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April 20, 2023

What is a Ghostwriter in Screenwriting?

For those unfamiliar with the world of writing, the term "ghostwriter" might evoke images of a strange character from a mix of Midnight in Paris and Doctor Sleep. However, those with even the slightest experience in writing have likely encountered the term in various contexts.

So, who exactly is a ghostwriter, and how does the practice apply to screenwriting, if at all?

What is ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is the practice of creating texts on behalf of someone else, who is then recognized as the author. This may include articles, books, reports, or other documents.

A ghostwriter is the person responsible for writing these texts, and their work is credited to another individual. Typically, a ghostwriter's contribution remains unacknowledged, and their work may be edited or revised by the credited author. You cannot just pitch to the BBC or pitch to Amazon as you can if it's your own work.

Ghostwriting serves various purposes, such as when a public figure wants to write a book but lacks the necessary skills or time or when a business or organization needs written materials credited to their brand but doesn't have in-house writers.

Ghostwriting is also used in academia, where students might hire someone to write term papers or dissertations. However, in this context, the practice is fraudulent and considered serious academic misconduct.

There are pros and cons to being a ghostwriter. On the positive side, ghostwriting can be a stepping stone towards becoming a professional writer, offering the chance to write within a specific framework without the pressure of having work attributed to one's name. Other advantages include working with a variety of clients and projects, flexible scheduling, and earning a living while writing, especially for beginners.

However, there are also disadvantages, such as not being able to build a portfolio or profile directly from the work. Ghostwriters typically don't receive credit or recognition, may have to sign confidentiality agreements, and face competition in finding steady work.

Script doctors

In the music industry, it's common for top musicians to buy melodies, lyrics, or even hire people to write songs for them. This practice is much rarer in Hollywood, particularly when major studios are involved in a production.

A ghostwriter struggling with this script, steam is pouring out of his eyes
Script doctors often have the hard task of re-writing the strucutre and plot of other screenwriters' work with no credit

A similar role in the movie industry is that of a script doctor, a screenwriter hired to rewrite or "fix" an existing screenplay. Script doctors are brought in to improve script quality, often by addressing plot holes, strengthening characters, or adding new story elements. Like ghostwriters, script doctors usually don't receive credit, except in cases where their contributions are significant enough.

Becoming a ghostwriter

To become a ghostwriter, one must first build strong writing skills, create a portfolio of writing samples, and network to find clients. Joining professional writing organizations or attending conferences and workshops can help in making connections.

Creating a website or blog to showcase writing skills and experience as a ghostwriter is also recommended. Specializing in a specific type of ghostwriting, such as memoirs or business books, can increase attractiveness to potential clients. Lastly, maintaining professionalism and reliability is crucial in the competitive field of writing, which includes meeting deadlines, clear communication with clients, and honoring confidentiality agreements.

Finding opportunities

In addition to screenwriting and script doctoring, ghostwriters can also find opportunities in other areas of the entertainment industry. For example, they can be involved in writing speeches for actors, politicians, or CEOs, as well as creating content for social media influencers or celebrities who may not have the time or skill to develop their own material.

Ghostwriting is not limited to long-form content, either. Some ghostwriters specialize in short-form writing, such as creating blog posts, articles, or social media updates on behalf of their clients. This type of work allows writers to stay current with Trending topics and refine their skills in creating concise, engaging content for various platforms.

Collaboration is also an essential aspect of ghostwriting, as the writer must work closely with the client to develop content that aligns with their voice, style, and message. This process may involve multiple revisions and feedback sessions to ensure that the final product meets the client's expectations. In this sense, ghostwriting can be an excellent opportunity for writers to develop their communication, collaboration, and interpersonal skills.

Furthermore, ghostwriting can provide valuable insight into different industries, as writers are often exposed to various subjects, from technology and business to health and lifestyle. This exposure can broaden a writer's knowledge base, making them more versatile and adaptable in their writing career.

Ghostwriting as a screenwriter can be a great side gig

Ghostwriting is a multifaceted profession with both challenges and rewards. While it may not always provide the recognition and credit that writers seek, it offers valuable opportunities for growth, skill development, and exposure to diverse subjects and industries. Ultimately, the experience gained from ghostwriting can serve as a solid foundation for a successful writing career, whether in screenwriting, content creation, or other forms of professional writing.

Remember if you're interested in becoming a screenwriter download our FREE industry standard screenwriting software today.


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What is a Ghostwriter in Screenwriting?
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