Introduction to Vital Writer Services and Elizabeth Herman

Elizabeth Herman has been helping and supporting writers of various backgrounds and ages and in all stages of the writing process since 1998. She completed her doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition in December of 2008. Vital Writer Services is her new business offering coaching, tutoring, editing and proofreading to writers in various genres and with a variety of possible issues. Five percent of each fee will be  donated to non-profit educational service projects around the world, which are described on the ‘supporting others‘ page of this blog. Contact her at 618-559-1641 (cell phone) or hermanbetsy@yahoo.com for more information.

Becoming Big Enough for Collaboration

As you begin to accept the collaborative process in your writing projects, questions may arise about how to interrelate with other writers.

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Natalie Goldberg’s essay, “Writing is a Communal Act,” from her book “Writing Down the Bones” advises people to “be a tribal writer, writing for all people and reflecting many voices.”

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In order to do so, she warns writers to stop making other writers separate from one’s self, to eliminate dichotomies between writers, to avoid secret jealousy, and to accept that “if someone writes something great, it’s just more clarity in the world for all of us.”

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In my research, I’ve found so many scholars and theorists who verify the unity between subject and object, self and other. Not only does “embracing contraries,” as Peter Elbow describes, help with collaboration, but it also helps with predicting how readers will respond to what you say.

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This unity, or belongingness, makes our consciousness bigger and allows us to take on bigger challenges and address themes and narratives of interest to wider audiences.

Collabaration and Reading: The Influence of Other Writers

According to Natalie Goldberg’s book of essays on writing, “Writing Down the Bones,” writers learn to write by falling “in love with other writers.”

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She defines being a lover as “stepping out of yourself, stepping into someone else’s skin.”

Not only do we step into the skins of other writers whom we love, we step into the skins of the fictional characters and real human beings who we create and evoke on the page.

Whether you do journalistic articles or short stories, the others within your content must come alive by merging with your consciousness, since you will breathe life into them with your visual language.

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I love Natalie Goldberg’s descriptions of how she and her students write, and how their composing processes take place within their actual human lives, in relation to their spiritual and physical growth processes as well.

In her words, “Great lovers realize that they are what they are in love with.”

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The lines between the self and the other start to blur until your writing becomes your own regardless of how much you may have imitated your inspiration at the beginning.

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Imitation is not to be feared. If you love Hurston, don’t be afraid to write like Hurston. If you love Steinbeck, don’t be afraid to write like him.

If you love what you read, it is more likely that you will love what you write.

A Personal Take on Learning Collaboration (instead of ghostwriting)

Another writer, Cheryl Connor, identifies the differences between collaboration and ghostwriting in her article for Forbes magazine.

ghost writing 3The crucial factor making collaboration ethically OK can be described by the terms involvement, engagement and participation in the writing process.

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My son, a 22 year old college student, has taken a course this semester on one of my favorite career pursuits, tutoring other student writers in his university’s writing center.

I have many fond memories of collaborating with other writers in that same center when I went to school at our local university. I feel extremely happy knowing that my son can experience the same joy at helping others with their writing that I did.

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The strategies taught by Dr. Jane Cogie allow tutors to keep their writing clients involved, engaged and participating, even while guiding and coaxing them on to better quality writing practices and strategies.

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Such training not only has helped me become a better writer and teacher but it is currently helping my son to express himself through poetry and as a teacher in training who will go on to help many others.

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I wish I could express the extent of my gratitude for the dedication of all our teachers, especially Dr. Cogie and others, who have helped us immensely through the years. But my gratitude is too limitless to express in words.

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Today is Veteran’s Day and the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior in 1975. Many blessings to the veterans and their families, and to the memory of the ill-fated vessel and her crew.

BOO! Why Writers Become Ghosts (Ethics of Collaboration, cont’d)

Where does the line fall between supportive collaboration and ghost writing? The answer lies in the official author’s involvement in the writing process and in the public credit given to the supportive writer. How well this relationship meets the needs of both sides can indicate how ethical the ghost writing practice may be in any given circumstance.

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A completely anonymous writer who completes the work on a text alone and gets no public credit becomes commonly termed a “ghost writer.” A relationship with this type of writer usually happens based on a mutual agreement. However, other degrees of involvement and public credit can occur and still fall under the category of ghost writing.

Sometimes an author has great ideas and a great marketing plan, but doesn’t have the time or patience to slog through the actual production of the written text, so this author will engage someone who can privately devote time and energy to fulfilling this author’s needs. This can be mutually beneficial and happy as long as the relationship continues to meet the needs of both parties over time.

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Demian Farnworth discusses both pros and cons of ghost writing. While he recognizes it has ethical implications that point towards a violation of trust between readers and authors, he also sees the benefit for writers who don’t want to have to justify their thoughts and words to an unforgiving audience.

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My suggestion about ghostwriting ethics takes the shape of a relationship-based value system. The damage or good that comes out of a ghostwriting relationship depend upon how the individuals involved manage that relationship. What do you think?

Part 3: Marketing Ethics for Writers (collaboration questions and potential mistakes)

Before giving public credit to another writer for their contributions to your work, how much collaboration do ethics allow? Can you have someone as a full time collaborator and still take full credit for creating the written text? Who decides the answers to these questions?

th3ZDLU2PFMost publishing frameworks give authors room to acknowledge the support they receive from editors, friends and a wide variety of readers who provide necessary input and feedback during the writing process.

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However, you probably need to check with those supportive people to make sure they don’t need more credit than a simple acknowledgement. Sometimes a freelance editor may be giving more than a fair share of time and energy, and may feel unable to ask for, or may not know what is necessary for an equitable professional relationship. However, both sides must take responsibility in order to continue healthy and ethical cooperative writing.

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As an author of note getting primary credit for what are often collaborative projects, it also becomes your responsibility to communicate fully with your supportive team, to make sure you can maintain ethical practices as you move forward towards bigger and possibly more lucrative writing.

Part Two: Marketing, Relationships and Ethics

What does it mean to market? Simply put, it means to make yourself and/or your products and ideas available to the public or some portion of the public.

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When we write privately, marketing can seem to be unnecessary, but anytime you look for a reader of your words, you engage in marketing.

Marketing does not necessarily mean selling out or becoming extremely commercial. It means finding and connecting effectively with an audience, regardless or how big or profitable that audience might prove to be.

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A piece of writing has marketability when it is coherent and understandable for readers, when it has practical value or information that readers need for any specific purpose. Readers consume your writing when they read it. You produce, and they consume, whether money is exchanged or not. It’s really as simple as that, and doesn’t need to become a moral or intellectual debate.

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At the same time, ethics on relationships between writers and audiences can help to regulate any moral questions that writers and audiences may have when they agree to exchange ideas and energy. I encourage ethical discussions about business, sports and particularly the rhetorical relationships between writers and readers. Let’s have a global conference on ethics in the field of writing!

Marketing Your Writing (Mistakes)

Plenty of advisors, who sound very wise, offer to help writers with marketing their books and other forms of discourse. They charge large sums of money for workshops on getting marketable manuscripts completed, promoting such manuscripts, and becoming successful speakers as well as authors.

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How can you implement a marketing strategy successfully without investing large amounts of money for coaching on how to do so? A few basic starting points may help to get you on the market, without cutting a hole in your budget.

  • Gather a list of your potential readers, and start sending them interesting excerpts from your writing.
  • Offer them a pre-publication order form, so they can order your book even before it’s done.
  • Email your potential readers regularly with updates on your writing progress, in order to develop a relationship with them.
  • Search for opportunities to speak publicly about your writing, and do so whenever you can.
  • Make sure you have a website that offers not only regular blog posts, but information about your fees, how to order your book, and how to hire you as a speaker.

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Of course, the possible strategies could go on and on, and coaching in using these tips would be very helpful for those who need experience. But for the determined beginner who needs to get started without making a huge monetary investment, these basics can provide a platform for developing your successful author’s persona and projecting it out to an increasingly wider audience.

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