How to Create Three-dimensional Characters in a Book

three-dimensional characters are all around usMost first-time writers have trouble creating realistic personalities for their novels. It can seem like a daunting task. Whether you’re writing a memoir or a novel, one of the most important elements will be crafting three-dimensional characters. And keep in mind, if you’re writing a memoir YOU are a main character. You need to be very relatable to your readers.

Consider your favorite books. Weren’t you drawn to the people? If you’re anything like me, you empathized with and related to various characters. In addition, you might have been sad when the story was finished because you had to say good-bye to your new friends. (Am I alone here?)

In order to create memorable, three-dimensional characters for your book, you need to do a little homework. Even if the book is a work of fiction, you must buckle down and do your research. Why? Because you need to know and understand the nuances of each important character in your novel before you can portray them realistically. Also, each person must develop throughout the story, completing a journey by the end. And that development needs to resonate with your readers.

Keep it real

Meeting a character in a novel is a bit like meeting someone for the first time in life. It’s probably more like a good blind date, right? Think about it. When you first get to know a new person and hit it off, you see them in a certain light. That might be a tad rosy; that person can appear to be almost perfect.

Someone new in your life will go out of his or her way not to display negative emotions. No angry outbursts, no overly dramatic scenes, no whiney arguments. That’s because he or she isn’t comfortable enough to expose their flaws with you.

Rather, your new acquaintance will be perfection personified, using only the best manners when they are around you.

Now, as you continue to develop a relationship with that man or woman, you’ll start to see a few faults peek out. Buttons pop up. Stephen might be super polite, but when faced with any sort of emergency, he turns into a whiny mess. Georgia might never swear, but when she finds a cockroach in her food, she will drop the f-bomb like a sailor.

Why am I mentioning this? It’s because if you want to create realistic people for your book, you must write as if you’ve known them for years. Skip the honeymoon phase. It’s overrated. Jump to the real person, the real Stephen or Georgia. Fast forward and allow them to reveal their idiosyncrasies.

That’s how you create truly three-dimensional characters.

Trust me, no one enjoys reading about flat, boring, “perfect” people. Would you? No. Your readers expect and demand that you write as if the person really existed in our world. Bad guys aren’t always bad, and good guys are rarely saints.

People have a lot of gray areas.

Give them balance.

Communicate with dialogue

Three-dimensional characters communicate with dialogue. Use great dialogue in your book.Communication is an integral part of life. It’s a bit like breathing when it comes to interactions between two people. After all, silence is usually death in a marriage, isn’t it?

Communication is also a bit like a signature for some people. Even with your eyes closed, you can sometimes pick out who said what just by the way they speak. Certain phrases are said in a particular way. Think of the people in your life that you know really well. Don’t they have catch phrases or ways of mispronouncing words that are endearing?

Heck, some of my friends make up words on a regular basis. Looking it over, there are so many different ways to put words together in order to communicate an idea. That’s partly what makes us unique three-dimensional characters in life.

Through great dialogue in a book, you can really get a feel for a character’s personality. When it’s done well, you can almost hear the people speaking out loud. That’s the point when a reader gets lost in the pages of a good book. Have you ever read a passage and actually forgotten that you were reading? I know I have.

As a reader, I find it very easy to lose myself in the story when the words just flow from character to character. Personally, I’ve always loved dialogue-driven books.

As a writer, when I’m in the zone, when I know and understand my characters, it feels like I’m a fly on the wall. I’m there, just listening in to the conversation. They speak, I write. I’m just basically a stenographer. It’s that simple and that easy.

Three-dimensional characters have a unique style

As I mentioned, people tend to say things in a certain way. They have expressions that are unique to them. Some writers refer to these as “verbal tics.” A disgruntled teen might slap a parent with “Whatever!” on a regular basis. I’ve heard some extremely polite people always refer to strangers as “sir.” And I have a friend who punctuates statements with a “BAM!” I don’t know anyone else who does that. These nuances set people apart like color on a painter’s pallet. 

A character’s communication style may also be influenced by the specific geographical location from which he hails. That’s where research can really help (thank heavens for modern search engines). For instance, someone from Minnesota might tack on “eh” to a statement to turn it into a question, eh? Or someone from the south might regularly use the second person plural pronoun of “You-all.”

Honestly, I love creating these phrases for my characters. It’s an excellent way to reveal some aspect of their personalities.

Create bonds between characters 

Three-dimensional characters create bondsIn the real world, when two close friends get together, their exchange can take on a life of its own. Someone on the outside might have trouble translating all the idioms and inside jokes the two friends have created together. 

As a writer, it’s your job (and pleasure) to create that realistic dialogue between close friends. Now keep in mind, it’s important not to lose your readers. They have to be in on the inside jokes. They must understand your characters well enough to understand the snippets of snappy dialogue you provide.

Sometimes you’ll need to use slang terms from another country to make it more believable. For instance, if your character is German, he might say “Gesundheit!” (meaning “good health”) instead of “God bless you!” when someone sneezes. Or if you’re creating another world for a science fiction novel, you might need to develop new words so that the reader becomes immersed in your book’s universe.

One of the best examples of this was when the characters in Battlestar Galactica used “frak” to communicate a popular swear word. It’s brilliant, because we all understood what the creators meant, but it helped the viewers know they weren’t in Kansas anymore (not even close). The writers introduced us to a new word, and today I think you’ll find it has become part of our culture. And yes, most schools forbid its use as they would any other swear word.

Mannerisms speak volumes

We all have our own mannerisms that help to define us. For instance, when someone raises an eyebrow, we know he is a bit skeptical of the previous statement made. We all know what that look means.

When building a character for your book, consider creating mannerisms that make him uniquely him. For example, I knew a Grandmaster of chess who would tap his head with all five fingers when he was deep in thought. I doubt he knew he was doing it, but it was a signature move. If you saw his bowed head and drumming fingers, you’d instantly recognize it was him.

If you’re writing a book and get stuck for ideas, go out and look around. Go to a crowded place, maybe a mall or a party, and observe what people are doing. Take notes and find a way to use that information in order to help you create more distinctive characters.

Draw from life

take notes as you observe life for your bookThe best way to write detailed actions, descriptions and dialogue for three-dimensional characters is to live your life. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Look around and notice how people behave. Take notes. I mean, literally take notes! 

It’s fascinating how people will put together a phrase or what they do when they think no one is looking. Also, notice how people interact, especially when they know each other well. Often, they will shorten phrases that everyone knows. “I guess I could do that” becomes, “I guess.” Or “Would you like to come with us?” turns into, “Wanna come?” The average person usually doesn’t speak the Queen’s English, so your characters should avoid these formalities as well (unless they are appropriate for their personality).

Keep in mind that there are a lot of silent communications as well. “Please pass the salt” is sometimes replaced with a nod of a head toward the saltshaker. John Cleese once commented that in England everyone always apologizes for everything. If someone wants the salt, Mr. Cleese pointed out that people will tend to nod toward the shaker and say, “Sorry?” I laughed hard at that observation.

In Summary

Honestly, creating realistic personas is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing for me. It is a bit like getting to know a group of cool people, except you are the one who will give them form and life. I encourage you to take your time and relish the experience.

If you need help writing a book or just want to bounce ideas about how to create three-dimensional characters, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to help!

If you’d like to learn more about writing, check out these articles:

Write Your Family History in 2020

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

What to Expect In An Interview with a Ghostwriter

How to Create a Compelling Character Arc

Should I Fictionalize My Memoir?

should I fictionalize my memoir?“I’ve been told by many friends that I should turn my life story into a book.” Does this sound familiar? The next question often is, “Should I fictionalize my memoir?”

That’s a good question! And as you might guess, the answer really depends on you and your project.

Most of the ghostwriting requests I get are from people who want to share their life story. It’s definitely a good indication if many people are pushing you in that direction.

I will say that it’s always more appealing to readers to learn that a story is completely true (unaltered). Readers love stepping into the author’s shoes for that brief moment of their life. However, there are reasons why you might not be able to stick to the complete truth.

Are you in the middle of this internal debate? If so, here are a few reasons why you might choose to fictionalize your memoir:

Bluntly, your story just isn’t interesting enough.

I tend to be rather straightforward, so I apologize if I’ve offended you. It’s just that there are stories that are fascinating and others which might make a good short story. They are really fodder for a good newspaper article or an anecdotal story for a cocktail party. If you need to add some content and pizzazz, consider turning your book into a novel that is inspired by your life story.

You’d really like to add in a space ship or two.

There are times when you might like to alter history a bit. Most fictionalized memoirs don’t enter the realm of science fiction, but there might be a few tales you wish to add to your story, which never really happened. When you do this, you cross a line and must call it what it is: a novel.

Your family would never speak to you again if you aired your dirty laundry.

It’s easy to disguise most people’s identities in your book by simply using another name. Some authors just use initials, like calling Dr. Quincy, Dr. Q. to protect the identity of a character. However, your brother is your brother and there is no way to get around that. Your family will know whom you’re talking about even if you call him by another name.

You’re a stickler for details and it’s all just overwhelming.

Deciding if you should fictionalize a memoirMost people fudge the facts a bit in a memoir, not worrying if Grand Central Station was truly crowded on Christmas Eve back in 1965. It’s hard to remember such a minor detail and the small handful of people that do probably won’t make a ruckus if you get it wrong. Still, if some of these facts are important to you and you don’t want to worry about getting them all correct, why not turn your memoir into a novel?

Of course, in the end the decision to fictionalize your memoir is up to you. If you have a fascinating story, one that works as is, keep it nonfiction. When you can keep the real timeline in tact and still have a fascinating story, it’s the best course of action.

Still unsure? Feel free to give me a email me if you need a sounding board!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

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    Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

    Get help in writing your book

    Do you need help writing a book? 

    Perhaps you’ve lived an interesting life and wish to tell your story. So many people have overcome adversity and are now succeeding in life. If you fall into that category, there are many who would like to read about your successful actions. Wouldn’t it be a great feeling to help others who are going through similar situations?

    Or maybe you’re a CEO or expert in a niche area and wish to share your knowledge with others. This is also an admirable goal, one your readers will appreciate.

    Some writers have a fictional story that has been on their minds for years. It needs to be written because not sharing it with the world just isn’t an option.

    When authors have a burning desire to publish a story, but know they can’t write it themselves, they often reach out to me for help. When that happens, I’m moved. It’s truly an honor for me to help a writer achieve his or her goal.

    If you can’t shake the desire to complete your book, and it’s all that you can think about, it’s time to take action. Understand that if you wait a week, it will turn into a month, which will turn into a year. The majority of people who contact me tell me that they have been sitting on their book project for five to ten years. It’s at that point that they realize they need to do something different from what they’ve been doing, or the book never will be written.

    I’m here to encourage you.

    Now is the time to complete your book project!

    If you need help writing a book and wish to hire me, here is my ghostwriting process

    Steps required to write a book

    There are various phases every author must go through to write and complete a book. The primary phases are:

    • Researching
    • Outlining
    • Writing the first draft
    • Editing

    Although each author is different (and each will have their own process), I can tell you that these are the four main steps involved in writing any book.

    Each stage tends to flow into the next. As an author and ghostwriter, when I complete most of my research, I am itching to organize all the information into a chronological outline. Then as I am outlining, there comes a point where I’m just dying to start writing. When that urge hits me, I pen a few pages for my client as a sample. This becomes the start of the first draft and helps me begin to establish the style and voice of the book.

    The research phase

    Research is crucial for any book project. Even when you write a memoir, you still need to do extensive research. After all, you will require accurate details of the time, location, appearance and historic events.

    While the bulk of the research is done at the beginning of a project, I find that I continue to research as I write. Questions do come up and I need to look up the answers. This is especially true when I am writing about any period in the past. What was a popular rock song of the era? What kind of clothes were people wearing? These authentic particulars help set the tone of the story. Remember, readers will spot inaccuracies.

    There are many resources for research: your relatives, the library, and, of course, internet search engines. There are so many data bases accessible by the public. For instance, when a client provides the street address of a home he lived in or a place where a significant event took place, I can easily look it up and see what it looks like from the street. Sometimes I can even find photos that give me a sneak peek inside.

    The outlining phase

    cost to hire a ghostwriter, communicate wellIf you get a chance to review my blog, you’ll see that I’ve written extensively about how to write an outline. That’s because I feel it is a vital first step for writing a book. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend that you take a writing step forward without a good, detailed flight plan for your book. It’s the best way to avoid mid-air collisions. The last thing you want to do is waste time on a story line that just doesn’t fit into your book.

    Having said that, I know some of you might be groaning at the very thought of sketching the story out before writing. Maybe you work best on a free flow basis. That’s totally okay. Do what’s right for you.

    The first draft phase

    Once you have the outline completed, you may find that the book is pretty well written—in your mind. Now you need to get words on paper.

    Budding writers will often try to edit as they crank out the first draft. I urge you not to do that. Please allow yourself to just get the rough draft completed. It might not be brilliant. That’s OK! Fine tuning your manuscript happens during the editing phase.

    Write each day to complete your bookSet up a regular time to write each day and stick to that schedule. If you hold yourself accountable for a certain word count, you will make steady progress on your story.

    If you find yourself continually discouraged when you sit down to write, or if you tend to avoid writing in general, revisit your outline. There might be a flaw that needs fixing. Perhaps one of the incidents not quite working for you. That can happen if it doesn’t really have a strong purpose in your book. Also, take a look at the people in your book. Does every character have a reason for being? Are they realistic? Once you have these issues sorted out, you’ll know it because you’ll be excited to write again.

    When helping a client craft his memoir, I often need to counsel him to not include certain people. While it’s fine to mention Daisy the barista in your personal journal, she might not warrant a mention in your life story. Stick to the characters that matter and move the story forward.

    The editing phase

    When you complete your first draft (Bravo, by the way), it’s time to edit. I’d recommend putting your manuscript down for a few days or a week before starting this phase. Give yourself a breather from the project. Fill that time slot by reading books in the same genre.

    The next step is to read over your manuscript from beginning to end and see if there are any issues with continuity. Sometimes you start out with one idea and end up with another. When that happens, you need to go back and make adjustments.

    You will also pick up on issues with flow as you read it through. Some scenes will flow right into the next, while other transitions will be choppy. This is the time to fix that.

    Dialogueusing dialogue tags in writing a book is another element to focus on. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend reading your book out loud, especially the conversations. You’ll immediately know if they ring true or fall flat. If you find you have trouble in this area, take a break and go out and listen to how people speak. Watch a few movies you enjoy and really listen to the words. It’s interesting how informal and “improper” the dialogue can be!

    Once you’ve worked out the major kinks, you can review your manuscript for errors in grammar and punctuation. I’d recommend hiring one or two editors to look at your story with fresh eyes. It’s always good to have a detached person review your work. If you’d like to learn more about the different kinds of editors, check out my article Different Kinds of Editors.

    When you need a little help writing a book

    People reach out to me when they can’t write a book on their own. It isn’t easy to pen a 200 page manuscript. For first-time authors the task can seem mammoth. People sometimes start out strong, then get caught in the middle of one of the above stages and falter. They find that writing a book is much harder than they had anticipated. If this happens to you, don’t despair. There are options, steps you can take to complete your book.

    Hire a writing coach

    The process of writing a book is not really taught in high school or college. If you talk to seasoned writers, you’ll find they uniformly say they learned their craft from experience. I believe that authors learn how to write a book by reading and writing and reading and writing and…(you get the picture). When you’ve written a few hundred thousand words, that’s when you will find your voice.

    There is another popular theory that suggests that if you want to gain expertise in a subject, you must put in 10,000 hours. There is no way around putting in the time to gain the needed experience.

    So, if you want to write and publish your first book this year, what do you do?

    One option is to hire a writing coach. She will charge by the hour to assist you to organize your thoughts and ideas and break through the mental blocks that are stopping you from making forward progress. This is a great solution for writers who are doing well overall, but just need an occasional helping hand. I charge $145 per hour to coach.

    Hire a friendly ghostwriter

    hire a friendly ghostwriterIf you are having great difficulties and it seems as if you may not be up to the task of writing your book, consider hiring a professional writer, a friendly ghostwriter like me, to help you. I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite and will get the job done for you.

    On the other hand, if you are a writer who just needs a little assistance, hire someone to edit and make minor rewrites. A professional ghostwriter can also act as a manuscript doctor, helping to troubleshoot your book and debug any issues.  For instance, he or she can assist you with character development and story line, while keeping your voice intact.

    It isn’t cheating to hire a ghostwriter

    Some feel that it’s cheating to hire someone to write a book for them. After all, their name will be on the cover, right? How can it be ethical to take credit if someone else wrote the book for them? Although I understand the concern, let me assure you, it’s done all the time. Hiring a ghostwriter is an accepted practice and you have the right to put your name as the author. After all, it’s your idea and really should be your book.

    Having an experienced professional to help guide you through the book writing process will help you grow as a writer. It will give you an experience boost that will carry through to your second and third books. Your next literary adventure won’t be fraught with the perils of inexperience since you will have traveled these waters already.

    If you need help writing a book, here are a few additional articles:

    My Ghostwriting Process

    Write Your Family History

    Great Memoir Themes

    Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

    How can I help you?

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      Improve Your Writing: Feedback Versus Criticism

       

      Improve your writing through good advice and feedbackThere’s no doubt, as a writer you do need feedback to improve your writing. However, you don’t need carping criticism. There’s a difference.

      Advice is so vital for all writers. We want to know that we’re communicating our thoughts clearly and efficiently. Personally, I have worked with a number of editors over the years and really enjoy their excellent feedback. When done correctly, it helps me grow and expand my abilities.

      Yes, I’m still learning. I will always be doing so.

      However, some people seem hell-bent on stamping the life out of an author. Unfortunately, artists of many ilk are criticized mercilessly. Sometimes it feels like it is open season on filmmakers, fine painters, etc. It’s tough to endure.

      I’ve been quite fortunate to continually be surrounded by positive people, who share their opinion in a supportive way. I always want to know if something I write isn’t up to par, but I prefer not to be crushed in the process.

      Feedback should include the good

      When I am asked to give a critique on someone’s writing, I always include the good points first. What did I like about the piece? What really worked? There’s always something positive to say. It helps to reinforce their strengths.

      I’ve noticed that some people only zero in on the errors, the mistakes, and the missteps. It leaves the author with the impression that their work is no good and it can cause them to quit.

      If you receive such an evaluation, try asking, “Was there anything you liked about it?” Some people hold back on the compliments. Maybe that’s because their work was sliced to ribbons when they were starting out and they think that’s appropriate. Maybe it’s for another reason. However, it’s good to help these people break that cycle by getting them to notice and discuss the plusses of your piece to improve your writing.

      Recognizing a nasty critic

      It’s helpful to be able to spot critical people. They are the ones who love to tear a piece to shreds, leaving very little intact. Their purpose isn’t to improve the writer’s ability to write, but rather to take joy in setting a fledgling author back a few paces.

      Nasty criticism doesn't help improve your writing

      Again, these poor souls were probably criticized heavily when they were first starting out. When an artist is stretching their creative wings for the first time, they are in a very vulnerable stage. If their attempts were smashed early on, they may have just given up completely. The harsh critics of today are most likely the failed artists of yesterday. Bitter and filled with unfulfilled goals, they lash out at others.

      So, how do you recognize a critic? Pay attention to how you feel after reading their comments. If you feel worthless or suddenly develop writer’s block and want to quit writing, ignore their “advice.” Trust me, they don’t have your best interest at heart.

      Mentors vs Critics

      So, how do you know if you’re going to be torn apart by razor-sharp teeth or if you might just get a kernel of inspiration that will nudge you forward toward great writing? It’s simply knowing the difference between a mentor and a critic.

      Good feedback helps you develop as a writerLook for the purpose behind the advice. You can often tell if someone is trying to help or hurt by the words they use. Mentors will always point out errors in a way that makes sense and encourages at the same. They recognize every artist starts somewhere. Critics, on the other hand, have no such concern and can be rather harsh in their language.

      For instance, nasty critics love to say, “Don’t quit your day job!” Boy, do I hate that invalidating phrase. What benefit does that little nugget offer? We all know we need to put food on the table, but everyone should expand their horizons and reach for the stars! Why not? Besides, if you don’t like your day job, it’s a good idea to work toward changing it, right? I mean, you should do what you enjoy doing in life!

      You can also recognize good mentors, because they will read over your work and give you subtle guidance to improve your writing. They won’t overload you with dozens of problems to fix. Rather, they will focus on one common issue, guiding you toward solutions that you can discover on your own.

      Take the bad feedback with the good

      While encouragement is crucial to a writer’s development, it doesn’t help him or her to only get a lot of pats on the back. If you show your work exclusively to family and friends, they might not want to tell you how they really feel. They care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.

      When I get feedback along the lines of “It’s good!” it might make me feel good, but I’m looking for more. I’ll ask a few questions like:

      Why is it good?

      What did you like best?

      Was there anything you didn’t care for?

      Did you understand everything?

      These questions pour out of me.

      Of course, it feels great to get rave reviews and hearty pats on the back, but in the end you need to also hear the bad with the good or it isn’t terribly helpful.

      Keep in mind that the biggest way you can improve your writing is to write. Yes, that’s basic advice, I know. Any writer’s first words are an experiment in communication. Trial and error, along with research (reading good books) is the best way I know to learn the craft. Surround yourself with supportive people who will encourage you in that direction. If you find that someone’s advice makes you want to stop, just realize that they are probably a critic and find a new advisor!

      If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, here are a few articles you might find helpful:

      A ghostwriter’s fee: how do they charge?

      So, how does a ghostwriter work anyway?

      What Do I Need to Start with a Ghostwriter?

      Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

       

      Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

      Writing a book isn't easy, but this article will give you a few steps to get started.

      Congratulations on making the momentous decision to complete that book that you’ve been thinking about for years! Writing a book isn’t easy, so bravo! That decision is absolutely the first step. Now let’s tackle the next few.

      I’m not here to tell you that writing a book can be made simple through a few steps. No, it will take time and patience. There is no way to even pen a short book in a few weeks. However, with a few preliminary steps I’d like to try to cut down on potential frustration!

      Sum up your book in just a few lines

      Before you can really start even outlining your book, you need to answer this fundamental question in a few lines: “What is your story about?” Then see if you can boil it down to a single line, a single breath. For example: This is a story about a young man, who rose from extreme poverty to become a successful entrepreneur. You know what the book is about, don’t you?

      Why is this important? It keeps you on track. Plus, the themes, messages, and purposes of the book come out quickly from this simple one-line statement. It also keeps you from traveling down a divergent path. For instance, you might be tempted to devote three chapters of your business memoir to a failed marriage, designed to help budding entrepreneurs. Perhaps you’re hoping to get in a few good digs along the way. Well, that doesn’t really match your original concept, does it? So, toss it.

      However, delving into an early business failure could definitely help your readers avoid the same pitfalls. Those stories would definitely be good to tell and would be important to your story.

      Assignment: Write a one- to three-line summary of your story, answering the question, “What is your story about?”

      What’s your purpose?

      A ghostwriter will give you a well-written bookWhy are you interested in writing your book? What do you hope your reader will gain from reading it?

      As I’ve written a few times in my blog, if your purpose is to get back at someone, think again. That story just isn’t something worth reading. Another purpose that rarely works is financial. If you’re looking to make a million off of your story, and that is your primary goal, it won’t come out right.

      By defining your purpose, you can help yourself stay on track. When you get into outlining, you can make sure that each scene, each segment aligns with that purpose fully. And if you find yourself straying, you can toss the paragraphs into a roaring proverbial bonfire.

      Assignment: Write down your purpose(s) in writing your book.

      What is your message?

      It’s good to work out what messages you wish to impart to your reader early in the process. This will help you sort through all the information you’ll gather later, in order to figure out what will make the cut. It will also help you find your writing voice and determine how you want to tell your story (or share your wisdom).

      For instance, one of your messages for your memoir might be about the value of perseverance. Another message could center around the importance of ethical behavior in business. So, the individual stories that will make up the book should center around these themes.

      Assignment: Write down the messages you wish to impart to your reader.

      Once you’ve finished these steps, you’ll be ready to start collecting notes, which you’ll use to create an outline. That will be the subject for the next blog article! Let me know how you did with the assignments above in the comment section below!

      If you decide you wish to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d like to help. And if you wish to learn about my pricing, please check out my article on the subject!

      Thank you and keep writing!

      If you liked this article, here are a few additional ones you might find helpful:

      Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

      A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

      Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

      Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

      Your Memoir: Building Character and Your Written Voice

      Create your unique written voice

      When I begin working with you as a client, one of my first priorities will be to develop your written voice early on. It’s important to know that the voice you select will need to be consistent throughout every single piece of published writing. In other words, your first book needs to match your second, which also needs to match your blog and any guest posts.

      Finding your inner voice

      While your written voice will be different from your spoken one, there is definitely a lot of overlap. Your written voice could be better dubbed your inner voice. Like a fingerprint, yours will be different from others.

      For starters, you might have unique ways of speaking that can help to identify your voice. As we work together, I’ll be hunting for these clues. It’s my job to select a few of these characteristics and sprinkle them throughout your book. Having said that, I’ll always protect your reputation and brand; I won’t include anything you’d prefer left off the page. And we’ll leave the “ums” and “ers” out, of course.

      You’re such a character

      You have a special written voice

      It might surprise you to learn that you’ll become the central character of your memoir. That means you and I will need to follow the rules of writing and apply them to each person that we write about in your story. Sure, you are you, but in your book, your character will take on a life of its own.

      As I perfect your voice, I will also be working on the voices of all the other main dramatis personae of your book (aka your friends, family, colleagues, etc.). It will help me if you can jot down some sample conversations you’ve had with others. Let me see how you interact with the people in your life.

      Keep in mind that we will need to create plausible dialogue and embellish things a bit. Don’t worry, your readers don’t expect you to recall exactly what you said ten years ago. Instead, they want a good story. For that reason, they will give you a little creative license.

      Mind your mannerisms

      We all have them. Do you twirl your hair around your pencil or stroke an imaginary beard? Maybe you slap your hands against your thighs for emphasis when you speak. Including these little habits in your memoir helps lend authenticity to your character. If you have trouble spotting them, ask friends and family for their observations. Then notice their traits.

      In addition, it’s good to examine the way the important people around you look at the world, how they communicate to others without words, their general mood, and anything else that makes them unique. Sharing these allows me to enrich their characters within your book.

      When I’m working on a story (fiction or nonfiction), I create complete bios for the main characters. I’ll need your help to create these for your memoir. For instance, it really helps to know the month and year in which all the main players were born. This helps me track with their ages throughout the story.

      It also helps to know eye color, height, weight, hair style, etc. so I don’t give your husband a buzz cut when he has a ponytail or man bun. How do they dress? Are they always in a tie and consider a polo shirt casual dress? Or perhaps that polo shirt is the only formal item in their closet.

      If you’re considering working with a ghostwriter for your memoir, and want to take a preliminary step, start building character profiles for yourself and everyone who will appear in your book. It will be such an asset to me (or whomever you hire). When we start working together, I can give you more complete instructions for helping me collect all this information, and more. Just contact me to get started!

      If you’re interested in writing a memoir, you might enjoy reading these articles:

      Tips for Finding Memoir Themes

      How Can You Research a Memoir?

      Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

      Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

      Write Your Family History

      Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

      What’s It Like to Be a Ghostwriter?

      What is it like to be a ghostwriter?Some people are mystified by the concept of a ghostwriter. People have asked me, “What’s it like to be a ghostwriter?” more times than I can count. Some people think about the movie, while others wonder if I write about ghosts. I love what I do and would like to share a little more about the industry with you, in case you are curious.

      What is a ghostwriter?

      Ghostwriters are simply writers who are paid by an author to write their books, but don’t receive any credit for their work. These ethereal creatures are rarely seen.

      We work hard so you look good.

      Over the years, a lot of people have asked me if I mind that I don’t get a cover credit. No, I’m cool with it. Why? Because I love to write. I love being part of the process for another author. It is an honor for me.

      Now, I am also an author, with my own published works. For that reason, I don’t crave seeing my name on the cover of a book. I’ve experienced that joy!

      What’s it like to be a ghostwriter?

      It’s exhilarating!

      Truly. Each project I work on is a fresh new adventure. Sure, some themes are similar to others, but no two authors have the same experience or the same message. In addition, each author brings their own unique perspective to the project.

      I’m the kind of person who gets very wrapped up in my projects. I am fully engaged and learn a lot about the subject matter so that I become an expert in that field for the year or two it takes me to finish the book.

      What do ghostwriters write?

      There are many kinds of ghostwriters. Some specialize in screenplays, while others only pen memoirs. A number write novels or only write niche-market how-to booklets. Then again, many focus on ghostwriting articles.

      I’ve ghostwritten about thirty books. Some are short stories, while others are over 400 pages in length. Most are memoirs.

      Personally, I look for compelling content when choosing my next project. I select books with positive messages which will help readers in some meaningful way. In addition, I also look for clients who can easily communicate their ideas to me.

      There’s a special bond that forms between me and my clients; I can’t explain it, but it is apparent when it is there.

      How do clients find me?

      Ghostwriting clients just find meBefore I had a website, clients would just find a way to reach out to me, usually through word of mouth or some bizarre and extraordinary set of circumstances. Honestly, the whole process seemed magical!

      Nowadays, most of my clients come in through my blog articles. They search the internet looking for help and find my page. When my clients find my website, something resonates for them and they stop shopping around and contact me.

      I try to answer most emails that come my way, even if I know the writer can’t afford me or the project isn’t a good fit for me. If I believe I can help the person, I’ll reply.

      Flexibility is key

      flexibility in writing a bookA good ghostwriter is flexible. We have to be, because we work with a slew of different personalities and creative voices. The style and feel of one book will be different from another. It has to have the voice and spirit of the author to be authentic.

      The needs of my clients also vary. Some wish a book written very quickly, while others require a lot of time to collaborate. Each relationship I have with an author is unique and I work hard to make the process enjoyable for each person.

      I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on what’s it like to be a ghostwriter. If you need help and wish to chat with me, please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to help you write your book.

      If you’d like help learning how to hire a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

       

       

      Fighting Writer’s Block

      Fighting Writer's BlockAre you having trouble writing? People sometimes stare at a blank page or computer screen and can’t seem to get the words out no matter how hard they try. Has this happened to you? Fighting writer’s block doesn’t have to be difficult.

      There are quite a few solutions and some of them are easy to implement. The first step is understanding the reason that you feel blocked.

      Outline your ideas

      If you can’t make forward progress on your book, it could be that you’re not ready to write the next section. Personally I cannot write any substantial piece without outlining first. Make sure you know where you’re heading. It could be that the “block” is simply your common sense saying that you’ve headed in the wrong direction. If the words don’t fly off the keyboard, go back and make sure you’re on board with the flow of the story.

      If you started your book without an outline and can’t seem to continue, go back a step and put together an outline immediately. It will help. You may discover the last few chapters weren’t meant to be. That’s okay. Scrap them and start afresh from the point where you feel the story worked. Then follow the path of your outline and things should straighten out.

      Force yourself to write something, anything

      Fighting writer's block helps the words to flowIf you’ve outlined and know where you’re going, but just don’t “feel like writing,” then you may need to prime the pump. Just like with a dry water pump (which needs to be “primed” with water to get started), you may benefit from simply flowing words onto paper.

      Here are some ideas:

      • Write emails to your friends
      • Make a to-do list for the next day
      • Write in a journal (or create one if you haven’t already)
      • Start a blog
      • Write posts on your favorite social media site
      • Write an old-fashion letter to a family member

      It really doesn’t matter what you write, so long as you write. Remember, writers write.

      Work on a completely different project

      If you are anything like me, you have multiple writing projects going at the same time. I usually work with a few clients, who require books of different genres. Also, as a hobby I write haiku and science fiction short stories. Having different projects working at the same time keeps me on my toes. I like it that way.

      If you’re stuck in the middle of a novel, try writing a nonfiction piece. If you are working on a technical report and are fighting writer’s block, take a break and write dialogue between two co-workers. Create a scene, which might turn into a short story.

      When you feel you’re doing well again, switch back to the original project and get writing again.

      Surround yourself with supportive people

      Fighting writer's block starts by surrounding yourself with supportive people.Writer’s block can be a symptom of invalidation from peers. If you have “helpful” friends who jokingly tell you “don’t quit your day job,” this can be damaging to you as a writer. The only purpose of such comments is to get you to stop writing. Don’t seek advice from these people. Surround yourself with good people who have your best interests at heart, people who want to see you succeed.

      This isn’t to say that constructive criticism isn’t very helpful to a new (or even an experienced) writer. We can always improve and grow. I personally LOVE it when some kind soul writes in to tell me I have a typo in a blog article or gives me tips on my writing. It’s quite wonderful!

      Look at the intention behind the comment and how it makes you feel. That will help guide you where to file the suggestion. Do they compliment your work, while gently pointing out errors? Or do they slam you at every turn?

      Fighting writer’s block can simply begin by choosing better friends and not listening to critical naysayers. Please check out my article on feedback versus criticism for more information.

      If you need advice or help fighting writer’s block, please don’t hesitate to email me!

      Additional articles you might find helpful:

      Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

      Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

      Write and Publish a Book

      How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter

       

      Now Is the Right Time To Write A Book

      write a novel for your readersDo you have a burning desire to write a book this year?

      You are not alone!

      I believe that everyone has at least one book within them. Whether you wish to share sage business advice to help others succeed, a personal life story that just needs to be told, an exciting fictional story, or a family history project that is time sensitive, now is the best time to start.

      As a ghostwriter of twenty years, I’ve worked with dozens of clients in each of the above categories. Each genre has its own particular challenges and its own rewards. And although they are all unique, each book project requires the same elements and preparation.

      If you follow the steps in this article, you will avoid the common problems people face, which can cause writer’s block and cause you to fail in your goal to complete your book.

      Get ready…

      Before you can really get started on a book, you need to prepare yourself for the project. I believe the reason most people never complete their books is that they don’t set themselves up properly from the get-go.

      Make a firm decision to write a book

      Make the firm decision to write a book—no matter what. This decision will help you stay on track in the face of distractions. Give yourself a final deadline and target dates along the way for milestones to complete. That will help you finish your book.

      Find the time

      The best way to complete your book is to make regular progress. Find a time of the day when you won’t be disturbed. This may be early in the morning before the kids wake up, or late at night after all of your other responsibilities are done.

      If you can only carve out a few hours a week on the weekends, that’s a good place to start. Just know that you might find you lose some time in reacquainting yourself with the material if you allow too many days to pass between writing sessions.

      See if you can find even a little time to write every day. You’ll soon be immersed in creating your book and may even find extra time to work on it.

      Find a place

      writers need a good, dedicated spaceFind a dedicated writing space. Somewhere around your home, with a door you can close, would be most convenient. I know some writers who are inspired by the great outdoors and settle down near a lake or in a meadow. They don’t even mind the occasional visits from beetles and spiders.

      It doesn’t matter where you set up, as long as you can write without distraction.

      Experiment, and find your place.

      State your purpose

      Over the years, my clients have voiced a variety of different purposes for writing their books. Many writers yearn to see their names on the cover of their books. As an author, I understand; I know there’s no better feeling than seeing your creation in print.

      Beyond that, there are authors who crave financial gain, while others want to share their story or wisdom in order to help. Some simply wish to complete their books for the benefit of their loved ones.

      Be clear about your purpose right from the beginning. It will allow you to better determine what direction you will take.

      Determine your readership

      One of the biggest errors you can make as an author is to fail to identify your readership. You can’t write a book to everyone. Trust me, you’ll fail. No, you need to target your words to a specific demographic.

      It’s important to figure this out early, because the voice and style of your book will depend on the readers you wish to entertain or educate. After all, wouldn’t you write a how-to book for experts in your niche market differently than you would a science fiction novel aimed at a young adult audience?

      Consider your themes

      Share the good and the bad when writing your book with your ghostwriterSimply put, the theme of your book is the glue that ties everything together. This idea often conveys a universal truth, such as Love, War, Forgiveness, Courage, Friendship or Faith.

      For example, I think we can all agree that J.R.R Tolkien communicated courage beautifully in The Hobbit, as did J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter. Friendship was another theme in both these works.

      Keep in mind a book’s theme is rarely stated outright. It’s more subtle. It’s a takeaway the reader will experience and consider for years to come when you express your viewpoint of the world and the human condition through your characters’ beliefs, actions, experiences and conversations.

      Get set…

      Now that you’re fully set up to write a book, it’s time to organize your thoughts. A lot of first-time writers fall on their faces when they just begin to write without a strategy. After all, if you were to bake a wedding cake for your best friend, you’d probably do a little research and at least follow a recipe.

      Create detailed notes

      It is so helpful to jot down detailed notes before you begin to write a book. Get these ideas out of your head and onto paper. This process will help you envision your story and get the creative juices flowing.

      I have found an effective way to collect notes is to create an idea folder. This could be a word processing document or a notebook. Any thought you have about your book should be recorded in this folder. Don’t worry about the order, grammar, spelling or anything else.

      Just let your ideas flow.

      Have fun with it.

      Remember to research

      Photos are good research tools for your bookResearch is crucial for any book project. If you’re writing a memoir or recording your family’s history, you’ll need to provide accurate details as to time, location, appearance of the historic events. This also holds true if your novel is set in a past era.

      Fortunately, you have many resources available to you for research. Many writers use the internet and the library, but don’t forget the treasure trove of information within the minds of your family members. Many of them lived through the decades past and can share experiences with you.

      As you gather information, add it to your notes file. Be sure to always record your sources, so you can refer back to them.

      Your story will take place in a location. If it is a real place, use the information from your memory or research to paint it accurately. If you are writing fiction and setting your story in an imaginary place, I recommend that you do some world building. World building consists of fully fleshing out the universe which your characters occupy. This includes the geography, history, scientific laws and developments, culture and customs of the inhabitants, etc. By having a crystal-clear idea of what these are, your story will flow, and your readers will happily come along on the adventure.

      Know your characters

      Regardless of your genre, you will probably have a cast of characters in your book. Even most business books include personal anecdotes that involve friends and family. Remember, these characters all need to be developed.

      I find it helpful to create character biographies. Here I list each person who will be featured in the book and jot down their name, birth date and various other attributes that will help me write realistically about them. Some things to consider might be:

      • physical appearance
      • clothing style
      • speech patterns
      • mannerisms or habits
      • hobbies

      Go…

      At this point you have an excellent, solid foundation in place; you are well set up for success. Now it’s time to pull together all your notes and research into a cohesive plan. Then you can begin to write.

      Create an outline

      Ghostwriters create an outline by asking who, what, and whereAn outline allows you to organize your notes to create a good flow for your book. I am a big fan of outlining. It’s a road map that allows me to know the direction I’m going with my book. Without an outline it’s very easy to take a wrong turn and wind up in a dead end.

      If you’re writing a novel or memoir, consider putting all the incidents in chronological order. That’s usually the best plan. Of course, you can opt to indulge in the occasional flashback, but don’t overdo it.

      Your outline can take any form that works for you. After all, it is for your eyes only and is purely a tool to help you organize the content of your book.

      When writing a business book, I suggest that you create a table of contents along with subheads. Jot down descriptions or bullet points under each to remind you about the content you wish to share.

      For a novel or memoir, I prefer to use a different system. I create a large incident list which answers the following questions:

      • Who is in the scene?
      • Where does it takes place?
      • When did it happened?
      • What happened in the incident?
      • What is the purpose of the scene in your book?

      Note: The last point is by far the most important aspect of this process. After all, if a scene has no purpose, it will just land on the editing room floor at the end of the project.

      Write your first draft

      Once the outline is completed, you may find that the book is pretty well written—in your mind. Now it’s time to get words on paper.

      New writers often edit as they crank out the first draft. Try to avoid doing that. Just get the rough draft completed. I know, it won’t be great. That’s OK! You’ll fine tune your manuscript during the editing phase.

      So just sit down and write…

      And write…

      And write.

      If you’re writing a memoir, and find yourself sharing personal stories, be as detailed as possible so that you can help the reader feel as if he were right there with you. To do this, close your eyes and see the colors, hear the speech patterns, smell the odors, taste the food, and feel the textures in each incident.

      The same goes for a novel. Use your senses when you’re telling the story. Draw on personal experience if possible. If not, use your world building notes to help guide you.

      If you’re penning a how-to book, be sure to give step-by-step, detailed instructions for your reader. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about the subject. Imagine what questions he may have as he tries to do the steps, or any difficulties he may run into, and address them accordingly.

      Edit your first draft

      Edit your bookAfter completing your first draft, it’s time to edit. I’d recommend putting your manuscript down for a few days or a week to take a breather from the project.

      The next step is to read over your manuscript from beginning to end and see if there are any issues with continuity. It can happen that you switch gears on a subject mid-writing. In that case, you’ll need to go back and make adjustments.

      You will also pick up on issues with flow as you read it through. Some scenes will flow right into the next, while other transitions will be choppy. This is the time to fix that.

      While doing this you may spot typos. Sure, fix them, but this isn’t the time to focus on grammar or punctuation. Instead, make sure the story sings. By the time you finish this phase, you may find that you’ve altered and rearranged the words so much that fixing typos doesn’t make sense.

      Once you’ve worked out the major kinks, you can review your manuscript for errors in grammar and punctuation. I’d recommend hiring one or two editors to look at your story with fresh eyes. It’s always good to have a detached person review your work.

      With these steps for how to write a book, you should be ready to start. Regardless of the decade and what is going on in the world at the time, there’s no time like the present to begin. If you have any questions or would like some help, please contact me. My greatest joy is in helping others achieve their dream of sharing their story in a book.

       

      When You Shouldn’t Write Your Life Story

      Are you debating whether to write your life story?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.”

      don't get back at people when you write your life storyRevenge 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:

      Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

      How to Find a Good Memoir Theme

      A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

      How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?