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.

Now, I’m a huge fan of Star Trek. Doctor McCoy would often say, “Damn it, Jim. I’m a doctor, not a _______!” (fill in the blank with brick layer, engineer, etc.) I have the feeling that some writers might identify with that sentiment. I can just imagine them saying, “Damn it, Laura. I’m a writer, not an editor!”

I hear you.

I get it.

However, I beg to differ. There’s no getting around the fact that you need to know how to edit your own book.

While you are a writer and can magically weave words together to create worlds and entice your readers, 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 probably 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 partyThink about it.

Your 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 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. If you do, be aware that you may need to 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. If you’re a plotter, these may be covered. However, while editing, you might have brilliant insights that inspire you 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 murmured.

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.

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

Working with a ghostwriter to write a bookYou’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 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 will be your ghost. 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.

A ghostwriter needs a lot of notes to write your bookSome 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.

Note: while I prefer to receive most of the information in writing, I also need to talk to the client now and then. Live conversations help a lot.

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 in 2020

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

 

 

 

Write Your Family History in 2020

record your family history for future generationsGrowing up, I think many of us were intrigued by our ancestors. What were their stories? How did they make their mark in this world, and how did that pave the way for our arrival on the scene? Write your family history to discover and share your ancestors’ stories and nuggets of wisdom with future generations.

When we uncover how a family struggled through hardships to get where they are today, when we really understand their viewpoints, it often answers questions we’ve asked ourselves about them, such as why grandpa responds the way he does or what makes Great Aunt Trudy hold onto certain idiosyncrasies. In addition, this knowledge can also explain our roles in our family and community.

There are many different ways you can preserve family memories. If you have zillions of photographs, perhaps a scrapbook format would work. Some people build and bury a time capsule. Others gather all the recipes handed down through the generations and create a cookbook.

Now, if your family’s story is an action-packed adventure tale, a book is the only way to truly do it justice. I know that writing a book can be quite an undertaking, but it is the surest way to immortalize your family story for the millennia to come. And this is where I come in. When you need help to write your family history in book form, call on me, your friendly ghostwriter.

Here are some tips to you get started.

How to determine the focus and format

If you’ve decided to write your family history, you might not know where to begin. After all, you have generations of memories and anecdotes to choose from. The first step will be to determine the focus of the book.

Will it center around one ancestor sharing his or her story?

Or will it detail a single event that influenced the course of the entire family?

Or perhaps you want to share multiple viewpoints of a generation that set the stage for the present-day condition of your family.

Once you decide on the focus, the next decision is easier: the type of book to write. No matter which focus you choose, there are really only two main formats open to you:

    • Memoir
    • Narrative

Memoir format

Record the wisdom of your elders for your book about your family's historyIf the story highlights one individual sharing an exciting adventure from the annals of her past, you’ll want to choose a memoir format. While other important people will be featured in your book, the story will be told through that one family member’s eyes. It will give the reader insight into her unique viewpoint.

I must say, by far the most common request I receive is to write a memoir. Each book is so different, because each client has his or her own voice, message, and purpose for writing their book.

For instance, one book I wrote a couple of years ago featured a young Jewish girl who needed to separate from her family in Europe and pretend to be a devout Catholic to escape the Nazis. Although the experiences of her brothers and sisters are shared throughout the book, they were told through the eyes of the preteen.

Tip: If you write a book in a memoir format, it will need to be written in the first person. This means that the main character will need to be present in each scene. After all, she couldn’t have experienced the incident if she wasn’t there.

Narrative format

If your family story is more of an ensemble piece, with many different people all playing an equal role, I’d suggest you stick with a narrative format. That way you can pick and choose the stories and people to focus on.

For example, I wrote a story for an author who escaped communist Hungary on foot with his family. Since he was a toddler at the time of the Hungarian Revolution, it didn’t make sense to write it as a memoir. Instead, the story revolved around his parents and older sister, but included him throughout.

Tip: When using a narrative format, you’ll write the book in the third person. Since you’ve chosen this format because you have multiple stories to tell, I’d recommend a multiple third person limited viewpoint (where you alternate between the viewpoints of different characters from segment to segment).

Know your goals for the book

If you find you need help and approach me to write your family history, I will start by giving you an introductory interview. One of my first tasks will be to get your true motivation behind the book project so that I can help you achieve your goals. After all, when I can truly understand my clients’ goals, their objectives become mine and we are able to form a writing team.

Over the years, clients who approach me to write their family’s story, have two main purposes in mind:

      • To share their story with readers around the world
      • To write a book so their children’s children will know what happened

 

write your family history for the future generationsI’ve worked with both goals and love to help families record their history. I am so grateful when I’m allowed into a client’s inner circle to learn their secrets and stories and get to record them for future generations—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is an honor to become a family’s historian. It’s an important role, one that I cherish.

It might surprise you to learn that some clients hire me and have no intention of ever publishing their book. For instance, you might ask me to write your family history simply because you are afraid that your ancestors’ memories and the lessons they learned will get lost over time, especially after they pass on. Perhaps you want your future family members to never forget the events of the past.

This is a valid concern.

One advantage of working with a ghostwriter to write your family history is that you leave the door open to publishing the book, if you choose to do so at a later time. After all, goals and purposes can change. When you work with a professional writer, you can be certain that you’ll wind up with a marketable manuscript which follows all the rules of literature.

Appoint a family historian

I would be honored if you considered hiring me to be your family historian. However, I recognize that not everyone can afford the fee. In that case, I recommend appointing a family member to write your family history and become your family historian.

Find someone who is eager to embrace the events of the past. She will need to be patient and willing to wade through records and documents and be able to organize all the information. In addition, she should be an excellent communicator, who is willing to interview every family member and dig deep to uncover all the pertinent facts and memories.

Here are a couple tips to help your family historian write your book:

Tip #1: Capture a person’s exact words

It is important that you capture each person’s exact words. After all, each member of your family will have a different way of expressing himself. Jot down any idioms the family member might use.

Never correct his or her grammar. You aren’t a seventh grade English teacher. If Grandpa says, “ain’t,” keep it that way. It’s real and it’s part of what makes him Grandpa, right? Keeping his dialogue intact will allow future generations a better sense of who he was. Record exactly what each person says as they say it.

In addition, make a note of their mannerisms so you can use these when you describe your family members in your book.

Tip #2: Collect more information than you’ll use

Collect a lot of information when you write your family historyWhen you write your book, plan to collect twice the material than you think you’ll use. It’s a bit like carving a work of art from stone. You need to start with a huge block of marble. Then you chip away at it until you uncover your sculpture within. With a book, you’ll need pages and pages of notes detailing adventures, challenges, life lessons, observations and the like. Within these pages you will find the golden nuggets that will help you write your family history.

Tip #3: Be open to learning new things about your family

While on this journey you will likely discover that your elders have lived through some amazing times. Some children have no idea what adventurous lives their ancestors have lived, or the hardships they endured. Perhaps your great uncle was a flying ace who engaged in dog fights during World War I. Or, it’s possible that you never knew that your grandmother escaped a brutal dictator on foot with her valuables sewn into her skirt. Or maybe various family members traveled to a variety of exotic locations and never told you. Whatever the case, you’re bound to learn a lot about your family members when you write your family history. Ask questions and be willing to take the book in new directions.

Tip #4: Select your theme

As with any memoir or story, your book will need to have one or more main themes. The theme you choose depends on the message you wish to communicate. There is no right or wrong answer here.

A few powerful themes you might consider are:

    • Drive and determination can overcome obstacles
    • Families can come in many shapes and sizes
    • Sometimes the only way to survive is to fight back
    • Be grateful for everything you have in life
    • Never give up, no matter how painful the odds and opposition might be

Tip #5: Use your senses

Now that you’ve determined the theme for your book, you will probably find yourself approaching it from multiple angles. Not only will you have a variety of viewpoints to share, but through the multi-generational events, you can show your theme using all the senses and perceptions available to each character.

For instance, I wrote the memoir of a man who grew up in a small one-room hovel without running water and electricity before achieving great wealth. To this day, he remains humble and is grateful for the simple pleasures of that early lifestyle, as well as the loving upbringing his parents provided. Together, he and I brought the conditions to life by not only describing the vistas but giving texture to the mud walls and sharing the tastes of his mother’s simple, but delicious cooking. Later, when his mother and father visited his mansion in California, the readers experienced the contrasting luxury along with his parents.

Note: The theme of gratitude was consistent throughout the book.

 

So, when should you start?

Now!

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’d love to help you write your family history! Check out a few of my testimonials.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

How Can You Research a Memoir?

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

How to Write a Business Book

 

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Get help in writing your book

Do you need help writing a book? I find that most people I talk to have a strong goal to write at least one book within their lifetime.

Perhaps you’ve lived an interesting life and wish to share your story with the world. If you have overcome some obstacles and can share your successful actions, you might just 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.

Then again, it’s possible that you have a fictional story, which has been on your mind for decades. Not sharing it with the world just isn’t an option. Am I right?

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 tackle it or the book never will be written.

I’m here to encourage you. Now is the time to complete your book project!

Please note: If you wish to hire me to be your ghostwriter, please reach out to me. I charge one dollar per word or $250 per page.

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
steps to take for help writing a book

Yes, I’m simplifying things a bit. I know I am. However, truthfully, I can tell you that these are the four main steps involved in writing any book. If you are looking for help writing a book, just understanding these steps can make a difference.

Each stage tends to flow into the next. When I complete most of my research, I instinctively want to organize all the information into an outline (I recommend doing so chronologically). As I’m outlining, there often 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 is the start of the first draft and helps to begin to establish the style and voice of the book.

The research phase

Research is crucial for any book project. Even if you are writing a memoir, you still need to do extensive research. After all, you need to provide accurate details as to 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

Avoid problems when writing a book by outliningIf 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 any book. Honestly, I can’t take a writing step forward without a good detailed flight plan for my book, because I feel it’s the best way to avoid mid-air collisions. And by that I mean, wasting time on a story line that just doesn’t fit into the 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. We’re all different. Do what’s right for you.

In my article, Write and Publish a Book in 2020, I discuss my personal method of how to outline a story (fiction or nonfiction). It’s just one method for you to consider.

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.

The biggest problem that I’ve seen new writers get into is that they 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 out first. Expect that it won’t be great. 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 regular progress on your story.

If you find yourself continually discouraged when you sit down to write or you avoid writing in general, revisit your outline. There might be a flaw there. 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? 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. For example, if you’re writing your life story, pick up 700 Sundays or a memoir you enjoy. Reading another author might give you ideas to help you sculpt your own book.

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. For example, I’ve worked with clients who will share with me a pet name for a relative halfway through the story. So, only the second half of the book will have that character’s nickname. Fortunately, it’s an easy matter to insert the new name.

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.

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

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 write a 200- to 300-page book. For first-time authors (as well as well-educated and talented authors) the task can seem mammoth. People sometimes start, then get caught in the middle of one of the above stages and falter. They find that writing a book is much harder than it appeared when they first started the project. 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.

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.

Hire a friendly ghostwriter

hire a friendly ghostwriterIf you are having great difficulties and it seems like 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 ghostwriter and will get the job done for you.

On the other hand, if you are one of those talented writers who just needs a little assistance, hire someone to edit and make minor rewrites. A professional ghostwriter can 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 book. Your next literary adventure won’t be fraught with the perils of inexperience since you will have traveled these waters already.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Write Your Family History in 2020

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Hiring a ghostwriter

Should I Write and Publish My Memoirs

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

Great Memoir Themes

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

What is a theme?

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

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

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

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

How do themes relate to memoirs?

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

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

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

How do I find my memoir themes?

Memoir theme of achieving life goal

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

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

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

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

Persistence always wins in the end

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

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

Continual courage can lead to victory

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

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

Family is important

Family is a good memoir theme

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

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

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

Ethical people lead better lives

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

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

Crime doesn’t pay

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

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

Being true to oneself brings rewards

integrity is a good memoir theme

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

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

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

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

Journeying outside of one’s comfort zone expands horizons

Journeying outside your comfort zone is a great memoir theme

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

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

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

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

Life transitions can bring new experiences and joys

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

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

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

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

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

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can you Research a Memoir?

Write Your Family History in 2020

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

How to Edit Your Own Book

When You Shouldn’t Write Your Life Story

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

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

I love helping people resolve this question!

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

Is that true of your story?

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

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

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

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

Consider your audience

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

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

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

Not every story should be told

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve lived a horrible life.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just can’t remember much.”

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

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

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

“My family and close friends would kill me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

 

Different Kinds of Editors

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

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

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

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

Developmental Editing

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

Here are some points a developmental editor will correct:

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

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

Line editing

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

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

A copy editor will fix:

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

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

Proofreading

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few related articles that you might enjoy:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Character Development

Write Good Dialogue

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

How to Edit Your Own Book

Tips For Writing A Memoir

I suspect that a number of you, my gentle readers, are thinking about writing a book. Am I right? Perhaps you want to share your life story. If so, here are some tips for writing a memoir:

Writing a memoir takes time

Write without fear. Edit without mercy.Writing a book isn’t an overnight undertaking.

Although it might be possible to complete a book in a month or two, I urge you not to rush the process. Even if you have plenty of time, give yourself some breathing room.

Six to eight months 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 are a living hero, you’ll 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. 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 a memoir yourself, 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

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:

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How to Write a Business Book

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Tips for Outlining a Memoir

Woman outlining a memoirDear 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 problem might be simpler than you think. Consider outlining your memoir. 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 understood what he meant, I couldn’t disagree more.

Organizing your thoughts 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.

Outlining a 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? Do you use an outline? Please post your thoughts in the comments below.

Additional articles 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

Tips to Find Your Memoir Theme

You must be brave to write your memoir

Writing a memoir requires the skill sets and virtues of a knight.

The author needs unparalleled bravery and must possess an honest and true heart. He or she has to show humility and be generous to the others mentioned in the book, even when they don’t deserve it.

But how do you find the theme of the tale you want to tell?

Start with the end to find your memoir theme

A good memoir takes the reader on a journey of the courageous hero (you). Your path should lead to growth or accomplishment of a goal (if it doesn’t, please rethink writing the book). This growth or accomplishment will point you in the direction of your memoir theme.

While the spoils of war, the victories, are the focus of your memoir, lessons will be learned along the way. Keep in mind, that means your mistakes will be exposed for all to see. But in the end, you should be the conquering hero.

And the reader will be by your side, sharing in your victory.

For instance, if you are a successful businessperson and wish to share your story, your theme might be how you slayed your personal demons that threatened to hold you back in order to rise up in the business world. I’ve written quite a few memoirs with this message.

Or perhaps you survived a life-threatening illness. In that case, your memoir theme would be centered around the successful life changes that guided you to health.

So, look carefully at your story. Where did you win? What did you do to get there? That’s where you’ll find your theme.

Summarize your book in one or two sentences

When you complete your book, you’ll often be asked “What’s your story about?” It’s good to tackle this question right at the start. When you first sit down to write out an answer, it might take you a few hundred words to summarize your 50,000-word book. That’s normal.

Remove the extraneous words and explanations and work to pare the description down to a single line or two. Thoroughly examine what your story is about. I know. It isn’t easy, but you have to edit it down.

This description will come in handy when you need an “elevator pitch” later. For instance, I’m writing a book about my experiences roadschooling three children. My pitch would be:

This is a travel memoir plus roadschooling how-to book which chronicles my adventure on the road after trading in my 2,500 square-foot home for a 36-foot RV.

Are you interested in reading my story?

Step back and look at the big picture

Do something great and write your memoir about itIt can be hard, when you review your life, to find a theme. After all, it was your life and it can be hard to be objective. That’s probably why a lot of people reach out to me to help them ghostwrite their memoirs. It’s often tough to do on your own.

If you’re writing your book yourself, try telling someone who doesn’t know your story about your memoir idea. This may help you sort it out because they’ll probably ask questions and make comments. Note these. If you are not ready to share your story quite yet, try stepping back and asking yourself questions you think your reader would ask about your story.

“Why did you make that choice?”

“What was your mindset when you traveled that path?”

“What would you do differently now that you know what you know today?”

These kinds of questions can help you formulate a good memoir theme, because your answers are really the successful solutions you developed. They brought you to the place you are today!

Your readers may be able to resolve their issues and be victorious in whatever battles they are fighting when they follow in your brave footsteps and apply your successful solutions. That’s the beauty of a good theme. You, the fearless knight, can really inspire and help others.

Please feel free to email me if you need a little help! To learn more about successful memoir themes, please check out my article on the subject.

For additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter