Good Memoir Themes

Woman contemplates writing her life storyYou might be thinking, “Memoirs are just life stories. Why would they need to have themes?” Well, the truth is that memoir themes are vital to your story’s success. After all, a memoir is a specialized autobiography and, as such, it must follow the rules of literature.

What is a theme?

Simply put, the theme of a book is the main idea that ties everything together. This idea might express a basic universal truth, such as Love, Friendship, War, or Faith.

These general themes can be further refined to explore a specific aspect. For instance, in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare broke down the idea of “Love” and particularly examined forbidden love and its potential consequences.

A theme can also delve into a deeper concept, such as the battle between good and evil. For example, I’m currently reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, which explores many shades of good and evil throughout.

The theme is usually not stated outright. Instead, the author gives the reader insight into his view of the world and the human condition through the characters’ beliefs, actions, experiences and conversations.

How do themes relate to memoirs?

When you write your memoir, you’re not just publishing a shopping list of memories. You are telling the story of pivotal moments in your life, of the lessons you’ve learned that make you who you are.

To capture your readers’ interest, you will need to share these incidents in the most interesting way possible, highlighting key events (creating action) and the people who influenced you most (who become characters in your book).

So, your memoir must follow the same rules as any good piece of literature: you must be able to tie the threads of your story tapestry together with a compelling theme.

How do I find my memoir themes?

Memoir theme of achieving life goal

If you’re struggling to find a good theme, check out my detailed article: Tips To Find Your Memoir Theme. To summarize, here are some key ideas you can explore:

  1. Look over your life story. Were there any obstacles you overcame? What lessons did you learn along the way? Jot these down, and they might point you in the direction of one or two memoir themes.
  2. Summarize your story in one or two sentences. When you drill down to the core of what your story is about, the theme often reveals itself.
  3. Step back and look at the big picture. Ask yourself questions such as “Why did I make that choice?” or “What would I do differently now that I know what I know today?” These questions could help you formulate your memoir themes.
  4. Talk to someone who knows your story. Since she has an outside perspective, she may spot similarities to unify your message.

I was working with a client who had an oppressive influence as a child. She hadn’t recognized it prior to our conversation, but when the stories started flooding out, she realized that an old schoolteacher wasn’t the hero she remembered him to be. One theme that came from these discussions is how one can overcome childhood adversities to become a success.

So, what are some good themes for your memoir? Well, let’s start with some examples of great memoir themes that I’ve encountered in my two decades as a ghostwriter. Maybe a few will resonate with you. Feel free to make adjustments to make them work for your story.

Persistence always wins in the end

If you’ve lived a hard life, one with lots of obstacles to overcome, this can be a great theme if you’ve triumphed. Others will benefit greatly from your story, perhaps finding the strength to pull themselves out of their current hardship.

Note: If you’re still amid the battle and really don’t have anything positive to share, now isn’t the time to write. And if your real goal is to complain to your reader, your story won’t make for a good read. I mean, would you want to read a book like that?

Continual courage can lead to victory

We have all experienced battles where the odds seemed against us. It’s what you do at those moments that counts and can make for a good story. If your life is filled with examples of courage and integrity, that would be a great theme.

I’ve ghostwritten many books with this theme. In fact, three different clients came to me with stories of escaping communism and fascism in bold and daring ways. We can all learn from their bravery.

Family is important

Family is a good memoir theme

This is a simple theme, but a good one. In this day and age, where the media reports that most marriages fail and children are growing up without the support and love of their parents, a good memoir showing the beautiful bond of family is a needed commodity. Of course, this theme can go beyond the traditional family structure. If you’ve experienced success and happiness in a non-traditional setting, this can truly inspire others in a similar situation.

Then there is always a need for good advice. Especially in the field of parenting. If you’ve evolved a unique approach that had positive results, you will have an interested audience.

Simply recording your family history for future generations is also a great concept! This is a popular request of a ghostwriter.

Ethical people lead better lives

If your story highlights times when you stood up and did the right thing, even when it was difficult for you, your story can set an important example for others. It isn’t always easy to keep your integrity, especially when peers are pressuring you to do the opposite.

Writing a book that shows how you succeeded by being ethical can help others make similar choices in their own lives. Perhaps someone will pick up your book when he’s at an important crossroad in his life and just needs a gentle nudge to make the right decision.

Crime doesn’t pay

Over the years I have received a number of requests from former inmates who are eager to share their stories of reform. The ones who are passionate about this subject, who regularly go out and speak to young adults, can do well with a complementary memoir.

A memoir from a former inmate will be rough in places and won’t always be happy-go-lucky, but the lessons learned by someone who has traveled the wrong path can be helpful to others. This theme only works if the author is presently leading a successful and ethical life.

Being true to oneself brings rewards

integrity is a good memoir theme

In a world of peer pressure and a constant demand to conform, it can be hard to find one’s way. Influencers from all corners of the globe (or perhaps just down the street) loudly proclaim their “truths” and harass anyone who doesn’t agree. If you’ve remained true to your beliefs despite pressure to surrender, your courage can be a beacon for others to do the same.

For example, many young artists are guided away from their passions by people around them. The ones who have weathered the critics around them and have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations may instill hope in others undergoing a similar struggle.

Some people have had a difficult decision to make in life and chose an unconventional route. Those authors could motivate others to consider alternative ways as well.

I ghostwrote a book about a woman whose young son had horrible symptoms. She defied her doctors by doing independent research and discovered the true nature of her son’s illness, thus saving him. This story continues to inspire parents all over the globe struggling with a similar problem.

Journeying outside of one’s comfort zone expands horizons

Journeying outside your comfort zone is a great memoir theme

So many people have well-established routines that ultimately don’t do much to fulfill their true life goals. I think most people have a vague awareness that things could be different, could be better, but have no idea how to implement the changes required to make a difference.

If you’ve broken the bonds and found new vistas of joy and fulfillment, your journey could encourage others to take their own leaps of faith.

This journey could be literal. Perhaps the author traveled to a different country and immersed himself in its culture, thereby gaining a broader understanding of what others have to endure to survive and a deeper appreciation of his own opportunities.

Or perhaps the journey is more figurative, more internal. It may be that the author has overcome a potent fear in order to pursue her dream. Or possibly she’s been able to make a change for the better, improving her moral compass along the way.

Life transitions can bring new experiences and joys

Shakespeare wrote a famous monologue about the seven ages of man, detailing each stage a person transitions through in life, a concept philosophers have been contemplating for eons. Each shift into a new phase of life can be a potent memoir theme.

Some transitions can be joyful, while others are often fraught with difficulties.  How did you approach a shift in life? Did you discover a new method of tackling a transition that could help others?

For example, perhaps when you and your spouse had children while maintaining full time jobs, you discovered some methods to juggle both successfully. Or if you’ve hit retirement early and have started a new business, you can share your successful actions and help others do the same.

As you begin to write your life story, there are so many great and inspiring memoir themes for you to explore. Really, you just need to look at the positive impact your story could have on others and then write it from the heart.

If you’re in the market for a ghostwriter, and wish to write and publish a book, please contact me. I’d love to chat with you about your memoir project!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can you Research a Memoir?

Write Your Family History in 2020

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

“I need help writing my book! How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?”

This is a very popular question. I’d imagine shopping for a writer is a bit like walking into a gallery with the hope of acquiring a special piece of art. You peruse the beautiful paintings on the walls and wonder about their cost. However, it can be intimidating to ask the artist, because the price could be well outside your budget.

When you buy a car or a house, you have a rough idea of the expense involved, but what does a ghostwriter charge?

I’ve noticed that some ghostwriters don’t like to tackle this subject on their websites. Maybe they’re worried you’ll just click away or fall into a dead faint. Well, allow me to address the question upfront. I mean, why bury the pricing in some dusty corner of my website? There really is no need to dance around the subject.

As you’ll discover, writers have different fees and some price in different ways. For instance, some writers may charge by the hour or the page. I run a dollar per word to ghostwrite. While manuscripts vary in length, a short memoir or novella will be 25,000 words and a full-length book will be 50,000 – 75,000 words. Some authors prefer to publish mini-eBooks, which can be 5,000 – 10,000 words in length. These can be a good option to get one’s feet wet and learn the art of marketing books on Amazon.

Occasionally I’ll run into a client who actually needs a cross between an editor and a ghost, because he has already written most of the book and the first draft is in decent shape. If that’s the case with you, I’d charge much less. But first I’d need to see what you have before I could give you a proper bid.

Inside Secret: How to reduce a ghostwriter’s price

There are a few factors that can help reduce a ghostwriter’s cost (at least with me). Firstly, I’m always impressed when a prospective client has taken the time to really research me and find out the steps he should take before hiring a ghostwriter. I know this is a client who understands me and how I work, which is a great place to start the relationship.

Here are some key ways you may persuade me to reduce the amount I charge:

Pitch me an inspiring book

Idea for a bookWhile some ghostwriters will write about any subject matter, I’m rather picky. I prefer to write about uplifting subjects that help people in some way. Of course, the book doesn’t need to be happy-go-lucky throughout, but if you’re looking to get back at an ex or wish to delve into the horrors of your abusive past, I’m not the writer for you.

I’ve written a couple dozen books over the last two decades. Here are a few examples of projects I’ve completed from different genres:

  • The story of a man who immigrated to the United States with only a few dollars in his pocket and became a multi-millionaire
  • A nonfiction book about a how to run a specialized niche market business
  • The fictional story of a deadly family feud that spans generations and worlds, highlighting the importance of family loyalty and the overcoming of seemingly impossible obstacles
  • The heroic journey of a man who escaped communist Hungary on foot to become an affluent businessman in Canada

There are times when someone approaches me with a story that truly appeals to me. I find that I can’t stop thinking about the project. I really want to help the author, even though he or she can’t pay my full price. If you’re on a tight budget and need help, let me know what you can afford. I can almost always make suggestions to help reduce your cost. Or I might be able to work with a student writer and supervise her work. When I do that, I can charge less.

Be flexible with your deadline

Normally, I need eight months to a year (or more) to complete a book project. If you need a fast turnaround time, I will need to increase my price. However, if you are flexible on deadlines, I can sometimes give you a price break, as I can take on other projects.

I routinely try to come in ahead of my deadlines, but it’s nice to have some leeway if it’s needed. Flexibility is worth its weight in gold.

In addition, there are times when my clients need to take a few months off, too. I always juggle projects to accommodate authors.

Reduce your word count

Since a ghostwriter usually charges on a per word basis, you can reduce the price tag by lowering your proposed word count. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the average length of a book is 50,000 – 75,000 words (or 200 – 300 pages), but some stories can be told in 25,000 words (or 100 pages). This is an acceptable length for a memoir. So, if a shorter book is more realistic for you, know that I can make it any length, within reason. Just be aware that we might not be able to include all the incidents that occurred.

Quality is always better than quantity in writing.

Show you communicate well

man communicating on laptop with ghostwriterI need my authors to be available to review pages I send or answer questions that come up as I write. Understand that you’ll need to put in a couple hours a week on your project with me.

I seek out clients who communicate well and respect my time. From experience, I know that working with these clients will be easier, because they will respond to my queries and be a true partner on the project. Of course, I will always do the heavy lifting for any book project I take on, but the client’s contributions are vital to the success of the project.

On the flip side, if a client needs me to send five emails before answering a question or doesn’t make a scheduled appointment, it takes me longer to complete a project.

I will sometimes give discounts (or add words for free) to a client who communicates well and respects my time.

Three Categories of Writer

If you’re willing to pay the cost to hire a ghostwriter, it’s good to know that there are three main categories of writers:

  • Cheap writers
  • Mid-range professional writers
  • High-end celebrity writers

Cheap writers

ghostwriter's costPrice range: $2,000 to $15,000

How to locate: Fiverr, Upwork, Guru or other freelance websites

Pros:

  • Easy to find
  • Many writers in this category
  • Very low cost

Cons:

  • You need to watch for plagiarism. It’s rampant in this category.
  • The writer will often have little to no prior experience. You’ll need to be patient.
  • Because of this writer’s lack of experience, she may miss deadlines or run into unexpected difficulties.
  • The writer will probably have a full-time job, which may cause delays.
  • Be prepared to rewrite her work.

Advice:

  • Ask for references and contact each one.
  • Get writing samples. Be sure to check each using plagiarism software.
  • Make sure they include outside editing within their fee.
  • Never pay the entire fee upfront; give an industry-standard deposit of 25% down.

Summary:

If you have a very small budget (and you can’t write your book on your own), a cheap writer really is your only option. Your biggest risk is that you’ll wind up with an unusable manuscript that will need to be rewritten. Also, you really need to watch for plagiarism with this class of writer.

Mid-range professional writers

Hire a Limo-class ghostwriter

Price range: $15,000 to $100,000

How to locate: Internet searches, blogs, and word-of-mouth

Pros:

  • You will get personalized attention from a professional writer.
  • The process will be an enjoyable experience.
  • Through the interview process, you’ll probably remember new details of past incidents and might put together some interesting pieces to your life puzzle.
  • Your ghostwriter will have years of writing experience, with at least a few books under her belt.
  • You will learn a lot about how to write along the way.

Cons:

  • The price tag is higher than a cheap writer.
  • Since there aren’t many ghostwriters in this category, it can be hard to get on her calendar. We book up fast.

Advice:

  • Review the ghostwriter’s website. Look for a testimonial page and a blog, as these will tell you a lot about the writer’s experience and viewpoint.
  • Compile a good list of questions before you interview her.
  • Make sure you sign a professional contract. Have it reviewed by your lawyer before signing it.
  • Plan to pay 25% – 40% when you begin the project.
  • Don’t restrict your search to local ghostwriters.

Summary:

This level of ghostwriter will make the project an enjoyable and educational experience for you. It’s a bit like hiring a limousine instead of calling an Uber. If you can afford a professional ghostwriter, you’ll wind up with a quality manuscript that you can either market and sell or pitch to an agent or publisher.

High-end celebrity writers

These ghostwriters are usually hired by actors, politicians, musicians and other famous personalities who will sell books just by virtue of their names. The writers for these celebrities are well-established ghostwriters and authors, who have a lot of experience in this area.

The cost to hire a ghostwriter for a celebrity usually runs $250,000 or more and often works through New York agencies.

Which category is right for you?

questions relating to ghostwritingMost people recognize that they would like a mid-ranged professional writer. And, honestly, the cost to hire a ghostwriter is actually reasonable when you consider that a lot of time, energy and hard work goes into writing a book. An excellent professional writer will often spend up to a year or two researching, writing, and editing a book for you.

As you can see, the cost to hire a ghostwriter fluctuates greatly from writer to writer.

Bottom line: you get what you pay for!

Tip: Give your ghostwriter a trial run

If you’re uncertain about the cost to hire a ghostwriter and are nervous about plunking down a large deposit, propose a trial run. Of course, you’ll need to pay for the service. If you don’t pay her, she will have to fit it in around her paid work and won’t be able to grant it the proper importance. Also, if you pay for the piece, you’ll own the rights to it and can use it anytime.

This trial run will allow you to find out how well the writer meets the agreed-upon deadline and you can really determine the quality of her work. At the end, you will have a good idea of what to expect if you hire her.

Now, some people get the “bright idea” that they can piece together a manuscript by asking many different ghostwriters to provide samples for free. This won’t work. Trust me, it will look more like a patchwork quilt than a book. This is not a good way to get around the cost to hire a ghostwriter.

When I do a trial phase, I allow my client to pick the word count, then I charge my standard dollar-per-word fee. If someone is writing his memoir, I select a story from his past to write. If I’m trying out for a nonfiction piece, I usually write an essay or a blog article. These few pages give the new client a good idea of what to expect from our budding relationship.

A Little Warning

Man is upset about hiring the wrong ghostwriterHave you received a lowball offer to write your book?

While it might sound attractive, it rarely works out for you in the end. I have received calls from a number of prospective clients who made “excellent” deals hoping to save money, only to find they had to shell out a lot more cash to have everything re-written. It’s frustrating for the author, as well as for the ghostwriter who must now take over the project.

If you’re paying a fraction of the usual price, you often get a fraction of the quality.

If you have questions and need help,  don’t hesitate to contact me! Check out my testimonial page to see what my clients have to say about me and my work.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

What You Need In a Ghostwriting Contract?

Write Your Family History in 2020

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Understanding Characters

What Is It Like to Be a Ghostwriter?

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

“When my partner and I decided to write a book, we interviewed many ghost writers. Some were very inexpensive, while others were too pricey for our budget. Laura wasn’t the least expensive writer, but we chose her because she was so passionate about writing. Laura went above and beyond our expectations. I am very pleased with all her work and will continue to use her for my future writing needs.” Edwin Carrion

Write And Publish A Book in 2020

Imagine that you write and publish a bookAs we embark upon the roaring twenties, you’ll find that it is easier to write and publish a book through Amazon. You can pick any length, set your price and start selling copies relatively quickly.

Having said that, you do need to actually sit down and write the book. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.”

By writing this article, my intention is not to minimize the challenges of your book project in any way. It will take time and you’ll encounter a few barriers along the way. However, since I’ve lived over a half a century now and have written a few dozen books, I thought I could possibly help lessen your frustrations a bit by offering a few tips.

Start by jotting down notes

It rarely works to start writing the first page without knowing where you’re heading. After all, if you’re planning a trip from San Diego to Topeka, I’d imagine that you’d probably pull out a map or GPS to help guide you. It would be tough to just start driving northeast and hope you arrive at Aunt May’s house.

So, begin by simply jotting down general notes and ideas about your whole book. This will give you a direction to head in as you develop the finer points of your story.

Personally, I open a Word document and organize my thoughts into short paragraphs. A former mentor once gave me a wonderful system that I still use today when I outline a book. I create a Who, What, When, and Where sort of format for each incident when I’m writing a novel. Then I always make sure to include the purpose of the incident.

This system works well for a memoir or a fictional piece.

It’s important to keep it simple. Remember, these are just brief notes so that you can create a road map for your book without getting lost on a side path to nowhere.

Example of an incidentIncident of a book: couple drinking coffee

  • Who: Marge and Stephen
  • When: Sept 6, 2002, their six-month anniversary
  • Where: Starbucks on Main St. (Where they first met)
  • What happened: Stephen proposes and Marge declines
  • Purpose: Show how Stephen’s heart was broken early in his life

If you have more to say, you can add another line and call it “Notes.” Here you can download your thoughts on this incident if you find it hard to continue without doing so. For instance, you might add to the above:

  • Notes: Marge and Stephen broke up soon after this. Over the next few years, Stephen dated a few women, but broke up with each of them after six months.

Adding notes at the end of the incident description isn’t required, but the other elements are important. The most important component is the purpose. If you discover that you can’t come up with a legitimate reason to include an incident, it needs to be removed. This can be difficult, I know.

Once you have your list of incidents, you can put them in the right order because each has a time stamp (the When). Typically, you’ll put them in chronological order, but once in a while you’ll create a flashback to illustrate a point.

This is simply one way to create and organize an outline. You can also simply write incident titles on index cards, with very little description (e.g.: Stephen proposes to Marge and is rejected). Later you can fill in the details. Some authors prefer index cards, as they can shuffle them around easily then pin them to a board. I prefer using Word’s old cut and paste function.

While this may seem a bit tedious, I promise you, it’s an important step if you wish to write and publish a book. And, as an added bonus, your themes for a memoir or fictional book will pop out when you create a good working outline.

Set a target and make it

Once you have your outline worked out, you should be eager to start writing. I know I always am! The book is pretty well written in my head; now, it’s time to get it down on paper.

I find it helpful to set myself a daily word-count target, but it might work better for you to have a weekly target. It really depends upon how much time you have to devote to your book project. Only you know what’s realistic for you.

Some incidents will roll off your fingertips onto your computer screen, while others will require a little more time. Keep in mind that you’ll need to do some research, which will take time away from actually writing. Give yourself enough time to be thorough.

As you settle into the routine of writing, you should become engrossed in the story. When this happens, you may find you can increase the amount of words you write.

It’s also a good idea to give yourself deadlines for completing sections of your book. Truthfully, making your deadlines is the only way to write and publish a book. As a professional ghostwriter, I break up my projects into four milestones for my clients in my contract:

  1. The outline and research
  2. The first half of the first draft
  3. The second half of the first draft
  4. All revisions

Each milestone takes about two to three months for me to produce. This approach works well for me, but your process might be different. You may decide to break this down even further, perhaps setting yourself a goal of completing a chapter a week.

Schedule time to write into your day

Schedule a time to writeIf you have a full-time job but have a strong desire to write and publish a book in your spare time, I suggest scheduling a certain time each day for writing. Most people prefer the early morning hours, as they often have the whole house to themselves. However, the night owls among you might prefer a late-night hour.

Whatever time you select, make sure you’ve had enough to eat and that you’re not too tired. It’s also good to secure a little peace and quiet. When you’re starved and have three young children clamoring to sit on your lap, it isn’t the best time to write. Trust me, I know.

If it’s possible, find a dedicated space to write. This should be a quiet place, preferably with a door. If you don’t have room for a writing alcove, then at least pick a place that is comfortable and free of distraction. Some people like to turn off their Wi-Fi, so they won’t be tempted to check the sports scores or their Facebook feed. It’s hard, I know, but remember your goal: To write and publish a book.

Seek out helpful feedback

If this is your first book, it would be a good idea to get a little feedback along the way. Ask friends to read chapters and find out if they are interested to read more. Be open to their thoughts and suggestions, but don’t lose yourself in their viewpoints. There’s definitely a balance to maintain between your own vision for the book and what appeals to your readers.

If you find you can’t do anything with the suggestions you get, keep plugging away. For instance, if you’re writing an historical romance, but your best friend prefers space opera, there really isn’t much you can do. Don’t change your direction to please one person.

However, if you show your book to five people and they all comment that they had trouble getting to the end, you might want to ask them what they didn’t like and if they can identify what made them put the book down. Maybe it’s a simple matter of putting more action into the story. Or perhaps you need to create a little more depth to your characters.

Once you complete the final draft of your book, you will need to get feedback. Find people who are willing to read the entire manuscript. Some people aren’t into reading, while others just don’t have the time. These aren’t good candidates. Find friends who love literature and ask them to critique your book.

Find outside help

If you don’t have personal acquaintances who can help, you might want to join a writer’s group and swap critiques with other writers. Or you can hire manuscript doctors or editors to give you pointers. This feedback can be instrumental to your growth as a writer.

It’s important to find readers who will praise you for what you’ve done as well as point out the flaws. Some editors feel the only valuable feedback is negative. That can be demoralizing and confusing. Good constructive criticism makes you aware of areas you can improve, while praise validates and reinforces the good work you have already done. Both are important.

The last thing you want to happen is to publish a book and find that there’s a gaping hole in your plot or a character that doesn’t come off as realistic. Or perhaps you’re writing your autobiography and have left an unanswered question in the reader’s mind. Good feedback allows you to look at the book through the reader’s eyes. It gives you the opportunity to craft the best possible story.

Get reviews for you book

Girls review a bookOnce you publish your book, find people who are willing to write reviews for you. Amazon has new rules about who can write book reviews, so it’s good to study those. Close family members and friends aren’t allowed (because they probably won’t be unbiased), but you are still allowed to trade a free review copy of your book to those you don’t know well.

Amazon and Goodreads are both great sites for drawing attention to your book, because both attract avid readers.

In addition, Amazon has an Early Reviewer Program to help you find your first five reviewers. Your product must be sold for $15 or more and the program comes with a hefty fee of $60. However, for some this can be a good way to start out.

For all my readers who have the goal to write and publish a book in 2020, I commend you. It isn’t an easy task, but I can promise you it is a very fulfilling one. One for one, my clients have been thrilled when they hold their first books in their hands. While the journey can have a few potholes along the way, it also has amazing vistas and truly spectacular triumphs.

Enjoy the experience!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Write Great Dialogue

How to Write a Business Book

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

How To Hire A Ghostwriter

Ideas for a book when you hire a ghostwriter

Do you have a great idea for a book, but find yourself having trouble making your dream a reality? This is the year to write a book!

It could be that you don’t know where to start.

Or maybe you don’t have the time or discipline to write the book.

Perhaps you’re not a huge fan of research, or possibly you just don’t enjoy writing.

Whatever the stumbling block, it doesn’t have to keep you from finishing your book. There is a solution.

It may be time to hire a ghostwriter!

A ghostwriter can help you take your idea from conception to fruition. She can help sculpt your vision into a book your readers can’t put down.

Here is a handy checklist to help to help determine what to do to hire a ghostwriter:

Decide on your budget

Ghostwriting pricing can span a broad range but remember the old saying: you get what you pay for.

There are ghostwriters who seem to charge impossibly low rates. These could be enticing, especially if you are on a budget; but if you’re interested in producing a high-quality book, you’ll need to pay an experienced ghostwriter what she is worth.

You can expect an experienced professional writer to charge you between $15,000 and $75,000 for a 100-300 page book.

Ask your prospective ghostwriter about his fee right up front. There is no sense in pouring out your heart and story only to learn that the writer is way out of your price range.

Don’t dance around the subject. If your prospective ghostwriter does, he probably isn’t a professional writer. You want to hire a ghostwriter who writes for a living, not one who tries to cram in time after his day job.

Be ready to answer basic questions

woman thinks of questions for a ghostwriter

When you talk to ghostwriters, they are interviewing you, even as you are interviewing them. They need to know various facts in order to determine if they are the best ghostwriter for you. Plus, in order to create a bid for your project, the ghostwriters will need the following information:

The general subject matter and genre of your book.

Writers specialize in different kinds of books. Some prefer to craft fictional tales, others pen memoirs, and then there are those who create non-fiction business books. By knowing the kind of books you want to write, the ghostwriter will be able to determine if your project is a good match for his skills.

Your purpose for writing your book.

If you’re writing a fictional book, what’s your motivation for writing it? What are your key messages? Will it be part of a series? If you’re writing your memoir, what lessons do you wish to impart? Or are you simply writing your life story to entertain the readers? If you’re writing a business book, are you doing so to gain new clients, or perhaps you want to teach your readers how to master a new skill? There are countless reasons for writing a book. If you are clear on your main purpose, the writer will know if he can help you achieve it.

The proposed word count.

Of course, you can’t know the precise length of your book before you write it, but you will need to give an accurate estimate. Most ghostwriters base their bids upon the proposed length. An average word count will be 50,000 to 75,000 words (or 200-300 pages).

Your publishing goals.

Do you plan to self-publish, or will you pursue a traditional publisher? If you wish to secure an agent, your ghostwriter will be able to help you with a query letter and a proposal (but that will cost extra).

Your deadline.

Skilled ghostwriters are in high demand and book their projects in advance. They may not be able to take on your project right away. Consider being flexible so that you can engage the writer who will best bring your project to life. If you give him an unreasonably short period, he will need to turn it down if he has a full schedule. After all, it takes time to research and write a high-quality book.

When you are clear on your intentions and requirements, the ghost will be better able to help you formulate the best book to achieve them.

Find a good fit

Hire a ghostwriter with a handshake and a contractWriting a book is a financial investment, but also an endeavor of the heart, so you want to find someone with whom you are compatible. Make sure you feel comfortable talking with her about personal matters. You should mesh well with her.

Having said that, when you take steps to hire a ghostwriter, it is a business decision. You’ll need to do your due diligence as you would in hiring any professional.

These steps will help you find a good fit:

Check every candidate’s writing resume.

Ideally, you would want to see that the ghostwriter has written dozens of books. However, ask yourself, does your project require a highly experienced writer, or can you take a chance on someone with fewer books under his belt? Depending on his skill, you may discover a gem.

Check out my writing resume.

Evaluate work samples.

Ask for and read over the sample of every writer you interview. Make sure that the style of the ghostwriter you hire resonates with you. In addition, make sure that she demonstrates the ability to take on different voices. After all, your voice will be different from the chiropractor’s memoir or the schoolteacher’s how-to book she wrote last year. Make sure that she can write in the voice and style you want for your book.

Check out my samples.

Review testimonial pages.

Ghostwriting client testimonialsWhat have previous clients said about the ghostwriter you are considering for your project? That’s key. Note: some writers will have trouble coming up with testimonials from clients because of the confidentiality agreement they have signed. Still, someone who has been in the industry for years will be able to find clients willing to share their experiences. Hiring a ghostwriter with no recommendations is a little risky.

Please check out my testimonial page.

Learn the writer’s process.

Every ghostwriter has a different way of working. Some will work closely with the client as the book is written. Others will deliver a final manuscript only when they are finished. Personally, I will send a few pages early on. I’ll stop working until I get feedback. Once I receive corrections and a critique, I’ll incorporate those suggestions in the next few pages. Then, when the client and I are confident that I have captured his voice and style, I’ll send larger chunks at a time. Decide what works best for you and hire a ghostwriter who can work around your needs.

Once you’ve interviewed the writers (and they have interviewed you), you should have a good idea which writer you wish to hire.

It’s very important that you feel absolutely comfortable talking to her. Make sure she listens well and produces what you ask for.

If the answer is yes, then she’s the writer for you!

Pay your first installment and get started

Woman signs a ghostwriting contractOnce you have made your decision, plan to sign the ghostwriting contract and make the first payment before you begin the project. These will be required by any professional writer. Don’t wait too long to make your decision because the more popular ghostwriters will get booked quickly. If you love a writer and know you want to hire her, don’t dawdle.

I’ve discovered that January and September are key months for potential clients to contact ghostwriters. On the flip side, the summer months and December are quiet. So, my advice is to avoid the busy months and interview writers when they are less inundated with new prospects.

Plan the time to work with your ghostwriter

As your project unfolds, it’s important to answer your writer’s emails and phone messages promptly. Don’t allow too much time to go by without communication.

If you find that you’re putting off talking to your ghost, it’s a good time to pick up the phone. Tell her what’s going on and let her help you. It’s not uncommon to hit a snag and need a little assistance. For instance, if you’re working on notes about your life story, you may want to talk to your ghost on the phone. She can help you navigate this emotional journey.

Personally, I love to shoot emails back and forth with my clients throughout the week. I also will pick up the phone to talk to each client at least once a month. Frequent communication is key to a good relationship.

Create a marketing plan

Once your book is completed, you must have strategies in place for marketing. It’s a good idea to have a dedicated author website and to start blogging months before the book is published. In addition, most marketing gurus suggest that you become active on social media and connect with your readers. It’s never too early to think about marketing.

With a great concept, a little bit of help, and a lot of preparation, your book can become a reality and a success. If you realize that you need to hire a ghostwriter, please email me, and let me know how I can help.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Do You Want To Write A Book About Your Life?

Tips for World Building

Understanding Characters

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How to Write Three-Dimensional Characters

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

 

 

Interview Questions For A Ghostwriter

Interview questions for a ghostwrite

Hiring a ghostwriter is a major undertaking. You are about to enter into a long-term relationship with someone who will step into your shoes and learn to write with your voice. I find this connection is very special; I often become close friends with my clients.

Because writing a book together with a ghostwriter is such a personal journey, it’s important that you really talk to the writer before you hire them. After you determine the ghostwriter’s fee, compile a good list of interview questions for a ghostwriter to help you find the best match for you. It’s a good idea to come up with your own questions.

I recommend writing down the questions ahead of time; however, as with any great interview, you’ll need to ask follow-up questions on the fly. For instance, if you ask about the ghostwriter’s background and he tells you about working as a school teacher, it would be logical to ask about the grade level. His perspective will be quite different if the taught third grade or high school.

Make sure to take notes, so that after you’ve spoken to a few writers, you can remember who said what. Notes will also help you formulate follow-up questions.

Here are a few topics that should yield some good interview questions for a ghostwriter:

The number of books she has written

Writing a book is not an easy task. There are many steps involved in producing a high-quality product. If your prospective ghostwriter has never written a book, you can expect that she will likely have trouble completing your project.

Having said that, if you’re on a tight budget, a ghostwriter with no prior experience should give you a great price on your book because she will be eager to fill in her resume. It’s a bit of a gamble for you, but if you check out her writing samples and talk to her extensively, you might find a hidden gem. Make sure to pay her enough so that she can invest the time to deliver a quality manuscript to you.

A professional ghostwriter will have a few dozen books under her belt. All the same, if a writer has written at least three books, she is experienced enough to help you with your project.

Testimonials from past clients

Ghostwriting client testimonialsSomeone once told me that what other people say about you counts far more than what you say about yourself. I like that tidbit of advice because it is so very true.

Any professional freelance writer should have collected quite a few testimonials from prior clients. Now, the only problem is that these will need to be semi-anonymous because all ghostwriters are sworn to secrecy. Even so, an established ghostwriter won’t have any trouble getting a few clients to write a few lines of praise.

Check out my testimonial page. You’ll see some clients proudly share their name and company name, while others prefer to share only initials. Still, you can see that I have worked with many people over the last twenty years. Make sure your ghostwriter has similar credentials.

Her writing forte

Some of the interview questions for a ghostwriter should revolve around what she likes to write. Also ask about her experience. This will help you determine if the ghostwriter is a good match for you.

A few writers only write fiction. Others love to pen memoirs, while some prefer to stick to small business books.

Personally, I enjoy writing uplifting stories, helping record a family’s history or educational non-fiction material. I wouldn’t be comfortable writing a memoir centered around abuse; it would be too painful.

However, I can write a fictional novel, a non-fiction how-to book (sometimes called prescriptive non-fiction), or a memoir. I love all classifications and genres, as long as the overall message is positive.

The ghostwriter’s current schedule

Schedule with a ghostwriterWhen you interview a ghostwriter, ask about his schedule. You need to have some prediction about when he can deliver a finished manuscript to you.

If the writer you select has a full-time job and is going to try to write your book in his spare time, I’ll tell you right now, that’s a recipe for disaster. You can predict that scheduling conflicts will prevent him from completing your story in a timely manner. Plus, he will be tired after his day job and will have trouble giving you his best effort.

Find a writer who has the time to work with you. You might also ask him how many projects he has on his plate at the moment. As for me, I’m comfortable working on many projects at the same time and always strive to come in ahead of schedule. However, I’m upfront about the time it takes to write a book. Eight months is a minimum requirement, but some can take up to 18 months. It really depends upon the amount of research required.

Avoid scammers

It’s unfortunate, but true; there are those who will try to scam you in this industry. Over the years I’ve had many people report being ripped off through Craigslist. That’s why I don’t recommend finding your writer through that source.

When vetting a writer, try putting her name into a search engine and see what comes up. If she is a successful writer, her books, interviews and articles should pop up. If the proverbial crickets chirp (dead silence), you know she isn’t very well established (or she has chosen to keep off the internet). Most professional writers have their own websites.

If a ghostwriter asks for the entire fee upfront, she is probably trying to con you. Typically, professional writers will ask for a deposit of 25% to 50%. The rest of the payments should be made as the pages are produced. I ask for 25% at the signing of the contract, then another 25% after the detailed outline is approved. The third installment is due after I complete the first half of the first draft, and the final payment is made when I’ve given the client the completed first draft. After that, I make all the edits (hiring an outside editor) and deliver the final manuscript.

Test your writer before hiring him

test your writer when you hire a ghostwriterIt is a good idea to test your top ghostwriting candidates by requesting a sample of their writing. This will allow you to see how you work with them.

You’ll need to pay for the sample you request. Please never ask a candidate to write for free. No professional ghostwriter should agree to that (if he does, he’s far too desperate, which should be a red flag). However, I highly recommend that you ask him to write a few pages for you—for a fee. Most writers have a per word fee. For instance, I charge a dollar per word. If asked to write a sample, I can produce any length desired.

Keep in mind that there are about 250 words per page. So, four- to eight- pages is a good-sized sample. This will help you determine the skill of the ghostwriter.

Yet you are not only checking out the ghostwriter’s ability to write, but evaluating his process as well. How much time does he take to write the piece? Make sure he gives you a deadline. Then observe if he meets it. If he is late (for any reason), know that he will probably be frequently tardy if you hire him.

How does the writer respond to your feedback? If he bristles at your suggestions, that doesn’t bode well for the future. On the other hand, if he accepts all your suggestions without any discussion, this could be equally problematic.

A good ghostwriter/client relationship involves a healthy amount of give and take. That’s what will produce the best-possible book. I will always give my clients my honest opinion and thoughts, but in the end, remind them that “they are the boss.”

Communication is key

Communication is key for a good ghostwriting relationship

After you ask your interview questions for a ghostwriter, observe how she handles subsequent communication with you. How quickly does she answer your emails? Does she respond to your texts in a timely manner?

My policy is to handle all communications within 24 hours. In actuality, I’m much faster. I’ve had a few clients comment on how fast I am. “It’s like you’re sitting there waiting for my email!” Well, no, I’m not. But I do check my email frequently. When I see a client query pop up, I like to handle it quickly.

Most ghostwriters offer a free consultation. Take them up on that. It’s a great opportunity to get their take on your project. See if you can get them to give you some insight into how they’d tackle the project. How would they approach the opening chapter? For instance, if you’re writing your memoir, you wouldn’t start with the day you were born. It’s much better to find an exciting incident to begin your book and drop the reader headfirst into that scene!

The process of hiring a ghostwriter should be quite enjoyable. If you ask your interview questions for a ghostwriter and bond with her, it bodes well for a successful working relationship. After all, writing a book with a professional can be a fun and fulfilling adventure. Take the time to pick the right writer for you!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

A ghostwriter’s fee: how do they charge?

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

When You Shouldn’t Write Your Life Story

Writing a memoir Are you debating whether or not to write your life story?

Well, you’re not alone. I have spoken with many people who are considering the same, wonderful endeavor. Some are certain of their course of action, while others are still mulling it over, trying to figure out if penning a book is the right decision for them.

I love helping people resolve this question!

More often than not, I will strongly encourage a person to write their life story. This is especially true if their memoir would have an educational or inspirational aspect.

Is that true of your story?

Did you travel and gain insights into another culture, thereby shifting your worldview?

Or perhaps you worked hard to overcome a physical challenge, thereby discovering your own personal strength and resilience?

Maybe you persisted towards a goal, facing and demolishing great barriers, thereby unlocking your hidden potential?

These are the kinds of memoir themes that enlighten and uplift others. These are the kinds of stories that others want to read. Wouldn’t you?

Consider your audience

When you do decide that you want to write your life story, one of the first things to consider is your readers. Who will be your audience? Maybe the book will be only for your immediate family. That’s completely fine. Recording your personal history for your children, and your children’s children, is a wonderful gift.  More and more people are becoming interested in learning about their family heritage. Unfortunately, often the experiences that shape and influence the family are lost over time. By writing your life story, you are creating a legacy that can be enjoyed and cherished for generations.

Maybe you are one of those people who wants to share your story with a broader audience. That’s wonderful! There are a number of ways to do this. You could use a blog format, sharing anecdotes on a weekly basis, or you could write a full-length memoir.

As long as your life story has a good, inspiring message, you should find a way to share it with others.

Not every story should be told

Now this might sound strange, but it’s true: not every story should be told. Yes, there are times when I actually beg someone not to write their life story. As a professional ghostwriter, I know that might seem bad for business, but I feel strongly that writers should avoid certain themes in literature.

Here are some examples of potential projects that I have rejected over the last decade:

“I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.”

Revenge isn't a good reason to write a bookRevenge is a dangerous motivation for writing a book. It can backfire on you. Be warned that you might end up hurting yourself more than your intended target.

Remember, when you put something in writing, it becomes a permanent record. You can never completely take the harsh words back. Your unkindness is out there for all eternity, for many readers to view over and over again. Also, consider that you might want to make peace with the person you maligned. Will he be able to reconcile with the person who maligned him so publicly?

Writing a book to hurt someone else, even if you feel it is justified, is always a bad idea.

“I’ve lived a horrible life.”

This might surprise you, but I’ve received a ton of memoir requests from people who have lived a life of misery and despair. For instance, their childhood might have been filled with abuse. Then they married another abuser and continued the pattern. When I ask about the purpose of their book, they usually say that it shows how one can live through anything.

While this may be a decent message for some, it isn’t really one to hammer into those who are trying to escape abuse. It’s true that not every story has to have a happy ending, but most stories, particularly the memorable ones, inspire us in some way. And it’s hard to be inspired when you’re reading such a depressing account of someone’s life. Most people would have no interest in picking up and reading such a book. Would you?

Even when the message is inspiring, there are some projects I won’t take on because of other circumstances or problems. Here are a few from my files:

“I want to become rich from this one book.”

While it is possible to do well financially with a book, it is very hard to make that happen with your first one. It really comes down to your marketing skills. If you are experienced in this area, you could do well. If you’re not, you’ll need to learn. There’s no way around that.

A brilliantly written book will not sell well if the author fails to promote. Even a publisher will not be able to work his or her magic if the author isn’t actively marketing his or her own book. There is only so much any publisher can do.

Even if you’re a marketing guru, you must have a well written book to sell. If you publish a book that breaks all the rules of writing and is littered with grammatical errors, you will wind up with poor reviews and negative publicity.

“I just can’t remember much.”

I completely understand how difficult it can be to remember details of one’s life that happened decades ago. Don’t worry about that. Still, a ghostwriter will always need a sketch of the incidents that formed your life. What you ate for breakfast isn’t as important as the fact that you dined with the Ambassador to France one day in Switzerland or you visited your Aunt in the hospital over spring break.

A few times this year I received requests to write a book from people who truly couldn’t remember any relevant stories from their past. Without those stories, there is no book.

Having said that, don’t give up your dream to write your life story if you’re having some difficulty recalling your past. I can often help people remember details through the interviewing process. It’s a fun perk to hiring a ghostwriter!

“My family and close friends would kill me.”

This is a common fear. When I have talked to client prospects to learn more about their projects and give them advice, quite a few have mentioned that they were worried about hurting the feelings of loved ones. This is a very valid concern, one that should be taken seriously. People like to be seen in the best light, and once you put your story in writing, it’s permanent. A negative or hurtful portrayal may cause upset.

As a ghostwriter, I can hide the identity of most people in your life by changing their names. George can become Pete or even Alice. I can also change other details, such as locations or career paths. However, I really can’t hide Mama or that eccentric uncle that everyone knows. Those close to you will know whom you’re talking about, and they might not like what you have to say.

“I’ve lived a boring life, except for this one incident.”

If you had, say, a near-death experience, it might have been very exciting and worthy of a short story or a newspaper feature article. However, if the rest of your life was relatively ordinary, or “boring,” most likely that one event won’t make for a good memoir.

A good book has dozens and dozens of exciting incidents. Now, a near-death experience would probably have quite a few good incidents connected to it, but it’s probably not enough to sustain an entire book.

“I don’t want everyone to know what happened to me.”

Woman looking in mirror deciding whether to write her life storyWriting a memoir is essentially putting your personal life on display for all to see. If you are concerned about others knowing what happened to you, it’s probably not a good idea to write a book.

Having said that, some clients who don’t wish to share their story with the whole world opt to write it for their family. This allows them to accomplish both goals. I love helping people become their family’s historian.

Another option is to fictionalize your story. It wouldn’t be classified as a “memoir” anymore, but it would be a way to get your story out there. However, keep in mind that there’s a good chance your family and close friends could still guess that it has something to do with you and your experiences.

As a ghostwriter, I normally encourage others to write their memoirs because I strongly feel that people often have a book or two within them. It may be that your life story shouldn’t be the subject of your book. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still have something valuable to say. Maybe you can share your niche area of expertise with others, or perhaps you have an idea for a science fiction novel. Fantastic! I can help you write those kinds of books as well.

If you’d like to explore hiring a ghostwriter, please email me. I’ll give you my honest advice and direction.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

 

Tips To Market Your Book

Marketing strategy for your book

Whether you are a self-publishing author or you have a full-scale publisher working with you, there is no magic fairy dust you can sprinkle on a book to make it sell well. The fact is, there just is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and working hard to market your book.

Having said that, these days internet marketing makes it is a lot easier to sell a book. There are excellent tools available on a variety of platforms. So, harness the internet and increase book sales from the comfort of your living room—or wherever you are working.

Here are a few tips to get you started!

Read More

Should You Hire A Local Ghostwriter?

Man looking for a ghostwriter on the internet

You may be wondering if you should hire a local ghostwriter, someone who lives near you. This is a valid question, and I hear it a lot. I think it’s because whenever you see a ghostwriter in the movies, he is practically living with his client.

However, reality is much different than these fictional portrayals; none of my clients are local. They live all over the world. We correspond via email and talk regularly on the phone. Sometimes we Skype.

Having said that, if it is convenient to meet up with my client in person, I will. It just isn’t necessary for the project’s success. The fact is, when I’ve met my clients, it’s usually been with the book was finished.

Why limit your choices?

There are internet articles that advise you to always hire a local ghostwriter. I’m not sure why people suggest this, but there are people who fervently hold onto that idea. I’ve actually had prospects (potential clients) refuse to talk to me because I wasn’t in their area.

This concept of only hiring someone locally severely limits your choices, which could hinder your project. Truthfully, unless you live in a major city, you probably won’t find a qualified ghostwriter in your area. Most likely your ideal writer for your book lives clear across the country from you.

With nearly two decades of experience under my belt, I can tell you it just isn’t necessary for a ghostwriter to walk where you’ve walked, personally tour the towns or buildings where your story takes place. Locations can always be researched on the internet. Sometimes I find amazingly detailed photographs and videos of an area, which help paint the picture along with the descriptions provided.

Qualities to look for in a ghostwriter

Finding the right ghostwriter might take some time. It’s a very personal choice, one you shouldn’t feel pressured into making. When you do choose a writer, make sure that you really like her because you will be working closely with her for many months.

Since hiring a local ghostwriter isn’t important, I want to spell out attributes that do matter and that are keys for success. Here are some qualities to look for in a ghostwriter:

  • Great writing ability. Hire someone who writes in a way you enjoy reading.
  • Excellent communication skills. Make sure that you are comfortable talking with her.
  • Professional behavior. Some good writers have no idea how to run a business. Make sure she answers your questions and respond to queries quickly.
  • Reliability. Select a writer who can meet a deadline and work through difficulties.
  • Within your price range. The cost of a ghostwriter will vary from writer to writer. Find one within your budget.

If you absolutely feel you need to meet your ghostwriter in person (and Skype will not do), you can always fly out to her or fly her to you. It will cost extra, but it is a viable option.

Research your ghost

research a ghostwriterSome people feel they need to meet a person face to face to know whether or not he can be trusted. While I agree that this helps, internet research is much more effective for spotting a con man.

Someone who is trying to rip you off will have no internet presence. He will not have a website or a blog, nor will he have a media page. Testimonials are key to establishing trust in a ghostwriter. After all, what other people have to say about someone is more pertinent than what he has to say about himself, right?

Another trick is to type the ghostwriter’s name into a search engine with the word “scam” or “complaint” and find out if there have been problems with that person. Of course, there might be numerous people by the same name, but if you know where he lives and that he is a ghostwriter, it’s a good bet it’s the same person. I used this technique with a potential publisher before going into business with him. It saved me a heap of trouble!

So, what do you think – do you still feel you need to hire a local ghostwriter?

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Hiring a ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

There is no “standard” ghostwriting deal

How To Write An Autobiography

Girl thinking about writing her autobiographySome people want to write an autobiography to simply share their stories with their family.

Others want to engage a broader audience. Those authors usually feel strongly that they have life lessons to share with the world.

If you’re working on tackling how to write an autobiography, you have already overcome the first barrier of deciding whether or not to share your personal story with others. You know it’s worth telling.

Now that you’ve decided, where do you start?

Here are some tips to help you get going:

Consider writing a memoir instead

An autobiography tends to be a bit clinical in its approach. For one thing, you have the burden of starting with the beginning of your life and moving forward through your entire existence.

When writing a memoir, you have the luxury of selecting a segment of your life. You can cover only the exciting part, like when you overcame a particularly gnarly hurdle or triumphed over near-impossible odds. You can select your memoir’s theme!

Most readers agree that a memoir is usually a better choice, because it’s more personal and reads more like a novel.

Read a lot of memoirs or autobiographies

You will learn a lot by reading the autobiography or memoir of someone you admire. Pick a hero you adore and read up on them. Most celebrities have written a few books (or hired a ghostwriter to do so for them). Reading these personal accounts will help you figure out how to structure your book.

It’s a good idea to read each book twice. Read it the first time for pleasure, then read it a second time to thoroughly review how the author communicated her thoughts to you. Could you really empathize with what she went through in the story? If so, analyze how the author achieved her goal.

Research your own life

Researching life storyTo be complete and accurate, your book must cover more than what you can remember. You will need to become a bit of a detective and delve into your family’s history! Take the time to interview family members and ask probing questions to uncover details.

Here are some areas you might look into:

  • Events leading up to your birth and your birth story.
  • The environment and circumstances of your family (and the world around you) when you were a child.
  • The background of your parents and grandparents.
  • Difficulties your family overcame to bring you where you are today.

As you interview various people, you are bound to discover information you never knew before. You just might make interesting connections about why you are the way you are.

Digging into the past has a way of jogging  memories loose and bringing more data to the surface. Be ready to follow any new direction and ask a lot of follow up questions.

Organize and outline

Once you have all the information gathered, make a timeline of your memories so you have them organized by date.

Then make an outline based on the individual incidents from your timeline. Determine where you want your story to start. If you decide to stick with an autobiography, you’ll need to cover your entire life chronologically. If you opt to write a memoir, you’ll want to focus on a key period from your timeline.

Identify your theme or message.

Every story needs a good strong message. You need a memoir theme.

What is it that you want your reader to learn? What should they walk away with after reading your book?

Maybe your theme revolves around resisting corruption. Or perhaps you overcame a handicap. If you persisted through an obstacle to achieve a goal, that often makes for a good theme.

These themes might not be apparent when you first embark on your writing adventure. Through your research and organization, good themes should pop out—and what they are may surprise you.

If you need a little help, please email me. Finding the primary themes of a story is one of my fortes.

Start writing

This step can be one of the hardest, particularly if you don’t have much writing experience. My advice is to just start writing!

Even if you don’t love the way it sounds, even if you feel like it’s no good at all, just get words down on paper. Don’t ever let perfectionism stop you. Remember that before you publish, you’ll edit; that’s how the writing process works. However, if you never get anything down in the first place, it’s awfully hard to edit!

So, my advice is always, “Write, right now!”

Ask for help when needed

Ask for help when writing a bookWhether you are a novice writer or an experienced professional, writing your life story can be difficult because it’s so close to your heart. Some segments might be painful to recall and write.

If you need help, ask for it.

Consult a friend, an editor, or a writing coach to give you a fresh viewpoint and get you through those sticky spots when you run out of ideas entirely. I sometimes coach writers at an hourly rate. It can help you push through writer’s block.

If you can’t write an autobiography, hire a ghostwriter

Have you been trying to write an autobiography or memoir for nearly a decade and haven’t gotten very far? You aren’t alone. Writing your life story can be challenging.

Hire a ghostwriter. Professional writers are well trained in storytelling and research. Their level of assistance can range from minor help with re-writes and research to doing all the writing themselves under your name.

You will always keep the rights to your story.

If you’re not an experienced writer, hiring a ghost is the best solution.

As you embark on this new adventure of writing your autobiography or memoir, enjoy the process! And remember—Write, right now!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Do you need help writing a book?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Should you hire a local ghostwriter?

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

 

Different Kinds of Editors

Eyes on your manuscriptLet me start by saying that every writer needs an outside set of eyes reviewing their manuscript. In fact, we all need the assistance of a few different kinds of editors to complete a book.

Writers will sometimes try to skip the editing process. Perhaps they wish to save the money, or they don’t want to receive a critique. Personally, I’d be lost without my editors! It’s impossible for me to catch all the errors in my manuscript. I rely on those outside professional eyes to point things out to me.

A good editor will indicate the good points, along with the bad. Becoming aware of both is equally important because it helps me be a better writer. I learn through each editing experience and improve.

It’s important to recognize that there are a variety of editors. Each has a role in helping you polish your book. While you might not need to hire every different kind, you should know the different kinds of editors, so you can select the best person to help you.

Developmental Editing

This is the big picture, large-scope editing. A developmental editor will not be looking for misspelled words or misplaced commas. They probably won’t even comment on them. Rather, they will be reading your book for organization and overall presentation.

Here are some points a developmental editor will correct:

  • Problems with flow
  • Awkward dialogue
  • Poor pacing
  • Holes in the plot
  • Any inconsistencies

Expect a good developmental editor to pick apart your book for overall flaws and ask some probing questions. Most likely he will point things out you haven’t noticed because you’re too close to the work. This process should be the equivalent of a good writing course in college, because you will learn so much.

Line editing

A line editor gets her name because she looks at each line of your book, each sentence, and analyzes it to determine if it works. She will look for errors, but she will also point out when a sentence can be tightened a bit.

Here are examples of areas a line editor will work with you to fix:

  • Inconsistent verb tense
  • Overuse of a word
  • Awkward phrasing
  • Redundant words

Your line editor will work with you to make sure each sentence belongs in your book. She will help ensure your reader continues to read your book through to the end.

Copy editing

A copy editor will do a light edit on your book, giving it that polish so that it sings. He reviews your manuscript and makes sure it’s accurate, cohesive and readable. This editor is very detail-oriented and knows the various (and latest) rules of grammar. Most are trained in a few styles.

A copy editor will fix:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Factual errors
  • Blatant inconsistencies

A copy editor will find and help you repair most of the errors, but keep in mind that he won’t catch them all. You’ll need to also hire a proofreader.

Proofreading

This is the final stage in your book writing process. Just before you’re ready to publish, a proofreader will review your manuscript and give you feedback on spelling, grammar, formatting, etc. At this point, they are really looking for typos or any little detail that isn’t quite right.

If you’re self-publishing, it isn’t wise to simply hire a proofreader, as they will not help you discover errors in continuity, flow, character development or anything of substance.

Now, having delineated all these different kinds of editors, I must say that in practical use, these roles can blur a little. For instance, a line editor will sometimes throw out suggestions that technically fall into the developmental editing category. Or a proofreader will sometimes add his or her two cents about the flow of your book.

As a writer, it’s important to know which kind of editor will best assist you with your writing project. It’s easier for you to hire the best person for the job if you know what you need.

If you would like help finding an editor, please let me know.

Here are a few related articles that you might enjoy:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Character Development

Write Good Dialogue

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter