Friday, 3 June 2011

Ghostly Advice for Writers by Lynne Hackles

I'm thrilled to have a guest piece this week from Lynne Hackles. Lynne is an extremely successful writer, but much of her best work doesn't go out under her own name. Why not? Read her post to find out ...

Writing is a skill and as it’s a skill we - I’m assuming it’s writers reading this - possess then why not sell it? I don’t mean by writing your own stories and articles. I mean sell your skill to the man/woman in the street, the one who wants to write a book – and doesn’t everybody? Don’t forget the man who has to give a speech, has been asked to give a talk about his latest enterprise, wants to impress his girl with a romantic poem…

There are lots of people out there who can’t get what they want to say down in words or don’t have the time to do so. This is where ghostwriters step in.

Any form of writing can be ghostwritten. It’s reckoned that almost half of the titles of the New York Times bestsellers have been ghosted. You may never reach the bestsellers list and, even if you do, as a ghost no-one would know, but you can earn a living by staying in the background and turning out words for someone else. We’re not all going to have pop or soap stars as clients (and would you really want to?) but more often than not the ‘average Joe’ has a great tale to tell.

Ghostwriting is a great way of earning a little, or a lot, of extra money. Like plumbers, electricians or any other service, you need to advertise your wares. You also need to decide on how much to charge and how much of your writing time you want to turn over to ghosting.

You can do as I did and learn the job as you go along or you can take lots of short-cuts and read about my experiences and those of other ghosts (i.e. buy my book – Ghostwriting- how to write for others, Aber Books, Studymates). That way you can avoid any pitfalls such as the huge one I fell into when ghosting someone’s life story. We were halfway through when a certain person got involved. He could have made us a fortune. He’s done it for others. The decision was made, without me being there, that the book should change and my client should dish all the dirt. From writing a rags to riches and back to rags book I found myself having to cover paedophilia. Ghosts really need to find out all the details before taking on a job and, in this case, I certainly hadn’t.

There are the joys of writing a speech for a proud father of the bride, or a best man. Men who know what they want to say but don’t know how to say it. There’s the pleasure of helping someone who is virtually illiterate but has a great story to tell.  

Ghostwriting can be rewarding. Of course there’s the money but I’ve loved seeing the faces of clients when they’ve held their life story in their hands or been congratulated on giving a great speech at a wedding.

Have a dabble and see what you think.

Lynne Hackles is a butterfly writer, flitting from one aspect of writing to another. She has written over four hundred stories for the women’s magazine market, a book for pre-teens, several books and many articles about writing. Her regular columns, My Writing Day and Novel Ideas appear in Writing Magazine.

Ghostwriting – how to write for others, Aber Books, Studymates, £10.99
Writing From Life (second edition) How To Books. £9.99 
Diamonds and Pearls (Accent Press Ltd) £7.99  An anthology of short stories by many of the UK's best known magazine writers. A donation from each book will go to the charity Against Breast Cancer

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

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