People from all around the world email me each week with a strong desire to write a memoir. I love these requests! Memoirs and autobiographies are so important as they record a slice of history. As readers, we can all really benefit from these books in so many ways. After all, when we are given the freedom to step into another’s shoes for a few moments, we often comprehend life a little better. I know I learn a lot by reading a good memoir.
So, how do you go about writing your life story?
First, understand that a memoir isn’t purely a list of chronological events. I was born… then I ate cereal on the 22nd of September…then I… No, I think we can all agree this is boring and would be a memoir mistake. Yes, you will include dates and it’s best not to jump around the time line like a crazed kangaroo on frosted coco sugar squares, but we need to find the right stories to share.
Find your purpose to write a memoir
Why do you wish to write a memoir?
Yes, this is important. You must know your purpose and then you must communicate that to your readers.
Having been a memoir ghostwriter for over twenty years, I can share a few purposes my clients have shared over the years:
“I wish to share my story with the next generation.”
“I have important information to impart to my readers.”
“I have lived a full, rich life and feel others might enjoy reading about it.”
“Through perseverance I have succeeded and I feel others can learn from this story.”
Of course, there are many more, but these give you a few ideas.
Now, in contrast, here are some examples of bad reasons to write a memoir. In my opinion, these purposes should be avoided at all costs:
“I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.”
“I want to brag about how great I am.”
“I’m angry at the world and I want my readers to know it.”
Again, these are just a few examples, but you get the idea.
Your reader will be able to discern your purpose easily, and will throw your book away like a hot potato if they sense your motive is off. You have to be honest with yourself here, as there is no fooling your reader. They’ll know.
Find the purpose of each scene
Now that you have your purpose firmly in mind, it’s time to sit down to the first draft. I suggest that you begin by jotting down the summaries of important events that brought you to where you are today. Just a few lines that communicate the incidents to you. Trace your journey through these key incidents, so that you can lay out the breadcrumbs that others may follow.
As you identify these segments, remember the purpose of the book as well as the scene that you are writing. If you can’t identify a purpose for an incident, toss the scene. Be ruthless about this. Here are a few examples of a good purpose for a scene:
Introducing an important character
Showing a turning point in some key aspect of your life
Demonstrating an error you made
Sharing a realization you had
When done correctly, the various incidents will fit together like an intricate puzzle, a beautiful work of kinetic art. They flow seamlessly. One question that will help you determine whether any particular incident should be included is: Does it help move the story forward? Make sure it does.
Uncover your themes
As you write the summaries of these scenes down, observe what the emerging themes might be. Consider the lessons you’ve learned, which you wish to impart to your readers. Some examples of powerful and effective messages that I’ve recently seen are:
Hard work can overcome many obstacles.
Don’t hold on to anger. Forgive.
Practical experience is essential for any entrepreneur.
Failure is always part of success, if you learn from your mistakes.
It can take time, but through this process you will discover your messages and write a good memoir.
Another tip is that you must always write with honesty. Tap into your emotions and communicate them. Use all your senses to describe what occurred for you in the past. That way your reader will feel what you felt. If you do it correctly, your reader will experience your life as if they had been there alongside you.
Enjoy the process! And if you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
So, you’ve got an epic book idea and you dream of getting it published, but you haven’t been able to find a way to complete it. Do you need help? Hiring a ghostwriter can certainly bring that dream to fruition. But how do you find a ghostwriter? It’s tough to know who to hire, who will be the person to see your project through to the end.
Just doing a search in Google for the term “ghostwriter” will provide a myriad of results. Many of the companies you’ll find are large firms that subcontract out to thousands of writers. It can be a bit overwhelming if you have no clear plan of action in place. Here are a few tips to help you make sense of it all and find a ghostwriter to be your voice.
Avoid cheap writers
There are freelance sites like Fiverr, where you can find someone willing to do the job. They charge much less than the market generally demands. While that might sound appealing, you should be hearing the faint echo of blaring warning sounds. If you know that the average ghostwriter bids $15,000 to $60,000 to write a full length book, and requires six to twelve months to complete the project, it doesn’t make sense for someone to bid $500.
There’s a reason for the low bid. If you hire someone for a tenth the price, you’ll wind up with a subpar product. Trust me, you will need to rewrite the book once it is delivered. However, at that point you’ll probably be frustrated and will be less likely to continue. Chances are the book will never get written.
The best strategy is to:
Establish your budget
Finding a ghostwriter starts by finding your budget. You need to know what you can spend before you start looking.
Don’t be shy about discussing your budget early on in the conversation with your prospective ghostwriters. I’ve noticed that some authors hesitate to tell me what they want to spend when I consult them. Sometimes they just don’t know.
If you only have a few thousand dollars, you’ll need to write the book yourself and hire an editor. Editors range from $1,000 – $5,000, depending upon what kind of editor you hire. Check out my article: Different Kinds of Editors to learn more about this area.
If you only have a few hundred dollars, you can hire a writing consultant by the hour. If you need a consultant, please feel free to contact me.
Know your budget before you begin your search to find a ghostwriter.
Check work samples
If you have a budget to hire a ghostwriter, it’s time to do a little research. Be sure to check their work samples and any books they may have published ahead of time. Do this prior to contacting them if possible.
There is no better indicator of the type of work someone can produce for you than the work they have already published. Professional writers have varying styles. Find a writer who writes in a style you and your readers would enjoy reading. If you don’t like the writer’s samples, chances are you won’t like how they tackle your book.
Establish a rapport
Once you get through the initial stages of research and are drawn to a particular ghostwriter, take the time to talk to her. The writing process is a very bonding experience. Most likely, you’ll be immediately drawn to the right writer. If not, keep looking.
Remember you will work closely with this ghostwriter for the next year or so. If you’re writing a memoir, you’ll need to open up to her and share very intimate details. If you don’t have a strong rapport right from the start, the book will reflect that.
Once you find the right writer, start immediately. Don’t put it off.
It’s been my experience that whenever a client puts off a project too long, the project never gets completed. It is rare that someone postpones for more than a month and then does what is required to publish a book. Keep in mind that it will take about a year to write your book and then another few months to self-publish it. When you consider that, now is a good time to start!
Finding a quality ghostwriter to deliver your book doesn’t have to be a haunting, I mean daunting task (a little friendly ghost humor). I am always happy to answer all of your questions and give you advice about the ghostwriting process.
Many people desire to record their family’s history. If you feel strongly about this, I recommend that you appoint someone to be the family historian. That person must record the stories of the individual family members and relay them to the future generations so they can learn and grow from the experiences of their ancestors. We all benefit from our family history.
When we uncover how our family struggled through hardships to get where they are today, when we really understand their viewpoints, it often answers questions we’ve asked ourselves about them, such as why grandpa responds the way he does or what makes Great Aunt Trudy hold onto certain idiosyncrasies. In addition, this knowledge can also explain our roles in our family and community.
There are many different ways you can preserve family memories. If you have zillions of photographs, perhaps a scrapbook format would work. Some people build and bury a time capsule. Others gather all the recipes handed down through the generations and create a cookbook.
Now, if your family’s story is an action-packed adventure tale, a book is the only way to truly do it justice. I know that writing a book can be quite an undertaking, but it is the surest way to immortalize your family story for the millennia to come. And this is where I come in. When you need help to write your family history in book form, call on me, your friendly ghostwriter.
Here are some tips to you get started.
How to format a family history book
If you’ve decided to write your family history, you might not know where to begin. After all, you have generations of memories and anecdotes to choose from. The first step will be to determine the focus of the book.
Will it center around one ancestor sharing his or her story?
Or will it detail a single event that influenced the course of the entire family?
Or perhaps you want to share multiple viewpoints of a generation that set the stage for the present-day condition of your family.
Once you decide on the focus, the next decision is easier: the type of book to write. No matter which focus you choose, there are really only two main formats open to you:
If the story highlights one individual sharing an exciting adventure from the annals of her past, you’ll want to choose a memoir format. While other important people will be featured in your book, the story will be told through that one family member’s eyes. It will give the reader insight into her unique viewpoint.
I must say, by far the most common request I receive is to write a memoir. Each book is so different, because each client has his or her own voice, message, and purpose for writing their book.
For instance, one book I wrote a couple of years ago featured a young Jewish girl who needed to separate from her family in Europe and pretend to be a devout Catholic to escape the Nazis. Although the experiences of her brothers and sisters are shared throughout the book, they were told through the eyes of the preteen.
Tip: If you write a book in a memoir format, it will need to be written in the first person. This means that the main character will need to be present in each scene. After all, she couldn’t have experienced the incident if she wasn’t there.
If your family story is more of an ensemble piece, with many different people all playing an equal role, I’d suggest you stick with a narrative format. That way you can pick and choose the stories and people to focus on.
For example, I wrote a story for an author who escaped communist Hungary on foot with his family. Since he was a toddler at the time of the Hungarian Revolution, it didn’t make sense to write it as a memoir. Instead, the story revolved around his parents and older sister, but included him throughout.
Tip: When using a narrative format, you’ll write the book in the third person. Since you’ve chosen this format because you have multiple stories to tell, I’d recommend a multiple third person limited viewpoint (where you alternate between the viewpoints of different characters from segment to segment).
The goals of a family history book
If you find you need help and approach me to write your family history, I will start by giving you an introductory interview. One of my first tasks will be to get your true motivation behind the book project so that I can help you achieve your goals. After all, when I can truly understand my clients’ goals, their objectives become mine and we are able to form a writing team.
Over the years, clients who approach me to write their family’s story, have two main purposes in mind:
To share their story with readers around the world
To write a book so their children’s children will know what happened
I’ve worked with both goals and love to help families record their history. I am so grateful when I’m allowed into a client’s inner circle to learn their secrets and stories and get to record them for future generations—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is an honor to become a family’s historian. It’s an important role, one that I cherish.
It might surprise you to learn that some clients hire me and have no intention of ever publishing their book. For instance, you might ask me to write your family history simply because you are afraid that your ancestors’ memories and the lessons they learned will get lost over time, especially after they pass on. Perhaps you want your future family members to never forget the events of the past.
This is a valid concern.
One advantage of working with a ghostwriter to write your family history is that you leave the door open to publishing the book, if you choose to do so at a later time. After all, goals and purposes can change. When you work with a professional writer, you can be certain that you’ll wind up with a marketable manuscript which follows all the rules of literature.
Appoint a family historian
I would be honored if you considered hiring me to be your family historian. However, I recognize that not everyone can afford the fee. In that case, I recommend appointing a family member to write your family history and become your family historian.
Find someone who is eager to embrace the events of the past. She will need to be patient and willing to wade through records and documents and be able to organize all the information. In addition, she should be an excellent communicator, who is willing to interview every family member and dig deep to uncover all the pertinent facts and memories.
Here are a couple tips to help your family historian write your book:
Tip #1: Capture a person’s exact words
It is important that you capture each person’s exact words. After all, each member of your family will have a different way of expressing himself. Jot down any idioms the family member might use.
Never correct his or her grammar. You aren’t a seventh grade English teacher. If Grandpa says, “ain’t,” keep it that way. It’s real and it’s part of what makes him Grandpa, right? Keeping his dialogue intact will allow future generations a better sense of who he was. Record exactly what each person says as they say it.
In addition, make a note of their mannerisms so you can use these when you describe your family members in your book.
Tip #2: Collect more information than you’ll use
When you write your book, plan to collect twice the material than you think you’ll use. It’s a bit like carving a work of art from stone. You need to start with a huge block of marble. Then you chip away at it until you uncover your sculpture within. With a book, you’ll need pages and pages of notes detailing adventures, challenges, life lessons, observations and the like. Within these pages you will find the golden nuggets that will help you write your family history.
Tip #3: Be open to learning new things about your family
While on this journey you will likely discover that your elders have lived through some amazing times. Some children have no idea what adventurous lives their ancestors have lived, or the hardships they endured. Perhaps your great uncle was a flying ace who engaged in dog fights during World War I. Or, it’s possible that you never knew that your grandmother escaped a brutal dictator on foot with her valuables sewn into her skirt. Or maybe various family members traveled to a variety of exotic locations and never told you. Whatever the case, you’re bound to learn a lot about your family members when you write your family history. Ask questions and be willing to take the book in new directions.
Tip #4: Select your theme
As with any memoir or story, your book will need to have one or more main themes. The theme you choose depends on the message you wish to communicate. There is no right or wrong answer here.
A few powerful themes you might consider are:
Drive and determination can overcome obstacles
Families can come in many shapes and sizes
Sometimes the only way to survive is to fight back
Be grateful for everything you have in life
Never give up, no matter how painful the odds and opposition might be
Tip #5: Use your senses
Now that you’ve determined the theme for your book, you will probably find yourself approaching it from multiple angles. Not only will you have a variety of viewpoints to share, but through the multi-generational events, you can show your theme using all the senses and perceptions available to each character.
For instance, I wrote the memoir of a man who grew up in a small one-room hovel without running water and electricity before achieving great wealth. To this day, he remains humble and is grateful for the simple pleasures of that early lifestyle, as well as the loving upbringing his parents provided. Together, he and I brought the conditions to life by not only describing the vistas but giving texture to the mud walls and sharing the tastes of his mother’s simple, but delicious cooking. Later, when his mother and father visited his mansion in California, the readers experienced the contrasting luxury along with his parents.
Note: The theme of gratitude was consistent throughout the book.
So, when should you start?
I mean it!
Time isn’t always on your side, especially if members of your family are getting on in years. So now is the perfect opportunity to talk with them. Go for it! And have fun!
If you need help, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you write your family history! Check out a few of my testimonials.
If you’re an entrepreneur, it makes good business sense to write a book. You have a lot to share with others and can really make a difference in the world by doing so. Entrepreneurs can be great authors.
I have a special spot in my heart from entrepreneurs. If you are one, know that I believe that you are so brilliantly unique and wonderfully essential to our society. We need more of you in our world, continually enriching us with your creativity and productivity.
I’m fully aware that you live and breathe your product or service. You give of yourself wholeheartedly and rarely live by the clock, because you love what you do.
After talking to many self-created business owners, I understand the challenge involved with building a client base. There are many techniques, but success always seems to boil down to entering the tricky world of sales.
Entrepreneurs and sales
Let’s be real, what entrepreneur can make a living while attempting to elude sales? That’s just not possible. Any business owner must learn how to sell the product of service of their company.
It’s safe to say that you must bite the bullet and embrace the inner salesman within you.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking about becoming a greedy, aggressive, pushy person who tries to force things on people they don’t honestly need. No, I’m talking about honing the intricate art of interesting people in the product or service that you provide. It’s just good business sense.
A book could probably help you sell whatever you produce.
That’s where ghostwriters come in.
That’s where I come in.
How many potential clients could you interest if you authored a well-written book about your niche-market expertise?
Be recognized as an expert
“Well, Mrs. Prospect, funny you should ask. The fact is, I wrote the book on that subject!”
There are only a few things that impress people more than this statement. And it holds true for so many types of business. Whether you’re selling gluten-free cupcakes or specializing in commercial real estate, you can draw in more clients if you publish a book on your niche subject.
Chances are, if you are successful, you could write this book yourself. As I keep saying to all you entrepreneurs out there, you can be great authors. You have the necessary talent and creative ability. However, let’s be realistic…
Entrepreneurs can be great authors, but rarely have time
Writing a book takes hundreds of hours. That’s why most successful entrepreneurs find it cost effective to hire a ghostwriter.
Basically, as with any business decision, it comes down to finances.
The first step, the first calculation, involves figuring out how many new clients you’ll receive when you author a book. If you hand your book to a prospect, think about the future sales. They are much more likely to become a client of yours, because you’ve gained credibility and earned their respect, which should translate to new business.
I’m not here to talk you into this idea, but if you’ve read this far, you must like the concept.
The next step is to calculate what sort of income you can expect from those new clients. Don’t forget to factor in your expenses associated with this new business. Let’s keep it real and be conservative.
Now balance that with the cost of hiring a ghostwriter. Plan for the project to take you a year or more to complete then add in another six months to a year to publish and market your work. Give yourself time. It’s not an overnight process.
If you’re ahead financially after five years, is that a promising investment for you?
If not, consider writing a shorter book. Most ghostwriters charge by the word, so that will cut down on costs.
So, what did you decide?
If you’ve determined to use good business sense and want to reach out and hire a ghostwriter, please email me. I’m interested in hearing from you, learning about your project. Please include your budget and time line, so that I can fully understand your needs.
Invest in yourself and others will be more likely to invest in you!
I’m telling you, entrepreneurs can be great authors!
If you’re part way through a riveting manuscript and are stuck, you might be scouring the internet looking for a ghostwriter to help you complete your project. So many first time authors have an excellent concept for a good, but need a little guidance to see it through to the end.
As you search for the right person, you probably will have a few questions. Let’s tackle a few of the popular ones. If you have others, feel free to write me directly and I will answer you back to the best of my ability.
Who typically hires a ghostwriter?
When someone reaches out to me asking for help with their book, I can tell that they often have no idea what to expect when looking for a ghostwriter. I understand, as mine isn’t a common vocation. In fact, most people I speak to about my profession seem surprised to learn that people will actually hire someone else to write a book for them (then put their own name on that book). Many authors hire a ghostwriter and it is completely ethical.
It’s not just the celebrities and politicians who reach out to hire a ghostwriter these days. Quite a few people hire me to write their life story simply to share their adventure with their descendants. In addition, many professionals seek out a professional writer who can put in the time and energy to put their vision on the page or bring their story to life. After all, it does take hundreds of hours to write a book. How many CEOs, visionaries, and entrepreneurs have that sort of spare time on their hands? And if they do, my bet is that they’d rather devote the weekends and evenings to their families and friends. Maybe travel a bit. Take on a new hobby.
What’s the cost?
No doubt about it, hiring a ghostwriter is an investment. If you cast a wide net, you’ll find a lot of different bids. Avoid the cheap ones, as those writers will disappoint you. A mid-level professional ghostwriter will charge anywhere from $15,000 – $60,000 to write a 100-200 page book.
Plan to put 25% down and pay the rest as the book unfolds. Never ask a ghostwriter to accept a deferred payment; they could never run a business that way.
Most often, the ghostwriter never receives any credit. We sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA), swearing secrecy for the project. Now and then it might be in the best interests of the author to give the ghostwriter a writing credit (such as a “with” or a “as told to” tag on the cover). And some gracious clients will give a kind acknowledgment in the back of the book, thanking the writer for their assistance. I am always tremendously grateful for such a gift. However, I personally never expect a credit and am happy to remain the invisible ghost for the book.
How does ghostwriting work?
My clients really become new writing partners. Most will provide me with a lot of notes, which will help me form a good outline. Then we’ll chat on the phone until I have all the information I need. Each client is different, because each author has a unique story to tell and everyone has their own style. Some clients require hours of conversation, while others have very cohesive notes right from the start. The process is almost always different with each person.
What is the ghostwriting process?
When you’re looking for a ghostwriter, I’d say that the process can be broken up into three phases:
The Research Phase: It’s hard to write a book without all the information upfront, so I like to dive in and immerse myself in the content before I begin writing. Once I have everything I need, I’ll write up an outline for the client. This will act as our road map for us for the entire process.
The First Draft Phase: Once the outline is approved, I’ll write the first draft. I often send pages as I write the book, getting feedback and approval along the way. Not every ghostwriter works this way, but I find it works well. I wouldn’t want to finish the book only to realize I’d misunderstood a key element.
The Editing Phase: After the first draft is approved by the client, I begin editing. I normally hire one or two editors to review the manuscript after I finish. The client is rarely involved in this stage as I would have already received all the feedback and comments in the previous phase.
Hiring a ghostwriter makes writing a book simple and easy. However, I should warn you, it does require some time investment on the part of the author. Still, we’re taking dozens of hours rather than hundreds. Plan to spend a few hours a week answering questions and reviewing pages. Most clients find the process rewarding and, in the end, they always have a book with their name on it.
If you’re looking for a ghostwriter, please email me, so we can put you on the calendar to get started as soon as possible.
It seems to me that most people have no shortage of ideas for a new book. Ask your friends. You’ll find many are mid some kind of novel, memoir, or business book. However, throughout the years, I’ve noticed that many people start a project, but most have trouble completing a book.
If you were to sneak a peek at the average laptop, I’d bet you’d find books in various stages of development. You might discover a completed outline for a business book, but no first draft. Or you could uncover fifty pages of a sci-fi novel dated over a year ago. Maybe you’d see detailed notes of various interviews of family members, but no memoir begun.
So, why do writers tend to push off working on their great ideas? The solution could be as simple as solving these three main problems:
Carve out the time
If you’re new to writing and it’s a hobby, I suggest that you establish a regular time to write, so you can go about completing a book. Even if you hire me as a ghostwriter, you will need to set aside this time to help me gather notes or review pages that I’ve written for you.
Find a time of day when you know you won’t be disturbed. You might like to get up a little early each day and write as the sun comes up, while enjoying a good cup of coffee. That’s my favorite time. Or you might set aside time at night, when the kids are asleep (before your eyes droop). That’s a good time to tap away on your keyboard with a nice cup of Chamomile tea.
Either way, make sure to write something, anything, every single day.
TIP: If you skip a day, don’t beat yourself up and stop. Just start again the next day. The most important thing is to continue writing.
Find a good space
Unless you’re one of the few people who thrives on chaos, you’ll want to have a dedicated writing nook. Somewhere around your home, where you can’t be disturbed, would be most convenient. If you can swing it, select a room with a door. Some people hang a sign out letting others know that they shouldn’t be disturbed.
I know a few writers who head for their library or Starbucks to get some peace and quiet. Others opt for the great outdoors, and they don’t even mind the occasional visits from beetles and spiders. It really doesn’t matter where you set up, as long as you can write without distraction.
TIP: Try out a few places and see which one works best for you.
Set doable goals
Finally, it is important to set regular goals for yourself. Professional writers always think in terms of words, not pages, because pages can be misleading. They’re too dependent on the font you use. Now, if you’re in research mode, time is really the only realistic yardstick.
It’s hard for me to give examples here, because the word-count target will really vary from project to project. Sometimes I can write ten thousand words per week, but that’s because I’ve done months of research (or I know the topic very well). Other times I’m happy to get two thousand words done by Friday.
Whatever your goal, set it ahead of time, and then do your best to reach it. The ultimate target is completing a book.
TIP: If you find you want to take a lot of breaks, that usually signals a problem. Maybe you don’t know which way to go in the story or you need to do more research. I have found that operating off a good, solid outline helps, because it keeps me on track.
Now that you know the three main solutions, you can set aside the time, find the right place, and reach the writing session goal you set each day. One of your first goals should be a finished first draft. Remember, it can be revised at a later date, so don’t worry about perfection. It takes hard work to write your book, but the rewards are well worth it.
There’s a prevailing myth that only celebrities and political icons hire ghostwriters. Well, that just isn’t true. We are actually contracted by many different kinds of authors. My clients have held various professions, and each client had their own goal. Their goal became mine, as I helped them complete their book project.
Having written over four dozen books for a variety of authors, I can tell you that no two projects are alike. So who hires a ghostwriter? Well, I’ve found they usually fit into one of five categories.
Business people hire ghostwriters
Entrepreneurs and industry leaders often hire ghostwriters to establish that they are the expert in their field. In addition, they often wish to author a book in order to strengthen their brand. It boosts their credibility to a new level. A book with their name on the cover will get them noticed, and it will help them expand their business.
Interestingly enough, selling their book is only one profit center for a business owner. I’ve found that most entrepreneurs write books in order to expand their clientele. For some, one new client means thousands in profit, so ten new clients can recoup the cost of their ghostwriter.
After talking to many busy executives and entrepreneurs, I’ve learned they usually don’t have the time to sit and write a book without a score of interruptions. Also, the average business owner is usually unfamiliar with the book writing process; it takes years of practice to hone that skill. Most don’t have the time to develop that expertise.
Someone with a niche market
If someone has a particular expertise, they might hire me to write a thorough how-to book, so that they can help others flourish in that field. Someone who started in poverty, who now owns a half dozen thriving businesses and is worth tens of millions of dollars should really tell her story, so that others might follow in her footsteps.
Or, if someone has a particular ability or skill set, he really should share that information with others. Maybe you’ve learned a new approach to gardening or have discovered new photography techniques. It would be a shame if that information were to be lost forever. I enjoy helping clients share details on how to start a variety of businesses.
Family historians hire ghostwriters
Most families have at least one person who is in charge of the collective memories of the family. They are the one you can go to when you’re trying to sort out the family tree. They are the person who remembers all the details of the stories that are told from generation to generation.
Family historians often come to me when they wish to preserve their family history on a permanent basis. Some choose to share these events with the world, while others simply want to let their grandchildren know how life was back in their day. I love to help families preserve their unique stories.
I think this category surprises people the most. “You mean people hire you to write novels?” Why, yes, they do! Sci-fi, drama, fantasy, young adult, etc. See, a lot of people have a nugget of an idea and need help fleshing out the story. Some clients approach me with a rough outline and the biographies of a few characters worked out, but don’t know how to tie everything together. A few clients have a hundred pages written, but the story doesn’t seem to flow from one scene to the next. They are detailed notes rather than a manuscript. Whatever the issue, I can help sort it out.
The most common request I receive as a ghostwriter is to write a person’s life story. Clients wish to share their memories in a riveting, engaging way. I must say, I love writing a memoir, as it often has the qualities of multiple genres. A memoir is most like a novel, in that follows all the same rules (you must develop your characters, create entertaining and realistic dialogue, etc.). It also often features a businessperson’s successful actions, sharing their niche market advice. And many memoirs succeed in preserving the family memories.
Some memoirs are fictionalized for a variety of reasons. However, most stick with the factual events and just include some embellishments. Either way, it’s my job to make the story a thrilling read, capturing the readers’ attention from the get-go.
Many different kinds of people hire me to write books for them. I’ve worked with retired people, business icons, medical professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs, and many others. They all want to either tell their story or share their expertise. It is my honor to assist them.
If you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. Check out the fee on my pricing page, so we can make sure that you and I are indeed on the same page.
Perhaps you’ve lived an interesting life and wish to tell your story. So many people have overcome adversity and are now succeeding in life. If you fall into that category, there are many who would like to read about your successful actions. Wouldn’t it be a great feeling to help others who are going through similar situations?
Or maybe you’re a CEO or expert in a niche area and wish to share your knowledge with others. This is also an admirable goal, one your readers will appreciate.
Some writers have a fictional story that has been on their minds for years. It needs to be written because not sharing it with the world just isn’t an option.
When authors have a burning desire to publish a story, but know they can’t write it themselves, they often reach out to me for help. When that happens, I’m moved. It’s truly an honor for me to help a writer achieve his or her goal.
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. Understand that 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 do something different from what they’ve been doing, or the book never will be written.
There are various phases every author must go through to write and complete a book. The primary phases are:
Writing the first draft
Although each author is different (and each will have their own process), I can tell you that these are the four main steps involved in writing any book.
Each stage tends to flow into the next. As an author and ghostwriter, when I complete most of my research, I am itching to organize all the information into a chronological outline. Then as I am outlining, there 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 becomes the start of the first draft and helps me begin to establish the style and voice of the book.
The research phase
Research is crucial for any book project. Even when you write a memoir, you still need to do extensive research. After all, you will require accurate details of the 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
If 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 a book. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend that you take a writing step forward without a good, detailed flight plan for your book. It’s the best way to avoid mid-air collisions. The last thing you want to do is waste time on a story line that just doesn’t fit into your 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. Do what’s right for you.
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.
Budding writers will often 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 completed. It might not be brilliant. That’s OK! Fine tuning your manuscript happens during the editing phase.
Set 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 steady progress on your story.
If you find yourself continually discouraged when you sit down to write, or if you tend to avoid writing in general, revisit your outline. There might be a flaw that needs fixing. 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? Are they realistic? 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.
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.
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.
Dialogue 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 pen a 200 page manuscript. For first-time authors the task can seem mammoth. People sometimes start out strong, then get caught in the middle of one of the above stages and falter. They find that writing a book is much harder than they had anticipated. 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.
There is another popular theory that suggests that if you want to gain expertise in a subject, you must put in 10,000 hours. There is no way around putting in the time to gain the needed experience.
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. I charge $145 per hour to coach.
Hire a friendly ghostwriter
If you are having great difficulties and it seems as if 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 charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite and will get the job done for you.
On the other hand, if you are a writer who just needs a little assistance, hire someone to edit and make minor rewrites. A professional ghostwriter can also 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 books. Your next literary adventure won’t be fraught with the perils of inexperience since you will have traveled these waters already.
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There’s no doubt, as a writer you do need feedback to improve your writing. However, you don’t need carping criticism. There’s a difference.
Advice is so vital for all 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.
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 or suddenly develop writer’s block and want to quit writing, ignore their “advice.” Trust me, they don’t have your best interest at heart.
Mentors vs Critics
So, how do you know if you’re going to be torn apart by razor-sharp teeth or if you might just get a kernel of inspiration that will nudge you forward toward great writing? It’s simply knowing the difference between a mentor and a critic.
Look for the purpose behind the advice. You can often tell if someone is trying to help or hurt by the words they use. Mentors will always point out errors in a way that makes sense and encourages at the same. They recognize every artist starts somewhere. Critics, on the other hand, have no such concern and can be rather harsh in their language.
For instance, nasty critics love to say, “Don’t quit your day job!” Boy, do I hate that invalidating phrase. What benefit does that little nugget offer? We all know we need to put food on the table, but everyone should expand their horizons and reach for the stars! Why not? Besides, if you don’t like your day job, it’s a good idea to work toward changing it, right? I mean, you should do what you enjoy doing in life!
You can also recognize good mentors, because they will read over your work and give you subtle guidance to improve your writing. They won’t overload you with dozens of problems to fix. Rather, they will focus on one common issue, guiding you toward solutions that you can discover on your own.
Take the bad feedback with the good
While encouragement is crucial to a writer’s development, it doesn’t help him or her to only get a lot of pats on the back. If you show your work exclusively to family and friends, they might not want to tell you how they really feel. They care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.
When I get feedback along the lines of “It’s good!” it might make me feel good, but I’m looking for more. I’ll ask a few questions like:
Why is it good?
What did you like best?
Was there anything you didn’t care for?
Did you understand everything?
These questions pour out of me.
Of course, it feels great to get rave reviews and hearty pats on the back, but in the end you need to also hear the bad with the good or it isn’t terribly helpful.
Keep in mind that the biggest way you can improve your writing is to write. Yes, that’s basic advice, I know. Any writer’s first words are an experiment in communication. Trial and error, along with research (reading good books) is the best way I know to learn the craft. Surround yourself with supportive people who will encourage you in that direction. If you find that someone’s advice makes you want to stop, just realize that they are probably a critic and find a new advisor!
If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, here are a few articles you might find helpful:
Congratulations on making the momentous decision to complete that book that you’ve been thinking about for years! Writing a book isn’t easy, so bravo! That decision is absolutely the first step. Now let’s tackle the next few.
I’m not here to tell you that writing a book can be made simple through a few steps. No, it will take time and patience. There is no way to even pen a short book in a few weeks. However, with a few preliminary steps I’d like to try to cut down on potential frustration!
Sum up your book in just a few lines
Before you can really start even outlining your book, you need to answer this fundamental question in a few lines: “What is your story about?” Then see if you can boil it down to a single line, a single breath. For example: This is a story about a young man, who rose from extreme poverty to become a successful entrepreneur. You know what the book is about, don’t you?
Why is this important? It keeps you on track. Plus, the themes, messages, and purposes of the book come out quickly from this simple one-line statement. It also keeps you from traveling down a divergent path. For instance, you might be tempted to devote three chapters of your business memoir to a failed marriage, designed to help budding entrepreneurs. Perhaps you’re hoping to get in a few good digs along the way. Well, that doesn’t really match your original concept, does it? So, toss it.
However, delving into an early business failure could definitely help your readers avoid the same pitfalls. Those stories would definitely be good to tell and would be important to your story.
Assignment: Write a one- to three-line summary of your story, answering the question, “What is your story about?”
What’s your purpose?
Why are you interested in writing your book? What do you hope your reader will gain from reading it?
As I’ve written a few times in my blog, if your purpose is to get back at someone, think again. That story just isn’t something worth reading. Another purpose that rarely works is financial. If you’re looking to make a million off of your story, and that is your primary goal, it won’t come out right.
By defining your purpose, you can help yourself stay on track. When you get into outlining, you can make sure that each scene, each segment aligns with that purpose fully. And if you find yourself straying, you can toss the paragraphs into a roaring proverbial bonfire.
Assignment: Write down your purpose(s) in writing your book.
What is your message?
It’s good to work out what messages you wish to impart to your reader early in the process. This will help you sort through all the information you’ll gather later, in order to figure out what will make the cut. It will also help you find your writing voice and determine how you want to tell your story (or share your wisdom).
For instance, one of your messages for your memoir might be about the value of perseverance. Another message could center around the importance of ethical behavior in business. So, the individual stories that will make up the book should center around these themes.
Assignment: Write down the messages you wish to impart to your reader.
Once you’ve finished these steps, you’ll be ready to start collecting notes, which you’ll use to create an outline. That will be the subject for the next blog article! Let me know how you did with the assignments above in the comment section below!
If you decide you wish to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d like to help. And if you wish to learn about my pricing, please check out my article on the subject!
Thank you and keep writing!
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