Steps You Can Take to Prepare to Work with a Ghostwriter

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 are 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

Gather information before you hire a ghostwriterIf 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
  • Photographs
  • 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

add personal stories to your prescriptive nonfiction bookIt’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

hire a ghostwriter to write a business bookIn 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

Additional advice

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

hire a ghostwriter to help you build your worldIf 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.

If you need help, please feel free to email me. Review my testimonial page to learn more about my past projects.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

My Ghostwriting Process

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Understanding Characters

Three-dimensional Characters Are Vital for a Successful Novel

three-dimensional characters are all around usMost first-time writers have trouble creating realistic personalities for their novels. Whether you’re writing a memoir or a novel, one of the most important elements will be crafting three-dimensional characters.

Think about your favorite books. Weren’t you drawn to the people? If you’re anything like me, you empathized with and related to various characters and might have even been sad when the story was finished because you had to say good-bye to your new friends.

If you’re a writer, you probably recognize how important research is to writing. When you sit down to write a novel, or write your memoirs, you need to do a little homework. After all, you must know about the locales discussed in your book. These are crucial to creating a realistic setting and background for your characters.

However, what you might not realize is that you also need to research the individual personalities of your book if you wish to create truly three-dimensional characters.

Yes, even if the book is a work of fiction, you must buckle down and do your research. Why? Because you need to know and understand the nuances of each important character in your novel before you can portray them realistically. In addition, each person must develop throughout the story, completing a journey by the end. And that development needs to resonate with your readers.

Keep it real

Meeting a character in a novel is a bit like meeting someone for the first time in life. It’s probably more like a good blind date, right? Think about it. When you first get to know a new person and hit it off, you see them in a certain light. That might be a tad rosy; that person can appear to be almost perfect.

Someone new in your life will go out of his or her way not to display negative emotions. No angry outbursts, no overly dramatic scenes, no whiney arguments. That’s because he or she isn’t comfortable enough to expose their flaws in case they cause you to bolt.

No, your new acquaintance will be perfection personified, using only the best manners when they are around you.

Now, as you continue to develop a relationship with that man or woman, 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 turns into a whiny mess. Georgia might never swear, but when she finds a cockroach in her food, she will drop the f-bomb like a sailor.

Why am I mentioning this? It’s because if you want to create realistic people for your book, you must write as if you’ve known them for years. Skip the honeymoon phase. It’s overrated. Jump to the real person, the real Stephen or Georgia. Fast forward and allow them to reveal their idiosyncrasies.

That’s how you create truly three-dimensional characters.

Trust me, no one enjoys reading about flat, boring, “perfect” people. Would you? No. Your readers expect and demand that you write as if the person really existed in our world. Bad guys aren’t always bad, and good guys are rarely saints.

People have a lot of gray areas.

Give them balance.

Communicate with dialogue

Three-dimensional characters communicate with dialogue. Use great dialogue in your book.Communication is an integral part of life. It’s a bit like breathing when it comes to interactions between two people. After all, silence is usually death in a marriage, isn’t it?

Communication is also a bit like a signature for some people. Even with your eyes closed, you can sometimes pick out who said what just by the way they speak. Certain phrases are said in a particular way. Think of the people in your life that you know really well. Don’t they have catch phrases or ways of mispronouncing words that are endearing?

Heck, some of my friends make up words on a regular basis. Looking it over, there are so many different ways to put words together in order to communicate an idea. That’s partly what makes us unique three-dimensional characters in life.

Through great dialogue in a book, you can really get a feel for a character’s personality. When it’s done well, you can almost hear the people speaking out loud. That’s the point when a reader gets lost in the pages of a good book. Have you ever read a passage and actually forgotten that you were reading? I know I have.

As a reader, I find it very easy to lose myself in the story when the words just flow from character to character. Personally, I’ve always loved dialogue-driven books.

As a writer, when I’m in the zone, when I know and understand my characters, it feels like I’m a fly on the wall. I’m there, just listening in to the conversation. They speak, I write. I’m just basically a stenographer. It’s that simple and that easy.

Three-dimensional characters have a unique style

As I mentioned, people tend to say things in a certain way. They have expressions that are unique to them. Some writers refer to these as “verbal tics.” A disgruntled teen might slap a parent with “Whatever!” on a regular basis. I’ve heard some extremely polite people always refer to strangers as “sir.” And I have a friend who punctuates statements with a “BAM!” I don’t know anyone else who does that. These nuances set people apart like color on a painter’s pallet. 

A character’s communication style may also be influenced by the specific geographical location from which he hails. That’s where research can really help (thank heavens for modern search engines). For instance, someone from Minnesota might tack on “eh” to a statement to turn it into a question, eh? Or someone from the south might regularly use the second person plural pronoun of “You-all.”

Honestly, I love creating these phrases for my characters. It’s an excellent way to reveal some aspect of their personalities.

Create bonds between characters 

Characters in books bond through good dialogueIn the real world, when two close friends get together, their exchange can take on a life of its own. Someone on the outside might have trouble translating all the idioms and inside jokes the two friends have created together over the years. For instance, when I visit my friend in Massachusetts and I’m losing at a board game, I’ll accuse her of “punching me in the stomach.” She’ll retort by calling me a “carpet bagger.” After thirty years of visits, I can’t even recall the reasoning behind these expressions anymore, but I’m sure when I see her next these phrases will pop up in our normal conversation. It’s just how we interact.

As a writer, it’s your job (and pleasure) to create that realistic dialogue between close friends. Now keep in mind, it’s important not to lose your readers. They have to be in on the inside jokes. They must understand your characters well enough to understand the snippets of snappy dialogue you provide.

Sometimes you’ll need to use slang terms from another country to make it more believable. For instance, if your character is German, he might say “Gesundheit!” (meaning “good health”) instead of “God bless you!” when someone sneezes. Or if you’re creating another world for a science fiction novel, you might need to develop new words so that the reader becomes immersed in your book’s universe.

One of the best examples of this was when the characters in Battlestar Galactica used “frak” to communicate a popular swear word. It’s brilliant, because we all understood what the creators meant, but it helped the viewers know they weren’t in Kansas anymore (not even close). The writers introduced us to a new word, and today I think you’ll find it has become part of our culture. And yes, most schools forbid its use as they would any other swear word.

Mannerisms speak volumes

We all have our own mannerisms that help to define us. For instance, when someone raises an eyebrow, we know he is a bit skeptical of the previous statement made. We all know what that look means.

When building a character for your book, consider creating mannerisms that make him uniquely him. For example, I knew a Grandmaster of chess who would tap his head with all five fingers when he was deep in thought. I doubt he knew he was doing it, but it was a signature move. If you saw his bowed head and drumming fingers, you’d instantly recognize it was him.

If you’re writing a book and get stuck for ideas, go out and look around. Go to a crowded place, maybe a mall or a party, and observe what people are doing. Take notes and find a way to use that information in order to help you create more distinctive characters.

Draw from life

take notes as you observe life for your bookThe best way to write detailed actions, descriptions and dialogue for three-dimensional characters is to live your life. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Look around and notice how people behave. Take notes. I mean, literally take notes! You may want to carry a notepad with you wherever you go, so that you can jot down observations. You can also get an app for your phone that allows you to take notes.

It’s fascinating how people will put together a phrase or what they do when they think no one is looking. Also, notice 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 these formalities as well (unless they are appropriate for their personality).

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. John Cleese once commented that in England everyone always apologizes for everything. If someone wants the salt, Mr. Cleese pointed out that people will tend to nod toward the shaker and say, “Sorry?” I laughed hard at that observation.

 

Honestly, creating realistic personas 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 encourage you to take your time and relish the experience.

If you need help writing a book or just want to bounce ideas about how to create three-dimensional characters, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to help!

If you’d like to learn more about writing, check out these articles:

Write Your Family History in 2020

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

What to Expect In An Interview with a Ghostwriter

How to Create a Compelling Character Arc

How To Hire A Ghostwriter

how to hire a ghostwriter to write your book

Do you have a great idea for a book but find yourself having trouble making your dream a reality? It could be that you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you don’t have the time or discipline to write a book right now. Perhaps you’re not a huge fan of research, or possibly you just don’t enjoy writing. Whatever the stumbling block, it doesn’t have to keep you from finishing your book. There is a solution. Bottom line, if you want to write a book this year, it might be time to hire a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter can help you take your idea from conception to fruition. She can help sculpt your vision into a book that your readers won’t want to put down.

Here are some tips that will help you select, interview, and hire the right ghostwriter for you.

Decide on a budget

If you reach out to me, one of the first questions that I’ll ask is “What is your budget?” I charge one dollar per word, so if you have $500 to spend, I’m not your ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting pricing can span a broad range but remember the old saying: you get what you pay for.

There are ghostwriters who seem to charge impossibly low rates. These could be enticing, especially if you are on a budget; but if you’re interested in producing a high-quality book, you’ll need to pay an experienced ghostwriter what she is worth.

You can expect an experienced professional writer to charge you between $20,000 and $75,000 for a 100-300 page book. A student ghostwriter could be less.

Ask your prospective ghostwriter about his fee right up front. There is no sense in pouring out your heart and story only to learn that the writer is way out of your price range.

Don’t dance around the subject of money. If your prospective ghostwriter does, he probably hasn’t been in business for long or is simply working part time. You want to hire a ghostwriter who writes for a living, not one who tries to cram in time after his day job.

Be prepared to answer a few questions

woman thinks of questions for a ghostwriter

When you talk to a ghostwriter, know that she is interviewing you, even as you are interviewing her. She needs to know various facts in order to determine if she is the best ghostwriter for you. Plus, in order to create a bid for your project, any ghostwriter will need the following information:

The general subject matter and genre of your book

Writers specialize in different kinds of books. Some prefer to craft fictional tales, others pen memoirs, and then there are those who create non-fiction business books. By knowing the kind of book you want to write, the ghostwriter will be able to determine if your project is a good match for his skills.

Your purpose for writing your book

For me, the author’s reason for writing his or her book is important. If you’re writing a fictional book, I will ask you about your motivation for writing it. I may ask about your marketing plans as well.

If you’re writing your memoir, I’ll want to know what lessons you wish to impart to your reader. What drives you to tell your life story? Or are you simply writing your life story to entertain the readers?

If you’re writing a business book, are you doing so to gain new clients? Often that is a wise goal for new authors who are successful entrepreneurs. In addition, many of my clients wish to teach their readers how to master a new skill. They feel it is time to pass the baton to the younger generation.

There are countless reasons for writing a book. If you are clear on your main purposes, I can help you breathe life into your project.

The proposed word count

Of course, you can’t know the precise length of your book before you write it, but you will need to give an accurate estimate. Most ghostwriters base their bids upon the proposed length. An average word count will be 50,000 to 75,000 words (or 200-300 pages).

If your budget it low, consider writing a shorter book. While books released by a traditional publisher usually require a standard length of 200 – 300 pages, when you self-publish, you can play with that number and make it any length.

Your publishing goals

Do you plan to self-publish, or will you pursue a traditional publisher? If you wish to secure an agent, your ghostwriter will be able to help you with a query letter and a proposal (but that will cost extra).

Your deadline

Skilled ghostwriters are in high demand and book their projects well in advance. Be warned that the writer you want may not be able to take on your project right away.

Consider being flexible on your timeline so that you can engage the writer who will best bring your project to life. If you try to pressure him into finishing your book in an unreasonably short period, he will either try to make it work and fail or turn it down because his schedule is too tight. After all, it takes time to research and write a high-quality book.

Having said that, be clear about your intentions and requirements. You know what you need to accomplish.

Find a ghostwriter who is a good fit

Hire a ghostwriter with a handshake and a contractWriting a book is a financial investment, but also an endeavor of the heart, so you want to find someone with whom you are compatible. Make sure you feel comfortable talking with your ghost about personal matters. You should mesh well with her.

However, when you take steps to hire a ghostwriter, it is a business decision. You’ll need to do your due diligence as you would in hiring any professional. I’m always impressed when someone writes me after they have read a few of my blog articles and checked out the books I’ve written.

When researching a ghostwriter, here are a few steps that will help you find a good fit:

Check every candidate’s writing resume.

Ideally, you would want to see that the ghostwriter has written dozens of books. However, ask yourself, does your project require a highly experienced writer, or can you take a chance on someone with fewer books under his belt? Depending on his skill, you may discover a gem.

Please check out my writing resume.

Evaluate work samples.

Ask for and read over the sample of every writer you interview. Make sure that the style of the ghostwriter you hire resonates with you. In addition, make sure that she demonstrates the ability to take on different voices. After all, your voice will be different from a chiropractor’s memoir or a schoolteacher’s how-to book. Make sure that the ghostwriter you hire can write in the voice and style you want for your book.

Please check out my samples.

Review testimonial pages.

Ghostwriting client testimonialsWhat have previous clients said about the ghostwriter you are considering for your project? That’s key. Note: some writers will have trouble coming up with testimonials from clients because of the confidentiality agreement they have signed. Still, someone who has been in the industry for years will be able to find clients willing to share their experiences. Hiring a ghostwriter with no recommendations is a little risky.

Please check out my testimonial page.

Learn the writer’s process.

Every ghostwriter has a different way of working. Some will work closely with the client as the book is written. Others will deliver a final manuscript only when they are finished. Personally, I will send a few pages early on. I’ll stop working until I get feedback. Once I receive corrections and a critique, I’ll incorporate those suggestions in the next few pages. Then, when the client and I are confident that I have captured his voice and style, I’ll send larger chunks at a time. Decide what works best for you and hire a ghostwriter who can work around your needs.

It’s very important that you feel absolutely comfortable talking to her. Make sure she listens well and produces what you ask for.

Please check out my ghostwriting process.

Pay your first installment and get started

Once you have made your decision, plan to sign a ghostwriting contract and make the first payment before you begin the project. This will be required by any professional writer. Don’t wait too long to make your decision because the more popular ghostwriters will get booked quickly. If you love a writer and know you want to hire her, don’t dawdle.

I’ve discovered that January and September are key months for potential clients to contact ghostwriters. On the flip side, the summer months and December are quiet. So, my advice is to avoid the busy months and interview writers when they are less inundated with new prospects.

Plan the time to work with your ghostwriter

Writing a memoir can be emotional. Lean on your ghostwriter to help you through the process.As your project unfolds, it’s important to answer your writer’s emails and phone messages promptly. Don’t allow too much time to go by without communication.

If you find that you’re putting off talking to your ghost, it’s a good time to pick up the phone. Tell her what’s going on and let her help you. It’s not uncommon to hit a snag and need a little assistance. For instance, if you’re working on notes about your life story, you may want to talk to your ghost on the phone. She can help you navigate this emotional journey.

Personally, I love to shoot emails back and forth with my clients throughout the week. In addition, I will pick up the phone to talk to each client at least once a month. Frequent communication is key to a good relationship.

 

With a great concept, a little bit of help, and a lot of preparation, your book can become a reality and a success. If you realize that you need to hire a ghostwriter, please email me, and let me know how I can help.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Do You Want To Write A Book About Your Life?

Tips for World Building

Understanding Characters

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How to Write Three-Dimensional Characters

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

 

 

My Ghostwriting Process: From Start To Finish (VIDEO)

A new author researches my ghostwriting processAuthors looking for help in writing their books often search for ghostwriters on the internet. They want to know all about the process. Makes sense. If you fall into that category, welcome to my blog! Here you’ll find a lot of articles about writing and ghostwriting. This particular article zeroes in on the steps I will take to write your book. I like to be upfront about my ghostwriting process so there are no surprises.

Pre-interview emails

If you’re interested in hiring me as your ghostwriter, your first step will be to fill in my online form to request a quote. I will reply via email with a few questions to determine whether we are a match. After all, this will be a long-term relationship. To that end, we will need to discuss several key elements. Although each client is unique, there are various aspects of my ghostwriting process that hold true for any project.

If you’d like to get a jump-start on that process, please address these points in your initial query:

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

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

With regards to pricing, I charge one dollar per word, so if you’d like a 200-page book written for $20,000, I’m not your writer. However, I may be able to refer you to other writers who might be interested. If I can help you, I will, but I need to know how much you wish to spend.

Deadlines are a vital component of the ghostwriting process. Most books take me a year to write. I can be faster if there is a strong need, but sometimes I need to wrap up a few other projects before I can start a new one. Please let me know what your needs are, and I’ll do my best to accommodate you.

I also recommend that you scan over at least one of the books that I’ve written, which have my name on the cover: Chess Is Child’s Play (nonfiction), Joshua’s Missing Peace (Memoir), or Discovering Kindness (Fiction). That way you can get a feel for my writing.

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

Our initial interview

What is a ghostwriter? Question mark.Before we chat, it would be a good idea to write down a list of questions that you have about your project. We can go over these so that you have a better understanding of how things work. There are no strings attached. I’ll give you this time for free. Honestly, I want to help you whether you hire me or not.

We will discuss your project in greater detail than we had in our email exchange. However, this isn’t the time to pour out all the details of the story to me. That will come later. Just summarize for now. If I’ve agreed to chat, I feel your project is within my wheelhouse and is worth exploring with you.

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

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

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

Signing my contract

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

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

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

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

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

Researching your project

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

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

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

Outlining your book

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

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

Writing the first draft

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

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

Editing your manuscript

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

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

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

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

Publishing

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

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

 

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

The Ghostwriter’s Process: Six Tips

The ghostwriter's processIf you’re reading this article, you might be considering hiring a ghostwriter to write your book. Perhaps you don’t have the time (or expertise) to complete the task. Yet, working with a ghostwriter may seem like a mysterious undertaking; you might have many questions. Over the years, I’ve noticed that several prospective clients have the same basic misconceptions and confusions about a ghostwriter’s process.

To clarify one basic point: If you hire me, you and I will form a powerful partnership and together we’ll create a book. However, you are the author of your book and will always retain all the rights for the work that we create together. You are a vital part of my ghostwriter’s process.

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

Tip #1: Ask about your ghostwriter’s process

People are naturally curious about a ghostwriter’s process. The truth is that the procedure varies depending on the writer you hire. Make sure to discuss the ghostwriter’s process with any potential ghost before you begin to prevent unpleasant surprises later.

I break down most projects into four major milestones:

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

Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to several ghosts and have noticed that no two follow the same procedure. Some will interview exclusively over the phone, while others (like me) prefer to receive the bulk of the information in writing. Some ghostwriters will submit the first draft of the manuscript to the author only after it is complete, while I prefer to send each section as I write it. I often hire an outside editor, as I wish to have an objective set of eyes review each manuscript I write, while others never hire anyone.

Tip #2: Don’t rush your ghostwriter’s process

Don't rush the ghostwriter's processIf you rush your ghostwriter, you’ll wind up with a rushed book that will be subpar.

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

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

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

Your turnaround time

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

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

Tip #3: Don’t haggle too much with your ghostwriter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #4: Read up on your ghostwriter

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

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

Tip #5: Communicate openly with your ghostwriter

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

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

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

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

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

If you hire a ghostwriter and present her with a rough draft manuscript, expect that it will need to be completely rewritten. Don’t be offended by this; it’s why you’re hiring a ghostwriter in the first place.

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

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

 

So you see, the ghostwriter’s process isn’t a mystery at all. It’s filled with common sense principles. And if you follow my tips, it should be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience that results in a well-written book.

5 Tips to Help You Prepare to Write Your Novel

A woman begins to write a novel

You’ve been dreaming of writing a novel and now have the time to do so. You sit down at your computer and stare at the blinking cursor on the blank screen. You know the story concept you want to write but have no idea how to start.

Instinctively, you know that “It was a dark and stormy night” probably isn’t the right beginning. But what is? To ensure that you communicate your concept effectively, you need to prepare to write your novel.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Outline your story idea before you write your novel

A budding writer recently asked me for advice. She was having trouble writing the ending for her book and was stuck. The problem was that she had set off without a plan and then found she’d written her character into a situation she couldn’t resolve. While some people feel that they can write a novel by just typing away with no preparation, that approach can be difficult and frustrating for a new writer.

It is true that magic is created when you’re engrossed in the writing process, but I find that it’s most effective to prepare to write your novel before letting your story flow from your fingertips. I find that when I am properly set up, the process is smoother because I have guideposts and mile markers to help me find my way.

Without a plan you might wind up in a ghost town

Writing without a plan is a bit like taking a road trip by just choosing a compass direction and taking off. It could be a brilliant choice, or you might drive for two hundred miles to discover a small town that doesn’t even have a motel. Sure, it can be an adventure, and I’m sure you’d get something out of it; but if you’d done a little research, you may have found a National Park two hundred miles in a different direction with glorious waterfalls and amazing views. Similarly, outlining before you write will save you from wasted time and words. It will save you from the disappointment of tossing thousands of words later.

There are many ways to outline. One way is to write a rough summary. It’s a bit like sketching the image before you apply paint to the canvas. Just summarize your story in a few pages. Don’t worry about grammar. Do be sure to include all major plot points.

Another system I like to use involves a journalistic approach to each incident in the book. I like to jot down:

  • The title of the incident
  • The characters who will appear
  • When it took place
  • Where it happened
  • The purpose of this scene in the book

 

For instance, I might create an incident like so:

  • Title: First day of college
  • Who: Theon, George, and Mikey
  • When: Sept 5, 1983
  • Where: North Dorm of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA
  • Purpose: Introduce college setting and show Mikey living away from home for the first time.

Since the outline consists of notes from you to you, the form it takes really doesn’t matter. What’s important is that the method helps you to prepare to write your novel.

2. Shape your story

Shape your story with structure as you write your novel

Now that you have a list of incidents or a basic outline of the story, it’s time to shape it into a format that will work. If you’re not familiar with the three-act structure, it’s worth looking into. Once you understand it, review a few of your favorite books and movies and see how they incorporate the three acts into their story. Then consider how your story can fit into that structure.

In addition, it’s time to consider the arcs your characters will follow throughout the story. The main characters need to follow paths that make sense for your book. Although you might decide to work out the details of their journeys as you write your novel, you should have a rough idea of where they’re going and where they’ll end up before you start.

Conflict is a key element for any story. Throughout your book, your main characters should encounter many conflicts and difficulties along the way. These serve to raise the readers’ heart rates as they turn the pages or swipe forward. Suspense and mystery help keep readers interested.

As you take these factors into consideration, your outline or summary may need adjusting. That’s normal. At this phase, your story is a bit like clay that you can mold and squish into the shape you desire. After all, you’re the creator.

3. Get to know your main characters

A great story has strong, believable characters. As you prepare to write your novel, you can get a head start on creating characters that your readers will identify with and cheer for. Start by jotting down notes about your main character. If you feel stuck, imagine that you are interviewing him. Prepare questions ahead of time. It might help to start with a detailed physical description. Then write down basic information about him, such as:

  • Occupation
  • Marriage status
  • Number of children
  • Hobbies
  • Mannerisms

Create fun, realistic characters when you write a novel

After you have an idea of his basic attributes, you might delve into his ideology, general life philosophy, religious preferences, etc. Continue with this exercise until you feel you can answer any question about him with confidence. In other words, you know him inside out. Take the time to get to know each of your other characters in a similar way. When you know your main characters this thoroughly, many of the scenes will write themselves because you know how your people will act in any given circumstance.

If you still feel that your characters are disconnected strangers, imagine putting two characters into a room together. Set up the scene and watch how they interact. Take notes. Observe their mannerisms as well as their dialogue. Write it all down. You’ll learn a lot about them in this way.

Don’t worry about bit players in a scene. Although adding a few words of description can help set the scene, you don’t need to create a biography for the ballroom dancing instructor who appears only on page 39.

4. Build the world

If you’re writing a science fiction or fantasy story, you’ll need to spend some time building your world. This is a lot of fun! The laws of physics might not be the same, nor will the native plants and animals necessarily resemble those of Earth. Consider the history of the races that inhabit your world. What makes them distinctive?

One writing coach suggested to me that it helps to keep the setting somewhat familiar for the reader and change up only a few key things. If everything is completely different, it makes it hard for people to relate easily. They’ll get confused and put the book down. Also, you can wind up spending a lot of time explaining the nuances of the world, which can be boring and pull the reader out of the story.

world building is a key part of writing a bookAs you prepare to write your novel, think of all the aspects of the world that you will need the reader to understand. Sometimes it works to create intricate background stories that delve into the history of the society. Of course, it’s never a good idea to dump this data in a prologue or the first few chapters, as it clogs up the story with a lot of facts. Instead, talented authors weave information seamlessly into the story. However, you, the creator of this world, must understand the basics of the universe that you’re building so that you can craft your story within the rules and guidelines of it.

For instance, for the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling spent some time working out the rules of the magical people. She had to do that to keep everything consistent throughout all the books. Part of that process would involve sketching out the characteristics of the basilisk, the boggarts and the dementors ahead of time.

Some authors enjoy creating detailed maps of their worlds to orient the readers with the layout of the land. You’ll also sometimes find detailed genealogy tables for a family of characters in the book. There are many ways to build a world. Select the ones that work for you and your story.

5. Set yourself up for success

It’s easy to say that you want to write your novel. It’s another matter altogether to create a plan to actually do it. I’m reminded of the “Just Do It” motivational video that circulated a few years ago. There’s some truth in that statement. Sometimes you just need to bypass all the distractions that inevitably will crop up and decide that you’re going to complete your book. However, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.

Find a comfortable spot to write your novel

find a good place to write your novelThis might be your bed or your dining room table. It might be a lawn chair in your back yard. Or it could be a bench at a nearby park. It helps to have a steady and established spot, where you know what to expect in the environment. Comfort is important. Make sure your seat is comfortable, giving you the back support you need.

Your space should be as free from distraction as possible. Definitely don’t put yourself at the center island of your kitchen when the children are all home and running around. You’ll get interrupted in multiple ways. Ideally you have a room where you can close the door (and maybe lock it).

Find your writing time

When I was younger, I did my best work at midnight. Honestly, I couldn’t think with doing anything meaningful before 10am. Nowadays, I like to write in the mornings. I have  three kids and find that I write the best before everyone gets up. 6am is a great time!

I recommend selecting the right time of day for you, then working consistently at that time every day. If you’re serious about writing a book, you’ll need to put in at least one hour. Remember, it takes a while to get into the groove, so giving yourself a 20-minute window will just be an exercise in frustration.

Set realistic targets

Some people might find it more productive to set a word-count writing target each week than a time goal. If you are a daydreamer by nature, time targets won’t help. After all, sitting in front of your laptop building castles in the air for thirty minutes isn’t going to help you write your novel.

So, how many words should you plan to write a day? That really depends on you. You can estimate that 250 words is about a page, so I’d encourage you to write a few pages each day. When I get going (and I’m well set up with an outline), I tend to max out at 5,000 words. After that, it becomes an unintelligible jumble of syllables.

Set a daily, a weekly, and a monthly target. Also, decide on a final deadline for your book. Then make those targets, or better yet, beat them!

 

Being a mother of three children, I’m a planner at heart. I believe that if you really want to write your novel, you need to properly prepare and follow through with the targets you establish. Set yourself up for success and don’t accept failure as an option. If you’re embarking on your first book and want a few tips, please check out my blog or write me for advice. I’m always happy to help!

How to Select the Right Ghostwriter for You

How to find the right ghostwriter for youIf you find yourself eager to complete a book project that has been on your mind for years, but know you need help, it might be time to hire a ghostwriter. After all, if you haven’t found the hundreds of hours required to write a book in the last few years, chances are you won’t have the time today…or tomorrow. So, how do you find the right ghostwriter for you? That’s the challenge I wish to tackle with you today.

Research candidate ghostwriters

You can easily determine whether a candidate writer can help you with your story by researching her. Any qualified professional ghostwriter will have a website with testimonials. You can also throw her name into a search engine and see what you find. It’s a good idea to verify how reputable she is by checking her out on Google.

For instance, try typing “Laura Sherman Ghostwriter” into Google and see what you find. The first page will have various entries from my blog, but you’ll also see mentions of me from other professional writers.

You can also type in various key words that interest you and see what pops up. If you search for subjects like “memoir themes,” “help writing a book,” or “ghostwriting contract,” you’ll find a variety of writers that show up (myself included). That’s because we blog and guest blog a lot about these topics and have experience in these fields.

Now, it’s worth noting that a ghostwriter doesn’t need to rank well on Google to be a good match for you. However, a reputable ghostwriter should have some kind of web presence (other than social media).

Nail down pricing

Discover your budget to hire a ghostwriterWhen you begin searching for the right ghostwriter for you, there are different ways to narrow the field. I suggest that you determine your budget before you start interviewing. Some ghostwriters won’t post their rates, while others are upfront about their fees on their websites. If you can, ask for the rate before you begin the interview process. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation.

For instance, if your budget is $5,000 for an average-sized book, I wouldn’t be a good candidate for you. I charge one dollar per word (or $50,000 for a 200-page book). No matter how much I fall in love with your project’s concept, I can’t take a 90% pay cut.

If you have a small budget, I’d recommend that you scour one of the many freelancer websites to find someone within your price range. Just please be warned: you will get what you pay for.

Professional ghostwriters usually charge somewhere between fifty cents and two dollars per word.

Discover the ghostwriter’s preferred genre

Select the right genre for your bookOnce you find a ghostwriter within your price range, you’ll need to make sure your story is one he or she can write. The genre should be within the ghostwriter’s wheelhouse. Writers often specialize. For instance, I write memoirs, business books and novels, but I will only take on projects that are uplifting, inspirational or educational. Other writers don’t have such constraints on topic, while some only write books in a specific genre. For instance, I’ve seen certain ghosts who only write romantic comedies, how-to books, or screenplays.

The right ghostwriter for you will have prior experience writing a book similar to yours. So, if you’re writing a memoir, I wouldn’t recommend a writer who has only done scientific textbooks or who specializes in cookbooks.

Read up on the ghostwriter to discover his or her area of expertise. If you have trouble finding this information online, simply ask the ghostwriter about their preferences in an email or during the initial conversation.

Summarize your story to the ghostwriter

A ghostwriter doesn’t need all the details of your story to determine if she is the right ghostwriter for you. The broad strokes are enough for her to make a decision. With this in mind, don’t download your entire story to the writer in the initial conversation. Instead, find a way to summarize it in a few paragraphs. I recommend that you prepare this before you contact a prospective ghostwriter.

I can tell you that after twenty years in the industry, I can quickly determine if I can do justice to a client’s story.

For example, here are two excerpts from recent requests:

  • “My husband of 25 years abandoned me and our children to take up with another woman. I want to write a book to get back at him and her.”
  • “I’m a successful real estate investor and businessman. I want to share my story of how I overcame various challenges to inspire others to follow their dreams.”

Both wanted memoirs written, but each had a very different purpose. Since I specialize in uplifting stories, I knew I wasn’t the best ghostwriter for the first person and told her this immediately. However, the second project was well within my wheelhouse and I was chomping at the bit to start writing that book. I didn’t need all the details to be interested.

Hire the right ghostwriter for you

Find the right ghostwriter for youFollowing these guidelines, you can quickly narrow down the candidates who could potentially be the right ghostwriter for you. Once you’ve done this homework, set up a time to talk to the writer about your story. You want to be sure that you are able to communicate easily and that there is an immediate and budding chemistry between you two about the project. That’s important as this will be a long-term relationship.

If you’re interested in learning more about the steps that follow, check out my article on How to Effectively Work with a Ghostwriter. It’s a fun and rewarding adventure.

And please feel free to email me anytime to learn more about the process of working with me.

Writing Tips: Show, Don’t Tell

Show don't tell when you write to engage your readersThere are quite a few rules for writing, but one of the more senior commandments is show, don’t tell. I know this can be a baffling concept to new writers. Honestly, I’d hate to see a lack of understanding of this golden rule stop anyone from putting pen to paper.

As with most new skills, show, don’t tell simply takes a little practice to master. With practice you’ll find that soon you’ll begin to apply the rules almost instinctively. While honing this skill, I’d recommend that you read some of your favorite books over again and observe how the authors bring their stories to life by showing their readers various details. You’ll find there are many ways to accomplish this goal.

The meaning of show, don’t tell

Show, don’t tell simply means that you allow your readers to experience incidents through storytelling rather than overtly tell them what happened. Showing is often done through character development, in which you thoroughly share sensory details, action, and dialogue.

The reason showing is so effective is that it puts your readers directly into the shoes of the main character and lets them to see things through his or her lens. It’s a much more immersive experience for the readers, allowing them to lose themselves in your book.

An example

In order to illustrate the difference between telling and showing, here are two passages:

Terry had a fear of spiders.

Or:

As the spider crept along the tartan quilt, Terry’s body convulsed with an involuntary shudder. His heartbeat quickened as its eight legs inched toward his arm. Would that he could move it away, but none of his muscles would obey his silent plea for escape.

 

Which version did you prefer? Did one make you feel the emotions along with Terry?

Most people would agree that the second example plops the reader in the middle of the scene and adds layers to his terror. And it’s possible that the reader might experience a shudder of his own.

Use dialogue to show feelings

Characters express emotions through dialogueWhen attempting to show, don’t tell, dialogue can be a powerful tool for a writer. You can show emotions and reveal the deep relationships between characters in an engaging way. Body language also gives the readers insight into what’s going on.

Keep in mind that people have various ways of communicating. Based on their past relationships, they will speak to each other in different ways. Consider how you speak to and interact with your grandmother. Now think about how you speak with and interact with your sibling or your best friend. Each relationship is very different, right? We all have different behavior codes for the variety of people in our lives who are important to us. Well, the same would apply to the characters in your book.

It’s also worth mentioning that people aren’t cut-out duplicates of one another. We all have different traits that create our personalities. Examine all the people you know. Do they each speak in the same way? My guess is that they have slightly different accents, use different words to communicate ideas (probably with a variety of slang terms), and sometimes slip into half-sentences. Use these personal experiences when you write. It’s through your characters’ idiosyncratic ways of speaking that you can reveal their emotions, intentions and purposes.

Sometimes I find it helpful to see the incidents of my story as scenes in a film. Screenwriters have to show what the characters are experiencing through their actions and dialogue. In a film you couldn’t say, “Joe was angry” unless you included a narrator in the script, which would be awkward. No, you’d need to show that he was angry.

Same goes when writing a book.

Example

So, you could write:

Sally decided to leave her husband of twenty years. When she confronted him about it, he became very angry.

Or you could write:

Sally stood at the doorway and studied her husband. “Joe?” she said as she fidgeted with the hem of her shirt.

Joe crumpled the newspaper onto his lap with an exaggerated flourish. “Yes? What is it?”

“I…” she faltered, then took a deep breath. “My bags are packed.”

Joe glared at her. He grabbed his cane and slowly eased himself out of the chair to a standing position. “You’re really doing this?”

She gave a quick nod. “Yes.”

Sally watched as Joe’s face turned a familiar shade of purple. If he’d been a cartoon, steam would have been coming out of his ears right about then. She took an involuntary step backward.

“Twenty years of my life wasted,” he said through gritted teeth. “Get out. And don’t bother to come back.”

Avoid overusing adverbs

Show don't tell when you write a bookWhy is it that we hear seasoned writers warn against using adverbs? After all, they are an important part of speech, modifying not only verbs, but adjectives and other adverbs. Pretty universal, right?

Well, Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.”

Dramatic? Yes. But that’s Stephen King’s signature style.

So, is it wrong to use an adverb? Nah. Just don’t overuse them because they can become a crutch. After all, tossing in a ready-made adverb can be easier than investing the time to show the reader how a character feels. Maybe that’s why Mark Twain warned us that “Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.”

An example

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Becky said condescendingly.

Or:

Becky folded her arms across her chest, her lips curled into a smug smile. “I wouldn’t if I were you.”

 

There is no doubt about it, writing is a balancing act: You want to find your unique voice while obeying all the agreed-upon rules of the craft. If you’re new to writing, give yourself some time to develop your own style. Don’t worry too much about all the rules like show, don’t tell until you begin editing your own book. And remember, while it’s good to know the rules of writing, they aren’t intended to become a straitjacket. Keep writing and enjoy the process!

Being a Ghostwriting Nomad

I'm a ghostwriting nomad who loves to write books for authors

Recently, I was interviewed by Letty Tippins, a popular YouTuber. She found it interesting that I earn a living on the road as a ghostwriting nomad and felt her viewers might be interested in what I do.

I have to admit that traveling with our family in our RV inspires me to write. It’s the ideal way for me to earn a living and I’m always happy to share my business model with others who might be interested in following in my footsteps.

Living Life with Letty

Letty has a fascinating channel about her exciting travels around the country in her van. This free spirit hasn’t allowed her rheumatoid arthritis to stop her. Instead, she chronicles her adventures, good and bad, so that others can learn.

People love her.

I love her.

I am one of her biggest fans, so I was thrilled when she asked if she could interview me for her viewers.

What I do as a ghostwriting nomad

Over the last two decades, I’ve written a wide variety of books for my clients. I love how unique each project is. To date, I’ve worked on seventeen memoirs, eight business books, and ten fictional works. The average length of the books I’ve written is 50,000 words. But the word count usually depends upon the budget of the client (I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite).

My clients live all over the world. Currently, I have clients in New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, and California. People often ask if I have to fly out to meet my clients. The answer is no. Even when my client happens to be in a neighboring town, I rarely interview him or her in person. It’s much easier for both parties to simply chat on the phone and use email.

My purpose as a ghostwriter is to write a book that matches the creative vision of the author. I help my client find his or her written voice (which will be a bit different from the spoken voice) and create a style that matches his or her unique viewpoint. That way the author can really get his or her message out there and help others.

I can’t think of a more rewarding vocation!

The benefits of being a ghostwriting nomad

Our family has criss-crossed the country three times now. We’ve seen many of the National Parks and have met many wonderful people. It’s fascinating how each state has its own character, culture and style. There is no better way to experience that than in person. After all, written accounts and TV shows are just two-dimensional representations of the real thing.

One of the benefits of being a ghostwriting nomad is that I can open my door to a new vista each day. I breathe in the air, take in the flora and fauna and talk to the people. I immerse myself in new adventures. As a writer, I can tell you these experiences are truly helpful because they broaden my horizons and expand my base of knowledge. I can add to my ever-growing personal database of information.

Bottom line, my books are enhanced by this lifestyle.

How you can become a ghostwriting nomad

Become a ghostwriting nomad

I wrote an in-depth article about how to become a ghostwriter for all who are interested. In it, I tried to cover all the bases. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to write me. I do sometimes coach new writers.

Many prospective ghostwriters have asked me for tips about how to find clients. This is one of the biggest challenges for many writers. My advice is to start a blog.

My blog is my one and only lead source.

It works because people use their search engines to ask questions about writing and ghostwriting, and my website pops up. Why? Because my content is current, relevant, and helpful.

There’s no secret sauce required for success. Hard work and a willingness to share information helped me get where I am today. You can do it, too! Now, I understand that a blog takes a while to build. You just need to start. Today. Write once or twice a week. Answer questions that you know your readers will have. Be a valuable resource for people online. It will take time, but in the end, people will be knocking on your door asking you to write their books for them.

Other articles you might enjoy reading:

Now Is the Right Time to Write a Book

How to Edit Your Own Book

What to Expect in an Interview with a Ghostwriter

 

 

 

Common Word Errors — Part 1

Every writer battles word errors. You know the words I mean. Yours might not be the same as mine, but I would imagine you have common word errors pop up in your writing just as I do.

These trouble words can lead to nightmare scenarios that are enough to keep some people from ever writing. Imagine your embarrassment when you find out the query letter you sent to an agent was riddled with common word errors. Or your chagrin when you learn about all your mistakes from various poor reviews after you finally publish your first book on Amazon.

As a writer, you know the power of words. The words you choose leave a lasting impression on your reader. You want the impression to be good, but the incorrect use of words can spoil the effect you work so hard to create.

Unfortunately, common word errors happen more often than would be expected, especially in these days of self-publishing, when some authors cut costs by skipping the editing phase of a book project. Learning how to edit your own manuscript is key to minimizing common word errors.

I’ll be discussing various kinds errors in this series, but in this article I wanted to zero in on homonyms.

Tricky homonyms

Homonyms are two or more words that sound the same (and are sometimes spelled the same), but they have different meanings. When you fully understand each word, and the differences between the homonyms becomes clear, then it’s easier to use them correctly. Here are a half-dozen of my favorite trouble words.

There or Their or They’re?

common word errorsThese three words mean completely different things:

There indicates a location: Put the pot of petunias there.

Their shows possession by people or things previously mentioned: Put their pot of petunias there.

They’re is a contraction ofthey are”: They’re putting their pot of petunias there.

Tip: If your trouble word involves a contraction, try expanding it out into two words. For example: “they’re” becomes “they are.” It can help you determine the correct choice.

It’s or Its?

This one is probably top on the list of common word errors. The confusion lies in the apostrophe. That mark is used to indicate either missing letters (a contraction) or a possession. In this case, the apostrophe signals a contraction.

It’s means “it is,” as in: It’s a beautiful rose.

Its indicates that something belongs to “it”: It’s a beautiful rose that lost its petals.

Again, if you expand “its” into two words you can quickly see if the contraction or the possessive is the right choice. For example:

The child stood on its (or it’s) head.

Expanding out the contraction, you’d get:

The child stood on it is head.

Nope! That makes no sense. Must be:

The child stood on its head.

Your or You’re?

The misuse of these homonyms leads to funny statements. Your indicates that something belongs to “you.” And you’re is a contraction of “you are.”

For instance, there is a big difference between:

Your dinner!

And

You’re dinner!

The first one means you’re about to eat, and the other means that you won’t be around long enough to worry about grammar anymore.

Than or Then?

Then is used in relation to time, while than is used to show a comparison.

So, you’d say:

Barry went to lunch at noon. I’d like to go then.

Or

I’d rather go to lunch with Barry than later at 2pm.

Now, it can get really confusing if you’re comparing two time periods, as in:

I’d rather go then than then.

But that’s a different story…

Farther or Further?

Both words indicate distance, but it’s the quality of the distance that makes it tricky.

Farther indicates physical distance, whereas further implies a more figurative concept of distance.

So, you’d say:

I’m farther down the road than she is.

And

I’m further along in the book than he is.

Tip: Farther has the word “far” inside it. This can help you remember that it has to do with physical distance.

I hope this helps make it far more clear so it won’t give you further difficulty.

Complement or Compliment?

Sometimes, it’s just one little letter that makes all the difference.

To compliment is to praise something or someone and to complement is to complete or enhance.

So, you’d say:

He complimented her on her new dress.

Or

He complemented her so well they got married.

Remember that scene from Jerry McGuire?

“You complete me.”

“Shut up, you had me at hello.”

Yes, they complemented each other nicely. No compliments necessary.

As you can see, understanding the meaning of the words helps in choosing the right ones so that you can avoid common word errors in your writing. If you find these confusing, I recommend keeping a little journal of your personal trouble words so that you can refer to them whenever needed.