Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Today I’m going to outline what I believe to be the traits that make a perfect ghostwriter.
But first, a big mea culpa. I was scheduled to publish this post last Tuesday, and the blog, the day, the task, completely skipped my mind. I was in Houston, deep into several days of intense meetings when I got a text from our fearless leader, Janet Grant. “Where’s your blog for today? It never appeared?” Gulp! Thankfully, Janet stepped into the gap, or gaffe, and supplied you a fascinating replacement. I’m taking her scheduled day today and will take my regularly scheduled day tomorrow to explore the ways you can begin to do collaborative and/or ghostwriting.
So what makes the perfect ghostwriter or the perfect collaborative writer? Remember, we are using the term AUTHOR for the one whose story is being told or the one whose words and ideas are being presented. I’m using GHOSTWRITER and COLLABORATOR interchangeably because most books can be written by either. Sometimes I just use the term WRITER as well. And I’m using a masculine pronoun just out of laziness not out of exclusion.
Let me just list some of the qualities the top collaborators/ ghostwriters display:
Professional— The perfect ghostwriter must be a consummate professional since he needs to handle multiple personalities, meet deadlines, write flawlessly and do it all while leaving his ego on the table.
Experienced Writer— Ghostwriting requires a high degree of skill because the writer must learn to see the world through the eyes of the author and then communicate that in the voice of the author. He must leave his own voice out of the equation. It takes a deft ability with the written word to do this well.
Mimic— The perfect ghostwriter is akin to the impersonators we love to watch. He needs to study the author right down to his literary mannerisms and then turn that into a compelling narrative.
Project Manager— Many writers picture only the interview process and the writing of the manuscript but that’s just a part of each project. Depending on what kind of book, the writer may have to deal with an agent or two, a publisher, the marketing team, family members of the author, others involved in the story, lawyers, and more. If the author is a famous person there may be a whole entourage of scheduling people and assistants and. . . well, you get the point. The ghostwriter needs to keep all plates spinning to get the project in on time.
Proposal Whiz— Unless the ghostwriter is assigned by the publisher, the first step to landing a contract for the book is a proposal. The ghostwriter is usually either contracted to do this first step before getting a contract for the whole book or he does it on spec if he’s found the project himself. He needs to be able to create a perfect proposal and first chapters in order to sell the project to a publisher.
Builder— The perfect ghostwriter needs to cast a vision for the book and be able to build the perfect framework for the story. Most likely the author will relate the content in a chronological fashion but that’s almost never the best way to tell a story or write a book. The writer needs to take all the material and craft the perfect structure.
Editor— If the author already has a book or a rough draft that needs to be turned into a salable manuscript the ghostwriter needs to be able to edit his words and pick and choose the elements that will go into the finished story.
Legal Eagle— The ghostwriter is responsible for securing all permissions– not a simple task. He needs to practically memorize the Copyright, Permissions and Libel Handbook. When the contract is signed with a publisher the writer and author agree to indemnify the publisher against any lawsuits. That means you are promising that all your ducks are in line legally. If the author’s Aunt Minnie comes along with a lawsuit out of the blue because you forgot to get her permission, it’s on you.
Mediator— Many times the writer will need to be the mediator between the author and the publisher or the author and others mentioned in the book. Maybe even the author and family members. It takes the patience of Job to handle all those who have a stake in the project.
Counselor— When the writer is interviewing the author, the real story is usually buried deep. The story the author is used to telling is usually of the sound bite variety. The perfect ghostwriter knows how to keep going until the real material is revealed. It often comes with deep emotional cost and the writer needs to be able to deal with the fallout. It may take several days before he can get back to further interviews with the author. He needs to know how to build a trust relationship and leave room for tough interactions.
That’s only a part of what it takes to be the perfect ghostwriter. Is it any wonder that the best collaborators are in high demand?
So now it’s your turn. What did I miss? At which one of these do you excel? Which gives you hives? Let’s talk.
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