Top 5 Ghostwrite Pro Posts for September

Often, I’m asked my advice for people who are just starting out as writers. My response is always the same. Conjuring my inner-Hemingway (and paraphrasing him), I say, “Just write one true sentence. Then write another. When you have no more true sentences for the day, stop.” What I mean by that is write something simple without flourish that gets your ideas out of your head and onto the paper.

I then follow up that advice with another great piece of advice I picked up from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Write shitty first drafts. Great writing, I tell people, comes in the editing, not the actual writing. If you’ve been writing for a while, this is nothing new to you. But I find for many people, this is unsatisfying. For some reason, people never want to hear that writing is hard work that takes years to get good at—if you get good at it at all.

Those thoughts lead us into our top-5 posts for the month of September. And while they may or may not be “good” (I leave that up to you dear reader), they are certainly read. Enjoy some posts you may have missed, and while you’re at it, post up your advice for beginning writers in the comments.

**As a side note, apologies for missing my post last week. I was in Seattle at a conference. I took only my iPad and was able to get much work done well and efficiently, with the exception of my scheduled post, which is a good follow-up to our most-read post for last month.**

How My iPad (Maybe) Makes Me a Better Writer

Building Your Platform: Tips from a Top Publicist

How to Impress a Potential Client Before First Contact (Part II)

Five Must Have Productivity Tools for Writers

Dealing with Sickness

[Photo by ilike]

How My iPad (Maybe) Makes Me a Better Writer

So, I bought an iPad last week. To be honest I’m still trying to figure out if that was a good idea. Unlike most blogs I’ve seen examining the iPad for a writer, I’m not writing this post on my iPad. In fact, I can think of nothing more maddening than writing long form documents on an iPad.

Though the iPad will never replace my laptop as my primary writing instrument, I’ve been finding some pretty useful ways to use it to make me a better writer. Here are a few I’ve discovered over the last couple days. Continue reading “How My iPad (Maybe) Makes Me a Better Writer”

Building Your Business…and Pursuing Your Passions

I’m still digesting Joey’s post from last week, “The Ghost Materializes“. Thankfully, on Friday morning, I was able to get together to hang out with both Joey and Ed over a cup of coffee. It was a great time to catch up on what’s going on in each other’s lives and work, and to discuss writing and ghostwriting.

Joey’s post, as I told the guys, was poignant for me as I’ve been feeling the itch to begin writing a novel of my own. I was great to talk about how we might balance careers as ghostwriters and vocations as writers. Continue reading “Building Your Business…and Pursuing Your Passions”

Dealing with Sickness

It was quite a morning at the Johnson house this morning. First, my four-year old son, Liam, woke up with a tummy ache and proceeded to throw up at 5 a.m. Then my wife told me she had a raging headache and asked me to take our seven-month old, Dylan, for the morning so that she could rest. And finally, while I was hanging on the couch with Liam and Dylan, Dylan had a monster blowout in his diaper. Long story short, it leaked onto the couch and I didn’t notice until I looked over and saw him running his hands through it.

Gross. I know. But that’s part and parcel of being a parent.

The reason I share all this with you is because it got me thinking about being a writer…and a family man. I usually keep a pretty tight schedule. I’m up early to write and work steadily and (hopefully) without interruption until around 5 p.m. I then shut down everything for the night and don’t look back. But obviously I wasn’t able to work this morning. And it threw my whole day into whack. Not good for someone borderline OCD.

Inevitably, you’re going to run into a similar scenario at some point in your writing/freelancing career. With deadlines hovering over your head like a vulture, you or someone in your family (or in my case your whole family!) will get sick. How will you respond?

In my more ambitious (and stupider) days, I would plow through. I’d try to get work done while juggling my family responsibilities, probably getting more and more frustrated by the minute. Now, I just try to roll with the punches. The reality is that when you’re sick or someone in your family is sick and needing your care, you’re not going to get much quality work done. Instead, take the time and rest. And do so guilt-free. Consider it God telling you to take a time out. When you come back to work, you’ll be refreshed.

If you have a deadline looming that day, send a quick email to your client letting them know what’s up. Nine times out of ten, they’ll understand. If they don’t, it might be time to rethink your clients.

Fortuitously, today is the time I list out the top 5 posts for the month of August. So, without further ado!

The Process vs. the Agreement

The Cult of Simple Writing

Building Your Platform: Tips from a Top Publicist

Taking the Mystery Out of Pricing

Should I List My Fees On My Website?

Thanks for being part of the GhostwritePro community! Happy writing, and I’ll see you next week.

In a Nutshell: Loglines for Ghostwriters?

This post was inspired by a review I read about a book called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure.

The review begins:

Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

In this spirit of simple yet profound brevity, the online magazine Smith asked readers to write the story of their own lives in a single sentence. The result is Not Quite What I Was Planning, a collection of six-word memoirs by famous and not-so-famous writers, artists and musicians.

Their stories are sometimes sad, often funny — and always concise.

The book is full of well-known names — from writer Dave Eggers (Fifteen years since last professional haircut), to singer Aimee Mann (Couldn’t cope so I wrote songs), to comedian Stephen Colbert (Well, I thought it was funny).

While this project has taken a life of its own and has become a cottage industry where you can publish your own six-word memoir (Mine is: Aware of life’s futility, remains optimistic) and even turn it into a T-shirt, it got me thinking how important it is, as a ghostwriter, to boil a book down to its essence before you even begin it, whether it’s a celebrity tell-all, business-success title, spiritual handbook, or whatever else you are helping your author create.

Screenplay writers do this all the time before they write movies: They create what’s known as a logline, which gives the essence of the cinematic experience in a single sentence.

My favorite book about screenwriting, Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, offers lots of advice about how to write effective loglines, and includes some great examples:

A newly-married couple must spend Christmas Day at each of their four divorced parents’ homes — 4 Christmases

A just-hired employee goes on a company weekend and soon discovers someone’s trying to kill him — The Retreat

A risk-averse teacher plans on marrying his dream girl but must first accompany his overprotective future brother-in-law — a cop — on a ride along from hell! — Ride Along

According to Snyder, all of these loglines contain four components necessary for any movie sale: irony, a compelling mental picture, a built-in sense of budget and audience, and a killer title.

The same thing applies to songs. While considerably shorter than movies, songs still benefit from killer titles and the ability to get what the song is about in just a few words.

In my favorite book about songwriting, The Craft and Business of Songwriting: A Practical Guide to Creating and Marketing Artistically and Commercially Successful Songs, author John Braheney says that good lyricists are “able to describe in one word the emotion or mental state that a song expresses,” and can “describe in a short phrase what the song is about.”

In chapter two, pages 31–32, I listed several subject areas as they relate to love relationships. Phrases such as “I think I’ve just found her (or him),” Remembering how it used to be,” and “Cheating” succinctly describe the subject of a song.

As ghostwriters, we can learn from the best practices of songwriters, screenwriters, and the participants in Smith Magazine’s Six Word Memoir project by getting the essence of our books down on paper with a one-line description and killer title before we start writing. This will guide our words and help ensure that the end result is tight, focused, and compelling.

In a nutshell, it’ll make us—and our authors—look good.

[Photo by: cbertel]

The Importance of Outlining

The process of ghostwriting a book is a long and complicated one. Even for a veteran writer, each new project begins with trepidation. In our business and preparation, it’s easy to forget that for many of our clients, this is their first time working on a book project. If the feeling of being overwhelmed affects us as writers, imagine how it makes our clients feel!

I’ve found that one of the best things you can do to center both you and your client throughout the book writing period is to put in the right effort, time, and energy into the book outline. Continue reading “The Importance of Outlining”