Should I Write a Memoir or an Autobiography?

write a memoir or an autobiographyIf you’re sitting down to write your life story, you’re probably considering your options. When I offer prospective clients a free consultation, one of the questions I usually field is whether they should write a memoir or an autobiography.

Many people think they are the same thing.

They aren’t.

While there are commonalities between the two genres, they are quite different in style and voice. This is a point of confusion for many. So before you begin writing your book, you must decide which option works best for you.

What a memoir and an autobiography have in common

Both types of books discuss the author’s life, as shared by you. For that reason, you would tell it in the first person. This type of storytelling differs from a biography, which you would write in the third person. This distances the reader from the author while memoirs and autobiographies tend to put the reader into the author’s shoes.

Although a memoir or an autobiography can be written in diary form, they aren’t actually a personal journal. For one thing, an author writes in a diary for himself, but would pen a memoir for someone else. It’s important to remember that a memoir or an autobiography must follow the rules of literature; both must read like a novel no matter the format.

How a memoir and an autobiography differ

While both feature a person’s life and are told in the first person, the tone and voice are often night and day. An autobiography is usually more of a formal work, which often begins at birth (or early childhood) and chronologically carries through the entire life. While there are exceptions, these books often have a dry feel, focusing on facts while just touching on emotion.

A memoir, on the other hand, dives headfirst into a sea of emotion. It tends to be intimate and passionate, highlighting a portion of the author’s journey through life. Remember, a memoir pulls out an era of the author’s life to examine and spotlight, making the story’s scope limited.

Which one is right for you?

What is the right choice? A memoir or an autobiography?When you’re selecting the style for your book, think about how much you wish to share with your reader. If you know you want to write only about a particular period of time, and you plan to share the emotional journey of that era with your readers, a memoir is a good choice for you. If you’d like to explore the entire scope of your life from a more detached perspective, I’d recommend an autobiography.

Not to throw a monkey wrench into your decision-making process, but I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate the third option I mentioned earlier. You might consider telling your life story in the third person as a biography. I had a client who chose that option because she was a toddler during the major event of the book. Her personal memory of the event wasn’t strong, but she had a lot of details of the historical incidents, so a biography made sense.

 

Whether you choose to write a memoir or an autobiography, I encourage you to write your life story for others to read. Readers can gain so much from your experiences. Think of how rewarding it will be when people write in to say how much you’ve touched their lives with your book.

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

 

 

 

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

An interview with a ghostwriter should be painlessYou’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?

 

 

 

Developmental Editing

developmental editing creates an impactAfter you finish the first draft of a manuscript, you need to edit your book. There are multiple phases in the editing process. You start by looking at your book as a whole, then move on to reading the manuscript line by line, and finish by correcting the errors and typos. Each step requires different experts trained in their area. I’d recommend that you hire independent professionals for each phase so you can get several fresh sets of eyes on your book. Start with developmental editing and be prepared for a shift in viewpoint.

What is developmental editing?

Developmental editing will vary depending on the type of book that you’re writing. If you’re penning a novel or a memoir, this kind of editing would include pointing out poor character development, unrealistic or confusing dialogue, continuity issues, plot holes, and other big-picture items.

If you’re writing a business book, the focus will be more on consistency of message and facts. Your editor will make sure that the message on page 10 matches that on page 199.

Once you get back the initial developmental edit, you’ll probably need to do some rewriting. This is why you always want to do the developmental editing prior to line editing and proofreading. There’s no sense in tidying up the typos before you do the rewrites.

Have the right attitude

the ghostwriter's process requires the client to be open and honestYou must be patient and open during this process. You’ll be looking at the manuscript as a whole and focusing on the big ideas to make sure the main pieces of the story work well. This isn’t a time to zero in on details.

A lot of new authors dread developmental editing because they don’t want to face making big cuts or major changes. This is part of the reason why it is important to hire an outside editor. A first-time writer might be a little too close to the project to be objective. It’s tough to scrap a character because he doesn’t have a real purpose or delete a scene that fails to propel the story forward.

When you undergo a developmental edit, be prepared to make some large changes to your manuscript. You might need to shift your viewpoint a bit and let go of some pages, replacing them with new ones. You can’t be a successful author while clutching every word you write to your bosom.

 

A good developmental editor is worth her weight in gold. She will help you get your book ready to publish, and her notes will strengthen your manuscript in ways you wouldn’t have been able to imagine. Sure, she might not be your best friend at first, but trust me, you’ll thank her when you’re done.

For more articles about writing a book, please check out these articles:

Writing a Memoir: Know Your Story

How to Create a Compelling Character Arc

Writing Great Dialogue

Different Kinds of Editors

And if you’re in the market to hire a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

Should I Write My Memoir?

Should i write my memoir?Over the years quite a few people have approached me asking, “Should I write my memoir?” So many individuals have shared with me their ideas and dreams about writing a book. As a ghostwriter, I truly enjoy helping people fulfill their lifelong goals. It’s quite rewarding.

However, when most new writers sit down to share their life story, they get overwhelmed. They don’t really know how to go about starting.

Does that sound familiar?

If so, here are a few questions to consider:

What makes a good memoir?

This is a question many people fail to ask themselves. A book that seeks revenge or shares a horrific upbringing as its theme isn’t a book that should be written. That’s a common memoir mistake. Please write a book that you will still be proud of in five years.

Here are some elements to think about as you consider writing a memoir:

Will my book uplift others? Really, at the end of the day, you want to create a book that will inspire others toward greatness. You want to encourage them to live their lives to the fullest and to learn from your experiences.

Do I have an interesting story? A story is made up a series of incidents tied together by an overall theme. If you really only have an anecdote, even if it is hilarious, moving, or powerful, it isn’t enough for a book. It could make a good short story, though!

Is my story enlightening? If you have a powerful viewpoint and a story with lots of action, you have the makings of a riveting book. But it’s equally important that you have done something which would intrigue and educate the reader. Adventures are fun, but memoir readers expect to take something positive away from your life experiences. They want to learn from your example.

Should I self-publish?

If you’re a celebrity or have been the topic of a strong news story recently, you might be able to write a good proposal, find an agent, and get a good advance from a publisher. Otherwise, it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that you will land a decent publishing contract. The other thing to keep in mind is that this publishing route will take about two years. Then, in the end, most likely you’ll receive a 10 – 15% royalty, which will only kick in once the book starts selling.

In this day and age, especially with the advent of eBooks, you can do very well as a self-published author. You’ll have to learn a little about the industry, but if you can pull together a marketing plan, you can sell your book on Amazon and make money.

Should I hire a ghostwriter to write my memoir?

hire a ghostwriter to "write my memoir"The answer really boils down to time, money, and skill. Writing a book on your own requires not only a few hundred hours of work, but quite a bit of experience. If you don’t feel you have that time or skill set, and you have a good budget, hiring a ghostwriter is a good option. To learn more about what a ghostwriter charges, check out my article: A Ghostwriter’s Fees.

Also, if you’d like to learn more about the process of how to hire a ghostwriter, please read my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

If you’re still wondering “Should I write my memoir?” please contact me and I’ll do my best to help you sort it out.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

My Ghostwriting Process

Great Memoir Themes

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

Interviewing a Ghostwriter

How to Edit Your Own Book

Edit your bookIf you want to be a great writer and create a best-selling novel or memoir, you must learn how to edit your own book.

As an author, you are probably adept at magically weaving words together to create worlds and entice your readers, but keep in mind that you are also in charge of making sure your words communicate. The editing process will help you accomplish that.

When you learn to edit your own book, you will become a stronger writer. Your first drafts will become better and better with each subsequent book because you will spot your weak points and correct them. Not only will you improve your ability to structure plot, create characters and highlight themes, but you will reduce the number of spelling and grammatical errors.

Edit your own book before you publish it

It’s important to note that after you edit, and before you publish, you will need to hire outside editors to make sure everything works. Most authors hire at least a developmental editor and a copy editor. If you have questions about this area, please check out my article about the different kinds of editors available to you.

However, before you turn over your work to a professional editor, you will need to make sure it is the best you can make it. That way the editor can do a better job for you.

The editing process begins with you

editing is a bit like cleaning up after a partyYour editor can do a much better job if he doesn’t need to wade through a super rough draft. It’s a little like hiring someone to clean your home after a party where litter and lampshades are strewn around the floor. While some may feel it is silly to clean up for the cleaner, it actually makes sense.

With the obvious mess out of the way, he can spend his time doing a detailed cleaning. It’s the same with your manuscript. When you clean it up, it will save your editor time, which will save you money.

The editing process ends with you

When you hire a professional editor, she will give you a lot of comments. Some will be elements that you must change, while others will be an opinion. You need to recognize the difference and act accordingly.

If you misspelled a word or misused a comma, you’ll need to make those corrections. However, sometimes the editor might not quite get your voice, your style, or your meaning. In those cases, you need to know not to make those changes. If you plan to develop a long-term relationship with an editor, communicate directly with her about those points so that she can understand how to better edit your work. If she is defensive, find another editor. There are many good ones out there.

Publishing options

While it’s true that traditional publishers provide in-house editors for all the books they have under contract, you still need to get in the front door. It’s vital to present the best draft you can. Otherwise, they will ignore your manuscript and reach for one of the many thousands that grace their inbox.

Most authors opt to self-publish. Although you can self-publish anything these days, the last thing you want is to publish a book full of plot holes and riddled with typos and errors.

You can never erase the bad reviews you’ll get.

Proper editing will go a long way to encouraging a slew of five-star reviews, which will help you to develop a following.

Edit your own book with the big picture in mind

It’s a mistake to focus on grammar and editing when you first sit down to edit your own book. This isn’t a good place to start. Instead, begin by looking at the overall structure and flow of your book. Later you can work your way down to the fine details. When you tackle the big picture first, many of your words and sentences will change, thereby possibly eliminating the need to correct spelling and grammatical errors.

When you edit your own book ask what is my story aboutTo get a sense of the big picture, I find it helps to find a one-line answer to the question, “What is my story about?” The answer you come up with will help you align your book around that central concept.

For instance, let’s say you determine that your book is about how you struggled through adversity to become a successful business owner. Skip the late-night stress-baking scenes or the irrelevant tiffs with in-laws. Unless the scene directly relates to the purpose and thrust of your book, delete it.

Let’s examine various key elements of the big picture.

Plot

When you first start to edit your own book, I suggest that you examine the plot. Make sure it hits all the areas you need it to hit:

  • Have you followed the three-act structure?
  • Does the story flow logically?
  • Is there a good level of conflict and tension?

If you haven’t outlined your book, now might be a good time to analyze the purpose of each incident within your story. If you can’t find a purpose for the scene, delete it.

Characters

The next step is to scrutinize your characters carefully from a big picture viewpoint. Do they each have a purpose in the novel or memoir? If not, cut them out. This can be the hardest part of editing for an author, I know. Writers tend to get attached to the people they created.

While you are sharpening your editing sheers, keep in mind that a character’s role can be small, yet significant. For instance, the barista who serves Joe a cup of joe every day might be a sounding board for his new ideas. Or Clarissa’s strict piano teacher might help the reader understand why she is such a perfectionist as an adult.

The main characters should all follow character arcs. In other words, they need to have some sort of transformation through the incidents of the story. Look over a few of your favorite books. Can you identify the character arcs within the stories?

If you’re writing a memoir, keep in mind that you are the main character of your story.

Themes

Themes are the main ideas that tie your story together. Universal themes deal with ideas about Love, Friendship, War, Faith and the like. More specifically, you can have themes such as “Persistence always wins in the end,” “Family is important,” or “Being true to oneself has rewards.” For more information about themes, read my article, Great Memoir Themes.

Your book should explore one or more themes. I like to think of it like weaving gold thread through tapestry to make it shimmer. You never want to hit your reader over the head with a theme. Instead, you want to suggest it and have the readers recognize the concept for themselves. Or not. Readers never like to be told what to think. I mean, who does?

As you edit, make sure your story aligns with your theme. For instance, if you want to promote the idea that kindness wins in the end, you might not want your lead character to succeed by gleefully hurting others around him with no consequence.

Zoom in to edit your scenes

zoom in to view the individual scenes of your bookNow that you have all the big picture elements the way you want them, it’s time to closely examine your individual scenes one by one.

In the opening scene you want to grab the reader by the scruff of his neck and (hopefully) never let go. One way to do this is to drop him in the middle of the ocean and demand that he treads water to keep up. This is the make-break point of your book. The opening scene can be the most challenging to write, so some authors rewrite that first crucial scene after they complete their first draft. It can be easier to edit after the book is completed because you know exactly where the story winds up and you have all the story elements worked out.

As you review each scene, make sure it has a strong purpose in your story. It should move the story forward or illuminate an important aspect of your characters.

Also, determine if the scenes flow well the way you have them organized. You might need to switch them around and create new transitions.

If you’re a writer who writes by the seat of his pants rather than outlining ahead of time, this is a good time to sprinkle in a few foreshadowing elements. While plotters might have that covered, during the editing process they might have brilliant insights that inspire them to add in a few more.

This is also a good time to review your transitions. If they are too jarring, your reader will be flung out of your book and might never find his way back. Ideally, you want one scene to flow into the next like a long river.

Characters, a closer look

When you examine your characters, make sure they are believable and three-dimensional. Even if a character is secondary, she needs to have proper development and realistic motivations for her actions. Of course, a bank teller who appears once on page fifty-nine doesn’t need a back story, but consider that the third-grade teacher, who is featured in a quarter of the book, will need more than a mere physical description.

Continuity is something to look at in this phase. In the big picture you’ve gone over the character arc and made sure each main character has hit the highs and the lows that he or she should. But now it’s time to make sure each character is consistent in his speech and actions. If Matilda was angry and sullen in the first part of the book, but suddenly becomes cheerful halfway through, there needs to be a reason. Likewise, if you established that Terry wasn’t very bright, it wouldn’t make sense if you later have him wax intellectual about a scientific discovery.

Point of View

You can write your book from different points of view:

  • First person – The protagonist is telling the story. He is part of the story and shares his experiences directly.
  • Second person (rare) – The narrator is telling the story of “you,” so that it seems like the action is happening to you (the reader).
  • Third person limited – The narrator shares some of the thoughts and experiences of the characters, usually just one character.
  • Third person multiple – The narrator shares the thoughts and experiences of several characters.
  • Third Person omniscient – The narrator shares the thoughts and experiences of all characters.

Make sure you are keeping the point of view consistent throughout the story. For instance, if you’ve chosen third person limited and are writing from Mary’s point of view, you can’t suddenly switch over to James’ in the middle of a scene. Find a way to show how he is feeling from Mary’s viewpoint.

For instance, you wouldn’t say:

James couldn’t believe his ears. How could she have said that?

Instead, you might say:

Mary took a step back as James advanced on her saying, “How could you say something like that to me?”

Dialogue

Create realistic dialogue for the characters in your bookDialogue should have a purpose. It should move the story forward by providing information, advancing the plot or giving insight into your characters. Dialogue can be a wonderfully subtle way to reveal your characters’ motivations, as well as their overall moral compass and viewpoints.

Each character should have his or her own way of speaking. For instance, someone who is angry at the world will speak in shorter sentences, whereas someone with a flair for the dramatic might wax poetic with long, flowery prose. In addition, people in the real world sometimes make up their own words or phrases.

As you edit your own book, read your dialogue out loud or maybe have a friend read it to you. Listen carefully to the words and see if they sound real. Bad dialogue stands out like a leech on your leg.

Make sure each character has a distinct voice which is consistent and predictable. Pay close attention to your main character’s voice, especially if he or she is the narrator.

Edit your own book line by line

Now it’s time to zero in on each line of your book. Again, you shouldn’t focus on this task until you have completed the big picture and the scene analyses. Here you’ll focus on the word choice and look for errors.

Line editing is an art and there are many, many ways to edit your words so that they communicate effectively and efficiently. There are too many areas to discuss in this article, but I wanted to highlight a few key ones.

Show, don’t tell

This is a writer’s mantra.

When you edit your own book and see that you’re explaining something such as an emotion or a thought, consider how you might show it. This allows the reader to see it and draw his own conclusions, making him an active part of the story.

For example, you wouldn’t say:

Susie thought of the way Barry broke up with her. This made her feel sad. She missed him so much.

However, you might write:

Susie saw Barry across the room. She turned with a sigh and blinked away a tear as she fingered the silver chain he’d given her the previous month.

For a more detailed explanation of this concept of show, don’t tell, please check out my article on the subject.

Minimize your use of adverbs

Adverbs can weaken your writing. They also tell the reader something rather than allowing him to experience it. So, it’s good to use adverbs sparingly. Instead, use strong verbs to show the reader what is happening.

For example:

“I’ll do it later,” he said tiredly.

Instead, use something like this:

John yawned and closed his eyes. “I’ll do it later,” he said.

Keep your language real

Never try to impress your reader with fancy vocabulary. Instead, focus on words that best communicate your ideas.

For example, please don’t say:

Katie was stultified as the lecturer pontificated.

Rather, try:

Katie found the lecture boring.

Take out needless words

edit your own bookWhen you write your first draft, the emphasis is on getting your ideas on paper. You should just let your ideas flow. To do that, you’ll probably use a lot of words to give them form. Now it’s time to delete the filler words.

For example, you may have written:

Smith took over the empty pilot seat in order to navigate around the mountain peak.

You can tighten it like this:

Smith took over the pilot seat to navigate the mountain peak.

After all, we can guess that no one was in the seat when he sat down and of course you’d go around the mountain peak.

Remove redundancies

When you write your first draft, you may find that you’ve repeated yourself. This is the time to edit out those redundancies.

For example, it is not uncommon for writers to write:

he thought to himself.

You can simply say:

he thought.

You can only think to yourself.

Or if you wrote:

She kicked him with her foot.

You can edit it down to:

She kicked him.

We know it was with her foot.

Check your “trouble words”

Proofreading is part of editingThese are words that give you difficulty. Maybe you just can’t remember the spelling or the grammar rule. No worries, everyone has them.

For instance, some people struggle with the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Or they have trouble remembering when to use “it’s” and “its.”

Luckily, there are plenty of online resources and tools to help you with trouble words. But nothing beats finding these errors for yourself. So, keep a list of your trouble words handy and look out for them as you line edit your own book.

Congratulations!

You’ve made it through the editing phase of your book project. Now you can turn over your manuscript to one or two professional editors. Then it’s off to the printing presses, virtual or otherwise.

If you have any questions or need help as you edit your book, please feel free to comment below or write me directly. And if you’re in the market to hire a ghostwriter, please check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

Writing a Memoir: Know Your Story

 

When writing a memoir you must know your storyWhen writing a memoir, it’s important to stick to one subject and one time period. In order to do that you really need to consider the story. 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.

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?

 

 

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 to Work with a Ghostwriter

Work with a ghostwriter to produce a best sellerYou’ve decided to hire a ghostwriter. Great! Now, you’re probably wondering what steps you can take to prepare for the process ahead of you. Although I always recommend that you take these starting steps once you have hired your writer, I know that some of you might be eager to begin now. I understand that desire. Prepared notes can be helpful when you do begin to work with a ghostwriter.

Organize your written material

If this is a project you’ve had in mind for years, your notes might be all over the place. Perhaps you have diary pages, recipes from Grandmother Tilly, newspaper clippings from your childhood, and many more valuable items tucked away in the corners of your home or laptop.

Usually people have a mixture of hard copies and computer files. As a first step, decide which format you prefer and put all the documents in one place. It will be easier to send them to your ghostwriter that way.

Photographs are always very helpful when writing a memoir. Collect them all and scan them onto your hard drive so it will be easy to email them to your writer. It goes without saying that you should never mail the original photographs to anyone.

Create a list of incidents

If you’re writing a novel or penning a memoir, it helps to create a master list of events that will appear in your book. Don’t go into details, but rather just give each incident a title, such as “My fifth birthday party.” As you make your list, don’t edit. Just keep adding to it.

Keep in mind that some experiences can be broken into smaller incidents. For instance, a person’s wedding isn’t usually a singular event. You might break it down further into the rehearsal dinner, the bachelorette party, getting ready for the ceremony, the ceremony, and many more parts.

When you’re breaking down your story into its parts, consider all the separate incidents that will help you accurately tell your story. Then, when you begin to work with a ghostwriter, this help as she begins to outline your book.

Create a cast of characters

work with a ghostwriter to create compelling charactersWhen writing a memoir or novel, you’ll have a number of characters in your book. To help create three-dimensional personalities, it helps to write short biographies for each. Describe what they look like, what they enjoy doing, their vocation, etc.

For your memoir you’ll write down the existing personalities for the people in your life. For your novel, each main character should follow a captivating path of growth or decline throughout the story. In a lot of the stories that I tell there is a positive change, where the protagonist transforms throughout the book. Sometimes he or she will become a hero by the end. Conversely, some novels portray a negative transformation, where the character goes from being good to being evil.

Consider each character and work to build his or her personality the way you wish it to develop. It’s fun! You get to stock your book with people you create.

 

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably chomping at the bit to do something to forward your dream of writing a book. I get it. These are a few things you can do to prepare to work with a ghostwriter. Enjoy the process!

If you’d like some tips about how to hire a ghostwriter, please check out: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

 

 

 

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.

Proofreading

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few related articles that you might enjoy:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Character Development

Write Good Dialogue

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

How to Edit Your Own Book

Outlining a Memoir

outlining a memoir saves timeDear Friendly Ghostwriter, I want to write my life story. I’ve been working on my memoir for seven years, but haven’t made much progress. I know what I want to write about, but I can’t seem to get my thoughts on paper. Help! – Emma V.

Dear Emma V.,

Yours is a plight I’ve heard many times. You aren’t alone! Many people wish to tell their life stories, but don’t know where to begin.

Honestly, I think the solution might be simpler than you think. In my experience, outlining a memoir solves a lot of problems. Working from a jumbled mess of notes can be daunting for many.

Now, some writers feel that outlining takes all the joy out of the process. One friend once told me, “If I were to outline the entire book, what would be the point in writing it? I know exactly what will happen!” Although I understand what he means, I couldn’t disagree more.

Outlining a memoir saves time

As a writer, I enjoy creating the mile markers first and then filling in the details. It’s a bit like sketching the elements of a painting before applying the pigment. It helps to have those guidelines.

As a writer, I prefer knowing where I’m starting and where I’m going. It puts me in the driver’s seat.

Before I commit to months of writing, I want to know my direction. I want to know that the path I’ve selected will lead me to a worthwhile destination. I mean, if wrote thousands of words, which veered off a cliff, I’d have to toss it. That is frustrating to anyone.

Bottom line, if you’re stuck and unable to write, please consider organizing your thoughts into a good, strong, detailed outline.

How to outline your memoir

If you’re writing a memoir (or a novel), tackle each individual incident of the book. It’s important to work out:

  • Who is in the scene
  • Where it takes place
  • When it happened
  • What happened (briefly)
  • What is the purpose of the scene.

The last point is the most important aspect for this exercise by far. After all, if a scene has no purpose, you shouldn’t waste your time writing it. It will just land on the editing room floor at the end of the project.

The fact is, your outline should be purpose driven from the start. Every scene must propel your story forward. Each incident must have a reason for being there, something that fits in with the flow of the book.

Once you finish your outline, the theme for your memoir should pop out. This will help you organize your thoughts, too.

Outlining a how-to book

If you’re writing a how-to book, your outline will be very different. I’d suggest that you create a table of contents, with bullet points for subheads. I often write a little paragraph describing the proposed text under each segment.

I’d love to hear from fellow writers. What do you think? Is outlining a memoir realistic for you? Please post your thoughts in the comments below.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Do You Want To Write A Book About Your Life?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

How to Edit Your Own Book

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

How to Hire a Ghostwriter