Monday, November 1, 2021

Need help writing your book? Get a ghostwriter.

Anyone who is reasonably literate can crank out a 5,000 to 10,000 word ebook and put it out on Kindle or elsewhere. However, most writers who want to produce good books know that they are going to need some help. They may need a copy editor, a cover artist, a book designer, or some other specialist. They may also need an editor or ghostwriter to keep moving forward with the project.

When to consider hiring a ghostwriter.

You realize that you don’t have a clue on how to write a book.

You don’t have time to learn how to write a book.

You know that you will never get it done without help.

You have the resources to hire some help. 

What to look for in a ghostwriter.  

Experience. Hire a person who has actually ghost-written several books, or at least a few. Ghost-writing is more difficult than many other forms of writing. An experienced ghost-writer will know how to keep the project moving forward at a good pace. An inexperienced person may be an excellent writer, but may not be familiar at all with collaborating on a large project.   

Skills. Naturally, you will want someone who writes well. Take a good look at some of the writer’s work. If you don’t like it very much, look for someone whose writing you do like. Journalistic skills also come into play. A writer who can figure out the right questions to ask will keep your project moving forward. If you want to include photos in your book, hiring a person who knows how to take and edit pictures can help. 

Compatibility. You and your ghost-writer will be spending considerable time together. Look for someone you get along with, someone with similar values and temperament. 

Someone who can write in your voice. The final product should be in the voice of the author, not the ghostwriter. If the author doesn’t use lots of big words, the book should reflect that. If the author has an extensive vocabulary, that should be in the book. Toward the end of work on the second edition of How the Rubber Meets the Road by Dick Erickson, we engaged the services of an excellent copy-editor, Doug Filaroski. After he edited the book, he and I and Dick met for lunch. Doug hadn’t met Dick previously. Halfway through the lunch Doug told me, “You really got Dick’s voice right.” It was great to hear because ghostwriting is about getting the author’s voice right. 

My process for ghostwriting. 

My process involves weekly meetings with the client. I spend an hour or more preparing for the meetings, figuring out what we can accomplish in the sessions, and coming up with questions that will keep the discussion moving forward. Those meetings can be in person or by Zoom, and they can run from 30 minutes to 2 hours. I record the meetings with so I can get a transcript later. I also take notes of highlights that I want to get back to. 

The transcripts can run from 10,000 to 20,000 words, much of it gibberish. The software isn’t perfect, but it’s AI, so it’s getting better all the time. Shortly after a meeting, either that afternoon or early the next day, I review the transcript looking to dig out as much useable material as I can. By staying as close as possible to what the client said, the client’s own voice emerges. 

I revisit whatever parts of the manuscript are already in place and figure out where to plug in the new material. When I feel like I’ve got a chapter or topic far enough along for the client to review, I’ll send it by email, load it on Dropbox, or deliver it in whatever way is convenient for the client. 

A few days prior to an upcoming meeting, I will send a reminder to the client. Usually, I will have a few questions that need to be addressed. Facts might need to be verified, or I might want more information about something we’ve discussed. Also, I ask the client what he or she wants to cover in the next session. If the client has something on his or her mind, I certainly want to get into that. As a writer and as a ghost-writer, I believe in going where the energy leads. Then I start planning for the session, writing out the questions, etc. 

Getting a ghost-writer doesn’t mean there won’t be much work for the client. In fact, I think a good ghostwriter will push a client to do the necessary work on his or her end. Shortly after a session, I usually have something for the client to review, questions to be answered, or information that the client needs to dig up. There’s some coaching involved.

“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at 9:00 a.m. every morning.” This quote has been attributed to William Faulkner, Somerset Maugham, and several others. 

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