swam, built forts and ate picnic lunches there.

Shy Brookies lived in that stream. We caught them on worms and Schnell hooks, size number six. We crept, hush-hush, along the bank, not making a sound and making sure our shadows didn’t reflect on the water, as we cast our baited hooks into the water. The current carried the wiggling worms downstream under overhanging bushes where fish hid.

Norma caught her share as we all did, but woe be to any of us who made noise.

One day, walking ahead of me, Norma shrieked and high-stepped quickly in the opposite direction.

“What’s the matter?” I asked in a loud whisper. “You’re scaring the fish.”

“I almost stepped on a damn snake,” she answered.

“Not afraid of a little snake, are you?” I asked, surprised at her forbidden word.

“Of course not! I just don’t like them.”

Norma is afraid of the small green water snakes, my mind said. This was an enormous discovery! I now had an equalizer! I bided my time. Sure enough a few days later I had finally found the perfect spot to cast my line into the water.

She said. “Move that’s my spot.”

“No, it’s my spot.”

She balled a fist and ordered, “Go.”

Mumbling to myself, I trudged downstream and plopped on the bank. Movement caught my eye. I reached into the weeds and pulled out a wiggling, hissing snake. It was only a small water snake, but when I held it by the back of the neck, it dangled down a good foot. Wiggling. Mouth open and forked tongue sticking out. Perfect. I quietly circled around behind Norma and stood at her squatting back, holding the snake above her, the wiggling tail almost touching the top of her head.

She glanced up and saw what I held. “Yukkkk,” she screamed. “Get away!”

I held it closer.

She kicked and screamed like death was nearby. “Wait till I tell Mom what you did!” She ran for home.

A little guilt should have nagged at my mind, but fishing was good that day.

Montana Women Write Blogs

my kingdom

 

By Janice McCaffrey

Authors of the Flathead will host their 30th annual Writers Conference September 2020. This group was established by local authors to support and encourage one another and anyone interested in writing. In 2013 a few women in the group wanted to learn more about self-publishing and promoting their work. Thus began Montana Women Writers.

The founders set up a website: www.montanawomenwriters.com with four pages. Home explaining the groups’ mission, The Women with member’s pictures and bios, The Words which highlights the author’s books with links to purchase them, and The View, a blog which promotes members’ work the first of every month through Book News and mww bloggers 4features individual members’ posts the other weeks of each month.mww bloggers 6

According to an online dictionary the word ‘blog’ can be a noun: a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, which is written in an informal or conversational style. Or a verb: to add new material to or regularly update a blog.

mww bloggersA description of blogs I discovered online says that some blogs are categorized by genres that focus on a particular subject—writing. It also says that collaborative or group blogs are written by more than one author and are usually based around a single uniting theme–Montana women who write.

I’ve looked over The View’s archives and see that originally each month had a theme. May was mothers, June, weddings, and each of the four seasons had a month to themselves. mww bloggers 5Also published were excerpts from member’s published books or works in progress, thoughts members had from their personal reading like a characters’ specific strengths and weaknesses, their circumstances, actions, emotions, or motivations and how each may have influenced readers. mww bloggers 7Other topics have included personal and/or writing goals or resolutions, life in Montana, lessons learned from the writing and promoting experience, inspiration, creativity, memories associated with holidays, seasons, family, and friendship.

With you I look forward to the original blogs that will be published in 2020. And I’ll watch for some flash backs that were posted over the years. And like you I’ll contemplate, learn from, and enjoy the thoughts my fellow Montana Women Writers share.

Let’s enjoy the adventure together.

Meet Ed Cal—The Writer’s Best Friend

claudette young

 

 

By Claudette Young

Who’s Ed? Why, your Editorial Calendar, that’s who.

Okay, so you write. Remember those “w’s” followed by the “h”? You know, Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

The answers to all of those questions resides on the pages of the writer’s editorial calendar. And if you’ve never used one or established a habit of formulating one at the end of the year for the next twelve months, stay put and I’ll explain why you might want to tackle this necessary writerly habit.

Who needs an editorial calendar?

  • Any writer who wants to keep a ready market to hand for their work
  • Any writer who freelances in any category
  • Any writer who works both as creator and editor
  • Any writer who works in multiple genres
  • Any writer

Why is a calendar necessary?

  • It allows a writer to anticipate possible markets months in advance
  • It allows a writer to track their progress on a daily, weekly, monthly basis
  • It provides guidance when the writer gets stuck on one project and needs to shift gears
  • It motivates the creative mind to keep creating
  • It stimulates the submission process by allowing for multiple markets for each project

How difficult is it to develop and maintain such a calendar?

  • Difficulty depends on the format used by the writer
  • Electronic (cloud-driven) editorial calendar systems are available for free online
  • MS Excel can be used for spreadsheet format planning and tracking
  • The writer decides on what is included (how detailed) on the calendar used
  • Some believe the more detail included on the calendar allows for less overall maintenance time needed by the user

What information goes onto the calendar?

Again, this depends entirely on the whim of the writer. For me, I’ve been excessively detailed and barely detailed. But then I use two different calendars. It’s every writer’s option as to how many calendars they need.

Let me explain. I write long and short. Short projects such as poetry, flash fiction, short stories, essays, etc. go on a specifically detailed calendar. Why?

I began my first calendars in cheap hardcopy ledger tablets. They had plenty of rows and columns for tilling with potential moneymakers. Now, I use Excel most of the time for my calendars. I have lots of boxes to play with for each project. That means whether I’ve begun a project or am just thinking about one. Here’s how it goes.

  1. Line one: Project name>Max length>Deadline due>Freelance/Assigned>Publication>DOS/Date of Submission>EDOR/Estimated Date of Response>Accepted/Rejected
  2. Line Two: Second Publication Choice>LDOSD/Latest Date of Submission Deadline>Rewrite from Different Angle Y/N>DOS>EDOR>Accepted/Rejected
  3. Line Three: Repeat of Line Two

As I said, this calendar style is for my freelance, short project side of things. I do hours of market research before beginning a calendar for the next year. I include contests, competitions of all sorts, anthologies, articles and as many diverse markets as possible. If I choose not to use some of them, no harm no foul.

My calendar is categorized by type of project, genre, audience, publication as indie or mass market.

For long projects, such as screenplays or novels, etc. I use a similar calendar style but without the same type of excess detail. For instance, if I want to begin a rapid-release series of novelettes/novellas on Kindle with a month/two-month release cycle, my calendar would look totally different and stand indecently of all others.

Why all emphasis on calendars?

The answer is simple. It’s how publication/publishers set up their coming year. Every publication, from major newsletters to international magazines, glossies or recycled paper, establish editorial calendars months in advance of a new year.

Themes for issues, special event issues, etc. are decided upon and carved in stone for the next twelve months. Guidelines are rewritten if necessary, whether agented-only submissions are allowed, and everything in-between is placed on the calendar used by that publication’s editors. It’s their publishing bible for those coming months.

If you freelance or simply work long projects, it’s always to your advantage to know what an editor is looking for as far in advance as possible. It allows you to plan, lets ideas percolate and put you in the driver’s seat.

So, how does a writer learn an editor’s expectations?

Simple, ask them. Go to the publications website or contact them directly. Introduce yourself and ask them if it’s possible to get a copy of their editorial calendar. Usually, the website has one ready for downloading or copying. Remember themes are established really early. You might as well get used to thinking ahead and plan accordingly.

If you have questions, ask them. You don’t have to go to the top for the answers. Find the name of an associate editor. They have much the same information. And they don’t always get lots of credit. It makes them feel good to have writers come to them as the expert. It could easily help later down the line, too, when you submit a piece for review. You have already established a minor relationship with one of the editors.

Takeaways

If you prepare even the most basic of editorial calendars, you’ll stay on track better, complete projects more often, and submit more often than without one. Think of it as your daily planner. Whether you freelance with small personal essays or big articles, poems or photos, Ed Cal can be the friend who smiles and says “Go for It” every week.

Editormial Calendars Available Online

 

Barbara Tuchman

my kingdom

By Janice McCaffrey

A book mark has been sitting on my desk for over two years now because I like the poem printed on it. Recently I looked up the poet and found that Barbara Tuchman (1903-1984) was not a poet, but a journalist and historian. Wikipedia says that she was criticized because she didn’t have a university degree and wrote history in a way that ordinary people could understand it. Seems she was ahead of her time. Nowadays easy-to-understand histories make the New York Times bestseller list (e.g. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown or The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter.)

Surfing the web I found a site with Barbara Tuchman quotes (quotetab.com). Here’s my favorites:      Human behavior is timeless.—Above all, discard the irrelevant.—One must stop conducting research before one has finished. Otherwise, one will never- stop and never finish.—Words are seductive and dangerous material, to be used with caution.                  An essential element for good writing is a good ear. One must listen to the sound of one’s own prose.           I have always been in a condition in which I cannot not write.          No writing comes alive unless the writer sees across his desk a reader, and searches constantly for the word or phrase which will carry the image he wants the reader to see, and arouse the emotion he wants him to feel. Without conscientiousness of a live reader, what a man writes will die on the page.               To be a bestseller is not necessarily a measure of quality, but it is a measure of communication.         Nothing is more satisfying then to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continual practice.             Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.                   My bookmark says:  Without books, history is silent, literature dumb,science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.       Without books,  the development of civilization would have been impossible.      Books are engines of change, windows on the world, “lighthouses” (as a poet said” “erected in the sea of time.”     Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. They are humanity in print.