Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

help writing a book

Do you need help writing a book?

So many people have a strong goal to write at least one book within their lifetime. Most have lived an interesting life and wish to share their story with the world; they have something to say, which might just help others. On occasion CEOs or experts in a field wish to share their knowledge with others. This is also an admirable goal. I’ve also noticed that some aspiring writers have a fictional story that has been on their mind (or on rare occasions, haunting their dreams) for decades.

When someone who has such a burning desire to publish a story reaches out to me for help writing a book, I’m moved!

If you can’t shake the desire to complete your book, and it’s all that you can think about, it’s time to take action. If you wait a week, it will turn into a month, which will turn into a year. The majority of people who contact me tell me that they have been sitting on their book project for five to ten years. It’s at that point that they realize they need to tackle it or the book never will be written.

I’m here to encourage you. Now is the time to complete your book project!

Steps required to write a book

There are various phases every author must go through to write and complete a book. The primary phases are:

  • Researching
  • Outlining
  • Writing the first draft
  • Editing
steps to take for help writing a book

Yes, I’m simplifying things a bit. I know I am. However, truthfully, I can tell you that these are the four main steps involved in writing any book. If you are looking for help writing a book, just understanding these steps can make a difference.

Each stage tends to flow into the next. When I complete most of my research, I instinctively want to organize all the information into an outline (I recommend doing so chronologically). As I’m outlining, there often comes a point where I’m just dying to start writing. When that urge hits me, I pen a few pages for my client as a sample. This is the start of the first draft and helps to begin to establish the style and voice of the book.

The research phase

Research is crucial for any book project. Even if you are writing a memoir, you still need to do extensive research. After all, you need to provide accurate details as to time, location, appearance and historic events.

While the bulk of the research is done at the beginning of a project, I find that I continue to research as I write. Questions do come up and I need to look up the answers. This is especially true when I am writing about any period in the past. What was a popular rock song of the era? What kind of clothes were people wearing? These authentic particulars help set the tone of the story. Remember, readers will spot inaccuracies.

There are many resources for research: your relatives, the library, and, of course, internet search engines. There are so many data bases accessible by the public. For instance, when a client provides the street address of a home he lived in or a place where a significant event took place, I can easily look it up and see what it looks like from the street. Sometimes I can even find photos that give me a sneak peek inside.

The outlining phase

Avoid problems when writing a book by outliningIf you get a chance to review my blog, you’ll see that I’ve written extensively about how to write an outline. That’s because I feel it is a vital first step for writing any book. Honestly, I can’t take a writing step forward without a good detailed flight plan for my book, because I feel it’s the best way to avoid mid-air collisions. And by that I mean, wasting time on a story line that just doesn’t fit into the book.

Having said that, I know some of you might be groaning at the very thought of sketching the story out before writing. Maybe you work best on a free flow basis. That’s totally okay. We’re all different. Do what’s right for you.

In my article, Write and Publish a Book in 2020, I discuss my personal method of how to outline a story (fiction or nonfiction). It’s just one method for you to consider.

The first draft phase

Once you have the outline completed, you may find that the book is pretty well written—in your mind. Now you need to get words on paper.

The biggest problem that I’ve seen new writers get into is that they try to edit as they crank out the first draft. I urge you not to do that. Please allow yourself to just get the rough draft out first. Expect that it won’t be great. That’s OK! Fine tuning your manuscript happens during the editing phase.

Write each day to complete your bookSet up a regular time to write each day and stick to that schedule. If you hold yourself accountable for a certain word count, you will make regular progress on your story.

If you find yourself continually discouraged when you sit down to write or you avoid writing in general, revisit your outline. There might be a flaw there. Perhaps one of the incidents not quite working for you. That can happen if it doesn’t really have a strong purpose in your book. Also, take a look at the people in your book. Does every character have a reason for being? Once you have these issues sorted out, you’ll know it because you’ll be excited to write again.

When helping a client craft his memoir, I often need to counsel him to not include certain people. While it’s fine to mention Daisy the barista in your personal journal, she might not warrant a mention in your life story. Stick to the characters that matter and move the story forward.

The editing phase

When you complete your first draft (Bravo, by the way), it’s time to edit. I’d recommend putting your manuscript down for a few days or a week before starting this phase. Give yourself a breather from the project. Fill that time slot by reading books in the same genre. For example, if you’re writing your life story, pick up 700 Sundays or a memoir you enjoy. Reading another author might give you ideas to help you sculpt your own book.

The next step is to read over your manuscript from beginning to end and see if there are any issues with continuity. Sometimes you start out with one idea and end up with another. When that happens, you need to go back and make adjustments. For example, I’ve worked with clients who will share with me a pet name for a relative halfway through the story. So, only the second half of the book will have that character’s nickname. Fortunately, it’s an easy matter to insert the new name.

You will also pick up on issues with flow as you read it through. Some scenes will flow right into the next, while other transitions will be choppy. This is the time to fix that.

Now, you’ll also spot typos. Sure, fix them, but this isn’t the right time to focus on grammar or punctuation. Instead, make sure the story sings. By the time you finish this phase, you may find that you’ve altered and rearranged the words quite a bit, so fixing typos doesn’t make sense.

Dialogueusing dialogue tags in writing a book is another element to focus on. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend reading your book out loud, especially the conversations. You’ll immediately know if they ring true or fall flat. If you find you have trouble in this area, take a break and go out and listen to how people speak. Watch a few movies you enjoy and really listen to the words. It’s interesting how informal and “improper” the dialogue can be!

Once you’ve worked out the major kinks, you can review your manuscript for errors in grammar and punctuation. I’d recommend hiring one or two editors to look at your story with fresh eyes. It’s always good to have a detached person review your work. If you’d like to learn more about the different kinds of editors, check out my article Different Kinds of Editors.

When you need a little help writing a book

People reach out to me when they can’t write a book on their own. It isn’t easy to write a 200- to 300-page book. For first-time authors (as well as well-educated and talented authors) the task can seem mammoth. People sometimes start, then get caught in the middle of one of the above stages and falter. They find that writing a book is much harder than it appeared when they first started the project. If this happens to you, don’t despair. There are options, steps you can take to complete your book.

Hire a writing coach

The process of writing a book is not really taught in high school or college. If you talk to seasoned writers, you’ll find they uniformly say they learned their craft from experience. I believe that authors learn how to write a book by reading and writing and reading and writing and…(you get the picture). When you’ve written a few hundred thousand words, that’s when you will find your voice.

So, if you want to write and publish your first book this year, what do you do?

One option is to hire a writing coach. She will charge by the hour to assist you to organize your thoughts and ideas and break through the mental blocks that are stopping you from making forward progress. This is a great solution for writers who are doing well overall, but just need an occasional helping hand.

Hire a friendly ghostwriter

hire a friendly ghostwriterIf you are having great difficulties and it seems like you may not be up to the task of writing your book, consider hiring a professional writer, a friendly ghostwriter like me, to help you. I will get the job done for you.

On the other hand, if you are one of those talented writers who just needs a little assistance, hire someone to edit and make minor rewrites. A professional ghostwriter can act as a manuscript doctor, helping to troubleshoot your book and debug any issues.  For instance, he or she can assist you with character development and story line, while keeping your voice intact.

It isn’t cheating to hire a ghostwriter

Some feel that it’s cheating to hire someone to write a book for them. After all, their name will be on the cover right? How can it be ethical to take credit if someone else wrote the book for them? Although I understand the concern, let me assure you, it’s done all the time. Hiring a ghostwriter is an accepted practice and you have the right to put your name as the author. After all, it’s your idea and really should be your book.

Having an experienced professional to help guide you through the book writing process will help you grow as a writer. It will give you an experience boost that will carry through to your second and third book. Your next literary adventure won’t be fraught with the perils of inexperience since you will have traveled these waters already.

Please feel free to reach out to me anytime. I’m here to help!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Hiring a ghostwriter

Should I Write and Publish My Memoirs

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

Write And Publish A Book in 2020

Imagine that you write and publish a bookAs we embark upon the roaring twenties, you’ll find that it is easier to write and publish a book through Amazon. You can pick any length, set your price and start selling copies relatively quickly.

Having said that, you do need to actually sit down and write the book. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.”

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

Start by jotting down notes

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

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

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

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

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

Example of an incidentIncident of a book: couple drinking coffee

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

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

  • Notes: Marge and Stephen broke up soon after this. Over the next few years, Stephen dated a few women, but broke up with each of them after six months.

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

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

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

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

Set a target and make it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schedule time to write into your day

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

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

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

Seek out helpful feedback

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

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

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

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

Find outside help

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

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

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

Get reviews for you book

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

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

In addition, Amazon has an Early Reviewer Program to help you find your first five reviewers. Your product must be sold for $15 or more and the program comes with a hefty fee of $60. However, for some this can be a good way to start out.

For all my readers who have the goal to write and publish a book in 2020, I commend you. It isn’t an easy task, but I can promise you it is a very fulfilling one. One for one, my clients have been thrilled when they hold their first books in their hands. While the journey can have a few potholes along the way, it also has amazing vistas and truly spectacular triumphs.

Enjoy the experience!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Write Great Dialogue

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

When You Shouldn’t Write Your Life Story

Writing a memoir Are you debating whether or not to write your life story?

Well, you’re not alone. I have spoken with many people who are considering the same, wonderful endeavor. Some are certain of their course of action, while others are still mulling it over, trying to figure out if penning a book is the right decision for them.

I love helping people resolve this question!

More often than not, I will strongly encourage a person to write their life story. This is especially true if their memoir would have an educational or inspirational aspect.

Is that true of your story?

Did you travel and gain insights into another culture, thereby shifting your worldview?

Or perhaps you worked hard to overcome a physical challenge, thereby discovering your own personal strength and resilience?

Maybe you persisted towards a goal, facing and demolishing great barriers, thereby unlocking your hidden potential?

These are the kinds of memoir themes that enlighten and uplift others. These are the kinds of stories that others want to read. Wouldn’t you?

Consider your audience

When you do decide that you want to write your life story, one of the first things to consider is your readers. Who will be your audience? Maybe the book will be only for your immediate family. That’s completely fine. Recording your personal history for your children, and your children’s children, is a wonderful gift.  More and more people are becoming interested in learning about their family heritage. Unfortunately, often the experiences that shape and influence the family are lost over time. By writing your life story, you are creating a legacy that can be enjoyed and cherished for generations.

Maybe you are one of those people who wants to share your story with a broader audience. That’s wonderful! There are a number of ways to do this. You could use a blog format, sharing anecdotes on a weekly basis, or you could write a full-length memoir.

As long as your life story has a good, inspiring message, you should find a way to share it with others.

Not every story should be told

Now this might sound strange, but it’s true: not every story should be told. Yes, there are times when I actually beg someone not to write their life story. As a professional ghostwriter, I know that might seem bad for business, but I feel strongly that writers should avoid certain themes in literature.

Here are some examples of potential projects that I have rejected over the last decade:

“I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.”

Revenge isn't a good reason to write a bookRevenge is a dangerous motivation for writing a book. It can backfire on you. Be warned that you might end up hurting yourself more than your intended target.

Remember, when you put something in writing, it becomes a permanent record. You can never completely take the harsh words back. Your unkindness is out there for all eternity, for many readers to view over and over again. Also, consider that you might want to make peace with the person you maligned. Will he be able to reconcile with the person who maligned him so publicly?

Writing a book to hurt someone else, even if you feel it is justified, is always a bad idea.

“I’ve lived a horrible life.”

This might surprise you, but I’ve received a ton of memoir requests from people who have lived a life of misery and despair. For instance, their childhood might have been filled with abuse. Then they married another abuser and continued the pattern. When I ask about the purpose of their book, they usually say that it shows how one can live through anything.

While this may be a decent message for some, it isn’t really one to hammer into those who are trying to escape abuse. It’s true that not every story has to have a happy ending, but most stories, particularly the memorable ones, inspire us in some way. And it’s hard to be inspired when you’re reading such a depressing account of someone’s life. Most people would have no interest in picking up and reading such a book. Would you?

Even when the message is inspiring, there are some projects I won’t take on because of other circumstances or problems. Here are a few from my files:

“I want to become rich from this one book.”

While it is possible to do well financially with a book, it is very hard to make that happen with your first one. It really comes down to your marketing skills. If you are experienced in this area, you could do well. If you’re not, you’ll need to learn. There’s no way around that.

A brilliantly written book will not sell well if the author fails to promote. Even a publisher will not be able to work his or her magic if the author isn’t actively marketing his or her own book. There is only so much any publisher can do.

Even if you’re a marketing guru, you must have a well written book to sell. If you publish a book that breaks all the rules of writing and is littered with grammatical errors, you will wind up with poor reviews and negative publicity.

“I just can’t remember much.”

I completely understand how difficult it can be to remember details of one’s life that happened decades ago. Don’t worry about that. Still, a ghostwriter will always need a sketch of the incidents that formed your life. What you ate for breakfast isn’t as important as the fact that you dined with the Ambassador to France one day in Switzerland or you visited your Aunt in the hospital over spring break.

A few times this year I received requests to write a book from people who truly couldn’t remember any relevant stories from their past. Without those stories, there is no book.

Having said that, don’t give up your dream to write your life story if you’re having some difficulty recalling your past. I can often help people remember details through the interviewing process. It’s a fun perk to hiring a ghostwriter!

“My family and close friends would kill me.”

This is a common fear. When I have talked to client prospects to learn more about their projects and give them advice, quite a few have mentioned that they were worried about hurting the feelings of loved ones. This is a very valid concern, one that should be taken seriously. People like to be seen in the best light, and once you put your story in writing, it’s permanent. A negative or hurtful portrayal may cause upset.

As a ghostwriter, I can hide the identity of most people in your life by changing their names. George can become Pete or even Alice. I can also change other details, such as locations or career paths. However, I really can’t hide Mama or that eccentric uncle that everyone knows. Those close to you will know whom you’re talking about, and they might not like what you have to say.

“I’ve lived a boring life, except for this one incident.”

If you had, say, a near-death experience, it might have been very exciting and worthy of a short story or a newspaper feature article. However, if the rest of your life was relatively ordinary, or “boring,” most likely that one event won’t make for a good memoir.

A good book has dozens and dozens of exciting incidents. Now, a near-death experience would probably have quite a few good incidents connected to it, but it’s probably not enough to sustain an entire book.

“I don’t want everyone to know what happened to me.”

Woman looking in mirror deciding whether to write her life storyWriting a memoir is essentially putting your personal life on display for all to see. If you are concerned about others knowing what happened to you, it’s probably not a good idea to write a book.

Having said that, some clients who don’t wish to share their story with the whole world opt to write it for their family. This allows them to accomplish both goals. I love helping people become their family’s historian.

Another option is to fictionalize your story. It wouldn’t be classified as a “memoir” anymore, but it would be a way to get your story out there. However, keep in mind that there’s a good chance your family and close friends could still guess that it has something to do with you and your experiences.

As a ghostwriter, I normally encourage others to write their memoirs because I strongly feel that people often have a book or two within them. It may be that your life story shouldn’t be the subject of your book. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still have something valuable to say. Maybe you can share your niche area of expertise with others, or perhaps you have an idea for a science fiction novel. Fantastic! I can help you write those kinds of books as well.

If you’d like to explore hiring a ghostwriter, please email me. I’ll give you my honest advice and direction.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

 

Should You Hire A Local Ghostwriter?

Man looking for a ghostwriter on the internet
Andrew Scott / Foter

You may be wondering if you should hire a local ghostwriter, someone who lives near you. This is a valid question, and I hear it a lot. I think it’s because whenever you see a ghostwriter in the movies, he is practically living with his client.

However, reality is much different than these fictional portrayals; none of my clients are local. They live all over the world. We correspond via email and talk regularly on the phone. Sometimes we Skype.

Having said that, if it is convenient to meet up with my client in person, I will. It just isn’t necessary for the project’s success. The fact is, when I’ve met my clients, it’s usually been with the book was finished.

Why limit your choices?

There are internet articles that advise you to always hire a local ghostwriter. I’m not sure why people suggest this, but there are people who fervently hold onto that idea. I’ve actually had prospects (potential clients) refuse to talk to me because I wasn’t in their area.

This concept of only hiring someone locally severely limits your choices, which could hinder your project. Truthfully, unless you live in a major city, you probably won’t find a qualified ghostwriter in your area. Most likely your ideal writer for your book lives clear across the country from you.

With nearly two decades of experience under my belt, I can tell you it just isn’t necessary for a ghostwriter to walk where you’ve walked, personally tour the towns or buildings where your story takes place. Locations can always be researched on the internet. Sometimes I find amazingly detailed photographs and videos of an area, which help paint the picture along with the descriptions provided.

Qualities to look for in a ghostwriter

Finding the right ghostwriter might take some time. It’s a very personal choice, one you shouldn’t feel pressured into making. When you do choose a writer, make sure that you really like her because you will be working closely with her for many months.

Since hiring a local ghostwriter isn’t important, I want to spell out attributes that do matter and that are keys for success. Here are some qualities to look for in a ghostwriter:

  • Great writing ability. Hire someone who writes in a way you enjoy reading.
  • Excellent communication skills. Make sure that you are comfortable talking with her.
  • Professional behavior. Some good writers have no idea how to run a business. Make sure she answers your questions and respond to queries quickly.
  • Reliability. Select a writer who can meet a deadline and work through difficulties.
  • Within your price range. The cost of a ghostwriter will vary from writer to writer. Find one within your budget.

If you absolutely feel you need to meet your ghostwriter in person (and Skype will not do), you can always fly out to her or fly her to you. It will cost extra, but it is a viable option.

Research your ghost

research a ghostwriterSome people feel they need to meet a person face to face to know whether or not he can be trusted. While I agree that this helps, internet research is much more effective for spotting a con man.

Someone who is trying to rip you off will have no internet presence. He will not have a website or a blog, nor will he have a media page. Testimonials are key to establishing trust in a ghostwriter. After all, what other people have to say about someone is more pertinent than what he has to say about himself, right?

Another trick is to type the ghostwriter’s name into a search engine with the word “scam” or “complaint” and find out if there have been problems with that person. Of course, there might be numerous people by the same name, but if you know where he lives and that he is a ghostwriter, it’s a good bet it’s the same person. I used this technique with a potential publisher before going into business with him. It saved me a heap of trouble!

So, what do you think – do you still feel you need to hire a local ghostwriter?

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Hiring a ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

There is no “standard” ghostwriting deal

Different Kinds of Editors

Eyes on your manuscriptLet me start by saying that every writer needs an outside set of eyes reviewing their manuscript. In fact, we all need the assistance of a few different kinds of editors to complete a book.

Writers will sometimes try to skip the editing process. Perhaps they wish to save the money, or they don’t want to receive a critique. Personally, I’d be lost without my editors! It’s impossible for me to catch all the errors in my manuscript. I rely on those outside professional eyes to point things out to me.

A good editor will indicate the good points, along with the bad. Becoming aware of both is equally important because it helps me be a better writer. I learn through each editing experience and improve.

It’s important to recognize that there are a variety of editors. Each has a role in helping you polish your book. While you might not need to hire every different kind, you should know the different kinds of editors, so you can select the best person to help you.

Developmental Editing

This is the big picture, large-scope editing. A developmental editor will not be looking for misspelled words or misplaced commas. They probably won’t even comment on them. Rather, they will be reading your book for organization and overall presentation.

Here are some points a developmental editor will correct:

  • Problems with flow
  • Awkward dialogue
  • Poor pacing
  • Holes in the plot
  • Any inconsistencies

Expect a good developmental editor to pick apart your book for overall flaws and ask some probing questions. Most likely he will point things out you haven’t noticed because you’re too close to the work. This process should be the equivalent of a good writing course in college, because you will learn so much.

Line editing

A line editor gets her name because she looks at each line of your book, each sentence, and analyzes it to determine if it works. She will look for errors, but she will also point out when a sentence can be tightened a bit.

Here are examples of areas a line editor will work with you to fix:

  • Inconsistent verb tense
  • Overuse of a word
  • Awkward phrasing
  • Redundant words

Your line editor will work with you to make sure each sentence belongs in your book. She will help ensure your reader continues to read your book through to the end.

Copy editing

A copy editor will do a light edit on your book, giving it that polish so that it sings. He reviews your manuscript and makes sure it’s accurate, cohesive and readable. This editor is very detail-oriented and knows the various (and latest) rules of grammar. Most are trained in a few styles.

A copy editor will fix:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Factual errors
  • Blatant inconsistencies

A copy editor will find and help you repair most of the errors, but keep in mind that he won’t catch them all. You’ll need to also hire a proofreader.

Proofreading

This is the final stage in your book writing process. Just before you’re ready to publish, a proofreader will review your manuscript and give you feedback on spelling, grammar, formatting, etc. At this point, they are really looking for typos or any little detail that isn’t quite right.

If you’re self-publishing, it isn’t wise to simply hire a proofreader, as they will not help you discover errors in continuity, flow, character development or anything of substance.

Now, having delineated all these different kinds of editors, I must say that in practical use, these roles can blur a little. For instance, a line editor will sometimes throw out suggestions that technically fall into the developmental editing category. Or a proofreader will sometimes add his or her two cents about the flow of your book.

As a writer, it’s important to know which kind of editor will best assist you with your writing project. It’s easier for you to hire the best person for the job if you know what you need.

If you would like help finding an editor, please let me know.

Here are a few related articles that you might enjoy:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

Character Development

Write Good Dialogue

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

What’s It Like to Be a Ghostwriter?

A good friend recently asked me, “Hey, Laura, what’s it like to be a ghostwriter? How does the world of ghostwriting work? How do clients find you?” I loved the questions. Thank you, David.

Question for a ghostwriterWhat is a ghostwriter?

Ghostwriters are simply writers who are paid by a client to write their books, but don’t receive any credit for their work. These ethereal creatures are rarely seen.

We work hard so you look good.

Over the years, a lot of people have asked me if I mind that I don’t get a cover credit. No, I’m cool with it. Why? Because I love to write. I love being part of the process for another author. It is an honor for me.

Now, I am also an author, with my own published works, so I don’t crave seeing my name on the cover of a book. I’ve experienced that joy!

What’s it like to be a ghostwriter?

It’s exhilarating!

Truly. Each project I work on is a fresh new adventure. Sure, some themes are similar to others, but no two authors have the same experience or the same message. In addition, each author brings their own unique perspective to the project.

I’m the kind of person who gets very wrapped up in my projects. I am fully engaged and learn a lot about the subject matter so that I become an expert in that field for the year or two it takes me to finish the book.

What do ghostwriters write?

There are many kinds of ghostwriters. Some specialize in screenplays, while others only pen memoirs. A number write novels or only write niche-market how-to booklets. Then again, many focus on ghostwriting articles.

I’ve ghostwritten about thirty books. Some are short stories, while others are over 400 pages in length. Most are memoirs.

I look for content when choosing my next project. I only work on books with positive messages which will help the author’s readers in some meaningful way. I also look for clients I can work with and who can easily communicate their ideas to me.

There’s a special bond that forms between me and my clients; I can’t explain it, but it is apparent when it is there.

How do clients find me?

Before I had a website, clients would just find a way to reach out to me, usually through word of mouth or some bizarre and extraordinary set of circumstances. Honestly, the whole process seemed magical!

Nowadays, most of my clients come in through my blog articles. They search the internet looking for help and find my page. When my clients find my website, something resonates for them and they stop shopping around and contact me.

I try to answer most emails that come my way, even if I know the writer can’t afford me or the project isn’t a good fit for me. If I believe I can help the person, I’ll reply.

Flexibility is key

flexibility in writing a bookA good ghostwriter is flexible. We have to be, because we work with a slew of different personalities and creative voices. The style and feel of one book will be different from another. It has to have the voice and spirit of the author to be authentic.

The needs of my clients also vary. Some wish a book written very quickly, while others require a lot of time to collaborate. Each relationship I have with an author is unique and I work hard to make the process enjoyable for each person.

I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on what’s it like to be a ghostwriter. If you need help and wish to chat with me, please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to help you write your book.

 

 

Options for Hiring a Ghostwriter

Man drinks a cup of coffee and considers hiring a ghostwriterDo you have a story to tell, but don’t have the time or expertise to write a book? Perhaps it is time to consider hiring a ghostwriter. Many authors do.

Your first step will be to interview several writers, so you can get quotes for your project. Take your time and get to know the ghostwriter before you sign the contract.

It’s good to remember that you have options. Discuss these with your ghostwriter and determine the best path for you.

There are a few ways to go:

Write a proposal

Do you have a nonfiction book (memoir or how-to book) concept that is very marketable? Would you prefer to have a publishing contract? Then your best bet is to write a proposal. In addition, when the idea is strong enough and you have an excellent marketing plan, you might be eligible to receive a healthy advance.

You can find examples and how-to articles on how to write a proposal online, but keep in mind that a publisher will be looking for certain components. If your proposal is poorly written or violates the basic rules, it will be rejected automatically.

If this is an unfamiliar arena for you, hiring a ghostwriter to write your proposal is your best bet. It typically costs about $10,000 and will include all the requirements, including two chapters of your book.

Self-publish

If you know that you can market your own book, self-publishing offers a lot of advantages. Many busy authors hire ghostwriters to write their books for them.

Expect to spend anywhere from $25,000 – $80,000 on your book. The price will depend on the ghostwriter’s experience, ability, and the size of the project.

You may get quotes that are below $10,000 and that might sound very tempting. However, a book written for such a low price tag will most likely not meet with your expectations. It will draw poor reviews, which is the kiss of death for a new author.

Write the book yourself and hire an editor

If you realize that you don’t have the budget needed for hiring a ghostwriter, you will need to buckle down and write it yourself. This is a reasonable option for people who are able to write.

If you need help, consider hiring a mentor to help you through the basics. A good writing coach can guide you through the steps and help you avoid basic errors.

For those authors writing a memoir or novel, I would also highly recommend that you pick up and read Digital Ink. Available on Amazon for just a few dollars, it will give you many important tips on how to write your book. Read it cover to cover.

Once you have finished your final draft, you will need to find and hire an editor to help you polish and correct any errors or inconsistencies. This service will cost a few thousand dollars.

Whatever option you pick, whatever path you take, understand that you will need to market your own book. You’ll need to have your own blog and be acquainted with all the basic social media sites. That’s a must for any author.

Writing your first book is a big step! If you are hiring a ghostwriter, make sure that you’ve explored your options and you have selected the right path for you. If you need help sorting through your choices, feel free to email me. I’m here to help!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Do you want to write a book about your life?

Do you need help writing a book?

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Do You Need Help Writing a Book?

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

Improve your writing skills

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

What should you write?

Anything and everything!

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

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

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

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

Hire a writing coach

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

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

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

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

Hire a Ghostwriter

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

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

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

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

How to Write a Novel, Memoir or How-to Book

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

After talking to countless people over the years, I truly believe that every person has at least one story to share. Do you? Perhaps you have an account of a memorable trip trudging through the Amazon rainforest with only a backpack. Or maybe your family immigrated to America a decade ago and found success through hard work. Or perhaps you wish to chronicle your meteoric rise in eCommerce in a how-to book. Then again, you might just want to let yourself escape into a rollicking adventure yarn set in a far-off galaxy. Whether fact or fiction, it is begging to be told.

In writing.

Within the pages of a book.

Now, how do you get the ideas out of your head and onto the page?

Create detailed notes

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Record your initial ideas for your book in a notebook or on your computer. Don’t worry about formatting, grammar or spelling at this phase. Simply put your thoughts down.

Personally, I always have multiple Word documents open when I’m starting a book: character biographies (useful for memoirs and novels), incidents for an outline, research topics, etc.

Memoir

Now, if you’re writing a memoir, I’d suggest jotting down everything you can remember about the places you’ve been, the people you interacted with, and the key events of your life. Close your eyes and see what images you can find, listen for the speech patterns of the people around you, smell the odors, taste the foods, and feel the textures. Write them all down. These details will help bring your memories to life.

Novel

If you’re creating a fictional world, let your imagination run free. The more vividly you conceptualize the characters and settings, the clearer your readers will be able so see them. It still helps to create notes, so you don’t lose your ideas.

Collect sources for research

Whether you’re writing a how-to book, a memoir, or a novel, you need to do research. Even if you’re an expert on the subject, you’ll need to delve into details. Every writer becomes a researcher! There has never been a book that I could write without doing extensive study.

Today, research is easy through search engines, but sometimes you might need the help of a library. In those cases, you’ll need to take good notes and jot down the names of the books you use, along with the page numbers, so you can find the information again or reference it later.

How-to book

When I’m writing a how-to book, and I’m forming my outline (or Table of Contents), I find it helpful to copy links into the document under the subsection when I find a particularly helpful resource. Trust me, weeks later, it will be hard to find that source again. Good notes save a lot of time.

Fiction

Research is a fundamental element for fiction writing as well. Your writing must always be authentic. So, if you’re writing about the Amazon rainforest, and you’ve never been, you’ll need to read dozens of references to be able to describe the environment accurately. If you have visited the spot, you’ll still need to collect information about the history, vegetation, and the wildlife of the area. Your experiences will form the story, but research is invaluable to fill in the gaps.

Determine your reader and messages

Before you can begin writing, you must figure out who your reader will be. As I have mentioned a few times in previous blog articles, your readers can’t be “everyone.” It’s too general and vague. Be specific. Your reader might be teenage boys who are interested in soccer or retired women interested in a ornithology. You can see how the communication would be much different for these two categories of readers!

Next you’ll need to hone in on the messages you wish to communicate. Do you want people to learn that hard work and personal integrity can overcome obstacles and lead to success? Or maybe you want to share how patience and loyalty are the basis for long-lasting relationships? Being clear about your message will help you align the action of your story.

Be true to yourself

Most of us speak differently than we write. I’ve noticed that some people can wax formal when they have a pen in their hand! They take out contractions completely and dust off their finest vocabulary in an attempt to impress. The reader doesn’t care about any of that. They are looking for your voice in your writing, not that of your eleventh grade English teacher. Be yourself.

Take the next step

Now that you have thorough notes and research sources, you are ready to begin carving out your outline. Then you can write your book. Carve out the time and avoid distractions! For more information on the next steps to take, you will find many articles about writing on my blog. I hope they help!

If you would like the help of a ghostwriter to put your book together, please reach out to me (whether it be for a novel, memoir or how-to book). The research and notes you’ve created will not go to waste. After all, ghostwriters will need good notes to help create your vision. Please contact me if you are interested in going this route.

Improve Your Writing: Feedback Versus Criticism

Writers flourish through constructive feedback

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

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

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

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

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

Feedback should include the good

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

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

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

Recognizing a nasty critic

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

man crushed because of nasty criticism

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

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

Mentors vs Critics

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

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

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

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

Take the bad feedback with the good

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

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

Why is it good?

What did you like best?

Was there anything you didn’t care for?

Did you understand everything?

These questions pour out of me.

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

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

If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, here are a few articles you might find helpful:

A ghostwriter’s fee: how do they charge?

So, how does a ghostwriter work anyway?

What Do I Need to Start with a Ghostwriter?

Write and Publish a Book in 2020