The Ghost Novel Writing Is On for Next Week

As I have said a few times over the last six months, I was hired to write a ghost novel for a major author. I will never tell anyone who the author is or even why I am writing this for this author. Not a word. Ever, so don’t ask. But I can tell you that when this comes out of New York, it will be a major bestseller because this author’s books always are.

I have been paid the advance, so I plan on starting the novel next week as soon as this great workshop that is going on here at the coast is finished. Character Voice and Setting workshop. Wonderful fun. Great writers.

I will blog here about the writing process of the book, more than likely putting up five or six posts per day about each session and a post at the end of the day summing it all up.

I hope to write the book (70,000 words) in 7 to 10 days and then turn it in to the publisher. One draft.

So if you want to follow the writing process of a novel like this, learn how to write a novel in a short period of time, check back regularly next week. I’ll also tell you about the other things going on in my day as it goes along.

And I will talk about my moods, my feelings, and so on about the writing. I do not have an outline and will be just writing off into the dark on this one, so it might get kind of scary and entertaining. I hope, anyway, because I hate being bored when I write. (grin)

I will also try to get a subscribe button and a new RSS feed here on the site to make it easier to follow as well.  And I’ll be glad to answer questions as it goes along about the writing process. (Not about the book itself in any fashion.)

Back to the workshop reading for me. See you soon. It will be fun for me. I hope it will entertain others in the process.

This entry was posted in News, On Writing, publishing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to The Ghost Novel Writing Is On for Next Week

  1. Jeff Rivera says:

    Can’t wait to read about it, Dean. Right now, this month, I’m pulling out all those half-written novels & novellas I started writing but never finished over the last 10 years and having them cleaned up and uploaded on Amazon.

  2. Dunya says:


    I’ll be following this.

  3. Sounds like an interesting series of posts, and an interesting assignment. I’m curious as to why a major author would hire a ghostwriter, though. Can you give us any insight on that or would that be letting the cat out of the bag?

    • dwsmith says:

      Major authors seldom, if ever, hire a ghost writer. I am hired by publishers. It’s called deadlines, schedules, and so on.

      In fact, of all the work I have done like this over the years, I have only been hired by authors three times. One was a rich Hollywood writer who needed help on a fantastic project. It never saw the light of day. Another was for a wonderful and original mystery online project that the creators just screwed up and it never saw the light of day either. A third was by a ghost of a ghost who got stuck with a health issue and I was doing a favor.

      Over the years, the most common reason for this is health issues of an author that smack into publishing schedules that must be met.

  4. Hannah Parry says:

    Good luck with this!

  5. Eric says:

    Can’t wait. :-)

  6. The Aweber mailing list system links to the RSS feed, and automatically posts to your social networks, if you like. There’s a $1 trial for Aweber, plus you can have an unlimited amount of lists i.e. for all your pen names and publisher (even each genre). Just letting you know.

  7. Martin says:

    I can’t wait to see this. But it does raise another question of just HOW many books are ghost written for BIG NAME authors.

    • dwsmith says:

      Depends on what you consider a major author, Martin. Major names like King and Patterson and Roberts and such, NEVER. They write their own work. Names down the list, not often, but sometimes, mostly because schedules can always be moved and there are not that many writers like me working out here willing to do this sort of thing. Levels down below that, it happens all the time. Many names you think might be major names are house names, owned by the publisher and who knows who is writing them.

      But put it this way, of the 100 plus novels I have written and sold in New York in one fashion or another, I would guess that around 40 or so of them have strict confidentiality agreements in the contract. For various reasons.

      • Josh says:

        Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought Patterson farmed out a lot of work. That is, he would create a very detailed outline with character profiles and hire contract authors to fill in much of the prose.

        • dwsmith says:

          Josh, as I said in another answer, it’s a form of collaboration and a system of collaboration. Very similar to one that Kris and I used on some projects, actually when we wrote books together. One writer writes a rough first draft, another writer adds to it and expands it, the first writer goes back over it, then the second writer gets the final pass or two. Patterson is the second writer in that form of collaboration. Very, very different from ghost writing.

      • Actually, Patterson has an entire team of ghost writers.

        Looking forward to reading these posts. In fact, I’m on deadline so it’ll be fun to try to keep up the pace with you.

        • dwsmith says:

          Barbra, actually, he doesn’t at all. A collaborator is a completely different thing than a ghost writer. Completely different. Patterson on many projects collaborates with other pretty well known writers. And if I had the correct project that I thought would fit something he was doing, I would approach him and collaborate and I have a hunch I would learn a ton. But he has no ghost writers. You are confusing collaborators with ghost writers. Not even close to the same.

          • I see. So because he provides the outline for the story, that makes it a collaboration? I didn’t realize that was a distinction. I thought since his name alone was on the work that qualified the piece as ghost written. Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t believe I’ve seen a book of his where the collaborator got credit.

          • dwsmith says:

            Barbara, his collaborators are always on the covers of the books, and are often major writers in their own careers. If only his name is on a book, he wrote it without a collaborator. He’s done a number of interviews about his process. He would NEVER use a ghost writer, or allow it on any of his projects. Period.

          • Thanks for clearing that up!

  8. Rob Cornell says:

    This is gonna be fun.

    Who wants popcorn? :)

  9. Marimba Ani says:

    I’m really looking forward to this.

  10. Frank Dellen says:

    I’ll be following this, too.

    I find it especially noteworthy that you don’t have an outline. Not trying to trick you into some relevations but I’d have thought the the author you’ll be writing for would have at least set up some frame for you to fill in. I’d like to hear from you about some other ghostwriting jobs you’ve done – is it always like this. (Assuming that no job is the same but I guess there’s still some trend?)

    • dwsmith says:

      They have been across the board, Frank. I tend to not like to just color between the lines for someone else, and would have turned that kind of job down at this point, to be honest. I have had two (or three?) that I did off covers because the covers were done and they needed content to fill the book. But usually it’s pretty open.

      And one time I ghosted for a ghost who was ghosting for a pen name writer.

      And folks, I am not the only person who does this by a long ways. There are writers out there you have not heard of who have three and four hundred books to their credit, write twenty or more novels per year, make great money, and are writers. They love to write as I do, and have gotten past all the fear and silliness that comes with all the myths. They make their living writing.

      For example, you people think Jake Logan is a real author?????? (LOL) Or that Andrews is still alive? And so on.

  11. J.J.Foxe says:

    Thanks for sharing this Dean.

    Really interested to see how this goes for you.

    • J.J.Foxe says:

      Oh, and got a question already.

      Do you find any difference in how the subconscious makes story connections between writing a story fast like this, or writing it in say 70 x one thousand word sessions at a more sedate one session a day pace.

      • dwsmith says:

        JJ, as long at you keep your critical brain out of the process, writing 1000 words per day or 10,000 words per day doesn’t matter. I break it down into 1,000 word sessions as you will see anyway. So just depends on life outside of writing how fast or slow I write a book. Honestly, I’m not going to type any faster than I normally do. (grin)

        • Jo says:

          I find that in legal practice I cannot concentrate more than about an hour without distraction. For Dean that’s about a thousand words or so. Drives other people batty, because they buy into the myth that they can sit and do their best work for hours and hours on end.

          I do about 50 minutes then jump around, drink water, do whatever for about 10 minutes. Then back at it. I can do this ALL DAY without undue stress, for about 10 days max. Then I need about 5 days of break.

          I did this recently for a 7 day game writing competition. I started with a plan, but ZERO code. Now I’m in 4th place out of 300+ entries. And I am NOT a coder, just a dabbler.

          So yeah, what he’s doing is very doable. Hats off to you Dean for having the gonads, ‘cuz that’s what it really takes.

  12. Dean, thanks for doing this. I’ve hoped you would do something like this since you mentioned it the first time.

  13. Dean, sounds super interesting, can’t wait to hear about your process! Do you think experienced writers can be their own content editor? Thanks.

    • dwsmith says:

      Charmaine, not a clue what you mean by that question to be honest. Try me again without 2013 writer board speak. And I’ll try to answer. (grin)

      • Husband dear, she could be quoting me. A content editor is what NY editors do when they read and help shape the content. Line editing makes certain details are consistent, copy edits…well, you know this. And you even read the blog post in which I brought all this up. Not writer board speak at all. How-to-hire-an-editor speak. :-)

        • dwsmith says:

          Oh… never mind… (grin)

        • I did get it from you, Kris! The question I should have asked is–are experienced writers capable of creating a structurally sound book without the input of outside eyes or is this where beta readers come in? Thanks!

          • dwsmith says:


            We are artists. No other person should be involved in the creation of our art. Honestly, except in a few areas like Hollywood, writing is not a group event. However, first readers can find mistakes and bad spelling, so they help on that level.

            And yes, all professional writers create structurally sound books without help. We know plot, we know character and all the other skills. It can be learned. But it takes time, but if you want a long career, start learning it now. And trust your own work.

        • Jo says:

          Lady you crack me up. Serious giggles right now.

  14. E. R. Paskey says:

    I am very much looking forward to reading about this. 😀 The fact that you’re going to *blog* about it while writing the book in 7-10 days? Inspiring.

  15. Jamie DeBree says:

    Excellent. I’ll be following too. And then I’ll be constantly wondering if every bestseller I pick up next year is the one you’re writing next week. LOL

    It’ll be fun to see your process…

  16. AlexB says:

    What will you be practising for this book?

    • dwsmith says:

      Got that all figured out, but not saying. But put it this way, it’s something the underlying author of the book does well. (grin)

  17. Tim Tresslar says:

    Hi Dean:
    Hey, who are you ghosting for and why?


    Looking forward to this. I’ve been checking in multiple times each day and am anxious to follow the process. 😉

  18. Mark says:

    wow, absolutely stoked by this. What is probably business as usual (i.e. tedious) for the professional writers will be like gold for us beginning writers :)

  19. Craig Reed says:

    You’re going to ghost write a novel for a publisher, and you have no outline? And have it done in ten days?

    If it is part of a series, you’d better know the series like the back of your hand, or the fans are going to be all over the author whose names on the front of the book….

    Maybe start with a few post about how to start such a project??


    • dwsmith says:

      Craig, my job is to make sure that fans don’t notice. (grin) And your belief that because it will be written in ten days without an outline is going to cause me to miss that is interesting. You might want to ask yourself where that comes from. (grin)

      One thing to always remember, folks. The process and the writer’s experience in writing the book (meaning they had a headache or a cold and hated every word) have nothing, zero to do with the quality of the final product. Sorry, it should, but it just never does. I might write a great book, I might write a book that doesn’t hit, but it won’t have anything to do with the process of writing it. I’m only putting that process here to stab at a few myths and belief systems and to show other writers what is possible.

      Would I ever write one of my own novels in ten days, with my own name on it? Of course. But I would never tell any of you that I did that. (grin)

      • Craig Reed says:

        Outlines are for sissies! 😉

        My confusion is writing a novel from a standing start — You said that you don’t have an outline to go by, so you don’t have a stroy idea to start with. Its then the creation of the story, using the characters, and do it all it a style that mimics the author whose name you are writing this under. I could understand writing a novel in ten days from a detailed outline, but writing someone else’s novel without that guidence?

        THAT’s what I’m having a hard time understanding….;)


  20. Jason says:

    Hey Dean,

    I’m really looking forward to watching you through this process. Most of the stuff I write, I write without much of a plan, most often just a rough idea.

    However, I’m writing mysteries now too, and I find for these, I have to come up with some sort of outline and plot with characters in order to keep me somewhat on track so that I offer the proper clues and don’t have to go back and backfill to fit the murder.

    I’m wondering if you think it’s possible to write mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie without having an outline? I’d love your thoughts on that. Perhaps I’m just too scared to try :)

    • dwsmith says:

      Oh course it’s possible, Jason. Many great cozy writers do just that. Honest. But no right way, just do what creates books that sell for you.

      • C says:

        Very possible. I write cozies (among other things) and will admit to getting deep into the novel before I even knew who the murderer was. On six books, so far. Six successful books, I might add.

  21. Randy T. says:

    Just curious… does your own voice creep into the writing a little, and how hard it is to “copy” the style of another author?

    • dwsmith says:

      Extremely hard unless you have trained your fingers to mimic another writer’s style. I can clean my own out no issue when working inside another writer’s style and voice. But it took years of training and not something worth learning.

  22. DW Hoevelmann says:

    Do you need Could you use Would you show pity by taking on an intern? I need to learn the Jedi mind trick that allows seven thousand words per day.

    I will be following this next week.

    • dwsmith says:

      Oh, you’ll understand by the end of this project. You’ll be tired of all my whining and complaining by then. Yes, I will be honest as I go through this, so expect some of that. (grin)

  23. kit says:

    This is awesome. You and KK give so much information and encouragement to us newbies! Looking forward to next weeks posts.
    FYI I follow you, KK and a handful of others (Konrath/Gaughran/J.F.Penn) on a bloglovin feed so I can keep up with the writing updates, so I never miss a post!

  24. Nancy Beck says:

    This should be fun. :-)

  25. Lee McAulay says:

    Looking forward to this immensely!
    I’ve learned so much from your posts, and been able to see the sense of your arguments in light of my own experience in non-publishing. “Watching” you write a novel in seven days is going to be awesome!

  26. David Minor says:

    I figured out who it is: his publisher has become increasingly worried that he can’t string together a logical and coherent series of sentences, so they asked you to write Scott Turow’s next book. 😉

  27. Cyn Bagley says:

    I need to learn how to write a novel that quickly *sigh so I will be checking back. Just wanted to say that I got a fresh wind after doing one of your Workshops. I am saving up my pennies so I can do another one.

  28. Jen Greyson says:

    I’m so glad you decided to do this!! I’ve been eagerly anticipating it since you mentioned it last year at Superstars. And yay for a new subscription option and feed.

    Hope to see you (and Kris) in a few weeks.

  29. I am so looking forward to this! I ghostwrite nonfiction, which sounds like a completely different ball of wax (for one, I’m usually hired by the author not the publisher, though that may just be how it’s worked out for me. Though I’ve written for some big names, I wouldn’t say I’m in the big leagues), but I’ve never written anything that fast! I know there are going to be many lessons in this. And entertainment! Thanks for letting us in!

  30. TK Kenyon says:

    Jesus Lord Almighty! May the Writing Gods love you and save you from the evils of carpel tunnel tendinitis!

    Holy crap, that’s a challenge.

    TK Kenyon

  31. Oh this is awesome! I’m starting my novel in 8 days on Monday and I plan on blogging about my progress too. The last book I wrote was a Chick Lit that I got through at 1000 words at a time for a total of 10K words per day, eventually. The novel I’m writing now isn’t outlined, it’s an Urban Fantasy so there are supernatural elements. Since I started reading your blog years ago my daily word count has massively increased and my writing (not my rewriting) has gotten better.

    I’m looking forward to reading your ghost novel posts. Maybe I can compare them with my daily writing experiences. My brain doesn’t usually start imploding until day three 😉

    Hope I haven’t made typos in my comment as I’m writing this on my poxy phone!

    • dwsmith says:

      Suzanne, I would suggest that no author blog about their writing of any novel besides some book like what I am doing, without my name on it. Readers never need to know the process of writing a book. If you write it too fast for their taste, they won’t buy it because they will think it is done poorly. (remember the myths). So I would highly suggest to never blog about the writing process of a book. However, readers love blogging about the topics in a book.

      For example, as I get closer to releasing and writing more novels set in poker worlds, I’ll be writing about poker. But never about the writing time or process of those books under my own name.

      This book I’m doing is an exception because it is a ghost novel.

  32. Suz Korb says:

    I’m not blogging about my novel writing on my author or pen name blogs. I tell all on my writing and publishing blog. Although, now that you mention it, perhaps this is why other author/writer bloggers look down on me. Whenever I mention the speed at which I write, they always assume faster means crappier. I’m fully aware of the myths that assume quick writing is bad writing, which is bollocks as I’ve read some awful traditionally published novels in my time by writers who claim to have spent years on their projects!

    I’m not blogging for readers at all right now. This year I’m just writing. If my books don’t sell by years’ end, I’ll think about doing online promo. And Lightning Source, wow is that going to be a learning curve. I really wish I could take your publishing course. Too bad I’m stuck over here in England.

    Recently though, I’ve seen a lot of traditionally published writers talking about their own writing processes, and quite a few of them are trying out -and successfully completing- novel first drafts within a matter of days. Also, on my writing blog I’m always sure to point out that my writing speed is only about “the first draft”. I don’t ever mention that it’s my only draft, I highlight all the editing (spellcheck and reader proofread) in my blog posts so that the myths perpetuate.

    It sucks, but it’s still the way of the world when it comes to how readers view the “professional” writing process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>