Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can You Research a Memoir?

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Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, Hi Laura, I am 48. I need someone to write my life story. I read your article about hiring a ghostwriter and didn’t understand when you said that I would need to prepare work and research. What sort of research would I need to do? After all, it’s my real life story? How do I research a memoir? Thanks, Vi

Dear Vi, What a great question! Let me explain what I meant. Whenever I ghostwrite a memoir, I always do a lot of research on a number of subjects in order to get the background information needed to tell the story with authenticity. To properly answer your question, I think it would be good to explore what sort of research your writer might need to write your book. And while it is helpful for an author to provide research information to their writer, the ghost will also need to do extensive research on top of that. Ideally the author and ghostwriter will work together as a team to uncover needed information on a variety of subjects.

Time periods

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Memoirs take place in the past, often in a period long gone. For that reason, I like to research the culture of that epoch to ensure I describe it accurately. For instance, cell phones wouldn’t have been used in the 1980’s, so your characters would need to find payphones or use landlines to call one another. By the same token, the internet would have been in its infancy, so there would be no “surfing the web” day and night. Of course, you’ll also need to reflect the correct clothing styles of the era. When I write a book, I find myself looking up the details surrounding the scene so that I depict them realistically.

In addition, it can be helpful to refer to the current events of the time. For instance, if I’m writing a memoir taking place mid-September 1959, most households would probably be talking about the moon landing. Or if your book centers around a key moment at the end of 1989, you might mention the Berlin Wall falling, as that would have been a hot topic. Discussing those major milestones would be a good way to help the reader orient himself to the time periods in your story.

Locations

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Establishing the location is always important in any scene because it takes out the guesswork for the reader. That’s why I sometimes need to research places my characters will go. For instance, I had a client who described running down a major street near Miami. I wanted to get a feel for what the area would have looked like, so I used Google Earth and zoomed in to view the actual street. I learned it was an eight-lane highway and found there were lots of residential neighborhoods nearby. It helped me fill in the description.

Sometimes I will explore the homes I write about on the internet or through photos. Learning the layout helps me realistically put the kitchen next to the family room and the bedrooms upstairs (or not). Discovering the architectural style allows me to properly paint the picture with words. Sometimes I’ll do a search online to sneak a peek at the exterior of the home to get a feel for the front of the house. Of course, if the client has a photo of the place, that is very helpful.

When I can truly grasp the location, it helps me put myself in the space of the characters, which helps me write the story in an authentic way. I could make up details (and sometimes do), but it is wonderful when I can draw on researched facts.

Diaries, scrapbooks, and newspaper articles

When I research a memoir, some details comes in the form of firsthand recorded information. As a ghostwriter, the pages of personal diaries are like nuggets of gold. The words recorded years before provide information in a very organic way.

Likewise, newspaper clippings can help fill in missing pieces of important events, allowing me to understand more fully what happened. For instance, a wedding announcement would give the exact time and day of the event. This information allows me to look up the actual weather on that day. I’ll tell you, a wedding in the middle of a June thunderstorm is quite different from one that takes place in a heat wave.

One client had very little information about his ancestors, but wanted a story written about what could have happened. Through some online websites, I was able to determine the exact boat on which his grandfather arrived in New York in the mid 1800’s. My client had known the rough time period, so it was a joy to be able to discover the precise day, as well as the name of the ship. Then it was easy to research the boat to learn its size, crew compliment, and passenger list, all of which I could use to write faithful descriptions of the event.

So, Vi, research is an important part of any memoir. If you and I worked together, we’d be a team, tackling this vital area. So, consider collecting journal entries, newspaper clippings, photographs, and perhaps short biographies of the main players that will be featured in your book.

I’d love to hear from other writers on the subject. How did you research a memoir?

Ask a Ghostwriter: Beginning to Write a Book

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Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I’ve never hired a ghostwriter, and I have no idea how I go about any of this, but I really would like to write a book on my life. Please could you give me some advice on how I even start the process, and also, I’m not very good with writing so I’m not sure I’d be able to write it myself. – Tony

Dear Tony, Your question is very common and makes sense. I can understand why the ghostwriting process might seem to be a bit of a mystery. I’ll tell you, whenever I take on a new client, the process is unique, because the author and written content are unique. However, I can share with you a few aspects that seem to occur with every book project I’ve worked on for the last two decades.

Basically, there are three phases: research and outlining, first draft, and editing. I go over these in more detail in my article called “What to Expect When Hiring a Ghostwriter,” if you’d like to read up on them.

As a first step, your ghostwriter will need to collect all the information required to write your book. In the case of a fictional novel, that could simply be understanding your core idea (which might not be time consuming). However, with a memoir, your writer will need to know everything about your life that is relevant to the book. This takes time and can be done in different ways. One is for the writer to interview you in person or on the phone. However, I find it is far more effective for the client to send me a lot of written notes (in rough form). After I study these carefully, I can follow up with emails and phone calls if I need more information or any clarification.

Please understand, when you hire a ghostwriter, you don’t need to write the book; you just need to provide notes. All your notes will be rewritten, so don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Now, some people prefer to work with the ghostwriter and write their book alongside them. That works, too! Again, each relationship is unique, but never feel you have to be a good writer to hire a ghost.

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Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I need help and inspiration in surpassing the first eight pages of my book. I am sooo stuck… It feels as if I’m writing the same thing over and over, so I delete and delete, while continuously whittling my pages away. Also, I am constantly unsure of my grammar and punctuation. Any help is appreciated! –  Ennayt

Dear Ennayt, Stuck in the mud? You know, I hear this a lot! You’re not alone; not by a long shot. The fact is, a lot of new writers make the mistake of cutting out words, then pages, as they produce their first draft. It’s important to let yourself go and just write. I implore you not to waste any time (and words) editing in the beginning. Allow yourself the freedom to create! Trust me, once you get to the end of your first draft, you’ll be better equipped to sculpt your draft into a book.

I’d also recommend that you not worry about grammar in this phase. Just let the words pour out of your mind onto the page. If you’re interested in learning more about the English language, I’d recommend reading a simple grammar book or checking out an online source like Grammar Girl. Start by learning one rule, then applying it. Then select another and so forth. Take it step by step. You may just find the learning process fun!

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I would like to write an autobiography/screen play. This is something I have thought about for many years, but I’m extremely nervous how to approach this because of safety issues. I am not sure where to start. I would appreciate a consultation if possible. – Gen

Dear Gen, You bring up an excellent point. Honestly, I do think you have a right to be concerned. Once you put your story out there, you can’t take it back. I believe there are many instances when it just isn’t wise for someone to write their memoir. And it isn’t always safe.

Another point to consider is how a book will affect the people in your life. When writing a memoir, your characters are real people. They might not like what you have to say about them and if it isn’t handled correctly, the whole situation can blow up.

I always advise my clients to hide the people in the book as much as possible. For instance, it’s fine to change their names and physical appearances. The story will still be true even if the details are changed to protect the people involved.

Thank you all for your questions! Please feel free to write more in the comment section below or write me privately and I’ll do my best to answer!

Do You Need Help Writing a Book?

Many people have a great story idea, but need help writing a book. It takes discipline and experience to write a book that others will want to read (and can’t put down). If you’re not a professional writer, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the idea you have of sharing your story with the world. You have options:

Improve your writing skills

You’ve decided to write the book yourself. That’s wonderful! Now it is time to gain experience. Write and write and write, and then write some more. It will probably take you a few hundred thousand words to find your own voice.

What should you write?

Anything and everything!

Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Describe objects in your home or people you know. Record family stories or funny incidents that happen to you. Write a love letter to your partner. Jot down that silly bedtime story you made up for your child. The more you write, the easier you will find it to get the ideas out of your head and down on paper.

It is a good idea to read books on how to write. These will teach you basic techniques that will allow you to bring your thoughts to life.

And definitely read the works of other authors. Notice how they tackle challenging scenes. How do they approach dialogue? How do they incorporate descriptions? When you find a passage you particularly like, dissect it and see how they were able to communicate their vision to you.

Now that you have improved your writing skills, tackle that story! For more information on how to get started writing your book, check out my Ask a Ghostwriter series.

Hire a writing coach

If you want to write your own book, but feel you don’t have the experience and skill set to do so, you can hire a writing coach. This person’s job will be to provide guidance as you navigate your project. With this option, you will still do all the writing; you’ll just have a guardian angel on your shoulder.

Find a successful writer to coach you. If she has never written a book, she is unlikely to know the process and will not be able to guide you in the right direction.

It’s a good idea to lay out your writing goals early on. Share them with your coach and ask her to keep you accountable for them.

Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll need to pay them for their time. I charge $145 per hour to coach.

Hire a Ghostwriter

If you’d rather hire someone else to completely write your book then simply make comments or edits on their work, find a good ghostwriter to help you. Of course, this is the most expensive choice, but it’s also the least time consuming one. Having said that, you’ll need to put in time providing important research information in the beginning and definitely earmark time to review the work as it is written.

If you have limited time and a low budget, you might consider hiring a ghostwriter to write a novella. A novella is a shorter book, usually about 100 pages long, and will only run $25,000.

Once you have your finished book, plan to spend a little extra money on an editor to polish it up and do your proofreading. Personally, I include editing in my pricing (and always hire an outside professional to read my book with an expert eye), but not all ghostwriters do.

So, as you see, there are options for you to get help writing your book. If you need help sorting through these choices, please don’t hesitate to email me for a consultation!

Improve Your Writing: Feedback Versus Criticism

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As a writer, you do need proper feedback to improve your writing. However, you don’t need criticism. There’s a difference.

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

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

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

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

Feedback should include the good

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

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

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

Recognizing a nasty critic

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

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

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

Mentors vs Critics

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

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

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

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

Take the bad feedback with the good

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

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

Why is it good?

What did you like best?

Was there anything you didn’t care for?

Did you understand everything?

These questions pour out of me.

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

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

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can I Add Descriptions in a Book?

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I am your average Joe. And I won’t call myself a writer by any means. Though I wrote a book because the idea was stuck in my head. I had ten people read and edit it. Then I self-published it through Author House. I know it has potential, but I was told I need more descriptions in a book. I wrote for a fast read and people say it’s too fast. So, now I’m lost and know I need help. I can’t afford those big bucks ghostwriters. What do I do?

D.T.

Dear D.T.,

Congratulations on writing your first book!

You are absolutely a writer. Don’t sell yourself short.

As I’ve stated in a few places on my blog, I truly believe that everyone has at least one book within them. It takes a lot of courage to take that idea that you have stuck in your head and put it down on paper. By sharing our stories, it brings us all closer, making the world a little brighter.

Your question is wonderful. Let’s get into the subject of the art of storytelling through using descriptions in a book.

The importance of descriptions in a book

As an author, you want to help people feel they are smack in the middle of the adventure you’re sharing. For instance, when you’re sharing a memoir experience, proper descriptions will allow your reader to feel what you felt, see what you saw, etc. If you don’t help set the stage, people will be lost.

If you’re spinning a yarn (telling a fictional story) good description helps the reader visualize what you create. After all, as a novelist, you are often creating new worlds to explore or transporting people to a different era or culture. It’s fun!

Don’t overdo it

In this fast-paced world we like to keep things moving along. This especially applies to books. Readers really need you to get to the point. If the author spends two pages describing the food at a buffet, readers will often skip over those pages. If that happens too often, they’ll put the book down. Very few people have the time or interest to read through pages or even paragraphs of flowery explanations of the way things look.

Find a way to give just enough descriptions of the people, places and things in your story to help your reader truly understand what you are sharing. Too little and they’ll be confused, too much, and they’ll get bored. I know, it’s not easy. Writing takes experience. You’ll get the hang of it!

Identify the mood

I like to break my stories into incidents. In each scene there are characters that perform specific actions to accomplish a goal. So, read over your story and isolate all the individual incidents.

Now, select one. What is the mood of that event? Is a married couple arguing over money? Is a corrupt businessman afraid of the intern who is threatening to expose him? Name the mood, then look for places where you can amplify it with some descriptive words to complement your intention.

For instance, angry scenes can be punctuated with shorter sentences and violent gestures. People tend to cross their arms, their faces become flushed or red involuntarily, and they sometimes clench their jaw. There are a ton of mannerisms you can describe. These help the reader understand the emotions involved.

Use your senses

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Writing instructors often recommend that you make a chart of sensory words you could use to describe something. So, let’s say you want to describe that corrupt businessman. List out some of your senses and find words that describe your character or environment. For example, smells associated with the corrupt man might be stale cigarette smoke, musky cologne, or old sweat. Sounds could include a raspy cough, or the clink of the coins he rubs together when he’s nervous. You get the idea.

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It’s a good idea to hone your senses so you can write more vivid passages. Go out to a variety of places (eg: the mall, a forest, a busy street intersection, a supermarket, etc.) and just observe. How do they make you feel? When you close your eyes, what to you hear? What do you smell? Use all your sense and keep notes in a log.

Show don’t tell

I know I’ve mentioned this axiom (show don’t tell) a zillion times in my blog (not exaggerating), but honestly this is a cardinal rule in writing. Your readers want to see the story unfold. When I write, I imagine my story as a movie. This helps me avoid explaining things or being too vague. After all, when I write a screenplay, I can’t “explain” anything with descriptive passages. It all needs to be told through action and dialogue.

To illustrate, I’ll continue with the corrupt businessman example. Let’s say you want to show that he’s scared. You could just write, “He was scared.” However, that really doesn’t help the reader slip into the moment with you. Here’s another approach: “His throat was so dry, he could barely swallow. Small beads of sweat dripped down his back as he clutched his hands in his lap to stop them from trembling.”

Which do you find more effective in putting you smack dab in the middle of his fear?

Which one shows the emotion properly?

Descriptions in a book should show rather than tell the reader what you wish to share.

You have already done the hard work, D.T. Bravo! It sounds to me like you have the action down. Now you can round it out by adding a few descriptive details. Have fun with it!

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Do I Communicate Through Writing?

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I would love to write a book, but have trouble getting my thoughts down on paper. Whenever I write, I don’t feel it communicates what I’m trying to say. How do you get to the point where you can write something, and others understand what you intended to say? How do I communicate through writing? – Cole

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Cole, your question gets to the heart of writing. I think we can all forget sometimes that we’re simply working to communicate an idea to another person. That’s really all we are going for, right?

To answer your question, here are a few ideas to help you get your point across.

Summarize your message

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It’s a good idea to create a little summary of what you wish to communicate before you begin writing a piece. No matter the length of the piece, take the time to jot down your message and read it over before you begin your writing session. It will help keep you on point.

Say you’re writing an article. You might summarize it simply by saying, “I want to teach someone how to braid their hair efficiently.” Or if you’re writing your memoir, you might be driven to share an overall message of “When you can forgive others and let go of your anger, you can find freedom and peace.”

Noting this for yourself will help you share your communication with your readers.

Know your reader

In order to communicate with another, you first need to understand who will be reading your book. You need to know your reader. Now, some writers make the mistake of saying that “everyone” is their reader. While some books might appeal to many people, you can’t write to everyone. It just doesn’t work. It’s too general.

Pick a reader and write to that person. Maybe it’s a middle-aged woman with children or maybe it’s a high school kid in the gifted program. Maybe your readers are elderly people on a fixed income or maybe they are professional businesspeople. When you know your reader, you can communicate directly to them. It becomes personal and they feel it.

Don’t try to impress anyone

Some writers feel they need to haul out the big words when they write. Why? I believe some people feel that they are being judged on the complexity of their writing. They’re trying to impress someone.

It’s been my experience that it works best to write simply and from the heart. Use words that most people understand. Fluffing up your text with fancy imagery, long sentences, and sixty-four-dollar words often gets in the way of sharing your message with the reader.. Remember, writing is a form of communication. It doesn’t impress anyone if they can’t understand you or lose track of the message you wish to impart. Write to your readers as you would talk to a close friend.

Find your voice

We all can develop a written voice. It’s not a magical skill reserved for only the elite. After speaking to many writers over the years, I have learned that it takes professional writers a few hundred thousand words before they discover their written voice. It takes experience, sometimes trial and error. It takes patience and work.

Cole, I suggest that you write an article and show it to your friends, people who fit into your readership. Ask them to give you feedback. Ask, then don’t speak. Whatever you do, don’t lead them or give out hints, but find out if you are able to communicate through writing to them. If you didn’t get your point across, try again. Then ask again. When people start understanding your written word without explanation, you’re on the right track.

Keep writing. You’ll find your voice and you’ll learn to communicate your ideas on paper. It truly is an amazing art form! Of course, if any of my readers need the help and guidance of a ghostwriter, please feel free to email me!

Writing Tip: How to Create Three-dimensional Characters

Research is an integral part of writing. When you sit down to write a novel, or write your memoirs, you need to do a little homework. Of course, you must know about the environment and subject matters discussed in your book, but you also need to research the people involved to create three-dimensional characters. Yes, even if the book is fiction, you still must know each person before you can really write about them. You have to work out who each character will become.

Keep it real

When you are first getting to know someone in life, you sometimes see them in a certain light, one that is a tad rosy. They can appear to be almost perfect in their behavior. They might not show anger or any other negative emotions, because they aren’t comfortable enough to let you know they have a few flaws. They use their best manners around you.

However, if you continue to develop a relationship with them, you’ll start to see a few faults peek out. Buttons pop up. Stephen might be super polite, but when faced with any sort of emergency he falls apart. Georgia might never swear, but when she finds a cockroach in her food, she will curse like a sailor.

You must write as if you’ve known the people in your book for years. That’s truly how they become three-dimensional characters. No one enjoys reading about flat, boring characters. They expect you to write realistically, as if the person really exists in our world. Bad guys aren’t always bad, and good guys aren’t ever saints. People have a lot of gray areas. Give them balance.

Communicate with dialogue

When you read great dialogue, you can almost hear the characters speaking, can’t you? It’s like you’re a fly on the wall, listening in. It’s easy to lose yourself in the story when the words just flow. I love dialogue-driven books.

If you think about it, people tend to speak in a certain way. They have expressions that are unique to them. Some writers refer to them as “verbal tics.” I love creating these for my characters because it’s an excellent way to reveal some aspect of their personalities .

In life, sometimes when two people get together, their exchange can take on a life of its own. Someone on the outside might have trouble translating all the idioms, all the inside jokes, the two friends have created together over the years.

As a writer, it’s your job to create that realistic dialogue between close friends, without losing your readers. They have to be in on the inside jokes and understand your characters well enough to get the snippets of dialogue you provide. Sometimes you’ll need to use slang terms from another country (or from another world if you’re creating a science fiction novel). Those phrases can absolutely help the reader get immersed in your book’s universe.

One of the best examples of this was when Battlestar Galactica used “frak” to communicate a popular swear word. It’s brilliant, because we all understood what they meant, but it helped the viewers know they weren’t in Kansas anymore (not even close). The writers introduced us to a new word that has become popular today.

Draw from life

As you live your life, look around and notice how people behave. Take notes. I mean, literally take notes! Actually carry a notepad (or use an app on your phone) and jot down observations. It’s fascinating how people will put together a phrase or what they do when they think no one is looking.

Also, note how people interact, especially when they know each other well. Often, they will shorten phrases that everyone knows. “I guess I could do that” becomes, “I guess.” Or “Would you like to come with us?” turns into, “Wanna come?” The average person usually doesn’t speak the Queen’s English, so your characters should avoid intense formality, too.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of silent communications as well. “Please pass the salt” is sometimes replaced with a nod of a head toward the saltshaker. And a raise of an eyebrow can speak volumes. Your book’s characters will need to use these in order to appeal to readers. Use the observations you make of the world around you to give your characters more dimension.

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

If you need help creating three-dimensional characters, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to help!

Completing a book: The Time, the Space, and the Goal

It seems to me that most people have no shortage of ideas for a new book. So many men and women really are artists at heart; I admire that so much. However, when it comes to completing a project, people can have difficulty. Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that most authors can start a project, but many have trouble completing a book.

If you were to sneak a peek at the average laptop, I’d bet you’d find books in various stages of development. You might discover a completed outline for a business book, but no first draft. Or you could uncover fifty pages of a sci-fi novel dated over a year ago. Maybe you’d see detailed notes of various interviews of family members, but no memoir begun. If you’re anything like me, you’d like to encourage these authors to continue.

So, why do writers tend to push off working on their great ideas? The solution could be as simple as getting in these three main components:

  • Time
  • Space
  • Goal

Carve out the time

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If you’re new to writing and it’s a hobby, I suggest that you establish a regular time to write, so you can go about completing a book. Even if you hire me as a ghostwriter, you will need to set aside this time to help me gather notes or review pages that I’ve written for you.

Find a time of day when you know you won’t be disturbed. You might like to get up a little early each day and write as the sun comes up, while enjoying a good cup of coffee. That’s my favorite time. Or you might set aside time at night, when the kids are asleep (before your eyes droop). That’s a good time to tap away on your keyboard with a nice cup of Chamomile tea.

Either way, make sure to write something, anything, every single day.

TIP: If you skip a day, don’t beat yourself up and stop. Just start again the next day. The most important thing is to continue writing.

Find a good space

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Unless you’re one of the few people who thrives on chaos, you’ll want to have a dedicated writing nook. Somewhere around your home, where you can’t be disturbed, would be most convenient. If you can swing it, select a room with a door. Some people hang a sign out letting others know that they shouldn’t be disturbed.

I know a few writers who head for their library or Starbucks to get some peace and quiet. Others opt for the great outdoors, and they don’t even mind the occasional visits from beetles and spiders. It really doesn’t matter where you set up, as long as you can write without distraction.

TIP: Try out a few places and see which one works best for you.

Set doable goals

Photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

Finally, it is important to set regular goals for yourself. Professional writers always think in terms of words, not pages, because pages can be misleading. They’re too dependent on the font you use. Now, if you’re in research mode, time is really the only realistic yardstick.

It’s hard for me to give examples here, because the word-count target will really vary from project to project. Sometimes I can write ten thousand words per week, but that’s because I’ve done months of research (or I know the topic very well). Other times I’m happy to get two thousand words done by Friday.

Whatever your goal, set it ahead of time, and then do your best to reach it. The ultimate target is completing a book.

TIP: If you find you want to take a lot of breaks, that usually signals a problem. Maybe you don’t know which way to go in the story or you need to do more research. I have found that operating off a good, solid outline helps, because it keeps me on track.

Now that you know the three main components, you can set aside the time, find the right place, and reach the writing session goal you set each day. One of your first goals should be a finished first draft. Remember, it can be revised at a later date, so don’t worry about perfection.  It takes hard work to write your book, but the rewards are well worth it.

If you wish to hire a ghostwriter, email me. Let me know your budget, your deadline and your goal for the project. I’m here to help!

Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

Congratulations!

I’m thrilled that you made the momentous decision to complete that book that you’ve been thinking about writing for years! Bravo! That’s the first step. Now let’s tackle the next few.

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

Sum up your book in just a few lines

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

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

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

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

What’s your purpose?

Why are you interested in writing your book? What do you hope your reader will gain from reading it?

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

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

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

What are your messages?

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and keep writing!

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

Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

Writers, Please Put off Procrastinating Promptly!

I speak to potential authors every day. So many people have a dream to become a published writer. More than not, they are passionate about their books, but ultimately decide to put off starting their projects.

Why?

The list of reasons is endless. The content of the excuses is unique to the writer, but themes are usually frighteningly similar. Too busy, too broke, too preoccupied with some facet of life…

One for one, the clients who hire me to ghostwrite for them are the ones who make a firm decision and don’t let the quirky whims of life sway them. Take charge people end up with a published book in their hands.

After all, I take the hard work off their plates, as well as the hundreds of hours it takes to complete a well-written book. I only really need my clients to spare an hour or two a week to help me complete their project. Sometimes less.

Don’t get me wrong, the reasons not to write a book might be quite valid. If you don’t have a story to tell, wisdom to share, or a passion to help others, it’s probably best not to embark on a writing adventure. Complaining about how unfair life has been to you will never make a good book. Sorry.

However, if you have a good idea and have been stewing over your book for the last year, it’s probably time to do something about it. Or have you been pondering your book concept for two, three…ten years? Come on, when will be the right time?

If you think about your future book on a regular basis, but haven’t taken the first step, please stop procrastinating immediately and do something to further this important long-term goal. If you have a reasonable budget and are ready to start, feel free to contact me. Just to warn you, I’m often booked, but if the project is enticing enough, I might be able to squeeze you in. I’m an outside-the-box thinker and am here to help. If I’m not the best writer for you, I’ll do my best to find someone who is.

I want to help you finish your book!

Whatever you do, don’t sit for a minute longer and carefully consider the wisdom of taking a tentative step forward. Leap, my friend! Leap into the wonderful world of creativity and become a published author!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Should I Write and Publish My Memoir?

Questions for a Ghostwriter

It’s Good Business to Write a Book!

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods