The Ghostwriter and Your Kidlit Manuscript


By Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter, Editor, Coach

To come up with a fiction story idea is pretty cool. Getting notes down or a basic outline takes it to the next level.

At this point, some authors realize they need professional help to bring their ideas, notes, or outlines to life. It’s time to hand it over.

With this scenario, the ghostwriter pretty much has free range.

This is true because the client, the author, can envision the type of story they’d like, but they don’t have any investment in how to get it there.

While there’s an idea or a basic outline, the story needs to be told. The writer can weave her magic and create it, with the authors’ feedback as they go along.

But what happens when there’s a complete manuscript?

What happens when the author has taken the time and effort to come up with an idea and has actually written the story? Whether it’s taken him a few months or a couple of years, it’s his baby. He’s brought it to life.

In this scenario, the author is fully invested in the story.

The problem, though, is the author may not know how to write. And, even more important, she may not know anything about writing for children. It really is a different type of writing – lots more rules.

Thinking of a couple of quick examples:

– The author may own a kennel of dogs and wants to show each dog’s personality in depth. Max is playful to the point of being hyper. Daisy loves being held and likes to cuddle. And watch out for Dutch. This will be problematic for a number of reasons, the most significant would be if it's a picture book.

– The author is a professional and is determined, maybe even obsessed, with driving home what’s good for the child. Each scene tells the child what to do.

– The author has gone on an amazing journey or has a passion and wants to share it with children. He wants it to be fiction, but it reads more like a nonfiction story.

While writing a book based on these examples will satisfy the author, it won’t meet standard children’s book guidelines.

It’s not to say these ideas aren’t good; each scenario can be kindling for an out-of-the-ballpark story … if it’s written right.

Hoping the author/client can let go.

In some cases, rewriting a story can be more difficult than ghostwriting from an idea or basic outline.

Some clients have blinders on. They want what they want, whether it’s reader-friendly or not. They just can’t let go of what they’ve written.

When this happens:

The writer often becomes a writing teacher.

The writer tries to explain why something in the story doesn’t work. Or, it may be even worse, and the entire story is a problem.

She tries to explain the children’s writing rules that all books for children should adhere to.

She hopes the client is reasonable and understands. She hopes the client allows her to do her job.

The writer becomes a negotiator of sorts.

It can become a back-and-forth. The writer resorts to the, “Well, what if we do it this way?”

Unfortunately, the client has blinders on and wants what she wants. So, it’s back to, “Well, what if we do it this way instead?”

The writer just jumps in.

Knowing the story needs to be improved, the writer may rewrite it into a publishable book.

This can be a gamble, though.

It can waste the writer’s time and effort if the client doesn’t like it. Then the writer has to go back to being a teacher and negotiator.

When the writer’s hands are tied.

It can become an ethical dilemma for the writer when the client doesn’t want to budge.

– Does the writer simply write the story the way the client wants even though she knows it’s not professional?

While the writer is being paid to write for the client, this isn’t always the best route to take. Although the writer’s name won’t be associated with the book, it’s a story being worked on and should be as professional as it can be.

But there are some instances when the client just wants the book for personal or family use. In these cases, it’s the writer’s decision. I will take on the project.

– Does she walk away from the project after it’s started?

This is obviously a very individual decision that a professional writer doesn’t take lightly.

While I haven’t accepted projects because I knew they wouldn’t be publishable worthy, I’ve never had to walk away from an ongoing project.

I’ll teach and negotiate until the story is the way it should be. It takes more time and effort, but that’s okay.

Every situation is unique, and the ghostwriter will need to decide what’s best.


 Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, ghostwriter, editor, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide.

She also offers:
DIY How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book
Fiction Writing for Children Self-Guided Course and Mentoring Program
Writers on the Move Press (self-publishing help for children’s authors)

You can check out Karen’s published books at:

1 comment:

Nina said...

What an interesting process! Thank you for sharing.

Margot Conor

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