Tips For Writing Your Memoir

Writing your memoirIf you have an interesting story to tell, you might be contemplating writing your memoir. As you sit down to start, most likely you’ll realize it isn’t an easy task. Most likely there will be a lot of emotion behind many of the events that have shaped your life story. Collecting these incidents together for your readers will take strength, time, and patience. Knowing this upfront will help you plan and complete your book.

Take a deep breath. You got this!

Many people have reached out to me over the last two decades asking advice about how to write their life story. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Writing your memoir takes time

Writing a book isn’t an overnight undertaking. For a professional writer, I’d estimate it will take two hundred hours to complete. If you’re new to the process, plan for it to take longer.

It’s important not to rush the process. Even if you have plenty of time, give yourself some breathing room.

Eight months to a year is a good timeframe for completing a book. Set daily targets and hold yourself accountable to making them. Your memoir will be the better for it.

Character flaws are key

Even if you have lived the life of a hero, you will need to take a step back and look for a few non-optimum personality traits to share.

The reason for this is that the rest of us, your readers who have flaws, will never be able to relate to the story of a perfect superhero. Include the mistakes you’ve made in your life when writing your memoir. Find a few lapses in judgment and delve into them. Anecdotes showing how you overcame barriers and errors will enhance your book.

Humor goes a long way

When an author can poke fun at his or her situation and enliven a story by bringing out its comical aspect, it makes for a more enjoyable and memorable read. While it is best not to make fun of others in your book, there are still plenty of other ways to include humor.

For instance, funny dialogue snippets lighten the mood nicely. There might also be times when you can uncover an absurd moment then expand on it. Don’t be afraid to shine a spotlight on certain aspects of your life that might make others laugh out loud.

Write and write and write

If you’re writing your memoir on your own, you’ll need to write on a regular basis.

Don’t expect to make much progress if you only type a few pages on the weekends. Great writers write every day. It keeps ideas flowing and the creative pump primed.

Feel free to embellish the details

No one expects you to remember every single little detail of your life perfectly.

For example, can you recall what you had for breakfast on October 20th, 1974? If you’re writing a breakfast scene and want to put Eggs Benedict on the table, go ahead. Your readers will accept it.

The situation is similar with dialogue. If you are writing about an important conversation, your readers don’t care about the exact words spoken. They just want to know the gist of the conversation.

The truth is, even if you have a photographic memory, you will want to change up the words a bit to improve the flow of the story. However, never invent fictitious and unflattering words for a real person you’re mentioning by name. He or she might not appreciate your creativity.

Be honest

Write without fear. Edit without mercy.Although you’re delving into the viewpoint of one character, you, you need to have the ability to pull back from your perspective.

Be objective.

This might mean that you don’t come out the winner in every argument. And, please don’t resent me for saying so, but you might turn out to be wrong on occasion. It happens! Remember, flawless characters aren’t very believable.

One of my biggest tips for writing a memoir is to be truthful with your readers. It’s possible that they might learn a lesson and avoid making the same mistakes you did. Wouldn’t it be good to know that your book changed the life of just one person?

Read other memoirs

Girl reading a memoirI read a quote today that I loved. It said:

“Reading and writing cannot be separated. Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.” (I wish I knew who wrote it.)

Writing a memoir is difficult if you’ve never read one by another writer. Reading a lot will help you learn about what works and what doesn’t.

You can also learn to spot the memoir themes, which might give you ideas for your book’s theme.

With these tips for writing a memoir, you are ready. Now start writing. Continue to write. Then write some more until your first draft is completed.

Don’t edit, just write.

Enjoy the experience.

Personally, I love ghostwriting memoirs because I get to meet new people and help them share their life stories with others. While doing so, they usually remember new details about their lives that they’d forgotten for decades. And, in the end, they always learn a lot, as do their readers. The process is so rewarding!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

How can I help you?

    Different Kinds of Editors

    Eyes on your manuscript from different kinds of editorsLet 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 four main types of editors:

    • Developmental
    • Line
    • Copy
    • Proofreading

    Each has a role in helping you polish your book. While you might not need to hire every type, 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. In addition, she will have attention on the overall flow of the manuscript.

    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 and that the pacing of your story works. She will help ensure your reader continues to read your book through to the end.

    Copy editing

    There are different kinds of editorsA 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.


    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?

    Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

    Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

    Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

    How to Edit Your Own Book

    Create a Worthy Hero for Your Book

    Create a worthy hero for your novel or memoirWhether you’re writing a memoir or a novel, you’ll need to create a worthy hero, a character your readers will want to read about. With a memoir, you’ll have the honor of taking on this role. With a fictional piece, you the author will need to mold him or her from scratch using only your imagination. Do it well and correctly and this will be a main character your readers will root for throughout the novel.

    The flaw in the perfection

    When you think of a hero, Superman might come to mind. This man had very few problems and on real character flaws (except that he was too perfect). Add to that, he was drop dead handsome to boot. Although we love stories about superheroes, they aren’t exactly relatable to us mere mortals. After all, humans have issues, some problem that can make us cringe when we consider them. The heroes of popular novels and memoirs aren’t Superman. They aren’t even close.

    If you think about the books and movies that you’ve absorbed over the last few years, you’ll discover that the main character is usually riddled with problems. At least in the beginning when the story starts.

    Two examples

    In Nomadland, the main character Fern is forced from her home and hometown. Her solution is to live in a van and travel as a nomad. Most of the people in her life disagree with this decision and try to “help” her with other solutions, but she is determined. She is in poverty and must work at menial jobs to make ends meet. We often see her in her van eating meager meals, and we wonder if she will truly survive to the end of the story.

    Fern isn’t a superhero. However, you like her and can relate to her. And you root for her to make it.

    In contrast, Harry Potter might be classified as a superhero. I mean he takes on the worst villain in the series head on multiple times. However, unlike Superman, Harry has flaws. In the beginning he doesn’t seem to understand his worth and rarely stands up for himself. He often resembles a human punching bag. Then as he learns how to be a wizard, he has his ups and downs, mostly self-created. He sneaks around a lot putting himself and his friends in danger. He’s also quite moody (with good reason) and isn’t always kind.

    There are many examples of imperfect heroes who start their adventures with many flaws. These are just two that I’ve recently come across. Both protagonists are very different, of course, but they are both likeable and popular characters, because they aren’t perfect people leading boring lives.

    An imperfect life

    Give your worthy hero a lot of problems to solveIntroducing a flawed character to the reader, you’ll notice that the good authors won’t typically jump to solve their protagonists’ problems. No, things tend to go in the opposite direction. This can be difficult if you like the fictional people you’ve created. It can seem mean to put them into unpleasant situations where you know they will wallow around a bit, making a mess of their lives. However, it is necessary to put your heroes through the wringer for good storytelling. They need a healthy dose of conflict.

    Two examples

    Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables would be the first to tell you that she is far too stubborn for her own good. She spends most of the novel getting into a lot of trouble, dragging her friends along for the ride. What would be the fun if she were always perfectly behaved and never stepped out of line? It would be a boring read. She is who she is, and we love her for it. Flaws and all.

    In another example, Emma, the heroine of Emma, spends a lot of time avoiding her own life and chooses instead to meddle in her friend’s love life. The messes she makes escalate to a fevered pitch as the novel progresses, causing chaos for all around her. It could be argued that Emma is a sweet girl with good intentions, but her actions are harmful to her friends and quite flawed.

    Now, if I’m being completely honest, when I began writing I was hesitant to put my protagonists into harm’s way. I wanted to help them quickly and minimize the damage they caused. Looking back, I suppose I felt a bit like their mother, wanting to save them from agony and misery at all costs. Through experience I learned that conflict is key, and if I truly wish to create a worthy hero, I needed to provide plenty of obstacles throughout my novels.

    Conflict is vital for good storytelling.

    All’s well that ends well

    Create a worthy character and give them a nice endingIf you’re worried about the fate of your main characters, know that they should wind up in a different place by the end of your book (or series of books). Their journey will include some kind of transformation or change. Those flaws will probably be worked on and resolved in some way.

    I hesitate to analyze the endings of the stories that I’ve mentioned in this article, because I wouldn’t want to spoil their endings for you. However, if you are familiar with these books or movies, you’ll know that each character learned a variety of lessons and came out the other end a better person. There, no spoiler alerts needed.

    The reason we cheer for the heroes at the end is that they came from a flawed beginning. They each rose up through the experiences of the book to arrive at a better place in the final pages. Your heroes transformed like butterflies from a cocoon, blossoming into the best versions of themselves (or at least an improved version). This triumphant victory will cause a flood of emotion in your readers.

    Let’s talk about you

    Write your memoir and become a worthy heroIf you’re writing a memoir, you will be delving into your life story. You are the hero of the book, and you are the one who will need to undergo a transformation. If you present yourself as perfection personified, there’s nowhere for you to go but along a flat course. That’s rather boring and will probably be less than factual. I’m sorry, but you probably have a few flaws (don’t hit me).

    When searching for the story to write, you need to be OK with revealing your personal flaws. Without those issues, you can’t create a worthy hero for your story. You can’t really be a good protagonist, because there will be no personal dragons to slay. There isn’t a journey to embark upon and there’s no way up. It’s all flat and boring. This happened, then this, and then that. The end. Nope, no one will want to read that book.

    Now I’m not saying that you must reveal all your flaws and secrets. You’re the author. That means that you get to pick what details to share. However, you do need to be real with your readers. Share what you can. In the end, you’ll show improvement, right? So that means that people will forgive and forget your initial imperfections.


    So remember as an author you need to create a worthy hero by starting with an imperfect protagonist who is riddled with flaws, problems, and issues. Give them tons of obstacles, create conflict, and make their lives unhappy for some time before you allow them to learn their life lesson so they can make the improvements they need to make. I know this isn’t easy, but it’s all part of the job of being a master storyteller. Have fun with it!

    Check out these additional resources if you’d like to learn more about writing a novel or memoir:

    Memoir Themes

    Character Arcs

    Know Your Story

    Please, let me know if I can be of any help to you

      Recording Family History for Future Generations

      Recording Family History is importantI’ve been a ghostwriter for twenty years and love what I do. I get to take on many different characters, such as a slothful worker in a futuristic world, a husband and wife who battled cancer and won, a teenage rebel in communist Hungary, as well as dozens more. I also get to share important knowledge that was once only known to an elite few in the form of a how-to business book. However, recording family history is one of the most precious assignments. I am always honored when asked to do so.

      Whoever the project, I’m always grateful for the opportunity to help my clients write their books. And I learn a lot through the process.

      People sometimes ask what the most common request I get as a ghostwriter. Well, that would have to be hands down a memoir. People want me to write their life stories and adventures. Each one is so different, and each client has their own voice, message, and purpose for writing their book.

      Zeroing in on the purpose

      When I interview a potential client, one of my first tasks is to get their true motivation behind the book project. That’s important for a number of reasons.

      For one thing, I want to help them achieve their goals. Honestly, my clients’ goals become mine as we form a writing team.

      One of my favorite aspects about being a ghostwriter is that I get to become a family’s historian. Recording family history is like becoming a detective in a way. It requires a lot of research, intuition, and interviewing. It’s an honor to be allowed into each client’s inner circle, so that I can record their stories for future generations—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

      Record your memories

      Many of my clients have no intention of ever publishing their memoirs. One beautifully vibrant elderly woman recently told me, “It’s just too personal.” In her case, she had me write her stories simply to understand and record her own life. She didn’t want her lessons to be lost over time. She wanted her daughters to know who she was. After all, if no one recorded her life, all those thoughts and lessons learned would vanish. It’s a valid concern. I applaud anyone who takes the time to write down their words, thoughts, and ideas for their friends and family. Yes, it takes time, but it is well worth it.

      The advantage of hiring a ghostwriter to record your family history is that should you decide to have it published, you can easily self-publish on It will be ready to go. There’s no obligation to have the final book published, of course, but why not give yourself the option of sharing your story with others when the time is right?

      Appointing your family historian

      While hiring a ghostwriter has many advantages, I understand that not everyone can afford the fee. If you can’t, I recommend appointing someone in your family to be the historian. Once selected, encourage and help that person interview every family member as in-depth as possible.

      One tip I can offer the family historian is to capture each person’s exact words. After all, everyone has a different way of expressing themselves. There’s no right or wrong here, just jot down any idioms they might use and make a note of their mannerisms.

      Incident of a book: couple drinking coffeeBut whatever you do, don’t correct their grammar. You’re not their seventh grade English teacher. If Grandpa says, “ain’t,” keep it that way. It’s real and it’s him. Recording family history with integrity is vital for any successful book. Plus it will allow future generations a better sense of who your grandfather was. Note down exactly what each person says as they say it and use those words.

      Through this journey, you will likely discover that your elders have lived through some amazing times. Perhaps your great uncle fought in a war. Or your grandmother escaped a brutal dictator. Maybe various family members traveled to a variety of exotic locations you never knew about. Whatever the case, you’re bound to learn a lot about your family.

      So, when should you start?


      I mean it!

      Time isn’t always on your side, especially if members of your family are getting on in years. So now is the perfect opportunity to talk with them. Go for it! And have fun!

      If you need help, feel free to contact me. I love helping families record their history! Check out a few of my testimonials.

      Additional articles you might find helpful:

      How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

      Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

      My Ghostwriting Process

      Please Write a Book about My Life

      i want someone to write a book about my life

      Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I want to find a ghostwriter to write a book about my life. I’ve experienced so much, and I feel others could benefit from reading my story.

      There have been many ups and downs over the last ten year, but I’ve come through and have a good life now. People are always telling me that I should write a book. All the time! So I decided to reach out to you today. I don’t have the time to write my book myself. Also I really don’t know how to do so. I need someone with experience. I need help! – R.W.

      Dear R.W.,

      I’ll tell you, each week, I get at least three emails from authors who need help writing a book about their life story. Of course their stories are unique and there are variations to this request, but the plea is basically the same: Help, help, I want someone to write my book!

      I hear you!

      I’m here to help.

      I can’t always respond to everyone who writes, but I try. However, if you’re interested, there are a few ways you can be sure to catch my attention. Ghostwriters can’t ignore certain elements in a well crafted pitch.

      Have an uplifting angle

      Trust me, no one wants to read a book about how horrible a life has been. While the story could be completely true, it will make reader feel awful and sometimes squeamish. In addition, when everything is doom and gloom, it doesn’t allow for any room for the characters to grow. That makes for a flat and boring read.

      Personally, I will only write meaningful stories with some kind of uplifting ending. There is plenty of bad news in the world; I don’t wish to add to it. It’s very rewarding for me when a reader walks away from reading a book I wrote with a new positive outlook and fresh approach to life.

      I’ve ghostwritten a few books about the Holocaust, because I feel the survival stories are each important to share. I spoke to a survivor the other day, who lives her life every day feeling grateful for being alive. She feels the weight of responsibility to make good decisions that help others because she feels she was chosen to survive against all odds. Shouldn’t we all feel that?

      Research me and my website

      cost to hire a ghostwriter, communicate wellIf you’d like to hire me, please check me out a bit. I love it when prospective clients do their homework before they write me. Review my website, read samples of my books, look over my testimonials, etc. I’d like it if you want to hire me because you enjoy the way I write. I’ve written over a hundred blog articles, so if you want to get a feel for my writing style, my website is a great place to start.

      I’ve also written over two dozen books, but unfortunately, you can’t read them. I know, I know… It’s just that I always sign a confidentiality agreement with each client. After all, when you hire me, you’ll be the author and once we’re done, I’ll just be a ghost.

      I do have five books that bear my name. Check them out. You don’t have to purchase them but can see a preview on Amazon. Yes, each client has a unique written voice, but it’s always wise to do a little research and become familiar with your ghostwriter’s writing skills.

      Know what I charge

      Take a moment and review my pricing. If you do, and I’m within your range, let me know. It saves us a lot of time. If you can’t afford me, but have a budget, be upfront about that. I can sometimes help you work something out with another writer.

      I charge $50,000 for a 200-page (50,000 word) book. That works out to a dollar per word, so if you have a smaller budget, I can write a shorter book. Mini-eBooks are popular on Amazon, so that’s always an option.

      Please understand that no matter how compelling your book is, I am not able to write it for free (or for a percentage of the sales when it is completed). It takes hundreds of hours to write a book. Ghostwriters always need to be paid upfront.

      I love working with new authors but am very selective about the books I write and the people I write with. My clients become my partners for the period we work together and most become good friends. It’s a special relationship, one I cherish.

      If you’re saying to yourself, “I want someone to write a book about my life” email me and we’ll see what we can do to get started.

      Please check out these additional articles:

      How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

      Memoir Themes

      Understanding Characters

      How can I help you?

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        Writing a Memoir: Know Your Story

        When writing a memoir you must know your storyWhen writing a memoir, it is different from writing an autobiography. Where an autobiography traditionally covers the author’s entire life, a memoir zeros in on a specific period of time. 

        If your book is too general, it won’t make for a good read.

        A good friend and fellow ghostwriter attends many writer’s conferences teeming with agents and publishers. He once gave me some excellent advice. He said, “If a writer goes into a pitch with: ‘Hey, my book is about my life in the field of education,’ the agent is going to glaze over and start thinking about the conference lunch buffet. The best way to sell a book is to state the book’s focus upfront.”

        I’d add that you should know the purpose of your story. When you understand why you’re writing the book, you’ll be able to begin to write your memoir.

        Know your story

        Each author will have a different reason for writing their book. In the example above, perhaps you are a high-school teacher in the inner city and you’re writing a memoir to encourage parents to be more active with their child’s education. Well, if that’s your purpose, tell that story. Make sure all the scenes of the book align with that message. In addition, the characters you add should fit into the story.

        If your own educational path helps to illustrate your book’s purpose, by all means share it. You can do so with flashbacks or by starting the book at that period, if there is enough material to carry the story forward. However, if your past doesn’t really relate to your memoir’s purpose, skip it. For example, if you had supportive parents and went to expensive prep schools and Harvard, it just might not fit into this book, which is about working with inner city kids.

        Know your options

        you have options when you are writing a memoir

        It might make more sense to open your memoir with a particular high school class and finish with their graduation. Follow those students. Include various gnarly parent teacher conference meetings that show what you wish to share with your readers and conclude with a result, one way or another.

        Or your book might span two decades, showing your breadth of experience and many examples of neglect with final resolutions that all exemplify the problem.

        Another option could be to focus on one family. Perhaps that one child made it out of the ghetto and into the sunlight. In that case, your story might just span one year, showing how that mom and dad took a strong interest in they boy’s education, while other parents failed to do so.

        Note: We just discussed three versions of one life story. You can see how these three books would be very different. It’s the same life, told through different lenses. Each story would be shared with your voice but would make the reader feel and experience very different things.

        Whatever you decide you must pick a lane and stick to it.

        Know your readership

        It’s important to define your readership before you begin writing a memoir, so you can communicated effectively to that group of people.

        In the above memoir example, your reader would probably be parents of high school students because you wish to influence them to be more a part of their children’s education. 

        However, your reader could potentially be written to other teachers and school administrators. If that is the case, your book would have a very different feel. Is this a David vs Goliath story, concluding with your victorious battle to make improvements within the school system? If so, you could potentially help others forge an improvement in a system that can seem impossible to penetrate.

        Whatever you do, you must select your readership and write to them.

        When writing a memoir, remember that you get to tell the story you wish to tell. Include what you want and toss the rest. Most likely you’ll find that you have a few books within you. Select one and start writing!

        If you’re looking for a little help, please feel free to reach out to me. And if you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

        If you’d like to read more articles about memoirs, please check these out:

        Memoir or Autobiography

        How to Write Your Memoir

        What are Good Memoir Themes?

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          How to Share Your Story

          Share your story

          After talking to countless people over the years, I truly believe that every person has at least one book within them. Do you? You might agree, but wonder how to share your story with the world.

          Perhaps you have an account of a memorable trip trudging through the Amazon rainforest with only a backpack. Or maybe your father or mother immigrated to America a generation ago and found success through hard work, giving you opportunities they never had. Or perhaps you wish to chronicle your meteoric rise through your niche industry and wish to share your story through a how-to book. 

          Then again, you might just want to let yourself escape into a rollicking adventure yarn set in a far-off galaxy. Share your story and you just might capture the interest of a movie producer.

          Whether fact or fiction, you wish to share your story and it is begging to be told.

          In writing.

          Within the pages of a book.

          Now, how do you get the ideas out of your head and onto the page?

          Create detailed notes

          I recommend that you record your initial ideas for your book in a notebook or on your computer. Don’t worry about formatting, grammar or spelling at this phase. Simply put your thoughts down.

          Personally, I always have multiple Word documents open when I’m starting a book: character biographies (useful for memoirs and novels), incidents for an outline, research topics, etc. If you need help organizing your thoughts, please email me.


          What's your story?Now, if you’re writing a memoir, I’d suggest jotting down everything you can remember about the places you’ve been, the people you interacted with, and the key events of your life. Close your eyes and see what images you can find, listen for the speech patterns of the people around you, smell the odors, taste the foods, and feel the textures. Write them all down. These details will help bring your memories to life.


          If you’re creating a fictional world, let your imagination run free. The more vividly you conceptualize the characters and settings, the clearer your readers will be able so see them. It still helps to create notes, so you don’t lose your ideas.

          If you’re working on a sci-fi novel, this is the time to build your world. Create the science, philosophy, and everything your readers will need to understand in order to become immersed in your story.

          How-to book

          It’s a good idea to down load the notes you’ll need to build your business book. If you’re an expert in a niche market, jot down all the tidbits of information you wish to share. Also, include humorous anecdotes and heart-wrenching stories that will help your readers identify with you and the lessons you wish to teach.

          Collect sources for research

          Whether you’re writing a how-to book, a memoir, or a novel, you need to do research. Even if you’re an expert on the subject, you’ll need to delve into details. Every writer becomes a researcher! There has never been a book that I could write without doing extensive study.

          Today, research is easy through search engines, but sometimes you might need the help of a library. In those cases, you’ll need to take good notes and jot down the names of the books you use, along with the page numbers, so you can find the information again or reference it later.


          Take the time to research the locations and time period of your life story. Make sure you’re remembering everything correctly. For instance, if you visited NYC as a child, you might have dined at Mama Leone’s. But what was the address? Hm… Well, a quick Google search shows that it was on West 44th street in the early 1990’s, but went out of business soon after. Including little details helps bring a story alive.

          How-to book

          Even if you’re an expert in an area, you’ll need to find other sources of information on the subject. When I’m forming my outline (or Table of Contents), I find it helpful to copy links into the document under the subsection when I find a particularly helpful resource. Trust me, weeks later, it will be hard to find that source again. Good notes save a lot of time.


          Write and share your storyResearch is a fundamental element for fiction writing as well. Your writing must always be authentic. So, if you’re writing about the Amazon rainforest, and you’ve never been, you’ll need to read dozens of references to be able to describe the environment accurately. If you have visited the spot, you’ll still need to collect information about the history, vegetation, and the wildlife of the area. Your experiences will form the story, but research is invaluable to fill in the gaps.

          Determine your reader and messages

          Before you can begin writing, you must figure out who your reader will be. As I have mentioned a few times in previous blog articles, your readers can’t be “everyone.” It’s too general and vague. Be specific. Your reader might be teenage boys who are interested in soccer or retired women interested in a ornithology. You can see how the communication would be much different for these two categories of readers!

          Next you’ll need to hone in on the messages you wish to communicate. Do you want people to learn that hard work and personal integrity can overcome obstacles and lead to success? Or maybe you want to share how patience and loyalty are the basis for long-lasting relationships? Being clear about your message will help you align the action of your story.

          Be true to yourself

          Most of us speak differently than we write. I’ve noticed that some people can wax formal when they have a pen in their hand! They take out contractions completely and dust off their finest vocabulary in an attempt to impress. The reader doesn’t care about any of that. They are looking for your voice in your writing, not that of your eleventh grade English teacher. Be yourself.

          Take the next step

          Now that you have thorough notes and research sources, you are ready to begin carving out your outline. Then you can write your book. Carve out the time and avoid distractions! For more information on the next steps to take, you will find many articles about writing on my blog. I hope they help!

          If you would like the help of a ghostwriter to share your story, please reach out to me (whether it be for a novel, memoir or how-to book). The research and notes you’ve created will not go to waste. After all, ghostwriters will need good notes to help create your vision. Please contact me if you are interested in going this route.

          If you’d like advice on how to hire a ghost, please check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

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            What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

            Interview with a ghostwriterYou’ve made the leap—you’ve decided to author a book this year. Bravo! This is a wonderful goal. If you’re similar to many other busy successful people, you may need a little help. If so, you may find you learn a lot just from a simple interview with a ghostwriter.

            Over the years I’ve discovered that authors sometimes aren’t aware of everything that goes into the development of a book. Some have a vague idea of the ghostwriting process, but most have a lot of questions about structure, format and content. That’s completely normal. I’m more than happy to share this information with you during our initial interview.

            The initial interview with a ghostwriter

            Naturally there are questions you want to ask to determine whether a particular ghostwriter might be qualified to take on your project. I cover this topic extensively in my article, Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter.

            However, while you are interviewing her, she is also gathering information which will help her decide if she is the best ghost for you. Through this initial interview with a ghostwriter you will take the first step toward understanding what will be required to complete your book.

            Hit upon the genre of your book

            Know your genre for your book when you hire a ghostwriterThe three most popular book requests I receive are: fiction, business nonfiction, and memoir. Within those classifications, there are many subcategories. For instance, if you’re writing a fictional story, you have various choices of genre: drama, science fiction, fantasy and young adult, to name a few.

            If you’re writing business nonfiction, there are a wide variety of subjects as well as a few choices of styles of presentation of the facts and information. Some authors prefer text only, while others opt to include many photos. When I wrote Chess Is Child’s Play, we included many fun text boxes with tips and anecdotes for the reader to enjoy.

            Memoirs are pretty straightforward. They are typically written in the first person and look and feel like a novel (even though they are true stories). However, some are presented as a diary or journal.

            Keep in mind, there is some cross-over, too. For instance, you can have a memoir that is only loosely based on fact but is primarily a novel. Or a novel that feels like memoir but is actually completely fictional. In addition, many entrepreneurs who have important lessons to impart will write a nonfiction how-to book and sprinkle many humorous anecdotes throughout. Another option is to write a memoir and include many tips and tricks of the trade to educate the readers.

            When you interview with a ghostwriter, make sure to know your book’s genre so you can hire the best ghost for the job; most writers specialize in certain genres.

            Uncover your readership in an interview with a ghostwriter

            When you hire a ghostwriter, let her know your demographicOne of the biggest errors a new author can make is to try to write his book for “everyone.” While some books are very popular with a lot of people, you always want to direct your creative energies to a certain demographic.

            For instance, a how-to book giving practical parenting advice for single parents will be written very differently than a science fiction novel aimed at the young adult market. The voice and style will vary depending on the readers you wish to entertain or educate.

            During your interview with a ghostwriter work to determine the right readership for your book and make sure your ghost can capture the style and voice required to resonate with them.

            Talk about your goals

            A good ghostwriter will ask you to reveal your goals for your book early on. Over the last twenty years, I’ve heard a variety of goals from many clients. Some are interested in financial gain, while others want to share their story or wisdom with others. Many simply wish to complete their books for their loved ones.

            Know your goals for your book when you hire a ghostwriterAnother popular goal of many is to see their name on the cover of a book. I understand—it’s a bucket list item. As an author, I know there’s no better feeling than seeing your story in print.

            I love to work with clients who wish to share their expertise or life lessons with others. I have seen that sometimes books written with a strong purpose to help, enlighten or entertain others also result in fame and fortune. On the other hand, fame and fortune seldom come when the author is purely money-driven. Your ghostwriter must know what drives you to write your book so that she can help you achieve your goals.

            Discuss your publishing plans in an interview with a ghostwriter

            It’s a good idea to share your publishing goals early on as well. While this information is not vital when it comes to writing the outline of a book, it does help to bring the ghostwriter in on the overall strategy. We’re a team, after all.

            If you don’t know yet, don’t worry. You have time. I always suggest my clients decide about halfway through the writing process. That gives you time to make a more educated decision and prepare a query letter if that’s what’s needed.

            The next interview with a ghostwriter and the next

            After you complete your initial interview with a ghostwriter, you will probably immediately know if this writer is the right one for you. A rapport and bond should form quickly. If you have to “think about it,” the answer is probably no. Interview another writer.

            Once you sign the contract and send the down payment, the next step will be to send all the written information you might have to your new ghostwriter. For me, one of the best sources of research is in written form. This gives me a great foundation to start learning what I need to know to write your book.

            Some clients have a first draft that needs a complete overhaul, while others have a lot of detailed notes. Some provide journal entries or articles, while some have notes or documents written on cocktail napkins. Gather up all these pieces so you can send them to your ghostwriter. These written samples are invaluable, as they will help your ghostwriter capture your voice.

            I always tell my clients that they can never give me too much data. It’s a bit like creating a sculpture from a large block of marble. You need a lot of material to start so you can carve out a beautiful piece of art.

            After your ghostwriter has reviewed all your written material, she will need to continue to interview you. I often conduct these over email and phone. Sometimes clients send me audio or video files, which I transcribe.

            Please know that these ongoing interviews are vital. They help your ghostwriter get the detailed information she needs to fully and accurately capture your style and written voice.

            Get personal in an interview with a ghostwriter

            Share the good and the bad when writing your book with your ghostwriterIf you want your writer to accurately portray you to your reader, it’s important that you participate in each interview with a ghostwriter fully.

            That means if you’re writing a memoir, you must share your most personal experiences, thoughts and feelings sincerely and honestly. While you don’t need to include everything in your book, you can’t hide from all the negative events that happened.

            Don’t try to make out that your life is wonderful all the time. You need to show your flaws and share your errors. Readers need to be able to identify with you. They need to see that you’re human. If you portray yourself as perfect, the reader will know that you’re lying.

            And your book will be boring.

            Just like life, a good story must have conflict to be interesting. So, you must be willing to open up to your readers. That begins with your ghostwriter. Your ghostwriter will help you by asking broad questions. If the questions spark an idea, feel free to elaborate. It’s fine to go off-topic for a bit because that may open the door to more ideas and even bring up interesting incidents which might have been a bit buried. Most of my clients remember many details when they interview with me, their friendly ghostwriter.

            One word of warning: if you’re thinking of speaking ill of someone, be aware that her or she may read your book. Consider carefully if you are willing to face the consequences. After all, anything you put in writing is permanent.

            Other categories

            If you’re writing a fiction book or a prescriptive nonfiction (how-to book), keep in mind you still need to interview with your ghostwriter. She will need to coordinate closely with you and collect all the pertinent facts. In addition, she’ll require regular feedback on her work.

            Each interview with a ghostwriter will help her hear how you put together phrases, learn more about your philosophies on writing and life, and better understand your ongoing thoughts and goals for the project.

            What a ghostwriter needs

            My clients usually wish to write their book with me. I always embrace this partnership and strive to teach them about the process every step of the way, if that’s what they desire. However, some authors prefer a more hands-off approach. In those cases, I simply write pages and submit them on a regular basis.

            There are various key research elements a client can provide that make my job a lot easier.

            Biographies of characters

            ghostwriters need to know about the characters in your bookNo matter what the genre, it is always helpful to collect biographies of the people mentioned in the book (whether they be fictional or not). If I’m writing a memoir for a client, I like to know the following information so that I can write a truly three-dimensional character:

            • Full name
            • Birthdate (month and year)
            • Birthplace and residences
            • Hair and eye color
            • Body description
            • General mood
            • Hobbies or interests

            This is a good starting point, but, really, there is a lot more that can be added to this list. Consider all the things that make this person truly unique.

            A detailed list of incidents

            Any fiction book or memoir is really comprised of a series of incidents. It’s a timeline of the events that happen to your characters.

            In order to get started on your outline, I need to know what happened. This list doesn’t have to include a lot of information. In fact, when you’re just starting out, it can just be a list of key words that triggers the right concept for you. Then, during your interview, your ghostwriter will pull out the relevant details to understand the scene as well as you do.

            For instance, if you’re writing your memoir, you might jot down:

            • The time I got food poisoning in LA
            • The first horror movie I attended with a boy
            • The time I flew to Paris to meet my sister

            Ghostwriters need to know who, what, where to write your bookOnce you make a giant list of all these incidents, you can even delve in a little further and add a few more pertinent facts:

            • Who was involved?
            • Where did it take place?
            • When did it happen?
            • What was the significance for you?

            Snippets of dialogue

            When you’re writing a memoir, it is very helpful to note down any actual conversations that you might wish to recreate in your book. Of course, your ghostwriter will change it around to work for your book, but these words will give her a sense for how you and others in your story speak and interact with one another. If you think about it, you speak very differently with the different people in your life. I know I don’t talk to my mother-in-law the way I speak to my children or my neighbor.

            The same goes for fiction if. If you have a good handle on the characters you wish your writer to portray, I’d recommend that you provide a little sample dialogue. That way your ghostwriter can build from that and meet your expectations easily.

            Additional information

            I find it extremely helpful to get the addresses of former homes, offices, schools, etc., so I can research details about the locations various characters visited throughout the story. This helps me set the scenes accurately, especially if the research turns up photos of the interior as well. I love to pore over local maps to get a feel for the area.

            Of course, if you have any pertinent photos, those help tremendously because they give a complete picture of how people, places and things looked.

            Use your senses in an interview with a ghostwriter

            use your senses when you write a bookAs you are writing down all the above information, do your best to fully describe everything so that your ghostwriter can see and feel what you did. Use all your senses. For example, if you’re describing your first girlfriend, mention the color of her hair, the sound her high heels made as she clicked across the floor, the way her perfume reminded you of the rose garden at your grandma’s house, or the silky feel of her dress when you held her as you danced.

            If you’re writing a memoir, each interview with a ghostwriter may bring out a lot of emotions. Let them out. Be honest about how you felt when certain things happened. Open up and share the fear that gripped you when your car spun out of control on an ice patch, the raw anger you experienced when your brother teased you as a young child, or the pure joy you felt when you held your first-born child.

            And through it all, seek the themes that you wish to impart. Share the messages you wish to communicate through your book.

            Enjoy each interview with a ghostwriter. You’ll learn a lot and, through the process of working with a ghostwriter, you both will create an excellent book.

            Additional articles you may enjoy reading:

            How to Conquer Writer’s Block

            Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

            Write Your Family History

            A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

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              How to Find Your Memoir Themes

              Finding your memoir theme is a big part of storytelling.Sharing your life story through a memoir is an intimidate and special experience. As you outline your book, you should consider the incidents that will flow together to tell your life story. When you do it well, the memoir themes you wish to weave should pop out nicely.

              You might be thinking, “Hey, I’m just writing what happened in my life. Why would my memoir need to have a theme?” 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, Compassion, Tolerance, War, or Loyalty.

              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, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin explores many shades of good and evil throughout.

              The theme is usually not stated outright. You never want to bonk the readers over their heads with your theme. 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 important is a great themeThis 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 to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d love to chat with you about your memoir project!

              Additional articles you might find helpful:

              My Ghostwriting Process

              Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

              Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can you Research a Memoir?

              Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

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                Write a Memoir Readers Will Want to Read

                write a memoir the right wayPeople from all around the world email me each week with a strong desire to write a memoir. I love these requests! Memoirs and autobiographies are so important as they record a slice of history. As readers, we can all really benefit from these books in so many ways. After all, when we are given the freedom to step into another’s shoes for a few moments, we often comprehend life a little better. I know I learn a lot by reading a good memoir.

                So, how do you go about writing your life story?

                First, understand that a memoir isn’t purely a list of chronological events. I was born… then I ate cereal on the 22nd of September…then I… No, I think we can all agree this is boring and would be a memoir mistake. Yes, you will include dates and it’s best not to jump around the time line like a crazed kangaroo on frosted coco sugar squares, but we need to find the right stories to share.

                Find your purpose to write a memoir

                Find your purpose to write a memoirWhy do you wish to write a memoir?

                Yes, this is important. You must know your purpose and then you must communicate that to your readers.

                Having been a memoir ghostwriter for over twenty years, I can share a few purposes my clients have shared over the years:

                • “I wish to share my story with the next generation.”
                • “I have important information to impart to my readers.”
                • “I have lived a full, rich life and feel others might enjoy reading about it.”
                • “Through perseverance I have succeeded and I feel others can learn from this story.”

                Of course, there are many more, but these give you a few ideas.

                Now, in contrast, here are some examples of bad reasons to write a memoir. In my opinion, these purposes should be avoided at all costs:

                • “I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.”
                • “I want to brag about how great I am.”
                • “I’m angry at the world and I want my readers to know it.”

                Again, these are just a few examples, but you get the idea.

                Your reader will be able to discern your purpose easily, and will throw your book away like a hot potato if they sense your motive is off. You have to be honest with yourself here, as there is no fooling your reader. They’ll know.

                Find the purpose of each scene

                Now that you have your purpose firmly in mind, it’s time to sit down to the first draft. I suggest that you begin by jotting down the summaries of important events that brought you to where you are today. Just a few lines that communicate the incidents to you. Trace your journey through these key incidents, so that you can lay out the breadcrumbs that others may follow.

                As you identify these segments, remember the purpose of the book as well as the scene that you are writing. If you can’t identify a purpose for an incident, toss the scene. Be ruthless about this. Here are a few examples of a good purpose for a scene:

                • Introducing an important character
                • Showing a turning point in some key aspect of your life
                • Demonstrating an error you made
                • Sharing a realization you had

                When done correctly, the various incidents will fit together like an intricate puzzle, a beautiful work of kinetic art. They flow seamlessly. One question that will help you determine whether any particular incident should be included is: Does it help move the story forward? Make sure it does.

                Uncover your themes

                use your senses to write a memoirAs you write the summaries of these scenes down, observe what the emerging themes might be. Consider the lessons you’ve learned, which you wish to impart to your readers. Some examples of powerful and effective messages that I’ve recently seen are:

                • Hard work can overcome many obstacles.
                • Don’t hold on to anger. Forgive.
                • Practical experience is essential for any entrepreneur.
                • Failure is always part of success, if you learn from your mistakes.

                It can take time, but through this process you will discover your messages and write a good memoir.

                Another tip is that you must always write with honesty. Tap into your emotions and communicate them. Use all your senses to describe what occurred for you in the past. That way your reader will feel what you felt. If you do it correctly, your reader will experience your life as if they had been there alongside you.

                Enjoy the process! And if you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

                If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, please check out my book Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

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

                My Ghostwriting Process

                A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

                Great Memoir Themes