Character Development for Novels

Character development is vital when writing a book

Dear Laura the Friendly Ghostwriter, I’ve written a story about a kid who has doubts about his spiritual faith. This story is sci-fi so it takes place in a different world. I finished the first draft and it’s about 30,000 words, but I think it really lacks deep character development.

That is my struggle. I want help developing feelings of the characters on paper. Looking forward to your response.

Peace, Dan

Dear Dan,

Congratulations on the completion of your first story. That’s a wonderful accomplishment! I understand your struggles with character development; it’s tricky. As you’ve surmised, it is a quintessential part of any book, whether it’s a novel or a memoir. While description and action are key to locating a story and moving it along, what keeps readers invested are the fascinating characters that draw them in. I’d like to explore a few ways you might create characters that are well-rounded, full of life, and able to keep the reader engaged in your story.

Writing with reality

Research is a crucial component of the process, especially if you are unfamiliar with the character’s skill or condition. Let’s imagine that your main character is a fighter pilot, but that you’ve never been in a cockpit. Still, you need to write your scenes so that a seasoned pilot might identify with the character, thinking to themselves, “Yeah, that’s happened to me.”

Photo by Dominik Kollau on Unsplash

No, you don’t have the enroll in flight school to write about an ace pilot, but you do need to roll up your sleeves and learn. Start by scouring the internet for stories about a jet jockey taking to the skies. Read a few biographies or memoirs and try to pick up a pilot’s lingo and actions, as well as his state of mind. Of course, if it’s at all possible, speak directly to a person who is passionate about flying, someone with a lot of experience. Nothing beats that one-on-one interview.

As a general rule of thumb, it helps to watch people when working to improve character development. Just go to a public place and observe how different people interact. Look for mannerisms, notice the speech patterns, etc. This will help you create character bios, which we’ll discuss later in this article. The first step is to be able to identify various traits of people in front of you.

People don’t exist in a void

transformation of a character in a book you writeUnless your book centers around one person stuck on a deserted island talking to a volleyball all day, you’ll need to create many characters for your book. Don’t just focus on the main character, the protagonist. Of course, many stories also have a “bad guy” (an antagonist), somebody bent on thwarting your hero as he attempts to achieve his goal. You’ll need to understand this person just as thoroughly as your main guy. However, don’t forget the other side characters. They contribute to the motion of the story, too, and are known as secondary characters.

Writers can make the mistake of ignoring the minor players, thinking they aren’t important enough to be fully realized. Even if the character is the barista who serves your pilot a steaming hot cappuccino with honey each morning, she deserves a little character development. Think of Gunter on the popular sitcom Friends. He had dimension and we all loved him, although he rarely said a word.

Every character needs to pop from the page; they need description, personality, and realistic dialogue. It could come from the way the barista talks. Or perhaps the way she whistles to herself as she works, a tune the protagonist can’t get out of his head for the rest of the day. When you really spend the time to create these secondary characters and create their relationship to the others in your book, they come alive and often help flesh out the protagonist as well as the story.

Create character bios

As you work to form your characters, consider creating a little bio for them. Definitely avoid stereotypes, such as the absent-minded professor or the ditzy teenager. People rarely fall into these clichés. Readers appreciate seeing their lives reflected in your book, so include lots of examples of the rich diversity of humankind in your story.

When I build a character bio, I start with the physical description: Height, weight, hair color, etc. These might never be directly discussed, but I need to know what they are. For instance, if Jeremy is 5’ 2” and Alice is nearly six foot, Jeremy will always be craning his neck up to just look at his beloved.

Now that you have these mundane details down, it’s time to focus on the aspects that make up your character’s in-depth portrait. Include his history, typical emotional state, spiritual belief, nervous tick, and anything else that makes him, him.

Quick and Easy Bio Sheet

I have a form that I use when I’m starting a new project. Here are a few elements you might consider including for each character:

  1. Full name and nicknames
  2. Birth date (this helps you know how old each character is in each scene you write)
  3. The address of their current residence, as well as all the homes they ever lived in
  4. Any identifying marks or physical conditions, etc.
  5. Mannerisms
  6. Hobbies or interests
  7. Educational background
  8. Jobs they’ve held
  9. Milestone events and dates (such as graduations, marriages, birth of children, etc.)
  10. The names of their significant other and children, along with their birthdates

Dan, this is just a starting point, but I hope I’ve sparked some ideas to help you with character development. Creating the people of your book is truly fun! The idea is to get to know your characters on a personal level. The more real they are to you, the more identifiable they will be to your reader, and the richer your story will be.

You might also be interested in these articles:

How to Edit Your Own Book

How to Create Compelling Character Arcs

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

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    Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

    Is ghostwriting ethical?I’ve been a ghostwriter for twenty years now and love it. Although I am also a published author, there is something singularly satisfying about helping someone complete a lifelong goal of seeing their book in the hands of enthusiastic readers. However, there is a question that comes up routinely when I mention what I do. People ask, “Is ghostwriting ethical?”

    When it comes to ethics and morals, some things are very cut and dry. No, you shouldn’t steal that candy bar just because you’re hungry and broke. Yes, you should help a friend in need even if it might be inconvenient. Other issues might be less black and white; they become a personal choice. For instance, are white lies acceptable if it avoids hurting someone’s feelings? Some would say yes, while others would disagree vehemently. Still, I think most people have a good barometer for determining right from wrong.

    However, I do get a variety of responses when people hear that I write books for others. Some people wonder if what I do is really OK. Here’s a semi-typical conversation:

    “What do you do?”

    “I’m a ghostwriter. I write books for other people.”

    “So you’re telling me that you write the book, but someone else gets all the credit?”

    At this point I usually give a polite nod. “That’s right.”

    “But how is that fair?”

    “I’m paid upfront for my work. I’m fine with it. Really, I am.”

    “But…is ghostwriting ethical?”

    Now, that’s a good question, one worthy of a blog article.

    Is ghostwriting ethical?

    People wonder if ghostwriting is really ethicalI feel strongly that ghostwriting other people’s books is ethical, or I wouldn’t be in this line of work. The way I see it, I’m helping people achieve their dreams by getting their books published. If they aren’t able to write the book themselves, why not hire someone to help them?

    The exception to this rule is that ghostwriting an academic paper is decidedly unethical. Once in a while I get a PhD student writing in to ask me to write their thesis. I think we can all agree that crosses a very clear line.

    Being completely candid, some writers I know will not work as ghostwriters because they feel it isn’t right. They don’t feel right about giving up all the credit for words they’ve written. And there are authors who will not put their name on a book unless they wrote every word themselves. I admire anyone who sticks with their integrity. For these folks ghostwriting isn’t ethical for them. I always say: Never be swayed by popular opinion. Stick to your guns and decide what is right for you.

    As I said prior, ethics is a personal judgment call. Even though I feel strongly about my opinion, I can also see the other viewpoint. In the end, you must decide if ghostwriting is an ethical choice for you.

    Ghostwriters are everywhere

    Ghostwriters are everywhere. Maybe it would help to know that ghostwriting is a common practice. There are many published authors who had help writing their books. There are tens of thousands of freelance writers, but most don’t make a living ghostwriting books. That’s a more elite group.

    You might be wondering how you can tell if a book is ghostwritten. Well, that’s a little tricky because typically a ghostwriter signs a Non-disclosure agreement. However, if you look through the books at your local bookstore, there are a few indicators that the book was written by a ghost.

    Look to see if there are two authors listed on the cover and one’s name is preceded by “as told to” or “with,” these are both standard ghostwriting credits. Also, flip to the back and look at the Acknowledgment section. Many clients have mentioned me there, thanking me for my help (sometimes even mentioning my company name).

    When you start looking for ghostwriters, you’ll start to see them more and more. It’s a bit like when you become a parent and become aware of all the strollers, car seats, and diaper bags in the world. They were always there, but now that you’re looking for them, they seem to be everywhere.

    Plagiarism isn’t ethical

    Plagiarism is when someone copies someone else’s work, doesn’t give him or her credit, and then tries to pass it off as their own work. This is illegal. It’s a misdemeanor, which can result in fines and possibly jail time. You can’t just steal other people’s work.

    Some people confuse plagiarism and ghostwriting. They are very different, because a ghostwriter is paid to write for an author. The contractual agreement states that the author will own the copyrights for the work at the end of the project.

    Now if a ghostwriter plagiarizes someone else’s work and turns it into the client, that is illegal. This can happen when authors pay ghostwriters very little and give them a miniscule deadline. They think their getting a good deal, but in the end, the author might be the one paying the fine and spending a few months in prison for the crime committed. It’s best to pay professional writers what they are worth.

    Ghostwriting is similar to other industry practices

    If you’re still on the fence and wondering if ghostwriting is ethical, consider that our agreement is not unlike others that exist in other fields. For example, large companies hire employees to write software programs or design equipment for them, asking them to assign the rights to them once the project is complete. The employees don’t usually get to keep the patents; the large corporation does.

    How do you feel about this point? Is it ethical for an author to hire a ghostwriter to write a book for him or her? I’d like to hear your opinion! Please feel free to email me to discuss.

    Additional articles you might find helpful:

    How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter

    My ghostwriting process

    Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

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      How To Write An Autobiography

      Girl thinking about writing her autobiographySome people want to write an autobiography to simply share their stories with their family. They don’t seek a broad audience, but desire to see their experiences recorded so that they last for centuries to come.

      Other authors wish to engage a broader audience. Those authors usually feel strongly that they have life lessons to share with the world and they dream of a readership.

      Both goals are valid and important. As a ghostwriter it is my job to carry out your purposes and objective.

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

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

      Here are some tips to help you get going:

      Consider writing a memoir instead

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

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

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

      Read a lot of memoirs or autobiographies

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

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

      Research your own life

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

      Here are some areas you might look into:

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

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

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

      Organize and outline

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

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

      Identify your theme or message.

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

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

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

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

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

      Start writing

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

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

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

      Ask for help when needed

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

      If you need help, ask for it.

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

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

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

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

      You will always keep the rights to your story.

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

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

      Additional articles you might find helpful:

      My Ghostwriting Process

      How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

      Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

      How Can I Best Help You?

        How to Write And Publish A Book

        Imagine that you write and publish a bookHave you imagined that you will write and publish a book this year? The good news is that it’s quite easy to self-publish through Amazon. After all, you can pick any length, set your price, and start selling copies relatively quickly.

        Having said that, you do need to actually sit down and write the book. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.” It won’t magically appear before you. No, you need to roll up your sleeves and do the work.

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

        Start by jotting down notes

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

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

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

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

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

        Example of an incidentIncident of a book: couple drinking coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

        If you need help creating an outline, please feel free to contact me.

        Set a goal and make it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Schedule time to write into your day

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

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

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

        Seek out helpful feedback

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

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

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

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

        Find outside help

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

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

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

        Get reviews for you book

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

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

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

        Enjoy the experience!

        Additional articles you might find helpful:

        Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

        How to Conquer Writer’s Block

        How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

        Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

        How can I help you write your book?

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          What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

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

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

          The initial interview with a ghostwriter

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

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

          Hit upon the genre of your book

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

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

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

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

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

          Uncover your readership in an interview with a ghostwriter

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

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

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

          Talk about your goals

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

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

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

          Discuss your publishing plans in an interview with a ghostwriter

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

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

          The next interview with a ghostwriter and the next

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Get personal in an interview with a ghostwriter

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

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

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

          And your book will be boring.

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

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

          Other categories

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

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

          What a ghostwriter needs

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

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

          Biographies of characters

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

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

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

          A detailed list of incidents

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Snippets of dialogue

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

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

          Additional information

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

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

          Use your senses in an interview with a ghostwriter

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

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

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

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

          Additional articles you may enjoy reading:

          How to Conquer Writer’s Block

          Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

          Write Your Family History

          A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

          How can I best help you?

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            Problems Writers Face and Their Solutions

            solutions to problems writers faceHave you been interested in completing a book that has been on the backburner for years? If you don’t do something differently, you’ll be in the same boat in 2035. You really need to fully examine the situation. While it is true that there are numerous problems writers face, the good news is there are good solutions.

            In this article, my goal is to help you complete the first draft of your novel or memoir. I’m not going to address the marketing problems or issues of rejection and criticism.

            Let’s get your book finished first.

            Over the last twenty years, hundreds of authors have written me sharing the main problems writers face. Here are my thoughts on what you can do if you have these challenges.

            I’m too busy to write

            Problem: You have a full time job or are an entrepreneur. You have a great idea for a story but just don’t have the time to write each day. How do you fit in the hundreds of hours you know it will take to complete your book?

            Solution: Well, there are two solutions. One is you just carve out the time and make it work. Reorganize your life to fit in an hour a day to write (this gives you time to get set up and end off). In order to accomplish this, many writers get up a little earlier each day. For me, mornings are an ideal time to write.

            The second solution is to hire someone to help you. You might hire a partner, consultant, or ghostwriter. Whichever option appeals to you, you will need to pay upfront for the help. No one can donate their time for a percentage of the profits from the sale of your book.

            If you’re interested in my help, please feel free to contact me and we’ll arrange for a consultation.

            No end in sight

            no end in sight, a problems writers faceProblem: You’ve been working on this book for years and there is no end in sight. When a writer can’t complete their first draft, the problem almost always is a faulty outline (or a lack of one). There is no roadmap and therefore the author often gets lost. Which way is true north?

            Solution: Stop writing the first draft and create a detailed outline. Structuring your story (or memoir) is key to success. If you need help hitting the beats (or elements) required for good storytelling, please feel free to contact me for a one-hour consultation.

            Need more time to research

            Problem: Research is an integral part of any novel or memoir. The authenticity of the piece is what will compel the reader forward, engrossing them in your story. However, some writers get lost in the research phase and never begin writing. That’s a huge problem.

            Solution: Recognize when you done enough research to properly build the world of your novel or memoir. Your next step is outlining and then you should begin writing your first draft. Understand that as you write, you will naturally continue to research. For me, researching continues through even the editing phase. So don’t feel you need to have all the research done before you begin to write.

            Shiny objects around you

            distractions writers faceProblem: When you sit down to write, it’s very easy to get distracted. Checking email, Facebook, news, etc. are all popular diversions available 24/7. In addition, interruptions from family members and calls from friends can make writing seem impossible. The hour you’ve set aside to write disappears quickly.

            Solution: Allow yourself uninterrupted writing time each day. Find a nook in your home or outside where no one will disturb you. Turn off your internet and cell phone. Without the distractions you should find yourself much more productive.

            Too many potholes

            Problem: You’ve written over 30,000 words, but don’t feel like continuing. You are more than halfway done, but just don’t feel that spark to write anymore. What happened? You’ve gotten off track and need to discover where you took an incorrect turn.

            Solution: If you have a good, detailed outline in hand, revisit it and make sure all your elements are there. Analyze it carefully to see if something doesn’t feel right about the storyline. Contact me if you need a sounding board. I can usually spot the problem within an hour consultation.

            If you don’t have an outline that’s the problem. Writing by the seat of your pants can be fun and thrilling, but one of the hazards inherent in this way of writing is that you can find yourself on a bumpy road that needs some major construction work to fill in potholes. The reason you don’t want to write anymore is probably because the story has a major flaw. Go back and put in the time to outline; the solution should pop into view. Be prepared to do some rewrites.

            I’m bored

            Problem: You’ve been writing your book for years and find the whole story line boring now. You wonder if anyone will actually want to read your book. Finding the time to finish the project gets harder and harder with each passing week or month.

            Solution: Get some feedback. It’s possible that your story (or the main characters within it) have flatlined. If you’d like my input, I’m happy to help. You can hire me on an hourly basis to review your story and give you feedback and advice.

            I just don’t feel like writing today

            being uninspired; problems writers faceProblem: Taking one day off from writing isn’t a red flag, but if you find that you feel uninspired to write day after day, that isn’t a good sign. As I’ve mentioned a few times, make sure you have a good roadmap before you start. However, if your outline is good, but you are uninspired, I have an idea for you.

            Solution: Some writers feel bored and uninspired if they know exactly where the story is going. They don’t feel like continuing because they know all the nuances of the piece. One trick to keep yourself engaged is to leave off at a cliffhanger after each writing session. Don’t conclude the scene but leave it for the next day. Yes, I stole this idea from Scheherazade, who stayed alive night after night by telling her husband parts of an exciting adventure, making sure to leave off before its conclusion. For me, this keeps the process exciting.

            I’m too tired to write

            Problem: You sit down to write but feel exhausted after the day’s events. The kids were screaming over who got the purple dish with the bunny or your boss asked you to stay late to do extra tasks because your coworker was out sick again. These are problems writers face every day and leave one feeling wholly uninterested in writing one’s book.

            Solution: Take the time to take care of yourself. A writer expends calories doing mental exercises like writing (about 60 – 100 calories per hour). You need to eat properly and get enough sleep, or you won’t write well. In addition, make sure you are getting physical exercise. Swimming, running, or even walking will help increase your energy, which will make you a better writer. For me, I love to take a two-mile walk each day. I listen to Audibles, which keeps me doubly inspired.

             

            If you find I’ve missed problems writers face, please feel free to write me. I’m here to help you. And if you’d like a consultation, please fill in the form below so that I can reach out and set up a time to assist you.

            How Can I Help You?

              My Ghostwriting Process From Start To Finish

              My ghostwriting process in a nutshellIf you’re browsing the internet looking for a ghostwriter, you are probably curious about the process. What am I signing up for anyway? Through my blog I do my best to clarify all aspects of the ghostwriting (and writing) process so that this subject no longer is a mystery for authors looking for help. This particular article zeroes in on the steps I take when someone reaches out to me to write their book. I’ve been a ghostwriter for over twenty years, so I thought it made sense to share my ghostwriting process with you. That way there are no surprises.

              Pre-interview emails

              If you’re interested in hiring me as your ghostwriter, your first step will be to fill in my online form below. I will reply via email with a few questions to learn more about you and your project. We will need to discuss several key elements. Although each client is unique, there are various aspects of my ghostwriting process that hold true for any project.

              Here are some points you might address in your initial query:

              • The content of your book
              • The word count you desire
              • Your proposed budget
              • The deadline for the project

              When it comes to selecting a project to take on, you should know that I prefer to work on uplifting fictional stories, inspiring memoirs, or nonfiction material that will help others in some way. Though I would be lost writing a steamy romance novel, I do love writing a variety of fiction. Memoirs are my favorite genre; I’ve written dozens over the last two decades. I also really enjoy writing prescriptive (how-to) nonfiction. My ghostwriting process is essentially the same for any genre.

              After this email exchange, if I feel that I am able to become your ghostwriter, I will offer you a free 30-minute consultation. That initial phone call is important so that we can both be sure that we’d make a good writing team.

              Our initial interview

              What is a ghostwriter? Question mark.I recommend that you begin by writing down a list of questions you might have for our initial conversation. We can discuss these so that you have a better understanding of how things work. There are no strings attached. I’ll give you this time for free. Honestly, I want to help you whether you hire me or not.

              We will discuss your project in greater detail than we had in our email exchange. However, this isn’t the time to pour out all the details of the story to me. That will come later. Just summarize for now.

              I will also want to discuss your goals for this book. As a heads-up, if your primary objective is to make a lot of money, you’ll need a top-notch marketing plan. It’s tough to make a profit as a first-time author, but it helps if you have an existing avenue for selling a book. For instance, if you have a strong online presence, a large mailing list, and an existing store, you’re in a good position to sell your book. Amazon only works if you support your book with one or more of the above tools.

              Most of my clients aren’t interested in turning a profit; instead, they have a strong desire to simply publish a book within their lifetime. They have a powerful message they wish to share, and they feel they can do some good for others. Most aren’t looking to make money or recover their expenses. And some only wish to share their story with close friends and family.

              Your goals are important to me. Part of my ghostwriting process is to make your goals my own and to make sure they are met.

              Signing my contract

              Ghostwriting ContractI work on a first-come-first-serve basis. Once you and I have determined that I’m your ghostwriter, the next step will be for you to read over my contract, sign it, and send it back to me with the first payment.

              I structure the payments so that you pay the total fee in four installments, each due before the work is to be done. The four milestones are:

              1. The research and outlining phase
              2. The first half of the first draft
              3. The second half of the first draft
              4. The final draft

              You and I will determine the milestone deadlines. Each milestone usually takes me three months to complete. Depending on the project, sometimes the research and outlining phase might take a few more months.

              It is important to put all our agreements in writing before we start your book so that you and I are clear about the arrangement throughout the project.

              Researching your project

              When I begin to research your project, I like to collect most of the information in writing. Once I have a foundational understanding of your story, my ghostwriting process will include asking a lot of questions via email. Your answers will allow me to establish a written voice for you. I will also need to speak to you on the phone. By listening to your words and how you phrase things, I gain a deeper insight into how you use language.

              I realize that some clients are not confident in their writing ability. So if you are more comfortable chatting with me on the phone, I’ll adjust my ghostwriting process to meet your needs. Although I have my preferences, the client’s needs always trump that.

              It’s worth noting that I must also do my own independent research to gain the information needed to write your story. That’s an important part of my ghostwriting process. For instance, if you’re writing a memoir about your time in Hungary in the 50s, I would comb the internet for historical accounts of that time. Or if I’m writing about the ins and outs of running a chain of restaurants, I’d need to make sure I understand the subject well enough to portray it realistically and accurately.

              Outlining your book

              The path of a bookOnce I have most of the information needed, I’ll put together an outline for you. This will act as our roadmap for our project. The format of this outline varies from client to client, depending on the needs of the author. Some prefer that I summarize the story in a few pages, while others prefer a table of contents outline. Sometimes I use my own technique, where I delineate all the incidents that will form a novel or memoir. I’ve found this to be a workable system since any story is really a series of events.

              I feel strongly that the outlining phase is an integral part of my ghostwriting process and contributes greatly to the success of any project. Honestly, it would be a waste of your money if I were to move forward without your agreement as to how the book will be structured and what the precise content would be. I’m not one to drive down a remote road for many miles, unsure if I’m traveling in the correct direction.

              Writing the first draft

              Writing your first draft is the most time-consuming segment of my ghostwriting process. As mentioned earlier, I divide this phase into two milestones. That means, if you hire me to write a 200-page book (which is approximately 50,000 words), I’ll deliver 25,000 words to you for the second milestone, and the final 25,000 as the third.

              While some ghostwriters will only deliver the complete first half of the first draft at the end of that phase, I prefer to get feedback along the way. I wish to consult with you as I write to be sure that you approve of the pieces. This avoids unpleasant surprises.

              Editing your manuscript

              Proofreading is an important part of my ghostwriting processOnce I have completed the first draft, I will collect all your notes about what you like and don’t like. Then, after I incorporate your changes, I’ll work to polish the manuscript. This is an internal phase of my ghostwriting process, one that doesn’t involve you as much. I need to read over your book a few times, making adjustments to flow, continuity, and style with each read.

              Once I’m finished with my edits, I’ll hire an outside editor to do a comprehensive review. I feel strongly that objective eyes should always look at your book before I turn it in as a final draft.

              My editor will need at least four weeks with your book. Once I get the notes back from her, she and I will discuss various points. I’ll ask questions and sometimes debate a few issues. But I will make the final call.

              When I feel it is as perfect as it can be, I’ll submit the completed manuscript to you.

              Publishing

              Although I don’t publish, I do know people who can help you prepare your manuscript for self- publication or write a killer proposal to land an agent. I will refer you to them if you wish.

              Some people ask me if I have a secret backdoor to agents and publishers. I don’t. Anyone wishing to submit to an agent needs to apply through their official channels. There are no short cuts.

               

              Now, this is my ghostwriting process. Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to a number of ghosts and have observed that each has a different way of handling the various steps of writing a book. Be sure to fully understand any ghostwriter’s process before you hire her. Ask questions and do some research to make sure the book you receive at the end of the undertaking fulfills all your goals.

              If you’re interested in hiring me, please request a quote and I’ll get back to you within the day.

              Check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter for more tips and advice on the subject.

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                Working with a Ghostwriter: Six Tips

                The ghostwriter's processIf you’re reading this article, you might be considering hiring a ghostwriter to write your book. Perhaps you don’t have the time or patience to complete the task. For some, working with a ghostwriter may seem like a mysterious undertaking. Over the years, I’ve spoken to several prospective clients, who each seem to have the same basic misconceptions and confusions about a ghostwriter’s process.

                Note: If you hire me, you and I will form a powerful partnership and together we’ll create a book. However, please understand that you are the author of your book. You will always retain all the rights for the work that we create together. You are a vital component of my ghostwriter’s process.

                Having over two decades of experience in this area, I want to share with you a few tips about working with a ghostwriter that will help make the project a success.

                Tip #1: Ask about your ghostwriter’s process

                One key to working with a ghostwriter is understand the ghostwriter’s process. The truth is that the procedure varies depending on the writer you hire. Make sure to discuss the ghostwriter’s process with any potential ghost before you begin to prevent unpleasant surprises later.

                I break down most projects into four major milestones:

                • 1: Researching and outlining
                • 2 and 3: Writing the first draft
                • 4: Editing

                Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to several ghostwriters and have noticed that not everyone follows the same procedure. Some will interview exclusively over the phone, while others prefer to receive the bulk of the information in writing. Some ghostwriters will submit the first draft of the manuscript to the author only after it is complete, while other ghosts submit sections as they write.

                In addition, I often hire an outside editor, as I wish to have an objective set of eyes review each manuscript I write. Many ghostwriters don’t include this in their bid.

                Tip #2: Don’t rush the ghostwriting process

                Don't rush the ghostwriter's processWhen working with a ghostwriter, if you rush the project, you’ll wind up with a rushed book that will be subpar.

                Having said that, it’s important to hold your ghostwriter to the agreed-upon contract, which should clearly state the exact timeframe for each milestone. However, if she comes to you and asks for more time because she needs to do more research or add new segments, it’s a good idea to allow her the time she needs to complete your book.

                I usually ask my clients for one year to eighteen months to complete a book. This gives me time to do the proper research, create an outline, write a first draft, edit, hire an outside editor, and review the clients’ notes about the final draft.

                Sometimes a client requests that I complete their book in a shorter time period. If I can accommodate the author, I will; but I’ll also be honest if I can’t. There are times when I’m fully booked months in advance and can’t start his or her project right away. I’ll never sign a contract when I know I can’t make the target dates. I prefer to deliver ahead of schedule.

                Your turnaround time

                One way you can help speed up the ghostwriter’s process is to give a quick turnaround on your end. I need to be able to communicate with you and get feedback throughout the project. You will also need to read what I’ve written and contribute your thoughts. I’ll give you advance notice so that you can review a few chapters within two or three days.

                However, there are times when I’ve had a client who has pushed off a project for a few months or even a year. Life happens and you can’t always predict these unfortunate delays; however, this situation can be very difficult for any ghostwriter. Any long interruptions can add more than the lost time to the project because I lose momentum and need to re-immerse myself into the story or information. As a result, the project can suffer.

                Tip #3: Don’t haggle too much on the price

                Some authors who approach me ask for a discount. Over the years I’ve realized that negotiating my fee isn’t workable. I charge what I charge. I’m usually booked out into the future so I’m not desperate for work and prefer to work with clients who value my time and expertise.

                Some ghostwriters aren’t in that position. They will slash their proposed price out of an eagerness to work with you. You may want to examine that practice. Why did they quote one price when they’re willing to work for half-pay?

                If you’re shopping around and know that your book should probably cost $40,000 to write and you receive a quote for $5,000, please take a moment to consider this offer. If you were buying a luxury car, would you really feel comfortable even taking it for a test drive if it had a $5,000 price tag? You might not make it two miles down the road without a problem. A lowball quote might get you 50,000 words written, but those words won’t form a book. The manuscript will be riddled with problems no editor can handle without completely rewriting it.

                It’s best to know your budget and be upfront about it

                The ghostwriter's process includes knowing your budget to hire a ghostwriterWhen prospective clients who can’t afford me write in, I always try to give them advice to meet their needs. Perhaps we can write a shorter book, or maybe I can help them find another writer who charges less. I do want to help, but I must know the bottom line of your budget.

                When working with a ghostwriter, please never ask her to work for a percentage of the profits. This is a common request from people who don’t understand the industry. No matter how brilliant your book may be, selling copies always comes down to marketing skill—and that isn’t within the scope of your ghostwriter’s job description. We all need to get paid upfront. Trust me, most ghostwriters are working on their own books as well and don’t wish to write your book for free.

                Tip #4: Research your ghostwriter

                I’m always impressed when prospective clients contact me and have done their homework. Reading through some of my blog articles or glancing at one of the books I’ve written will give you a sense for my writing style. Yes, a ghostwriter’s style and voice will change to reflect each author’s personality, but it’s a good idea to gain a feel for her writing before you hire her. The last thing you want is to discover is that you don’t enjoy her writing after she’s halfway through your book.

                Some ghostwriters won’t have a book title with their name on it because they haven’t written their own books, and none of their clients have gifted them with a cover credit. If that is the case, ask for samples of their work so you can vet them. If they can’t give you an appropriate sample, similar to the book you want written, know they are not experienced in that genre. For instance, if you asked me for a sample of a steamy romance novel, I’d be hard-pressed to create one, since that is not a genre I could write.

                Tip #5: Communicate openly with your ghostwriter

                the ghostwriter's process requires the client to be open and honest Your ghostwriter will need a lot of details from you. If you aren’t open and honest about your material, she can’t write a brilliant book for you. One ghostwriter I recently talked to commented that his client wasn’t forthcoming about his personal life. He rightly commented that every memoir needs to show the author’s vulnerability; he can’t be perfect in every way. If the author isn’t authentic with his readers, they won’t identify with him and won’t give the book good reviews.

                Likewise, if you’re writing a prescriptive nonfiction book, and you don’t share the details of your successful action, the book will read like a rehashed series of blog articles that anyone can research for themselves on the internet. Amazon doesn’t need another book like that in its catalogue.

                A ghostwriter will also need to ask you questions as they come up. Plan to provide these answers within a reasonable turnaround time. Again, this will speed up the ghostwriter’s process tremendously.

                Tip #6: Expect your ghostwriter to rewrite what you have written

                There are times when clients have handed me a very rough draft of a manuscript for a book they want me to write. They sometimes ask for a “little polish” to ready it for publication. I can tell you from experience that this draft is rarely in a condition that simply requires a quick edit.

                If you hire a ghostwriter and present her with a rough draft manuscript, expect that it will need to be completely rewritten. After all, this is why you’re hiring a ghostwriter in the first place.

                Unless you have experience writing books, the structure will probably need work, as will the prose. Remember, you’re not hiring an editor. You’re hiring an experienced writer.

                Now, I will say that I do appreciate receiving a first draft in any condition. This helps me write a good book for my client. Although I’ll still need to rewrite it from scratch, I can get a feel for some of the themes and messages the author wishes to communicate.

                 

                So you see, the ghostwriter’s process isn’t a mystery at all. We use common sense principles. Working with a ghostwriter should be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience that results in a well-written book.

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

                Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

                Avoid crucial memoir mistakes when writing your bookMemoirs are an extremely popular genre with readers because readers love to step into the shoes of another person and learn about their world for a few hours. However, it’s important to understand that readers will put your book down if you fall into certain traps and commit basic memoir mistakes.

                If you are new to this genre, your first step should be to really understand what a memoir is and how to structure this kind of book. Really embrace this style of writing and focus on your memoir themes. This will save you a lot of frustration in writing and marketing your book.

                What is a memoir?

                A memoir is a very personal story, told by the author from his or her viewpoint, which shares a certain period in the author’s life. While it can be confused with an autobiography, it actually has a different feel. An autobiography reads more like a biography but is told from the author’s perspective. It typically commences with the author’s birth and spans through their entire life. This book a bit more clinical in style, whereas a memoir is all about emotion.

                Reading memoirs allows us to delve deeply into the lives of people who have done something remarkable in their lives. Perhaps they overcame incredible odds to reach success in some aspect of their life, or they fought an illness and survived, or maybe they lived through an extraordinary moment of history. We can learn so much about others and ourselves through memoirs.

                Popular Types of Memoirs

                Within the memoir genre there are a host of categories to choose from. Of course, there is bound to be some overlap, but here are a few options to consider when writing your memoir:

                Transformational stories

                Stories of transformation can be popular memoir themes

                As a ghostwriter, these are my favorite memoirs to write. These are the stories where the author has overcome some great obstacle in life and wishes to share the details of his or her redemption or recovery. This can encompass overcoming an illness such as cancer, surviving a traumatic childhood to achieve success as an adult, recovering from an addiction, leaving a country with an oppressive government to flourish in a new place, or the classic rags to riches story, which can take many forms.

                Success in business stories

                When you talk to most successful entrepreneurs, you’ll discover they faced numerous daunting obstacles as they climbed the ladder to victory. People in power will often tell you that they failed many times before they figured out how to make it. They wish to share the lessons they learned and their triumph with others, and a memoir is a natural vehicle for their story. This type of memoir is also a favorite of mine (and there is often crossover with the transformational memoir).

                Travel stories

                Some memoirs take the reader on a journey through an exotic land, sharing all the details of that location. These stories usually encompass another theme, so they aren’t only about the new foods the author ate or the striking vistas he or she viewed. Rather, they are usually about a spiritual, emotional, or transformational journey for the author as well.

                Memoir Mistakes

                After talking to hundreds of first-time authors, I’ve discovered there are some common misconceptions about how to write a memoir. If you’re considering writing your life story, you’ll want to avoid these very basic memoir mistakes. Don’t worry, they are easy to sidestep.

                Memoir Mistake Number 1: Focusing on the trivial rather than the big picture

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                When you write your memoir, you aren’t recording your life’s trivial events in detail. This is high on the list of memoir mistakes because your readers are not interested in what you ate at each meal or which bus you took to work. Toss most of the trivia and focus on the big picture.

                This is fairly easy to do. Before you begin writing your memoir, ask yourself, “What can the reader learn from reading my story?” You might need to dig deep and really mine for the gold that’s there. The lessons you have learned over the years will form the backbone of your book.

                It might help to zero in on a theme. This will provide focus. There are a wide variety of great memoir themes to choose from. Here are just a few examples:

                • Hard work pays off
                • Self-pity is a trap
                • A positive outlook helps you attain your goals
                • Change can be a good thing
                • Life is too short not to forgive

                When you determine what your book’s theme is, your next step will be to find incidents that illustrate these ideas for your readers. Of course, you wouldn’t want to come out and tell your readers what the theme might be within the pages of your memoir.

                Instead, you should show your readers your message through the incidents of your book. Delve into the emotional sacrifices, mistakes and triumphs to share the journey you took. They’ll get the message!

                Memoir Mistake Number 2: Covering your entire life rather than focusing on a specific time period

                Remember, you’re not writing a school essay or an autobiography. A typical memoir mistake for new authors is to want to start at birth and move forward chronologically. You’re writing a memoir, which will focus on a certain period, one that would fascinate a reader and teach him or her something new about an area of life. It’s a slice of your life, rather than the whole pie.

                Now, it’s worth noting that a memoir is usually not written in diary form. Journaling can be a wonderful and beautiful expression of one’s deepest thoughts, but it usually doesn’t translate directly into a book. For one thing, the target reader of a diary is, well, you; a memoir is usually written for others to read. Having said that, one client recently hired me to help her compile her life story into a book that she could then have and read. If you are the sole target reader, you should write your book the way you would like to read it.

                If you hire a ghostwriter to write your memoir, keep in mind that diaries always have a strong place in the research of a memoir. Having been a professional ghostwriter for twenty years, I can tell you that a client’s diary is a rich source of color when I write a memoir for a client.

                Memoir Mistake Number 3: Not considering the feelings of the real people mentioned in your book

                It's a memoir mistake not to consider the feelings of others when writing your book

                Memoirs are not a good avenue for retribution for past wrongs done to you. Writing a book for revenge is a sharp-edged weapon which can do permanent damage. Besides being a morally questionable action to take, remember that you can open yourself up to lawsuits.

                When you write your memoir, you can’t avoid discussing the lives of the people around you. They will become the main characters in your book. Sure, you can change the attributes a bit—maybe alter the name of the grouchy neighbor or make the schoolteacher a brunette instead of a blond. These minor modifications can go a long way to hide the characters in your book.

                However, it will be impossible to completely conceal certain pivotal people in your life. For instance, your parents or siblings will recognize themselves.

                The safest approach would be to ask all your friends and relatives who might be in your book how they feel about that. If they agree to be featured in your memoir, take the additional step and ask them to sign a release. You can find examples of a legal release online. If any friend or family member refuses to sign, it might be best to keep them out of your memoir.

                The bottom line is that whenever you put something in writing, it becomes permanent. While you might feel fine with airing your family’s dirty laundry today, will you be all right with it two years from now? How about twenty years? To avoid these memoir mistakes, it’s best to write about everyone in a good light now to prevent potential upsets later.

                Memoir Mistake Number 4: Writing for every reader rather than focusing on a specific demographic

                It is a memoir mistake to write for every reader; pick a demographic.

                When I’m working with a first-time author, I’ll ask who the ideal reader might be. Many times a client will say, “all readers.” Writing for “everyone” is high on the list of memoir mistakes because you need to pinpoint a demographic and write to them. The more specific you can get, the better.

                • Consider that you might be at a dinner party. You have a story to share, something amusing that happened to you last year. How would you share that anecdote? I would imagine that you’d tell it differently if you were visiting the White House, seated with dignitaries, than if you were sitting with your bowling buddies or your teenage children. You’d use different vocabulary and your tone would probably change a bit. That’s because you’d want to create the biggest impact with your storytelling; you’d want your audience to receive your communication on a level that they would enjoy.

                So when you write, you need to keep your specific type of reader in mind, as if they were in front of you. Of course, even though you’re writing to that reader, that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy your book. You may accidentally discover a new category of reader as you begin to market and sell your book.

                 

                When you write your memoir, it can offer your readers a peek into your soul and universe. They will relish this. Memoirs are an important genre of the literary world. Just avoid the common memoir mistakes and you might just make a difference in someone’s life.

                Enjoy the journey!

                Check out these additional resources:

                Write and Publish Your Book

                How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

                Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

                 

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                  Create Conflict in Your Novel

                  Create conflict for your characters in your novelWhen you set out to write a story, one of the key elements you need to consider is conflict. If you don’t want to create conflict and feel intimidated by the process, it can cause a dreaded writer’s block for you.

                  The first thing to understand about this important element is that through conflict your main character can grow. As they fight through their external and internal battles, they progress along their personal path. Your hero must have difficulties to overcome on order for your story to have purpose. Bluntly, if everything comes easy for your protagonist, your book will be rather boring.

                  If you want to be a successful storyteller, you need to create conflict.

                  Create conflict throughout your book

                  While your antagonist should create conflict for you, there are other areas to explore. Conflict doesn’t have to mean war and death. If you’re daily routine is anything like mine, there is plenty of tension and turmoil to consider. Heck, as a mother of three teens, there’s a novel’s worth of conflict in deciding how to properly feed everyone a nutritious meal they will eat. While reading about eternal dinner debates might be boring, there are plenty of other life experiences that can become fodder for a novel.

                  For instance, when my son was in Tampa and hurricane Ian hit, I experienced a lot of conflict as he made all his preparation decisions. These came in the form of internal debate: How much should I advise him? Should I encourage him to evacuate? And of course there was the crazy mommy worry that plagued me. Needless to say, there was plenty of tension for my real life character.

                  Your fictional characters will all go through a variety of situations that will intrigue your readers if you create conflict for them. Important decisions should also include some debate as the resultant decisions might have consequences. Don’t allow these to resolve quickly or you’ll ruin the tension of the scene. For instance, if your character’s laptop is swiped, that’s going to create a host of challenges. Explore these. Or your hero’s car winds up in the shop after a fender bender, they might meet someone on the bus to work who gives them a hard time (or possibly becomes a romantic interest).

                  Often these smaller events can set up the big conflict of the story.

                  Major conflicts

                  create conflict by frustrating your charactersIf you follow the three-act structure, there will be various points in your novel where your heroes will have good-sized conflicts to resolve. The largest will probably come to a head during the second half of the book. These incidents should involve a serious threat. In other words there should usually be a risk of physical danger.

                  When you read your favorite novels, you’ll probably notice there is a point where you really can’t see how the protagonist will get out of their situation. It looks so bleak, so dark, that there seems to be no way out. This conflict often involves a ticking clock which increases the pressure on the situation. There’s a deadline that would be fatal to miss.

                  Now, this doesn’t have to be a James Bond moment with high-tech lasers and car chases. It could involve friction in a romantic relationship or time limit on a job offer. These can be gnarly real-life decisions to make. Regardless these major conflicts need to arise so that you can help your protagonist resolve them in the end.

                  A few tips for creating conflict

                  As you sit down to outline the series of conflicts your hero will encounter, you may draw a blank. If so, here are some ideas to consider:

                  Tip #1: Figure out what your hero needs.

                  Once you determine what your protagonist is yearning for, you must put some barriers in their way. Whatever they want, they can’t have…at least not immediately. Not if you want to make your story a good read.

                  For instance, let’s say your main character desperately wants to be rich. I would suggest that you start them off in a cheap apartment with tons of credit card debt and a mediocre job. Now, whatever you do, don’t have them win the lottery. Rather, give them a chance to pull themselves out of the hole they’ve created—slowly. Allow them to fail along the way before they succeed.

                  Tip #2: Give your other characters some conflict, too.

                  Create conflict for minor characters tooThere are few stories that don’t involve secondary characters that aren’t inanimate objects. These folks need to be developed as well. One way to do so is to give these characters individual goals and have them work through these ambitions with the proper amount of tension.

                  For instance, perhaps your hero’s best friend is in love with her but can’t find a way to express his affection. She has no idea. That tension can build through the first half of the novel, only resolving late in the story. Although this might not be the central story, this struggle will provide the reader with another layer of entertainment. I realize this sounds a bit cruel, but trust me, readers thrive on tension and conflict.

                  Tip #3: Create conflict by creating differing viewpoints

                  As you form your characters from your mental clay, make sure they aren’t cookie cutter men and women with the identical viewpoints. Creating conflict can be as simple as building an argument between two characters, whether they be friends or enemies.

                  For example, your hero’s mother might disapprove of her son’s penchant for dragons, preferring that he find a more structured (and less dangerous) hobby that will lead to a career. This tension might build until the hero finally confesses that he’s built a thriving dragon oasis on Denequa IV in the Loquati Sector and is in fact the Elon Musk of his world.

                   

                  Once you get started, you’ll see that it is easy to create conflict. If you need a few ideas, please feel free to write me below. I’d love to brainstorm with you!

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