I’ve been a ghostwriter for twenty years and love what I do. I get to take on many different characters, such as a slothful worker in a futuristic world, a husband and wife who battled cancer and won, a teenage rebel in communist Hungary, as well as dozens more. I also get to share important knowledge that was once only known to an elite few in the form of a how-to business book. However, recording family history is one of the most precious assignments. I am always honored when asked to do so.
Whoever the project, I’m always grateful for the opportunity to help my clients write their books. And I learn a lot through the process.
People sometimes ask what the most common request I get as a ghostwriter. Well, that would have to be hands down a memoir. People want me to write their life stories and adventures. Each one is so different, and each client has their own voice, message, and purpose for writing their book.
Zeroing in on the purpose
When I interview a potential client, one of my first tasks is to get their true motivation behind the book project. That’s important for a number of reasons.
For one thing, I want to help them achieve their goals. Honestly, my clients’ goals become mine as we form a writing team.
One of my favorite aspects about being a ghostwriter is that I get to become a family historian. Recording family history is like becoming a detective in a way. It requires a lot of research, intuition, and interviewing. It’s an honor to be allowed into each client’s inner circle so that I can record their stories for future generations—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Record your memories
Many of my clients have no intention of ever publishing their memoirs. One beautifully vibrant elderly woman recently told me, “It’s just too personal.” In her case, she had me write her stories simply to understand and record her own life. She didn’t want her lessons to be lost over time. She wanted her daughters to know who she was. After all, if no one recorded her life, all those thoughts and lessons learned would vanish. It’s a valid concern. I applaud anyone who takes the time to write down their words, thoughts, and ideas for their friends and family. Yes, it takes time, but it is well worth it.
The advantage of hiring a ghostwriter to record your family history is that should you decide to have it published, you can easily self-publish on Amazon.com. It will be ready to go. There’s no obligation to have the final book published, of course, but why not give yourself the option of sharing your story with others when the time is right?
Appointing your family historian
While hiring a ghostwriter has many advantages, I understand that not everyone can afford the fee. If you can’t, I recommend appointing someone in your family to be the historian. Once selected, encourage and help that person interview every family member as in-depth as possible.
One tip I can offer the family historian is to capture each person’s exact words. After all, everyone has a different way of expressing themselves. There’s no right or wrong here, just jot down any idioms they might use and make a note of their mannerisms.
But whatever you do, don’t correct their grammar. You’re not their seventh-grade English teacher. If Grandpa says, “Ain’t,” keep it that way. It’s real and it’s him. Recording family history with integrity is vital for any successful book. Plus it will allow future generations a better sense of who your grandfather was. Note down exactly what each person says as they say it and use those words.
Through this journey, you will likely discover that your elders have lived through some amazing times. Perhaps your great-uncle fought in a war. Or your grandmother escaped a brutal dictator. Maybe various family members traveled to a variety of exotic locations you never knew about. Whatever the case, you’re bound to learn a lot about your family.
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!
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