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 the ghostwriting process? Also, do I need to know how to write a book first? – Larry
Dear Larry, 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. To learn about my process, please read my article: My Ghostwriting Process.
As a first step, the ghostwriter you hire will collect all the information required to write your book. In the case of a fictional novel, that could simply be understanding your core idea. However, with a memoir, your writer will need to know everything about you and your life that is relevant to the book. Your writer will probably interview you over the phone. Personally, I find it is 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 to clarify.
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.
Don’t edit your book before you complete your first draft
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.– 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!
How to write a book about real people
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!
Are you looking to hire a ghostwriter? If so, you might be wondering how you can prepare to work with a professional writer.
Or maybe you just signed a contract and are waiting to get started on your book. This second scenario is not unusual, as most popular ghostwriters book clients months in advance, giving them time to wrap up their current projects.
So here you are, playing the waiting game until you either find and hire a ghostwriter or until your ghostwriter is ready for your project. Being an author myself, I know how excited one can become about beginning a book project. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are tempted to get started immediately.
I can understand your excitement, but let me warn you: if you head in the wrong direction, you could burn yourself out before you begin working with your ghost.
If you take a moment to think about it—it doesn’t make any sense to prepare the content before you hire a ghostwriter or start working with her. It’s a bit like mopping all the floors before a house cleaner arrives or attempting to repair your car before taking it to the mechanic.
Please don’t try to bang out the first draft on your own because you will likely feel crushed when you’re told it needs to be completely rewritten. Unless you’ve written professionally, you might not know how to structure the content of a book. There’s an art to putting together a book, and the process is different for each one. I’ve written over thirty books. Not only am I familiar with the process of bringing an author’s vision to life, but I enjoy how each journey is unique.
So what’s an eager author to do? Well, if you find you have time on your hands and you really want to get a jump start on your project, there are a few things you can do to prepare.
Organize research material for your ghostwriter
No matter what kind of book you wish to write, there will be research required by your ghostwriter. There are a lot of steps you can take early on in the writing process that will help your writer tremendously.
Your notes for a memoir
If you wish to share your life story, you probably want to write a memoir. This is one of the most popular genres with readers. Your book will capture a portion of your life, telling your story in the first person in a way that the reader will connect with you on a deep level.
Most people who hire a ghostwriter desire to write their memoir.
A memoir follows many of the same rules of writing as a fictional piece. You need to stick with a three-act structure, build characters and develop them, and tell an entertaining story.
Items to gather
When you hire a ghostwriter, she will need a lot of information for your memoir. Here are some of the items you could collect:
Pages from your diaries
Blog posts you’ve written about your life
Relevant newspaper articles
Short bios for all the people who will appear in your book
Addresses of homes or businesses that will be featured so the ghostwriter can do additional research
Create a list of incidents
It’s worth noting that a book is really a series of incidents that come one after the other. Some incidents are short, while others can span an entire chapter.
I would recommend that you make a list of all the incidents that happened to you during the period covered by the memoir. For instance, if you wish to share the story of how you built your thriving company, you might start with incidents that relate to that business. Say you own a chain of restaurants. In that case your book might include the first break you received when you were hired as a line cook at a prestigious bistro. You would also want to include a few opening nights, as well as disastrous decisions you made along the way (and how you learned from those mistakes).
If you left an oppressive country decades ago and are now a successful businessperson, you would share with your readers the details of the decision you made to leave your old country and the effects that created on your loved ones. Of course, it goes without saying that you’d also need to focus on the details of your daring escape and the hardships that you overcame.
At this early stage, simply make a list of the incidents that you feel should be included. Don’t go into detail, just jot down enough information so that you know what you mean. As this is your life, you know the details intimately and will never forget them. These entries might be one line or a short paragraph. Once your ghostwriter is ready, you can share this list with her and she will interview you for more information as needed.
Your notes for a business book
When you hire a ghostwriter to write a business book, she will need to do some additional research. This isn’t to say that she will need to become an expert in your field. No, she needs to become an expert in your thoughts and ideas about your industry.
Most of the reading material should filter through you. In other words, you should share your thoughts on the material with your ghostwriter because you are the author of the book and an expert on this subject. Readers don’t want to read rehashed versions of other books. For this reason, it isn’t a bad idea to start making a list of the topics you’d like to discuss in your book and include a few short notes about your ideas on these.
Items to gather
In writing a business book, there will be some overlap with the items that would be required for a memoir. For instance, you might want to sprinkle in personal stories to liven up the book. If that appeals to you, you can make a list of appropriate incidents.
In addition, here are a few other documents you might start collecting:
Applicable pages from company manuals
Articles you’ve written on the subject of your book
Links to websites that relate to your project
Interviews that you’ve given on the topic
As a ghostwriter, I specialize in making difficult topics easy to understand and read. This means I need to fully understand the subject matter and all the definitions of the technical terms. Although I can get some of that information from books and internet articles, it helps me to learn the definition of the terms you use so I can get your unique slant on the subject. For that reason, it’s a good idea to make a list of all these terms and definitions ahead of time.
It is also sometimes appropriate to include drills or exercises for your readers so that they can begin to apply the information you share in your book to their lives. This a forte of mine. I love creating practical exercises for readers to accomplish in a step-by-step manner. If you hire me as your ghost and have ideas for drills, start writing them down as soon as they pop into your mind and we’ll get cracking on it as soon as I am available.
Your notes for a novel
If you’re writing a novel, the research will take on the form of world building and character development. Some writers get very detailed about the worlds they create. You might consider drawing maps and sketching out the unique animals and plants of your universe.
If you’re writing a historical novel, you will also need to include factual details about that era and location.
Of course, when you hire a ghostwriter, she will do most of the heavy lifting in these areas, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to jot down some ideas to give her a direction. After all, you two will become a strong writing team.
Items to gather
As you build the world of your book, here are some areas where you can begin to create:
Maps of the area
Character descriptions and bios
History of the race of people you are writing about
Traditions, unique vocabulary, fauna, and flora of the world
A summary of the story
As a side note, I would suggest that you research your project by studying other novels of the same genre that you enjoy. It might inspire you.
I can tell you that I form a unique relationship with each author I work with. Some people give me a spark of an idea and ask me to create a novel from that nugget. Other clients give me detailed notes (perhaps even a first draft) and ask me to rewrite it into a well-structured novel. Then again, some wish to write alongside me. I am truly happy doing any of the above.
If you’re not quite ready to hire a ghostwriter
If you are waiting for funds to get started or just aren’t ready to hire a ghostwriter, you can still prepare by gathering some of these items anyway. Then, whether you hire a ghostwriter or decide to write the book yourself, you will be ahead of the game.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t feel like you need to do anything before you hire a ghostwriter. It’s OK if you don’t have all these items mentioned in the above article. Your ghostwriter will help you collect them.