The Multi-Voice of the Ghostwriter

snowflakes

How is it that I can write in your voice? I mean, it’s not like I’ve known you my whole life or anything. It’s also not that there are only a few different voices in the world, and I’ve simply memorized them. Nope. We’re all snowflakes, thank goodness, so writing in someone else’s voice requires intuition, and you can’t be tentative about it. You’ve got to get in there, and inhabit someone else’s head. Talk the way they talk, care about the things they care about, convincingly.

It’s a lot like acting. You have a sense of who your character is and you channel that. Brooklyn_Museum_-_Actor_Reading_a_Scroll_-_Utagawa_Toyokuni_III_(Kunisada)You figure it out the same way you would if you were playing a certain role in a movie. How does your character fit into the world? How do they dress? What’s their favorite food? Where did they grow up? What’s most important to them? How do they feel in your mouth? I’ve made it sound like sex, just there, and of course it’s not, but it IS intimate. I swim around in your head, collecting ideas and then dress the ideas up in the clothing of the persona you’re trying to share with the public.

1200px-Kopfkrauler_schraegobenSo there’s trust happening, and my job is to help you give me access to your mind and keep it feeling comfortable. That part is a bit like being a massage therapist, in particular when they use that  instrument to massage your head. I believe it’s called the Orgasmatron? Anyway, the interaction should feel good, satisfying, and for the most part, be easy. I think many writers are pretty shy, and their facility with writing from multiple points of view is a result of their lived experience being about observing others more than connecting with them. With ghostwriting, I write from your point of view, but the approach is different, because there’s an interaction happening between us, which is great because I don’t happen to be shy, so that collaboration is a wonderful antidote to the solitude of writing.

Lots of times I’m not particularly familiar with your area of expertise, so there’s lots ofmagnifyingglass detective work, which keeps what I do intellectually challenging. I enjoy research and learning. The process of going from having only a very basic idea of what you do, to getting my bearings on the landscape of your field and figuring out how you fit into it, is great fun for me. Reading material on similar topics from the publication that will feature your work, is helpful, especially when it comes to adopting the proper professional vernacular and writerly flow. Talking on the phone, exchanging emails and meeting up in person are also useful in helping me understand your voice. It’s all part of fleshing out this character (you) that I’m going to become for a while.

However, even if you’ve never published, even if we’ve never met in person, or spoken on the phone, I can work out how to write in a voice that you’ll be happy to call your own. Research, intuition, “listening” carefully and asking the right questions are the tools I use to create content to which you’ll confidently attach your name.

To find out more about working together, contact me here.

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How Does Ghostwriting Work?

So how does ghostwriting work, anyway? Let’s say I’m going to write you an article Screenshot 2015-08-19 at 4.39.54 PMand it’ll appear in FastCompany or Forbes. Most people assume that I’d require a properly organized outline and several research sources in order to get started. In fact, it rarely happens this way. In my experience, the process is usually pretty blurry at the beginning, and that’s fine. The first part of my job as a ghostwriter involves me helping you bring clarity to your ideas. Once the narrative is clear and we’ve got your ideas organized properly, I can write them into an article, post, chapter, etc. that’s fit for publication. The exact way this happens, depends on you and your thinking style.

Good writing is highly organized thinking, captured in words. There are many different kinds of thinkers in the world, and an experienced ghostwriter can massage the genius out of any number of client-types, who communicate in various ways. Some clients are phone people. Some are email only. Others require face-to-face meetings. Lots of my clients are super busy, some of them are fairly overwhelmed; all of them are smart, motivated and doing interesting work.

Here are just a few of the types of clients, I help. See if you can recognize yourself:

I’ve got it all right here, scrawled on napkins…Screenshot 2015-08-19 at 4.31.53 PM
These clients are usually highly creative and dimensional people, who are full of whimsy but sometimes a bit scattered. They tend to have lots of half-formed ideas that they’re extremely excited about. They work from a place of inspiration and often need help fleshing out and organizing what it is they’re trying to say. I start by having them take photos of their napkins and email them to me. Yes, I’m serious. Next, I transcribe the inspired napkin data and in doing so, begin to get an idea of where the narrative nuggets lie. I also start to get a feel for my client, via their handwriting, the flow of their ideas, even the napkins themselves tell a story. I create an outline and encourage my client to plug in further details and connections, which will dimensionalize and clarify the content further. From there, I draft and re-draft until we’ve got a publishable piece. Napkin clients are my favorites. Their free-form thinking style allows for a lot of cross-pollination in our collaboration. The enthusiasm and gratitude they show at seeing their ideas crafted into logically organized, compelling writing, always makes my day.

Could I take you to dinner?Screenshot 2015-08-19 at 4.43.12 PM
You like to hear yourself talk. Don’t worry about it, I like listening. I’ve found that generally speaking, talkers tend to be averse to the written word. Maybe you’re dyslexic or just don’t like reading. It’s fine. I love being taken to dinner. I enjoy all kinds of foods. My sense is that these clients become inspired by hearing their ideas spoken aloud. It’s invigorating, as if by saying the ideas out loud, they become real. My job is to absorb and translate the ideas into great writing. Students of literature learn how to do a “close reading” of a text. With my talker clients, I do a “close listening”. I’m scanning for data, sure, but I’m also gathering information about the tone, scale, and flavor of a piece. I take notes. I enjoy yummy food. I wave my chopsticks around a lot because it helps me metabolize your thoughts. In telling me your ideas, face-to-face and having me ask lots of questions, you’re reminded of even more cool stuff you wanted to include in your piece. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the Mu Shu. In any event, it’s synergy plus food. Yes, you may take me to dinner.

Can I send you something I’ve written that’s terrible?
These clients are often plagued by the notion that they’re crappy writers. Many of them have always felt this way. It may be that somewhere along the line, they were told as much by a teacher or mentor. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, but the main function of their believing they’re crappy writers, is that their writing is, well… crappy. Who knows how they’d do if they believed in their ability to write well? And the thing is, this client’s writing is usually not all that bad. With a bit of practice I bet these guys could write spectacular stuff, but I love helping, so I’m happy to work my editorial magic and turn their writing into material that hums and shines. If you’re one of these types, don’t be shy. I’m sure your writing is fine, and together we can make it as brilliant as you.

For more information about the ghostwriting process or to chat with me about working together, contact me here.

Next week, I’ll talk about voice, and how it is I’m able to write in yours.