Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

Should I hire a ghostwriter?

“Should I hire a ghostwriter?” This is a common question. You have a great book idea, but don’t know how to go about writing it. After all, writing a full-length book takes hundreds of hours and a lot of expertise.

After talking to countless prospective clients, I’ve discovered that most people usually have been trying to complete a book concept for months, sometimes years. Some have even been carrying the idea for more than a decade, sometimes their whole life.

Writing a book is often a goal that burns deep within a writer. People ache to hold that completed book in their hands. I can promise you, that desire will not disappear over time. It might just strengthen.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why shouldn’t I just write the book myself? Why should I hire a ghostwriter to write it for me?”

Well, if you hire a ghostwriter to write your book, you’ll received quite a few benefits. Some may surprise you. Here are 10 good reasons to hire a ghostwriter:

Hiring a ghostwriter saves you time 

Give an honest look at your life. Do you really have time to write a book right now. What if you give yourself another two weeks to get started? Will that make a difference?

Most of my clients are busy CEOs or successful business men and women. They have trouble carving out a few hours a week to spend time with their family or go out to dinner with friends. It would be impossible to find the hundreds of hours it would take to write a book.

Most likely, if you can’t budget the time to complete your book now, things won’t change.

Many authors hire ghostwriters

Many books that you know and love have been ghostwritten. Check it out on your favorite search engine. You may be surprised!

If you can, look through books at your favorite bookstore. How many mention a writer in the acknowledgment section? Most likely that person was the ghostwriter.

Some people fear that it isn’t quite ethical to hire a ghostwriter. That’s a very personal decision and I wouldn’t presume to advise you on your own moral code. However, it might help you to know that there are many freelance writers out there helping busy successful people find their written voice.

You gain writing experience when you hire a ghostwriter

gain valuable writing experience when you hire a ghostwriterIf you talk to an accomplished writer, you’ll find that they found their voice, their style, after they penned a few hundred thousand words. It takes experience, dedication, and drive.

You may not wish to invest the time required to write your own book. There is nothing wrong with that. You probably have an area of expertise that I couldn’t even begin to touch.

Remember, writing a book isn’t just a matter of collecting the right number of words. You need to follow the basic rules of writing and story telling, so that you can captivate your readers’ interest.

When you work with a ghostwriter, she will teach you her craft. You will learn a lot about writing, which will help you in the future.

Hiring a Ghostwriter Allows You to Avoid Writing about Painful Subjects

So many people write to tell me that they have lived an amazing life, but can’t possibly tackle writing about it because it is too difficult to face on their own.

You may be too close to the subject to be able to write about it. I would guesstimate that three quarters of the people who write to me, asking for help with their book, want to write their life story. Most get very emotional about the subject and can’t write objectively. You are not alone.

Discover new things about yourself

A ghostwriter is trained to interview you, pulling information from the depths of your memory. You may discover new tidbits of information about your past as we progress through your book.

My clients routinely remark, “Wow, I’d completely forgotten all about that!” Their memories of incidents become sharper and they are often very grateful for that side benefit.

You will be an author of a well-written book

A ghostwriter will give you a well-written bookIf you hire a ghostwriter, you’ll receive full credit for your book. You’ll also own all the rights.

You will be able to attend book signings and hand potential clients your book. No one will know that a ghostwriter gave you a helping hand. We all sign confidentiality agreements, making sure your secret is safe.

You get the benefit of a full author’s credit without having to put in the hundreds of hours needed to write a book people won’t want to put down.

A ghostwriter will get the job done efficiently

When you hire a ghostwriter, you’ll be able to get your book written and published quickly. If you wait until the time is right, it could take decades. Or your book will stay within the confines of your mind and never see the light of day.

You should get your book written as soon as possible. Why wait? There is no benefit to holding off, but there is a very real danger that someone else will come up with your idea and write the book themselves.

You will be a published author

Once your book is available to readers, you are a published author in every sense of the word. There is a beautiful sense of accomplishment when you have completed and published a book. No one can ever take that joy away from you.

Imagine seeing your name on the cover of a book at your local bookstore.

Remember, your book will live forever, entertaining and educating your readers throughout future generations. It’s quite an achievement.

It’s rewarding to receive great reviews

A five star review for a book written by a ghostwriter

When you have a well-written book, people will write lovely reviews. This is such a rewarding experience for a new author.

Imagine reading a review about how your book changed someone’s life. What greater feeling is there?

Most authors want to move people with their writing. They wish to help others who are experiencing certain difficulties or facing particular challenges.

You will enjoy the ghostwriting process

The ghostwriting process is a lot of fun. It’s a bit like sitting in the back of a stretch limo with a friendly driver upfront guiding you to your destination.

You’ll enjoy watching the pages of your inspiration unfold before your eyes. Just imagine what it would be like to receive the first chapter of your book in your email’s inbox within a month.

If you’d like to hire me, please contact me today and we’ll chat about your project!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

Great Memoir Themes

Find the Best Ghostwriting Method for You

Find the ghostwriting method that works for you

If you’re looking to hire a writer, you might be curious about the various options. There are a variety of ghostwriting methods I use when helping someone write a book or a series of articles. I select the process based on what the author needs and how developed his idea might be. After all, in the end, my client is my writing partner, and each relationship is quite different. If you’re interested in hiring me, please pop me an email and tell me which ghostwriting method makes the most sense to you.

Ghostwriting Method 1: Your ideas, my words

The most common request I get is to write a book based on a rough sketch or outline of a book concept. The author has ideas, but hasn’t had the time to form the words. After all, writing fifty thousand words is time consuming. It can take over a year.

In this case, I take all the written material my client has compiled and then I interview him or her. After that phase, I’ll do independent research and write a detailed outline. Once my client approves that, I’ll start writing and send pages as I complete sections.

Ghostwriting Method 2: Your ideas, your words

This option is surprisingly rare. Most people who have never written a book don’t know how to structure their ideas or material into a complete manuscript. They also have trouble communicating their thoughts so that others can understand them. And while some are able to write, most don’t have the time, which is why they’ve come to me.

However, there are times when a client has found the time to write but will submit pages to me to be rewritten. I use their words but restructure the flow and fix any other issues the author has been struggling with.

Some clients hire me on an hourly basis to be their ghostwriting consultant. They really want to write their own book, but need a friendly safety net. I’m happy to teach them the process and rules of writing, while encouraging them to complete their books.

Ghostwriting Method 3: My ideas, my words

This option is also rare, but once in a while a client will give me a broad topic and a few scattered ideas, and asks me to provide all the rest of the material. I know it may sound strange, but if the topic is within my scope, I can write an entire book based on my researched knowledge. A few years ago, a client handed me two pages of notes about his great-great-grandparents journey to America. He wanted a fictionalized account of their possible adventures as they struggled to make it across our great land.

In this case, the book still belongs to the client. It always belongs to them because it is their concept and therefore they are the author.

Method 4: Researched ideas, my words

One common request I get from clients is to write a book or series of articles about a specific non-fiction topic. I often know very little about the subject. Fortunately, it’s extremely easy to do research. You can learn about practically anything these days using the internet.

I like to ask my clients to provide websites they recommend, so that I follow their philosophy and can work from accurate data on their niche market. Once I have the starting point, it’s easy to navigate through the rest.

 

I have twenty years of experience working with clients using these four different ghostwriting methods. I’m comfortable with any of them. Some clients hire me for multiple projects, using a variety of methods from one project to the next. If you’d like advice on the best ghostwriting method for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

It’s Good Business to Write a Book

What Is the Difference Between a Ghostwriter, an Editor, a Proofreader, and a Publisher?

Eight Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

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    Interview Questions For A Ghostwriter

    interview questions for a ghostwriterHiring a ghostwriter is a major undertaking. You are about to enter into a long-term relationship with someone who will step into your shoes and learn to write with your voice. Because writing a book together with a ghostwriter is such a personal journey, it’s important that you compile a good list of interview questions for a ghostwriter to help you find the best match for you.

    I recommend writing down the questions ahead of time; however, as with any great interview, you’ll need to ask follow-up questions on the fly. Make sure to take notes, so that after you’ve spoken to a few writers, you can remember who said what. Notes will also help you formulate follow-up questions.

    Potential interview questions for a ghostwriter

    Through your questions, you should work to determine the experience and ability of each ghostwriter you interview. Here are a few topics you might consider covering:

    The number of books she has written

    Writing a book is not an easy task. There are many steps involved in producing a high-quality product. If your prospective ghostwriter has never written a book, you can expect that she will likely have trouble completing your project.

    Having said that, if you’re on a tight budget, a ghostwriter with no prior experience should give you a great price on your book because she will be eager to fill in her resume. It’s a bit of a gamble for you, but if you check out her writing samples and talk to her extensively, you might find a hidden gem. Make sure to pay her enough so that she can invest the time to deliver a quality manuscript to you.

    A professional ghostwriter will have a few dozen books under her belt. All the same, if a writer has written at least three books, she is experienced enough to help you with your project.

    Testimonials from past clients

    interview questions for a ghostwriter include questions about testimonialsSomeone once told me that what other people say about you counts far more than what you say about yourself. I like that tidbit of advice because it is so very true.

    Any professional freelance writer should have collected quite a few testimonials from prior clients. Now, the only problem is that these will need to be semi-anonymous because all ghostwriters are sworn to secrecy. Even so, an established ghostwriter won’t have any trouble getting a few clients to write a few lines of praise.

    Check out my testimonial page. You’ll see some clients proudly share their name and company name, while others prefer to share only initials. Still, you can see that I have worked with many people over the last twenty years. Make sure your ghostwriter has similar credentials.

    Her writing forte

    Some of the interview questions for a ghostwriter should revolve around what she likes to write. Also ask about her experience. This will help you determine if the ghostwriter is a good match for you.

    A few writers only write fiction. Others love to pen memoirs, while some prefer to stick to small business books.

    Personally, I enjoy writing uplifting stories, helping record a family’s history or compiling educational non-fiction material. I wouldn’t be comfortable writing a memoir centered around abuse; it would be too painful.

    However, I can write a fictional novel, a non-fiction how-to book (sometimes called prescriptive non-fiction), or a memoir. I love all classifications and genres, as long as the overall message is positive.

    Her current schedule

    Scheduling should come up regarding interview questions for a ghostwriterWhen you interview a ghostwriter, ask about his schedule. You need to have some prediction about when he can deliver a finished manuscript to you.

    If the writer you select has a full-time job and is going to try to write your book in his spare time, I’ll tell you right now, that’s a recipe for disaster. You can predict that scheduling conflicts will prevent him from completing your story in a timely manner. Plus, he will be tired after his day job and will have trouble giving you his best effort.

    Find a writer who has the time to work with you. You might also ask him how many projects he has on his plate at the moment. As for me, I’m comfortable working on many projects at the same time and always strive to come in ahead of schedule. However, I’m upfront about the time it takes to write a book. Eight months is a minimum requirement, but some can take up to 18 months. It really depends upon the amount of research required.

    A few additional steps

    Sometimes you might find that you instantly click with a ghostwriter and just know she is perfect for your project. However, there might be times when you’re not as confident and feel like you need more information. That’s understandable. If you have a good first interview with a ghostwriter, but aren’t 100% sure about hiring her, there are a few additional actions you can take.

    Test your writer before hiring her

    test your writer when you ask interview questions for a ghostwriterIt is a good idea to test your top ghostwriting candidates by requesting a sample of their writing. This will allow you to see how you work with them.

    You’ll need to pay for the samples you request. Please never ask a candidate to write for free. No professional ghostwriter should agree to that (if he does, he’s far too desperate, which should be a red flag). However, I highly recommend that you ask her to write a few pages for you—for a fee. Most writers have a per word fee. For instance, I charge a dollar per word. If asked to write a sample, I can produce any length desired.

    Keep in mind that there are about 250 words per page. So, four- to eight- pages is a good-sized sample. This will help you determine the skill of the ghostwriter.

    Yet you are not only checking out the ghostwriter’s ability to write, but evaluating his process as well. How much time does he take to write the piece? Make sure he gives you a deadline. Then observe if he meets it. If he is late (for any reason), know that he will probably be frequently tardy if you hire him.

    How does the writer respond to your feedback? If he bristles at your suggestions, that doesn’t bode well for the future. On the other hand, if he accepts all your suggestions without any discussion, this could be equally problematic.

    A good ghostwriter/client relationship involves a healthy amount of give and take. That’s what will produce the best-possible book. I will always give my clients my honest opinion and thoughts, but in the end, remind them that “you are the boss.”

    Communication is key

    Communication is key

    After you ask your interview questions for a ghostwriter, observe how she handles subsequent communication with you. How quickly does she answer your emails? Does she respond to your texts in a timely manner?

    My policy is to handle all communications within 24 hours. In actuality, I’m much faster. I’ve had a few clients comment on how fast I am. “It’s like you’re sitting there waiting for my email!” Well, no, I’m not. But I do check my email frequently. When I see a client query pop up, I like to handle it quickly.

    Most ghostwriters offer a free consultation. Take them up on that. It’s a great opportunity to get their take on your project. See if you can get them to give you some insight into how they’d tackle the project. How would they approach the opening chapter? For instance, if you’re writing your memoir, I’d advise you not to start with the day you were born. It’s much better to find an exciting incident to begin your book and drop the reader headfirst into that scene!

    Take action to avoid scammers

    It’s unfortunate, but true; there are those who will try to scam you in this industry. Over the years I’ve had many people report being ripped off through Craigslist. That’s why I don’t recommend finding your writer through that source.

    When vetting a writer, try putting her name into a search engine and see what comes up. If she is a successful writer, her books, interviews and articles should pop up. If the proverbial crickets chirp (dead silence), you know she isn’t very well established (or she has chosen to keep off the internet). Most professional writers have their own websites.

    If a ghostwriter asks for the entire fee upfront, she is probably trying to con you. Typically, professional writers will ask for a deposit of 25% to 50%. The rest of the payments should be made as the pages are produced. I ask for 25% at the signing of the contract, then another 25% after the detailed outline is approved. The third installment is due after I complete the first half of the first draft, and the final payment is made when I’ve given the client the completed first draft. After that, I make all the edits (hiring an outside editor) and deliver the final manuscript.

     

    The process of hiring a ghostwriter should be quite enjoyable. If you ask your interview questions for a ghostwriter and bond with her, it bodes well for a successful working relationship. After all, writing a book with a professional can be a fun and fulfilling adventure. Take the time to pick the right writer for you!

    Additional articles you might find helpful:

    Understanding Characters

    How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter

    Write and Publish a Book in 2020

    A ghostwriter’s fee: how do they charge?

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      How To Write A Nonfiction Book

      Write a nonfiction bookDo you want to write a nonfiction book that will allow readers to learn about a niche market that only you understand well? Many people have a unique skill set and knowledge that sets them apart from everyone else in their field. If you’ve reached a level of success, it might be time to write a nonfiction book!

      Help others achieve their goals in your given field of expertise.

      Pick a topic

      Some people want to write a book, but have no idea what to write about. Or they have a concept, but all their ideas don’t quite fit and the words just don’t flow. The first step is to pick a subject you have a specialized knowledge about.

      Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:

      • Is there a subject that you know about that others don’t?
      • What really interests you?
      • What could you write about that would help your business?

      It’s important to pick a subject that will capture your readers’ attention and hold it. You can select a target niche market, but you will need to make sure your book will appeal to those people.

      One day, about a year ago, a lady called and asked if I would help to write her memoir. After speaking to her I determined that her life story would not make a good book. Not everyone’s does. However, she had a wonderful niche market, a side business that was flourishing. I advised her to start working on a nonfiction eBook about that.

      Determine the problems your reader needs to solve

      write a nonfiction book to help others solve their problemsYour readers will pick up your book because they need to solve a problem or get answers to questions plaguing them. Figure out what these issues are so that you can help them.

      The first step will be to determine who your reader is. “Everyone” is not a good answer. It’s way too general.

      In the case of Chess Is Child’s Play – Teaching Techniques That Work, we determined that our primary reader would be parents who do not play chess. Yes, the book is applicable to grandparents and educators, as well as well-established chess coaches, but they weren’t our target reader.

      With Joshua’s Missing Peace, the target market was parents of children who are having a medical crisis. Of course, I want all parents to read our book, but realistically parents of children in similar situations to Joshua’s would be searching for this book.

      Find out who your reader is and then write the book to that person.

      Create a table of contents

      Before you start writing your book, you need to create an outline or table of contents. Consider what your readers will want to learn and put the information in an order that will help them gain the knowledge quickly, making sure that each concept builds on the previous ones.

      Next it will help you to write down paragraph summaries for each chapter. Ask yourself, Why do I feel a certain subject deserves a spot in my book?

      Once you have this written, note the subheadings for each chapter. Think about the best way to break up the chapter, so that people can easily understand and apply the information you are giving them.

      Write and write and write

      write a nonfiction book today

      The next step is where some people fall off. You must roll up your sleeves and write. Make regular progress and do not allow too many breaks between writing sessions.

      It might help to keep a log of how many words you write each day. Make a game of it! Create a target. See if you can write something each day, setting a minimum number of words to be written, such as 500 words per day?

      Do not edit as you write, just get all the information out of your mind and onto your laptop. There will be time to edit later.

      eBooks can be any length these days, but shoot for 50,000 words if you can. That will be around two hundred pages.

      If that’s too much, go for a mini-eBook.

      Hire an editor or ask your friends to read your book

      After you finish your first draft you can go through and polish and edit. You’ll catch a lot of errors on your own, improving the manuscript through this process, but most writers need a second set of eyes on their work.

      You may need to hire an editor. If you don’t have the money, try asking a few friends to read over your manuscript, looking for errors and typos.  The more people you can get to read it, the better.

      Don’t worry too much about learning how to write a nonfiction book. Just get out there and start writing. I bet you have a specialized area of knowledge that people want to know about. Start writing and don’t allow yourself to stop until you’re done!

      Additional articles you might find helpful:

      How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

      Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

      Do you need help writing a book?

      Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

      What To Expect When Looking For A Ghostwriter

      Looking for a ghostwriterIf you’re part way through a riveting manuscript and are stuck, you might be scouring the internet looking for a ghostwriter to help you complete your project. So many first time authors have an excellent concept for a good, but need a little guidance to see it through to the end. 

      As you search for the right person, you probably will have a few questions. Let’s tackle a few of the popular ones. If you have others, feel free to write me directly and I will answer you back to the best of my ability.

      Who typically hires a ghostwriter?

      When someone reaches out to me asking for help with their book, I can tell that they often have no idea what to expect when looking for a ghostwriter. I understand, as mine isn’t a common vocation. In fact, most people I speak to about my profession seem surprised to learn that people will actually hire someone else to write a book for them (then put their own name on that book). Many authors hire a ghostwriter and it is completely ethical.

      It’s not just the celebrities and politicians who reach out to hire a ghostwriter these days. Quite a few people hire me to write their life story simply to share their adventure with their descendants. In addition, many professionals seek out a professional writer who can put in the time and energy to put their vision on the page or bring their story to life. After all, it does take hundreds of hours to write a book. How many CEOs, visionaries, and entrepreneurs have that sort of spare time on their hands? And if they do, my bet is that they’d rather devote the weekends and evenings to their families and friends. Maybe travel a bit. Take on a new hobby.

      What’s the cost?

      No doubt about it, hiring a ghostwriter is an investment. If you cast a wide net, you’ll find a lot of different bids. Avoid the cheap ones, as those writers will disappoint you. A mid-level professional ghostwriter will charge anywhere from $15,000 – $60,000 to write a 100-200 page book.

      Plan to put 25% down and pay the rest as the book unfolds. Never ask a ghostwriter to accept a deferred payment; they could never run a business that way.

      For more information regarding the cost, check out my article: A Ghostwriter Fee.

      Who gets the credit?

      Most often, the ghostwriter never receives any credit. We sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA), swearing secrecy for the project. Now and then it might be in the best interests of the author to give the ghostwriter a writing credit (such as a “with” or a “as told to” tag on the cover). And some gracious clients will give a kind acknowledgment in the back of the book, thanking the writer for their assistance. I am always tremendously grateful for such a gift. However, I personally never expect a credit and am happy to remain the invisible ghost for the book.

      How does ghostwriting work?

      My clients really become new writing partners. Most will provide me with a lot of notes, which will help me form a good outline. Then we’ll chat on the phone until I have all the information I need. Each client is different, because each author has a unique story to tell and everyone has their own style. Some clients require hours of conversation, while others have very cohesive notes right from the start. The process is almost always different with each person.

      What is the ghostwriting process?

      When you’re looking for a ghostwriter, I’d say that the process can be broken up into three phases:

      1. The Research Phase: It’s hard to write a book without all the information upfront, so I like to dive in and immerse myself in the content before I begin writing. Once I have everything I need, I’ll write up an outline for the client. This will act as our road map for us for the entire process.
      2. The First Draft Phase: Once the outline is approved, I’ll write the first draft. I often send pages as I write the book, getting feedback and approval along the way. Not every ghostwriter works this way, but I find it works well. I wouldn’t want to finish the book only to realize I’d misunderstood a key element.
      3. The Editing Phase: After the first draft is approved by the client, I begin editing. I normally hire one or two editors to review the manuscript after I finish. The client is rarely involved in this stage as I would have already received all the feedback and comments in the previous phase.

      For a more in-depth discussion of my writing process, please check out my article: My Ghostwriting Process.

      It takes time

      It's time to start writing your business bookHiring a ghostwriter makes writing a book simple and easy. However, I should warn you, it does require some time investment on the part of the author. Still, we’re taking dozens of hours rather than hundreds. Plan to spend a few hours a week answering questions and reviewing pages. Most clients find the process rewarding and, in the end, they always have a book with their name on it.

      If you’re looking for a ghostwriter, please email me, so we can put you on the calendar to get started as soon as possible.

      In addition, I’ve written a book to help you find the best ghostwriter for you. Check it out: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.


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        Write a Business Book

        Write a business book to help your brandDo you want to write a business book?

        You’re not alone. So many professionals get a strong urge to publish a book that highlights their niche market expertise. If you talk to PR experts, they will confirm that having a book with your name on it is a key element to any strategic branding campaign.

        However, for most busy professionals the dream stops there. Why? Because writing a book isn’t an easy task. As you can imagine, it will take a few hundred hours to complete the project.

        Let’s see if we can make the process a little easier for you to tackle. And, of course, if you need help from your friendly ghostwriter, please don’t hesitate to write me.

        How to begin to write a business book

        Well, as Lewis Carroll said, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

        While that might sound a little simplistic, there’s a measure of truth to it, because implied in that advice is a drive to complete the project. So, I’d say the first step is to make that commitment: to write a business book, no matter what.

        Once you’re sure you want to embark on this adventure, here is my advice on the next steps to follow.

        State your purpose

        It's time to start writing your business bookYou must know why you want to write a business book if you’re going to succeed. As a ghostwriter, I always ask my clients to reveal their main drive and passion behind the project. I’ll tell you, I’m most eager to help the CEO who wants to share his or her successful actions with budding entrepreneurs. Business owners who are willing to share their advice, to open up and to confide their errors, with the ultimate goal of paving the way for other business owners to succeed, are heroes in my book.

        Some people write me with the sole goal of making a million bucks. It’s hard to get behind that purpose. Readers will sense that goal and will not be inspired to read your book. After all, their goal in picking up your book will never be to make you rich. Rather, they are looking for advice and actions that will help them achieve their own goals.

        The authors who truly care about their readers will succeed.

        The top business books have a deeper purpose than financial gain for the author. When you can reach out to the individuals reading your words on a one-on-one basis, they will respond. Your readers will be grateful for your insight and guidance. They will recommend your book to others, and more will purchase it. Soon you may even have a best seller on your hands.

        Know your readership

        If you know who your readers are, you can accurately write to them. Consider writing your book as if you were preparing a speech for a group. Wouldn’t you craft your message differently for a gaggle of middle school students than you would for a pride of CEOs or a pod of athletes?

        Never write your book for “everyone” on this planet. It will fail. Remember, you are writing to one individual at a time. You’re writing to your reader, so that individual learns and benefits from your wisdom and advice.

        Determine your format

        Here’s where your homework starts. You need to settle on a style for your book, and the best way to do that is to read a few other business books. It’s OK to skim them. For now, you’re just trying to find a format that appeals to you.

        The good news is that you have choices! Here are a few options for you to consider:

        • a memoir format with lots of sage business advice sprinkled throughout
        • a leadership book with many personal anecdotes
        • a step-by-step approach to accomplishing the goals of the reader
        • a workbook format with lots of practical exercises for the reader to do

        There is no hard and fast rule here. You can pick the format that most appeals to you and will resonate with your readership. Again, get some ideas from other bestselling books out there and feel free to use that format for your business book.

        Now it’s time to write a business book

        Once you have the purpose, readership and format decided, it’s time to begin writing. However, there are a few more steps to take before you can begin putting words on pages.

        Determine your focus

        Determine the focus of your business bookThe first thing to determine is the focus of your book. Identify precisely the problem that you are trying to solve. Pick one. If you try to solve too many, your book will ramble and lose the interest of your reader.

        For instance, let’s say you discovered an effective means of retaining customers in your online business. That’s the focus of your book. Or maybe you want to impart how to start and run a small restaurant in a big city. Whatever you decide, really explore the problem in depth, then present a concrete solution.

        Create your idea folder

        You might find it easiest to just pour out your ideas into a word processing document or a notebook. Don’t worry about order, grammar or anything but the ideas. This part should be fun.

        It’s important not to stop yourself from putting a thought into your idea folder. All ideas should go into the file. You can edit them down later.

        When do you stop this phase? The answer is a little like the instructions for making popcorn. There is a phase where the pan is heating up and nothing happens. Then the kernels begin to pop. They pop and pop and pop at a tremendous, almost deafening, rate. Then the popping starts to die out until you hear one pop every three seconds. That’s when you take it off the heat, right?

        The same concept applies to recording your ideas. Once you allow yourself to put down ideas, they should flood onto the paper. Allow them to. Don’t stop the natural flow at all. When the new ideas dwindle to a trickle, that’s when you know to switch your attention to the next phase.

        Tip: you might invest in speech recognition software or simply use your phone to translate your voice into the written word. That way, if you think of a brilliant segment for your book while you’re out, you can just email it back to yourself easily. A lot of my clients love this feature.

        Organize your outline

        Now that you have most of your ideas down in one document, it’s time to organize the thoughts into an outline.

        There are writers who hate to outline. They prefer to write by the seat of their pants (some call them pantsers). If you’re a pantser, that might work well for fiction, but for nonfiction, it’s going to be a mess. You need an outline.

        The format of your outline will depend on the format of your business book.

        If you’re writing a memoir, you need to put all the incidents of your story in chronological order. That way you can start to see the flow of your story. Check out my article on Tips for Outlining a Memoir.

        For most other formats you’ll create a Table of Contents with a lot of subsections. I’d advise you not to make any one segment too long. It’s best to break up each key element into easy to read sections. Once you have these down, simply put the contents of your idea folder into your Table of Contents. Everything should have a spot. If it doesn’t, create a new subhead.

        Words on pages

        Get the words out of your head and onto the page of your business bookNow that you have your completed outline, the book is practically written…in your head. That’s how it is for me! I know exactly what I’m going to say; now I just have to take the time to write it down. I need words on pages.

        Don’t get overwhelmed.

        It’s a good idea to set a schedule for yourself. After all, that’s probably how you got to be a successful CEO or entrepreneur. You set yourself targets and goals, then met them no matter what tried to get in your way.

        If you’d like some specific tips for completing your book, check out my article: Completing a Book: The Time, the Space, and the Goal.

        Treat this project as you would any other. If you really don’t have the time, hire a ghostwriter to help you. Keep in mind that she will probably need to revisit your outline and help you flesh out the details a little more. She might also have suggestions for the format.

        Whatever you do, hold yourself accountable for completing your project. Never lose your drive and passion to write a business book.

        Reasons to write a business book

        I’ve written many business books over the last twenty years and love the genre. It’s exciting for me to help my clients achieve the many benefits that come from such an accomplishment. While you will certainly sell copies of your book, there are other tangible benefits in store for you when you write a business book.

        Increased credibility

        If you’re a successful CEO, consider the response from your client base when they learn that you are a published author. Having a book with your name blazoned on the cover is one of the best ways to show credibility.

        Think about it. Don’t people respond to published authors a little differently? Not only do new and old clients respect you, but your peers look up to you as well.

        Write a business book and become an authority figure

        When you have a well-written book with many book reviews and copies sold, various people will want to interview you. You will be asked to guest blog, speak at conferences, be featured on podcasts and quoted in other books and articles.

        Your visibility will be catapulted into a new realm.

        It’s wonderful when, year after year, new people discover your work and write fresh reviews for your book or quote you in their articles. You become a recognized expert in your niche market. This increased visibility will certainly organically increase your client base.

        A feeling of peace and well-being

        There is no better feeling than helping another. When you write a business book in which you share your successful actions, you might be aiding others who are just starting out and struggling through the problems you have overcome. Or you might be assisting your clients or future clients, complementing the services that you already provide.

        Sharing your knowledge in a book will allow you to give advice to a large number of people that you might not be able to help on a one-on-one basis. Instead of helping dozens of people in a week, you can help hundreds or thousands. Take a moment and imagine creating that effect.

        Financial gain

        Financial gain from a business bookNot only will you make money each time you sell a copy of your book, but your customer base will rise exponentially as your book sales increase. As you market your book, you’ll come up with ways to collect new names and email addresses. Your readers could become new clients and be your best word-of-mouth referral sources.

        For some, the money earned from increased sales far exceeds the cash received from selling the book. If you sell a high-ticket product or service, just one new client can make a huge difference.

        There are many ways you can make money indirectly through your book. How you channel this resource is only limited by your creativity.

        Mike Schultz, president of the Wellesley Hills Group and a well-known marketing consultant, surveyed 200 authors of business books and discovered that 96% experienced a positive impact on their business from writing a book. That doesn’t surprise me. It just makes sense!

        Now is the best time to write a business book

        Now that you know the value of a business book and have an inkling of how to proceed, it’s time to take the plunge. The best thing to do is to set aside a dedicated time every day when you write a business book. It may take a year to get it done, depending on the amount of time you spend on it. But like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it’s the steady progress that will get you to your goal.

        But if you find the project overwhelming or just don’t have the time (or desire) to write a business book yourself, it may be time to consider hiring a professional ghostwriter.

        A ghostwriter will interview you and assist you in all aspects of creating your book. She will collect your notes from your idea folder. She will help you find your focus, determine your readership, outline your book, and then write it for you.

        Keep in mind that you’ll still be a part of the project and will need to dedicate a few hours a week to it. You’ve basically hired a silent writing partner who will do all the legwork for you. Still, you’ll need to review pages, give feedback, and answer questions from time to time.

        I’m passionate about helping people create an engaging book with useful information that readers can’t put down. I have a special spot in my heart for entrepreneurs as I feel they are artists.

        Would you like me to help you write a business book? If so, please contact me and share your idea. I’m here to help!

         

        Understanding The Three-Act Structure

        The Three Act Structure is crucial for your story

        Today I’m pleased to present a guest blog from Erick Mertz, author and ghostwriter, who is an expert when it comes to structuring a book. I asked him to write this article to give my readers a good foundation in the three-act structure.

        Writing a good book, one that connects with readers, requires the mastery of story fundamentals. You must understand characters, the “who” of your book, as well as the setting, the time and locations where your story takes place. No element, however, is more richly rewarding than the plot.

        The plot describes the series of events that take place throughout the course of your story. It is the action, those challenges your character faces on his or her path toward achieving their end goal.

        A lot gets written about how to properly formulate a plot. Structuring the events in a story the right way leads to a higher degree of readability, meaning your readers will simply enjoy the book more. Getting the right events in place is important, but the right events in the wrong order will leave your readers confused, or unsatisfied, which ultimately leads them to put your book aside in frustration.

        Don’t let that happen. Once your readers get into your book, you must do everything that you possibly can to keep them engaged. Getting the right events in the right order is critical to achieving this. One of the ways you give yourself the best chance of achieving this is to follow a classic story structure that has been around and engaging readers for nearly two thousand years.

        What Is The Three-Act Structure?

        The three-act structure is used in books as well as playsThe first thing you may have thought of when “three-act structure” was mentioned was the theater. Stage plays breaks into acts, usually two or three, with an intermission between them. This is the time when the stage changes form and you can go out into the lobby for a quick breath of fresh air.

        Using a three-act structure in a book or a screenplay is not indicated by a roadblock break in the action. There is no end of Act I break written on the page. In a book, structural shifts are seamless. While some changes may come in the form of a chapter break, there isn’t a callout anywhere that says, commencing Act II, as there would be in a stage play script.

        Rather than roadblocks, a writer signals changes in the act by way of subtle shifts in the focus of events. Instead of being told the act change has happened, the reader senses it through the events that unfold. Events in a three-act structure build off of one another, behaving like emotional building blocks. Early scenes set the tone for future events, always narrowing in focus and increasing in intensity until the very end when the main character — your protagonist — reaches their goal.

        Three-Act Structure & Character

        Before diving into the elements of the three-act structure, it is important to establish a fundamental understanding of core character archetypes. In the most rudimentary terms, characters break down into three main types: protagonist, antagonist, and ancillary characters.

        The main character, or the protagonist, is the central focus of the story’s central journey. They are the person (or creature, force of nature, or animal) whose path of change we are following. Change comes to all characters, but the protagonist’s change is the one we really care about the most.

        Opposing the protagonist is the antagonist. This is the story’s villain, the force putting up the resistance to the main character’s change. Their actions are focused on holding back, slowing down, or stopping the protagonist on his or her way toward their goal.

        By and large, ancillary characters are along for the ride. They attach themselves to either protagonist or antagonist (although sometimes they act alone) and are the ones helping achieve those ends. Think of them as the cast of fun, interesting, helpful, or hindering partners that move the story along.

        When we refer to events within the three-act structure, they come in reference to what the protagonist is doing and where they are. In rare instances, those events connect to what is being done to them. You will see that the other character roles are usually there to affect what the protagonist is doing.

        Act One

        During the first act, setting and character are established. This is what writers call the ordinary world, where the main character has their roots planted before the real story starts. We see this is how they were living before the “inciting incident” an event that happens during this section.

        Act One is important for a couple of reasons. First, it provides the necessary context. We need to see who our hero or heroine is before the adventure. At some point in this story they are going to change — hopefully drastically, in the direction toward a better self — so this is our chance to see their life before.

        The other reason Act One is important is because it is where the “inciting incident” occurs. Every hero receives a call and it usually comes in the ordinary world when they least expect it.

        Act Two

        Gears in motion as you write your bookThe demarcation between Acts One and Two is the moment when the story’s hero chooses to accept their call to action, something they may have denied before. They’ve debated about the ordeal long enough. They’re no longer thinking about doing something extraordinary — they’re on the path to doing it.

        Act Two is the book’s longest section. It comprises roughly 50-60% of the length. This act comprises most of the action, from the early part of the adventure to the introduction of antagonist forces to the set-up for the final conflict.

        Every hero is faced with a unique challenge all their own. In Act Two, they are meeting that obstacle, learning about the mountain they must climb, and actually climbing it. This is where they stumble and fall down, before getting strong enough to make the push to the end

        Any storyline can be thought of this way, from fiction to memoir to business book. All of our lives and journeys, real or imagined, are filled with conflicts that require acceptance, practice, and trials before the climactic moment on the path to ultimate success.

        Act Three

        Act Three commences moments before the final challenge is breached. It is arguably the shortest section of a story, centered around the climactic confrontation and falling action.

        What is the climactic confrontation? Think of the moment in the story when the hero meets the villain, opposite forces facing off against one another. The protagonist has been moving steadily toward meeting their goal and the antagonist has been pushing back. This is when push comes to shove, the moment when someone has to triumph.

        What constitutes the falling action is everything that happens after the climax has been resolved. Maybe the antagonist is vanquished, and the protagonist receives the proper laurels. In one way or another, the journey of transformation has been completed and the hero can return home.

        The Three-Act Structure In Action

        DumboPerhaps the simplest visualization of a three-act structure is through the Disney classic, “Dumbo”.

        In Act One, our protagonist, a baby elephant with ears too big, is born into an unforgiving world. He is an outcast in the circus and struggles to find his worth in a world cruel to misfits.

        Act Two begins when Dumbo works to find his place in the circus. His journey is to find his means of fitting in despite an outcast status he is helpless to do anything about. At first, he fails in his big change, but with some grit and determination (and the help of his guide Timothy Q Mouse) he works to find a place for himself. Through this process, he learns that he may have the ability to fly.

        At the beginning of Act Three, Dumbo on the edge of trying out his new trick of flying in front of a packed entire circus tent. After much trepidation, he is successful, which ultimately solidifies his place in the circus as an equal to his peers. The antagonist of prejudice has been vanquished.

        The Three-Act Structure — In Conclusion

        Understanding how to employ the three-act structure is an invaluable tool for reaching your readers. While the idea of a structure might seem rigid, it actually works quite the opposite way. Knowing where certain events should fall makes structure intuitive and leads to happy readers.

        Biography:

        Erick Mertz, Author and ghostwriter

        Erick Mertz is a ghostwriter/editor/manuscript consultant from Portland, Oregon. You can read more of his thoughts about the business and craft of writing at his website here.

        How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

        How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?Have you been wondering just how much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

        Well, you aren’t alone. This is a very popular question. Shopping for a writer is a bit like walking into a gallery with the hope of acquiring a special piece of art. As you peruse the beautiful paintings on the walls, you might just wonder about their cost. After all, the price tags can vary widely. It can be intimidating to ask the artist, because the price could be well outside your budget.

        When you buy a car or a house, don’t you have a rough idea of the expense involved? Probably! However, how can you know the cost to hire a ghostwriter?

        Allow me to address the question directly: I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite.

        I’ve noticed that some ghostwriters don’t like to broach this subject on their websites. Maybe they’re worried you’ll just click away when you discover the price. For me, I figure why bury my pricing in some dusty corner of my website? There really is no need to dance around the subject.

        As you’ll discover, writers have different fees and some charge in different ways. For instance, some writers may charge by the hour or the page. Most charge by the word. While manuscripts vary in length, a short memoir or novella will be 25,000 words and a full-length book will be 50,000 – 75,000 words. Some clients prefer to publish mini-eBooks, which can be 5,000 – 10,000 words in length. These can be a good option to get one’s feet wet and learn the art of marketing books on Amazon.

        Occasionally I’ll run into a client who actually needs a cross between an editor and a ghost, because he has already written most of the book and the first draft is in decent shape. If that’s the case with you, I’d charge much less.

        Inside Secret: How to reduce the cost of a ghostwriter

        There are a few factors that might help reduce a ghostwriter’s cost. Firstly, I’m always impressed when a prospective client has taken the time to really research me and find out the steps he should take to work with a ghostwriter. I know this is a client who understands me and how I work, which is a great place to start the relationship.

        Here are some key ways you may persuade me to reduce the amount I charge:

        Pitch me an inspiring book

        Idea for a bookWhile some ghostwriters will write about any subject matter, I’m rather picky. I prefer to write about uplifting subjects that help people in some way. Of course, the book doesn’t need to be happy-go-lucky throughout, but if you’re looking to get back at an ex or wish to delve into the horrors of your abusive past, I’m not the writer for you.

        I’ve written a couple dozen books over the last two decades. Here are a few examples of projects I’ve completed from different genres:

        • The story of a man who immigrated to the United States with only a few dollars in his pocket and became a multi-millionaire
        • A nonfiction book about a how to run a specialized niche market business
        • The fictional story of a deadly family feud that spans generations and worlds, highlighting the importance of family loyalty and the overcoming of seemingly impossible obstacles
        • The heroic journey of a man who escaped communist Hungary on foot to become an affluent businessman in Canada

        There are times when someone approaches me with a story that truly appeals to me. I find that I can’t stop thinking about the project. I really want to help the author, even though he can’t pay my full price. In those cases, when he shares his budget, I’ll do my best to at least guide him in the right direction.

        If you’re on a tight budget and need help, let me know what you can afford. I can almost always make suggestions to help reduce your cost. Or I might be able to set you up with a student writer and supervise her work. When I do that, I can charge less.

        Be flexible with your deadline

        Normally, I need eight months to a year (or more) to complete a book project. If you need a fast turnaround time, I will need to increase my price. However, if you are flexible on deadlines, I can sometimes give you a price break, as I can take on other projects.

        I routinely try to come in ahead of my deadlines, but it’s nice to have some leeway if it’s needed. Flexibility is worth its weight in gold.

        In addition, there are times when my clients need to take a few months off, too. I always juggle projects to accommodate authors.

        Reduce your word count

        Since a ghostwriter usually charges on a per word basis, you can reduce the cost to hire a ghostwriter by lowering your proposed word count. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the average length of a book is 50,000 – 75,000 words (or 200 – 300 pages), but some stories can be told in 25,000 words (or 100 pages). This is an acceptable length for a memoir. So, if a shorter book is more realistic for you, know that I can make it any length, within reason. Just be aware that we might not be able to include all the incidents that occurred.

        Quality is always better than quantity in writing.

        Show you communicate well

        cost to hire a ghostwriter, communicate wellAs a ghostwriter, I will require that my authors be available to review pages I send or answer questions that come up as I write. You will need to put in a two to three hours a week on your project with me.

        I seek out clients who communicate well and respect my time. From experience, I know that working with these clients will be easier because they will respond to my queries and be a true partner on the project. Of course, I will always do the heavy lifting for any book project I take on, but the client’s contributions are vital to the success of the project.

        On the flip side, if a client needs me to send five emails before answering a question or doesn’t make a scheduled appointment, it takes me longer to complete a project.

        I will sometimes give discounts (or add words for free) to a client who communicates well and respects my time.

        Three Categories of Writer

        If you’re willing to pay the cost to hire a ghostwriter, it’s good to know that there are three main categories of writers:

        • Cheap writers
        • Mid-range professional writers
        • High-end celebrity writers

        Cheap writers

        the cost to hire a ghostwriter variesPrice range: $2,000 to $10,000

        How to locate: Fiverr, Upwork, Guru or other freelance websites

        Pros:

        • Easy to find
        • Many writers in this category
        • Very low cost

        Cons:

        • You need to watch for plagiarism. It’s rampant in this category.
        • The writer will often have little to no prior experience. You’ll need to be patient.
        • Because of this writer’s lack of experience, she may miss deadlines or run into unexpected difficulties.
        • The writer will probably have a full-time job, which may cause delays.
        • Be prepared to rewrite her work.

        Advice:

        • Ask for references and contact each one.
        • Get writing samples. Be sure to check each using plagiarism software.
        • Make sure they include outside editing in their fee.
        • Never pay the entire fee upfront; give an industry-standard deposit of 25% down.

        Summary:

        If you have a very small budget (and you can’t write your book on your own), a cheap writer really is your only option. Your biggest risk is that you’ll wind up with an unusable manuscript that will need to be rewritten. Also, you really need to watch for plagiarism with this class of writer.

        Mid-range professional writers

        Hire a Limo-class ghostwriter

        Price range: $15,000 to $100,000

        How to locate: Internet searches, blogs, and word-of-mouth

        Pros:

        • You will get personalized attention from a professional writer.
        • The process will be an enjoyable experience.
        • Through the interview process, you’ll probably remember new details of past incidents and might put together some interesting pieces to your life puzzle.
        • Your ghostwriter will have years of writing experience, with at least a few books under her belt.
        • You will learn a lot about how to write along the way.

        Cons:

        • The price tag is higher than a cheap writer.
        • Since there aren’t many ghostwriters in this category, it can be hard to get on her calendar. We book up fast.

        Advice:

        • Review the ghostwriter’s website. Look for a testimonial page and a blog, as these will tell you a lot about the writer’s experience and viewpoint.
        • Compile a good list of questions before you interview her.
        • Make sure you sign a professional contract. Have it reviewed by your lawyer before signing it.
        • Plan to pay 25% – 40% when you begin the project.
        • Don’t restrict your search to local ghostwriters.

        Summary:

        This level of ghostwriter will make the project an enjoyable and educational experience for you. It’s a bit like hiring a limousine instead of calling an Uber. If you can afford a professional ghostwriter, you’ll wind up with a quality manuscript that you can either market and sell or pitch to an agent or publisher.

        High-end celebrity writers

        These ghostwriters are usually hired by actors, politicians, musicians and other famous personalities who will sell books just by virtue of their names. The writers for these celebrities are well-established ghostwriters and authors, who have a lot of experience in this area.

        The price tag for a celebrity hiring a ghostwriter is six or seven figures.

        Which category is right for you?

        questions relating to ghostwritingMost people recognize that they would like a mid-ranged professional writer. And, honestly, the cost to hire a ghostwriter is actually reasonable when you consider that a lot of time, energy and hard work goes into writing a book. An excellent professional writer will often spend up to a year or two researching, writing, and editing a book for you.

        As you can see, the cost to hire a ghostwriter fluctuates greatly from writer to writer.

        Bottom line: you get what you pay for!

        Tip: Give your ghostwriter a trial run

        If you’re uncertain about the cost to hire a ghostwriter and are nervous about plunking down a large deposit, propose a trial run. Of course, you’ll need to pay for the service. If you don’t pay her, she will have to fit it in around her paid work and won’t be able to grant it the proper importance. Also, if you pay for the piece, you’ll own the rights to it and can use it anytime.

        This trial run will allow you to find out how well the writer meets the agreed-upon deadline and you can really determine the quality of her work. At the end, you will have a good idea of what to expect if you hire her.

        Now, some people get the “bright idea” that they can piece together a manuscript by asking many different ghostwriters to provide samples for free. This won’t work. Trust me, it will look more like a patchwork quilt than a book. This is not a good way to get around the cost to hire a ghostwriter.

        When I do a trial phase, I allow my client to pick the word count, then I charge my standard dollar-per-word fee. If someone is writing his memoir, I select a story from his past to write. If I’m trying out for a nonfiction piece, I usually write an essay or a blog article. These few pages give the new client a good idea of what to expect from our budding relationship.

        A Little Warning

        Have you received a lowball offer to write your book?

        While it might sound attractive, it rarely works out for you in the end. I have received calls from a number of prospective clients who made “excellent” deals hoping to save money, only to find they had to shell out a lot more cash to have everything re-written. It’s frustrating for the author, as well as for the ghostwriter who must now take over the project.

        If you’re paying a fraction of the usual price, you often get a fraction of the quality.

        Writing a book requires a certain advanced skill set, and the complexity involved with ghostwriting is even greater. A ghost needs to capture the style and voice of our authors, while meeting the goals of the client. That’s why the price tag should never be cheap.

        If you have questions and need help,  don’t hesitate to contact me! Check out my testimonial page to see what my clients have to say about me and my work.

        Additional articles you might find helpful:

        What You Need In a Ghostwriting Contract?

        Write Your Family History in 2020

        Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

        How to Conquer Writer’s Block

        Understanding Characters

        What Is It Like to Be a Ghostwriter?

        Write and Publish a Book in 2020

        “When my partner and I decided to write a book, we interviewed many ghost writers. Some were very inexpensive, while others were too pricey for our budget. Laura wasn’t the least expensive writer, but we chose her because she was so passionate about writing. Laura went above and beyond our expectations. I am very pleased with all her work and will continue to use her for my future writing needs.” Edwin Carrion

         

        How to Start Writing a Book

        start writing a book

        Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I have an amazing story to tell, but don’t know how to start writing a book now. I have so many things all jumbled up in my head and I don’t know how to get it out on paper. Help! -Art M.

        Dear Art M.,

        When I received your question, I did a little search on the internet: “How do you start writing a book?” I was curious to see what other writers had to say.

        Up popped a dozen articles that made the process seem ridiculously easy. Unfortunately, these articles paint a false picture. Writing a book is far from simple. Trust me, you’re not the only one to have difficulties in this area.

        I don’t want to answer your question with a cookie-cutter twelve-step to-do list. Instead, I would like to give you some broad-stroke advice.

        Make a list of incidents

        When you consider a movie, it is made up of hundreds of scenes. They flow together to tell the story. With a book, these scenes can be better described as incidents. Basically, think of these incidents as the things that will happen to your characters (or if you’re writing a memoir, they are the experiences that have happened to you).

        Some people like to make flashcards. They write the individual incidents out onto three-by-five-inch cards and put them into the order they think will work best. I prefer to open a word processing document and write out the incidents there. I don’t number them, but just get them out of my head in the simplest way possible. For example, it might look like this:

        Incident: Bob discusses breaking up with Mary in a coffee shop.

        Incident: Terry says good-bye to her parents before entering her new college dorm for the first time.

        Each incident just needs to have enough information to jog your memory when you create a more complete outline later on. Don’t worry about putting the incidents in any order. You’re just trying to get the information out of your head and onto the paper (or computer document). It simply is a list of what happens.

        Note: Some incidents might be super short. That’s fine!

        Give each incident a time stamp

        Photo by Mohammed Fkriy on Unsplash

        You should end up with dozens of incidents (perhaps even hundreds). Next, go through and give each incident a time stamp, which tells you when it took place. Some time stamps might be simply a month and year. For example:

        Incident: Sam starts high school: September 1979.

        Incident: George gets a job at Mercury, Inc.: May 1983

        Sometimes, the time of the incident will be relevant. In that case, be as specific as you can. If you know the exact date, mark that down. For instance:

        Incident: Bernice gives birth to her daughter: June 17, 1988, 4:30am.

        Incident: Lonny graduates high school: May 25, 1999, early afternoon.

        Again, these are notes for you. Don’t get bogged down. If you don’t the exact date, just put in the year.

        Put the incidents in order

        Now that you have the time stamps, you can put the incidents in chronological order. It’s possible that some incidents will serve as a flashback. If you know that will be the case, you can group them after the appropriate incident. For example:

        Incident: Joe waits for Sally at their favorite park bench: September 2002.

        Incident: Flashback: Joe and Sally share their first kiss on the bench: August 1994.

        Flesh out your incidents

        Ask questions when you start writing a bookNow that you have all your incidents in order, it’s time to drill down and examine each one. I find it helpful to use a kind of journalistic approach with each incident.

        Here are some questions you can answer:

        • Who is in the incident? (Name all the characters, even minor players.)
        • Where does it take place? (Be as specific as you can.)
        • When does it happen?
        • Describe what occurs (very briefly)
        • What is the purpose of this incident? (Why should it be included?)

        You might have other points to mention, but it is important to keep it very brief. Don’t indulge in lengthy descriptions. It’s not time to start writing your book quite yet. For one thing, some of these incidents might not make the cut!

        Note: The most important element on this list is the last one—the purpose. You must have a strong purpose for including this incident in your book. If you can’t come up with one, cut the incident immediately.

        If you feel inspired to write a scene from this list, go for it. You might need to rewrite it later, but that’s OK. I understand the need to get the ideas/images out of your head! Sometimes I just write a few notes under the incident description. This helps me free up my attention and move on to the next incident on the list.

        The next step

        After you finish creating your master list of incidents, you want to make sure they flow one into the next. Once you have them all in sequential order and you’ve weeded out ones that don’t fit or have a real purpose, take a step back and review it. Read the list over a few times to make sure it works for you. This is one way to create an outline. If you want to change the format, it will be easy to do so, because you now have all the information you’ll need.

        You may just find that the book is pretty much written! Yes, it’s still in your head and you’ll need to write the 50,000 (or so) words, but now you know where you’re going.

        The incident list is a great tool to help you sort out the ideas that are jumbled in your head. And it will act as mile markers for you on your journey, helping you make sure that you’ve included all the important occurrences and events. It’s much easier to start writing a book if you have a well-laid plan. Enjoy the process!

        As you begin your new adventure, you might find yourself hitting a few distractions. If you’d like some tips on how to avoid these, read my article on the subject. And, of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me!

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

        How to Include Descriptions in a Book

        Woman contemplates how to write her book

        Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I won’t call myself a writer by any means, but 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. 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

        be brief when writing in a fast-paced worldIn 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, you can punctuate angry scenes 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

        Descriptions in a book should include your sensesWriting 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.

        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!

        Additional articles that you might find helpful:

        Write Your Family History in 2021

        Write and Publish a Book in 2021

        My Ghostwriting Process

        Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter