Ask a Ghostwriter: Beginning to Write a Book
Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I’ve never hired a ghostwriter, and I have no idea how I go about any of this, but I really would like to write a book on my life. Please could you give me some advice on how I even start the process, and also, I’m not very good with writing so I’m not sure I’d be able to write it myself. – Tony
Dear Tony, Your question is very common and makes sense. I can understand why the ghostwriting process might seem to be a bit of a mystery. I’ll tell you, whenever I take on a new client, the process is unique, because the author and written content are unique. However, I can share with you a few aspects that seem to occur with every book project I’ve worked on for the last two decades.
Basically, there are three phases: research and outlining, first draft, and editing. I go over these in more detail in my article called “What to Expect When Hiring a Ghostwriter,” if you’d like to read up on them.
As a first step, your ghostwriter will need to collect all the information required to write your book. In the case of a fictional novel, that could simply be understanding your core idea (which might not be time consuming). However, with a memoir, your writer will need to know everything about your life that is relevant to the book. This takes time and can be done in different ways. One is for the writer to interview you in person or on the phone. However, I find it is far more effective for the client to send me a lot of written notes (in rough form). After I study these carefully, I can follow up with emails and phone calls if I need more information or any clarification.
Please understand, when you hire a ghostwriter, you don’t need to write the book; you just need to provide notes. All your notes will be rewritten, so don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Now, some people prefer to work with the ghostwriter and write their book alongside them. That works, too! Again, each relationship is unique, but never feel you have to be a good writer to hire a ghost.
Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I need help and inspiration in surpassing the first eight pages of my book. I am sooo stuck… It feels as if I’m writing the same thing over and over, so I delete and delete, while continuously whittling my pages away. Also, I am constantly unsure of my grammar and punctuation. Any help is appreciated! – Ennayt
Dear Ennayt, Stuck in the mud? You know, I hear this a lot! You’re not alone; not by a long shot. The fact is, a lot of new writers make the mistake of cutting out words, then pages, as they produce their first draft. It’s important to let yourself go and just write. I implore you not to waste any time (and words) editing in the beginning. Allow yourself the freedom to create! Trust me, once you get to the end of your first draft, you’ll be better equipped to sculpt your draft into a book.
I’d also recommend that you not worry about grammar in this phase. Just let the words pour out of your mind onto the page. If you’re interested in learning more about the English language, I’d recommend reading a simple grammar book or checking out an online source like Grammar Girl. Start by learning one rule, then applying it. Then select another and so forth. Take it step by step. You may just find the learning process fun!
Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I would like to write an autobiography/screen play. This is something I have thought about for many years, but I’m extremely nervous how to approach this because of safety issues. I am not sure where to start. I would appreciate a consultation if possible. – Gen
Dear Gen, You bring up an excellent point. Honestly, I do think you have a right to be concerned. Once you put your story out there, you can’t take it back. I believe there are many instances when it just isn’t wise for someone to write their memoir. And it isn’t always safe.
Another point to consider is how a book will affect the people in your life. When writing a memoir, your characters are real people. They might not like what you have to say about them and if it isn’t handled correctly, the whole situation can blow up.
I always advise my clients to hide the people in the book as much as possible. For instance, it’s fine to change their names and physical appearances. The story will still be true even if the details are changed to protect the people involved.
Thank you all for your questions! Please feel free to write more in the comment section below or write me privately and I’ll do my best to answer!