July 18, 2016 admin

The Recipe for a Good Ghostwriter

Problem: you want to share your story, but you feel as though you don’t have the time or the necessary literary skill to be able to convey it properly.

Solution: Ghostwriter

Simple. Somewhat. Getting a ghostwriter is one thing; getting a good ghostwriter is another. Here’s what you’ll need:

INGREDIENTS

2 mugs of mutual understanding

1 generous serving of empathy

1 sprinkle of flair

2 drops of clarity

6 doses of stylistic transparency

2 clean ears

0 spoons of judgment

4 helpings of industry expertise

1 dash of wit

6 spoons of patience

1 bowl of curiosity

An inexhaustible amount of passion

 

What is a Ghostwriter?

Contrary to what the job title may suggest, no poltergeists need be involved. Typically, the ghostwriter’s role has been to assist celebrities in telling their stories to the masses. But the truth is that everyone has a story – not just those in the public eye – so the ghostwriter is not limited to celebrity autobiographies.

Ghostwriters are actually more common than you think. The ghostwriter has been behind presidents’ speeches, musicians’ lyrics, love letters, blog posts, birthday cards and books. It starts with simple supply and demand: you have a story, but you need eloquence and time to convey it. Your ghostwriter has the skill to transform ideas into words, but needs your material. Best results go beyond basic economics, however. Story optimisation requires both parties to truly compliment each other.

Still looking to learn more about ghostwriters and what their role entails, why not look at our article on ‘What is a ghostwriter‘?

So, without further ado, here is the breakdown of our recipe for one excellent ghostwriter.

 

The Ghostwriter Recipe: Chemistry is Necessary

2 mugs of mutual understanding

Sharing some common ground with your ghostwriter is highly recommended for the storyteller. The person you choose is going to be listening to and writing your story, and needs to do so with your voice – so it would be beneficial if he or she could relate to it in some way.

1 generous serving of empathy

Empathy is absolutely necessary in the making of a good ghostwriter. To get a vivid description from the storyteller’s perspective, the ghostwriter needs to be able to put herself in your shoes.

1 sprinkle of flair; 2 drops of clarity

A key for any good writer is style – that is what sets the writers apart from the scribes. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of clarity. The reader shouldn’t have any ambiguous question marks over ‘what exactly happened there’. Painting a clear picture in the reader’s mind is the reason a ghostwriter was hired in the first place.

6 doses of stylistic transparency

Whilst an accomplished writer should have his or her own style, it is imperative for the ghostwriter to refrain from imposing it on the storyteller’s voice. Paradoxical, we know. A literary shapeshifter, the ghostwriter should be able to morph into any of his subjects at will and tell your story as though there were no ‘ghost’ at all. The hint is in the name – otherwise they would just be writers.

2 clean ears

A good ghostwriter should be able to listen. He or she should be keen to understand your story, not interfere with it. A ghostwriter is there to facilitate the creation of your story, and bring it to life. They must be able to act as a soundboard and a sponge at the same time, absorbing all the details as told by the storyteller and then project them louder and clearer – without distortion.

0 spoons of judgment

You may be asking “why include something in a recipe if it’s not going in? You wouldn’t have ‘zero pieces of chicken’ in your cake recipe”. A true point but this one had to be included because it’s MASSIVELY IMPORTANT. A good ghostwriter should pass no judgments on his subject. People’s stories range vastly; your ghostwriter should understand this and take what is given to him at face value. He should be able to absorb the story objectively and understand it from the subject’s point of view. Zero judgment.

4 helpings of industry expertise

A ghostwriter will ultimately be professional. She will have probably had several years experience as a writer and will be familiar with the various intricacies of the business. A good ‘ghost’ will be familiar with the deadlines and have knowledge of the production process. This, in turn, allows for you to focus on telling your story without any stress.

1 dash of wit

I mean, if you’re going to be telling your life story to this person then surely you’d like him or her to have some humour. You know, to feel comfortable and all.

6 spoons of patience

The ability to listen and write well is null for the ghostwriter if it is not combined with patience. Sharing your life story with a stranger is a daunting task; there may be some very intimate memories that take a while to draw out. A good ghostwriter should understand this and allow the storyteller to disclose his or her memories at a comfortable pace.

1 bowl of curiosity

The ghostwriter should be curious about the project. Imagine something you loathe to discuss, something that upon engaging with would put you to sleep and then give you nightmares of dread. Now imagine having to write a story about that. Point in case, the ghostwriter should be interested in the contents of the story so as to be able to maximise productivity and input, and create the best product possible.

An inexhaustible amount of passion

To be good at any job it is almost imperative that one enjoys his work. Luckily, most writers are not in the business for money – but for their love of words.

You Don’t Have to be Scared of Ghosts

Remember, ghostwriters are in their jobs because of their passion for literature and writing, and their interest in other people’s stories. Your ‘ghost’ wants to understand your story, wants to help bring that story to life, and wants to have as little influence on the content as possible. It is in the ghostwriter’s interest to remain authentic to your story.

A helpful parallel is proposed by successful ghostwriter Andrew Crofts:

I’m fulfilling a similar function to a barrister in court, pleading the case of their client. I listen to their story and then tell it for them, helping to get across their view of the world and the way things happen in it.” 

Ultimately, a good ghostwriter is the perfect crossover between a nonjudgmental soundboard, an intent ear, a caring friend, and a passionate wordsmith. If he or she ticks all the ingredients from the recipe above then you know you are in good hands. Remember, the purpose of the ghostwriter is to facilitate the creation of a fascinating story that reads well. The role is no more, and no less. One last thing – don’t forget that you have the final call. After all, it is your story.

By David Blanga