Top 5 Ghostwrite Pro Posts for September

Often, I’m asked my advice for people who are just starting out as writers. My response is always the same. Conjuring my inner-Hemingway (and paraphrasing him), I say, “Just write one true sentence. Then write another. When you have no more true sentences for the day, stop.” What I mean by that is write something simple without flourish that gets your ideas out of your head and onto the paper.

I then follow up that advice with another great piece of advice I picked up from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Write shitty first drafts. Great writing, I tell people, comes in the editing, not the actual writing. If you’ve been writing for a while, this is nothing new to you. But I find for many people, this is unsatisfying. For some reason, people never want to hear that writing is hard work that takes years to get good at—if you get good at it at all.

Those thoughts lead us into our top-5 posts for the month of September. And while they may or may not be “good” (I leave that up to you dear reader), they are certainly read. Enjoy some posts you may have missed, and while you’re at it, post up your advice for beginning writers in the comments.

**As a side note, apologies for missing my post last week. I was in Seattle at a conference. I took only my iPad and was able to get much work done well and efficiently, with the exception of my scheduled post, which is a good follow-up to our most-read post for last month.**

How My iPad (Maybe) Makes Me a Better Writer

Building Your Platform: Tips from a Top Publicist

How to Impress a Potential Client Before First Contact (Part II)

Five Must Have Productivity Tools for Writers

Dealing with Sickness

[Photo by ilike]

The Importance of Outlining

The process of ghostwriting a book is a long and complicated one. Even for a veteran writer, each new project begins with trepidation. In our business and preparation, it’s easy to forget that for many of our clients, this is their first time working on a book project. If the feeling of being overwhelmed affects us as writers, imagine how it makes our clients feel!

I’ve found that one of the best things you can do to center both you and your client throughout the book writing period is to put in the right effort, time, and energy into the book outline. Continue reading “The Importance of Outlining”

Writer, Retreat!

So you may have noticed that I missed my post last Monday…or maybe I’m just dreaming you pay that much attention! First off, apologies for missing my post. I was on a retreat with some fellow pastors in Payson, Arizona, a beautiful wooded, highland part of Arizona that would make you question if you were really in a state famous for deserts. When we took off north from Phoenix into the highlands, I was confident I’d be able to use the downtime to write my post in the evening. But to my surprise the cabin didn’t have Internet access. In fact it didn’t even have phone reception! So, I couldn’t even type out my post on the infinitely frustrating touch keyboard of my iPhone.

In the end, it turns out the forced fast from technology was a blessing in disguise. It’s been a long time since I’ve been completely disconnected, and I’d almost completely forgot what it felt like.

So, what I’m not going to do here is belabor a simple point, which is this: Get away from technology. Take a day or two to refocus. Reconnect with your soul.

You’ll thank me for it. It will make you a better writer.


See you next week.

When Backups Fail

I interviewed Marcia Layton Turner, an accomplished magazine writer, book writer, co-writer, ghostwriter and founder of the Association of Ghostwriters this past  Monday. The 23 minute mp3 file took about an hour to transcribe. I spent another hour fact-checking and searching for some tasty links to cross-reference choice bits of the interview. Tuesday, I spent an hour reworking the document and turning some questions and answers into a narrative paragraph that set up the piece quite nicely.  Today, Wednesday, about 45 minutes ago, I was just about to log on to to post my piece, when the screen on my 2005 iBook G4 mac froze.

Continue reading “When Backups Fail”

Write Slowly to Connect With Your Audience

I’m preparing a talk that I’ll be giving at my church on Father’s Day. Being a writer, I’m obviously more comfortable with the proverbial pen and paper than I am with public speaking. In fact, it kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies.

A classic over-preparer for things that are new to me or intimidate me, I’ve been on a tear, reading a number of public speaking books. I’m currently reading a book by Andy Stanley entitled, Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication. While the book is geared towards preachers, it offers valuable insights for anyone who communicates for a living.

The heart of Stanley’s message is this: There are two types of communicators—those who are concerned with their information and those who are concerned with their audience. Continue reading “Write Slowly to Connect With Your Audience”

The Ghost of Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer”

(A scene from Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” with Ewan McGregor)

What follows is part I of my ghostwriter’s take on the shooting script for the movie, “The Ghost Writer”. This is where you’ll want to stop reading if you’ve not seen the movie. In the very next paragraph I give details you may not want to know about out of context. Last warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Continue reading “The Ghost of Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer””

Five Ways to be a Rock Star Fact Checker

One of the reasons we’ve created this blog is because Ghostwriting is one of those get thrown in the deep end kind of jobs. There’s no university or vocational program that can prepare you for working as a ghostwriter. The only way you learn is by doing—often very clumsily at first.

For those of us who’ve taken the hard knocks along the way, I think it’s important to share those lessons with up-and-coming ghostwriters. Most likely they’ll still make the same mistakes, but at least they’ll be able to look back and say, “Ah! That’s what you were talking about.”

One of the biggest lessons I learned on my first big contract with an author whose book was picked up by a major publisher was the importance of fact checking. Once the publisher pressed me on a few claims given to me by the author, I realized that much of what an client serves up as fact is wrong at best and distorted at worst.

Since then, I’ve had a hard-and-fast rule: Don’t trust anything your client claims as fact at face value. Always fact check.

Fact check everything, including direct quotes from newspapers and magazines. Don’t trust that your client took the time and care to get it right. Clients don’t (generally) get it wrong on purpose, but they just have other things to do. That’s why they hired you. They think in ideas and concepts, not in minutia. That’s your job. Well, both are your job…but the minutia is especially your job.

Along the way, I’ve picked up some neat tricks to make you a great fact checker—and a fast one.

Continue reading “Five Ways to be a Rock Star Fact Checker”

Five Ways to Successfully Capture Your Author’s Voice

Perhaps the most daunting task of a ghostwriter is nailing your client’s voice. The ability to become a literary chameleon is what separates the great ghostwriters from the rest.

There’s no formula to being a great mimic. Capturing a client’s personality and idioms requires careful study and a great ear. You must be able to pick up little details, phrases, and pacing that other people blissfully ignore in day-to-day interactions.

When I talk to clients, their #1 concern is often the subject of voice (well…after money). They’re concerned those who know them best will be able to tell they didn’t write the work—and rightfully so.

Part of making the sell to a potential client is being able to on one hand assure them you’ll sufficiently represent the core of who they are in your writing and on the other hand calm their fears that people will see through it all. The reality is that people aren’t good readers, and with a few well-placed phrases and idioms, they’ll buy the illusion of authorship.

But the fact that most people can’t tell an author has hired a ghostwriter doesn’t mean we can produce sup-par work and skimp on the work required to nail a client’s voice.

Here are five simple methods I employ with clients in order to successfully morph my writing style to fit their personality. Continue reading “Five Ways to Successfully Capture Your Author’s Voice”

Writer Got Back…Pain

OK. Now that my title has got that Sir Mix-A-Lot song stuck in your head, I can safely assure you that I’m not writing a blog post on writers’ butts this morning.

No, this morning’s post is on something even nearer and dearer to my heart—my actual back.

Last Monday morning, just after I hit the publish button on my “Why You’re Not a Writer” post, I completely locked up my lower back. I mean it was toast.

Here’s how it went down. I was just getting out of the shower, had my leg up on a stool, and was drying it off when I coughed. And that’s all she wrote. I felt a sharp twinge in my lower back, I hit the deck, and the spasms kicked in.

It hurt like hell.

I spent seven hours on the floor Monday morning. I could hardly move without pain, and standing up was out of the question. I tried to get some work done, but it hurt too much to have my head propped up to read the screen. I was completely immobilized.

As the week went on, I slowly got better. Today, I’m still stiff, but I’m able to be up and about, and I can sit at my desk again with relatively little pain.

But I learned a valuable lesson this week: As a writer, you’re nothing without your back.

Continue reading “Writer Got Back…Pain”