A Children’s Ghostwriting Dilemma

I get ghostwriting clients from all demographics. I work with psychologists, therapists, professionals in the medical field, grandparents, parents, teachers, and others who for whatever the reason want to write a children’s book.

Now and then, I get a client who trusts my writing skills enough to hire me to ghostwrite or rewrite his story, but then doesn’t want to take my advice.

I do understand that people can be very passionate about their story ideas or their outline or manuscript. This is a good thing. But, when that passion gets in the way of writing a professionally written story, that’s not a good thing.

Let me give an example.

You’ve written an excessive amount of content for a children’s fiction picture book. It’s a very detail oriented and fact-based subject. You’ve also had illustrations created.

The first thing the writer explains is that a picture book should be under 1000 words and if you’re going the ‘real’ traditional route, it should be well under that.

The second thing she explains is that the story / information would be much better served by writing a nonfiction book, rather than fiction.

You don’t care. You insist it needs to be as many words as it takes to get all the facts down. You also insist it be a fiction story.

At this point, the writer explains that you’d be better off with a chapter book. This would allow for 5,000 to 15,000 words which would be enough to get everything you want in the story while allowing for a full storyline.

Again, the writer’s advice goes out the window. You insist it be a picture book, even if it has to be a jammed-packed 64-page picture book.

In this scenario, it goes on and on. You want more fact than story. You don’t want realistic behavior for the protagonist. In other words, you don’t want him to have any bad characteristics.

In this type of situation, you’re putting the pen in the writer’s hand then tying her hands behind her back.

Here’s another example.

You’ve written a story about your pet. You think it’s wonderful and everyone will love it.

The problem is it’s poorly written:

– It doesn’t have a full story arc.

  • It’s primarily telling rather than showing.
  • There’s no real conflict.
  • The story has contradictions in it.
  • The story doesn’t really make sense – it lacks clarity.

You listen to what the writer has to say and she writes it to be an engaging story in line with current publishing guidelines.

Upon reading it, you decide you want some of the scenes that didn’t work back in the story.

The writer throws her hands in the air.

This creates quite the dilemma for the ghostwriter.

  • Should the writer argue with the client?
  • Should she drop the client?
  • Should she compromise on certain scenes or chapters?
  • Should she advise the best she can then write what the client wants?

I’ve had one or two clients who accepted the completed manuscript then made their own changes to it. I’m just thankful that my name isn’t anywhere on or in their books.

When you hire a professional writer, it’s because you don’t have the writing skills or knowledge of the children’s book industry to write a publishable book.

While ghostwriting walks a fine line between what needs to be done for a good story and the client’s vision, it should ultimately be about the young reader.


I’ve been told by a client that I don’t write for the client and I don’t write for myself … I write for the reader. And, that’s how it should be for any author.

You want the reader to be absorbed in a good story. The story should be engaging, understandable, and hopefully memorable. It should be a story that kids will love to read or have read to them.

An analogy.

When I told a writing friend about this particular ghostwriting problem, she gave the analogy of someone going to the doctor for an ailment. The doctor gives his advice. Then the person goes to her beautician and asks if she should follow the doctor’s advice.

My own thoughts: if you know nothing about cars and bring your car to the mechanic because the brakes aren’t working, you wouldn’t second guess him. You wouldn’t tell him how to fix the brakes. And you certainly wouldn’t try to adjust what the mechanic did.

It’s the same with a professional children’s ghostwriter. If you’re paying for her writing skills and knowledge, let her do her job.

Trust that she’ll keep your vision for the story while making it a story you can be proud to be author of … a story that’s publishable.

Learn to write for children

Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 170+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent and marketing your books.

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