I have begun writing the first sequel for a book I just finished ghostwriting a week ago. (Yes it moves that quickly.) I find myself worrying about the expected letdown of the middle book in a planned trilogy. This isn’t always the case, as I happen to think that Catching Fire was the strongest book in the Hunger Games. Even so, the stereotype persists. If anything is to be blamed for this, it has to be Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom. Because of this, going forward I will blame Steven Spielberg for all of my writing shortcomings.
But is it a shortcoming to worry about the second book in my trilogy being a letdown? Is it even my trilogy? It is true that the rights to these novels are not mine, but are the characters and their emotions mine? Absolutely. I don’t think you can be a good writer and not care about the writing you are doing. Just because I am writing for a flat fee and not for royalties does not mean I shouldn’t care. I can’t express how glad I am that I care.
I told myself when I started ghostwriting that I wasn’t selling out and I still believe that. If I’m going to write within a genre, or set of parameters that I wouldn’t choose for myself, I’m going to write the best I damn well can within that genre. When it comes down to it, writing is always going to be about the readers and not how or why the author is paid. It is unethical, not to mention illogical to mail it in on my ghostwriting work while saving my best work for personal projects.
I want to be a good writer all the time, and the odds are, if I mail it in on ghostwriting projects, those bad habits are going to leak into my own writing and be a corrosive force.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @shutupcabbage