How A Ghostwriter Works

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A Solid Foundation Begins With Background

ghostwriter, ghostwriting, Zara Altair
Ghostwriting is like being an actor assuming a role and then improvising. Just as actors do intense preparation for a role, a ghostwriter gathers information from the named author, performs background research and conducts interviews to prepare for the written text. The ghostwritten text will reflect not only the author’s theme but their ideas, core beliefs, tone, and style of expression.

For example, to prepare for his role in Eastern Promises, according to IMDb,

Viggo Mortensen traveled alone to Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Ural Mountain region of Siberia, where he spent five days driving around without a translator. He read books on the gangs of the vory v zakone (thieves in law), Russian prison culture and the importance of prison tattoos as criminal résumés, and perfected his character's Siberian accent and learned lines in Russian, Ukrainian and English. During filming, he used worry beads made in prison from melted-down plastic cigarette lighters and decorated his trailer with copies of Russian icons.

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

And just as Viggo Mortensen studied not only tattoos but the entire culture, including facial expressions, a ghostwriter needs to understand not only the big picture—the major theme of the work—but the subtle style of the author to create text in the author’s voice. Long before the writer begins to write, research is the foundation of ghostwriting that reflects the author.

A Collaborative Endeavor

For a book to reflect the named author’s intent, tone, and theme a collaborative relationship is essential. The skilled ghostwriter’s goals are to produce the best version of the author’s vision. To accomplish putting that vision into words, the ghostwriter often conducts recorded interviews to get a sense of your voice, style, and personality. Open communication between the author and the ghostwriter is fundamental to a successful book writing project. Communication, clear boundaries, and written manageable expectations are key to keeping the project on course to completion.
At times an author and a ghostwriter do not make a working team. At that point, the ghostwriter may not take on an author’s project. That is why the initial conversation is important to establishing the relationship. A book is a long project and communication is vital to keeping the project going. A ghostwriter will interview a potential author with the goal of establishing a working relationship.
Whether a book is written entirely by the ghostwriter or they work from the named author’s notes and outlines, a spirit of collaboration is essential for the project to go well.

Example

The client sought a bid for ghostwriting a book. I submitted a potential fee with my proposal. I needed more information:

  • proposed length of book
  • subject matter
  • amount of research done by author
  • estimated time for completion

I proposed a live conversation and we scheduled a time. On the live face to face conversation, I discovered that the author had:

  • a lively, vibrant personality
  • written a previous book
  • development notes and some parts of the book written
  • background research he could share.

We agreed to work on the project together.
Next, I tailored an agreement for the proposed project, the payment structure, and a nondisclosure agreement. Once the agreement was approved and signed, I began working on the book.

Beginning Work

I read the author’s previous book and got a great sense of his style which reflected his lively personality. His personality was essential for conveying a somewhat dry subject manner in an engaging style.
The essence of the book was a unique interpretation of an ancient text. I read all of the background research supplied by the author and began doing research to fill in the gaps. That was just the beginning. I needed to familiarize myself with the period of history—culture, myths, role of priesthood, attitude toward world order—to gain an overall sense of the background of the text. Then, to explain and augment the author’s theory, I examined other interpretations of the text, basic background research on another period of history, the history of navigation and navigational tools. I organized the parts the author had written into a coherent sequence.
I spent over 20 hours reading and researching. Then I asked for a second live conversation to verify my sense of what was needed before I started writing.

After our sessions, I began writing in the author's voice.  Just as author James Dickey gave Burt Reynolds a few days of bow and arrow lessons, and, by the end, Reynolds was quite proficient; by conversing with the author, I started writing in his voice.

Burt Reynolds

I can do the same for you.  

First Submission

Once I had written the introduction, and the first quarter of the book, I sent the text to the author to make certain I was conveying his meaning in his style. I wanted to give the author enough material to reflect the tone, style, and interpretation of the theory without going so far that we were not in agreement about the book.

The Process

Once we are in agreement and have the steps of the book (main points and chapters), my work is cut out. I write on a timeline and send chapters to the author for editorial review as they are finished.
Once you approve the final draft, the work is done. The author’s voice is ready to go.

Next Steps

When you book is finished, you’ll be well on your way to publishing. But not yet!

Editing – You and I are too close to the book to objectively edit. A good editor will get you book publication ready. I can help you find sources for editors familiar with your genre.

Agent – If you decide to pursue traditional publishing, the right agent will help find the best publisher. And, the agent will help you negotiate your contract including. I can help you write your book proposal and query letter for additional fees.

Online publishing – You will need to format your book for online publishing. Reedsy.com has a free formatting tool that eliminates the headaches of formatting the book yourself. I offer consultation on setting up your ebook with online publishers like Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and more.

Make Your Vision a Reality

You are the architect; I hammer the nails. As a ghostwriter, I give you everything you need to turn your idea into your book. I have developed the skills and habits that make writing your book possible. As a result, you will be ready to take the next steps to offer it to the world. Best of all, your idea will turn into the book you want.

Discover how easy and fun it is to make your book a reality. Let’s talk about your book. Get in touch to schedule a time for your free initial meeting. It’s as easy as starting a chat.

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