I have to admit, I really like this time of year. Even though we have really just flipped to a new calendar, there is something that is refreshing about the beginning of January—starting anew, feeling rejuvenated—and if the onslaught of business at my company tells me anything, it’s that many people, especially would-be writers, feel this way too.
However, committing to writing a book or finishing a manuscript that has sat dusty in the corner of your office is one of those things, kind of like rededicating yourself to a gym membership come January 1, that can easily be forgotten about. But there is hope! With a little strategy, you can figure out how to write the book that has been swirling around in your brain and commit it to paper in 2013.
Perspective from a Ghostwriter
So, as a ghostwriter, I am regularly employed through the agencies I am affiliated with, as well as via private clients, to write books for other people. Believe me when I say it’s a booming business. However, I also get questioned by people outside of my profession regarding how I actually do this.
It’s funny, and probably a little sad, that ghostwriting books for other people is actually easier to me than finishing my own stories (I, too, have dozens of my own tales that have firmly taken up residence in my brain—most of them are largely unfinished). Don’t ask me why, it’s just my curse. But in any respect, here are some tips that I employ when writing for others:
- An outline is invaluable, no matter if you want to write fiction or non-fiction. Yes, it’s one thing to write off the cuff, and true, there are times when inspiration hits me and I can pound something out quickly on the keyboard. However, in order to be methodical in your writing, you have to know where your story is going. For instance, with one of my clients, I am typically sent an outline and character synopsis at the beginning of a project. The story from that point is up to me. I can be as creative as I want, but at least knowing where my (client’s) characters and story are headed is central to hitting all necessary points of the topic or plot. Like I said, this works with both fiction and non-fiction manuscripts, but it is very handy when managing fictional stories and characters.
- Know your targeted word count. In order to complete a book and know that it will meet a publisher’s standards, you have to be realistic about your word count. Shockingly, many would-be authors I encounter don’t know these parameters at all and are surprised when I tell them that their 20K word manuscript would not be considered a novel. Know that most adult fiction books should be in the 80-100K word range and, depending on the subject of your non-fiction book (for example, if the book is self-help, business-related, etc.), there are often varied guidelines. Just keep in mind that you must analyze your non-fiction topic and be realistic. If the topic is narrow, don’t project writing 70K words; it’s probably not going to happen and you are going to get frustrated as you try to figure out what else to say after the 40K word mark.
- Write about what you know. This is a standard rule and one that I have learned well. Yet, you might say, “Amanda, as a ghostwriter, how could you possibly know about every topic you write about?” Good point, I don’t. This is why, especially in the non-fiction arena, I only accept contracts on topics that I am interested in. I do have the ability to be choosy and I also realize that it would be disingenuous of me to write on a topic about which I have no curiosity—it would definitely show up in my writing. On the flip side, when a fiction contract comes my way, yes, I follow the outline, but I also make it my own. Because of the creative license I am allowed, I make sure the characters go to places I have been or talk about things that I know. It makes the writing and the story that much more realistic and fun to read.
- Allow yourself the opportunity to make mistakes. There is a reason why a first draft is called a first draft! Understand that the moment you finish typing a page, a chapter, even the whole manuscript, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Too often, would-be authors put so much pressure on themselves to get everything out just so right off the bat that they get frustrated when the manuscript doesn’t turn out exactly as they pictured it in their head. Then, they end up abandoning the project out of frustration. My advice: Just write. Write, write, write, and don’t bother correcting it right away. That’s what second, third and fourth drafts are for. Don’t worry! You’ll get there!
- Forget everything that you have read. This, I think, is probably one of the most valuable pieces of advice I can give. Namely, don’t try to be the next anything…whether it is the next Twilight, the next Pride and Prejudice, the next Gone with the Wind, the next whatever. Write your own story and don’t try to ride the coattails of anyone who came before you. Personally, I don’t want to read about Edward Cullen’s or Lizzie Bennett’s literary doppelganger; I want to read about someone new, someone you dreamed up and created. I’m sure you have a great original story of your own just waiting to get out of your head!
I’m not going to lie or make it sound easy. Writing a book of any sort is a major undertaking, and you need to not only stay motivated throughout the process, but also realize that it doesn’t happen overnight. However, it can be done! Make 2013 the year you finally write that book and, if you need help, remember that myself and my team here at Grammar Chic are standing by to assist with any and all of your ghostwriting, manuscript consulting and editing needs. Feel free to call 803-831-7444 or visit www.grammarchic.net for more information!
Amanda E. Clark founded Grammar Chic in 2008. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and holds degrees in Journalism, Political Science, and English. She launched Grammar Chic after freelancing for several years while simultaneously leading marketing and advertising initiatives for several Fortune 500 companies.