Years ago, I was in a bar in Groton, Connecticut, shooting pool with a friend of mine. I told him I finally got an acceptance letter for a story, and he asked me what I would do if they wanted me to edit some of the material. Would I say ‘No,’ and keep true to the art of the piece?
My answer was, ‘What do you want cut?’
This was said partially in jest, but three years ago I began working with a small publishing house as a ghostwriter, and that answer is what I say on an almost daily basis.
When you’re a ghostwriter, you check your ego at the door. Sure, you can bring along your emotional baggage because that’s what helps you as a writer. But your personal hang-ups, what you will and will not write/edit, those you leave behind. If you can’t do that, then you should find another writing job.
When I began my ghostwriting work, it was with complete freedom. But as the books were published, readers came back with what they liked and didn’t like, and the publisher requested the necessary adjustments. For instance, I can’t put curses or swears in. No vulgarity it all. This was the first challenge for me.
It wasn’t a challenge in a writing sense, but an ego sense. I know how certain people speak, and how liberally they use the ‘F’ bomb. But that wasn’t what the readers wanted, and the publisher is creating a marketable product for the broadest audience possible.
So, what do you do when presented with a new rule that requires you to remove vulgarity?
If you want to keep your job, you remove the vulgarity.
Removing it wasn’t difficult, and the benefits have been tremendous.
Since I can no longer rely upon certain words to represent a character’s frustration, I have to think of other ways to convey that sense and emotion. This has allowed me to grow as a writer and to increase my skillset.
Stay tuned, everyone, I’ll have more on writing soon.
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