Hey look it’s me on the left! Upwork recently featured me as a freelancer and hired me for their most recent conference in Vegas, where I wrote bios for anyone who stopped by and said hi 🙂
Anyways, it’s October and I haven’t blogged since I got back from Berlin. It’s also sPoOkY sEaSoN which means I have to go to Halloween parties thrown by actors who somehow have ENDLESS costume/wig/special effects makeup to the point where 1 actor friend could outfit all the dayplayers on an episode of THE WALKING DEAD and STILL have leftover digs for the cast of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD. (Sidenote: are people still watching these shows?)
And then there’s me, with a normal amount of closet space for LA, and all I have is like a potato and a broken crown to whip up into some sort of witty costume. What do I do with those? I… I just don’t know. (There’s a joke here, probably an offensive one related to the Irish potato famine, but I’m not a comedy writer. So.)
What are you being for Halloween? Let me know in the comments below or get @ me on Twitter. Would love to know, especially if your costume is more clever than mine. (Currently — it DEFINITELY is. Right now I have some really lame costume ideas. Maybe this will change when the onslaught of costumed carnivals start. We’ll see.)
Didya Know I’m a Ghost
As you all know by now, when I’m not in a writers’ room, I ghostwrite memoirs for fascinating people all over the world. It’s an intimate process that I’ve come to love, and I’ve met some truly inspiring people through this work.
Being a memoir ghostwriter means playing the roles of writer and investigative journalist: you need to ask the right questions in order to get the most vivid, compelling stories on the page.
Sometimes, your clients don’t remember all the details, or ask you to interview other people in their life to help fill in the gaps. I’ve traveled to my clients’ homes and family reunions so I can be present at significant functions that will help me further understand who they are and the journey they’ve undertaken so far.
As a television writer by trade, I see so many similarities between these two crafts. As a memoir ghostwriter, you’re still trying to identify the themes and arcs, the subject matter is just different. Both jobs require high levels of empathy so you can relate to your clients and characters. You have to be able to identify with people from all walks of life, and listen without judgment.
If you want a look inside the process, are looking to hire a ghostwriter, or want to become a memoir ghostwriter, you’ve made it to the right place. Let’s do this thing.
My Process for Ghostwriting Memoirs/Autobiographies
I’m going to share an overview of my writing approach here, but if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty you can contact me or even reach out on Upwork with your project proposal if you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter.
When I’m talking with a new client, I want to know a few things about them (and if you’re a fiction writer, you’ll see some similarities between these questions and the ones we ask ourselves when we’re writing fiction projects):
- What’s your story?
- What impact do you want your story to have?
- Why now?
From there, I’ll ask them questions that help me suss out the dramatic narrative of their story.
Yes, even memoirs have dramatic story structure.
This is why I love this work. It’s the fun of fiction with the source material of reality. I honestly don’t know why people who are looking to get their memoir written consider writers who don’t have fiction experience.
You can have the most exciting life of all time, but if you don’t have that dramatic story structure as the spine of the story, you’re sunk. I’ve read memoirs that have fallen flat — despite fascinating source material! — because they’re told in a boring way. There’s no juice. There aren’t any scenes. Just a “here’s what happened…” account.
You still need to “set the stage” and “create a scene.”
My favorite example of this is Educated by Tara Westover. That memoir brought me to tears several times because of the heartbreaking “scenes” — I felt as if I was watching what she was describing unfold, and was engaged in every moment of her story. The friend who recommended I read this book even pitched me the “scene” that struck her the hardest.
As humans, we think in scenes. The moments that move us, capture our attention, make us laugh and cry — they are what matter the most.
In my process, I’m often pushing my clients to identify those scenes and paint a picture of what it was like to be in that moment.
It’s tricky to do this by yourself, especially if you’re not a writer: because you lived in the moment, it can be challenging to identify what was particularly interesting or dramatic about it. Hiring a ghostwriter gives you the added bonus of that outside perspective to help you hone your story and punch in on those moments that set the scene.
The best ghostwriters are great interviewers.
My mom was a reporter in Arizona for awhile when I was a kid, and I have fond memories of accompanying her on interviews. I’ve always loved the interview process, and have gone out of my way over the years to interview people related to what I’m writing about in my own fiction.
When I’m interviewing my ghostwriting clients, I dive deep with them into their memories, hopes, dreams, and fears. I also often interview other people in their life if they need additional sources, and I do so with utmost care. Memoirs can be tricky, especially when I’m helping my clients tell sensitive true stories.
The interview process is the meat and potatoes of ghostwriting: I guide my clients through questions, exercises, and research assignments to make sure we’re exploring all of their memories and the events in their lives in a way that’s going to hit the hardest with a reader while capturing their authentic experience.
Tone of voice is critical — which is why I need to read your voice and get a sense of who you are to get it right.
As a screenwriter, I’m constantly asking myself, “how would my character say this?”
As a ghostwriter, I’m constantly asking myself, “how would my client write this?”
To capture their voice, I work with my clients to get all the clay on the page as we start to build the rough draft. I’ll read any written materials, journal entries, and other notes they have. Then, I’ll start to shape the clay with them, honing in on their voice and helping them build a compelling tone.
Tone of voice in a memoir is a combination of your original voice and the voice of your narrative. The tone needs to capture your unique mannerisms and cadence, but it also needs to be engaging and capture your readers.
Writing a book takes time…
…but not forever. As a writer who’s done National Novel Writing Month six years in a row, I’ve been able to work really effectively and quickly with my clients to write books in short periods of time. It’s kind of like being an athlete: the harder you train, the quicker and more accurate you get.
Working with a Memoir Ghostwriter
The ghostwriter/client fit is an important one. I recommend that you hop on a consultation call with your potential ghostwriter and see if they jive with you and your story. You want someone who’s a good listener and someone you enjoy talking to.
You should also read some of their work, even if it’s just a silly blog post like this. (Potential clients reading this: what are YOU going to be for Halloween? Would love to know. Not that I’m panicking or anything. Everything is fine!)
Anyways, once you’ve screened your ghostwriter, send them EVERYTHING. Thoughts, emails, timelines of events — send it alllllllll. This information avalanche — even if we get buried in it and play catch-up — helps for us to get immersed in your life so we can capture your voice.
Get Hired as a Memoir Ghostwriter
I’m always encouraging other writers to get into this field! I offer coaching and consultation to those trying to get their own memoir ghostwriting career of the ground, so feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in hiring me to help you get started! I’m doing a special right now for October/Costume Contest Season, and $45 will get you a 30-min call where I go over your experience, help you shape your cover letters, as well as any feedback I have of your Upwork profile or blog, depending on what you’re using to get leads.
I’ll also be sharing free resources like this on my blog, so be sure you’re subscribed to my email list. Or follow my Finding a Costume Saga on my Instagram, where I’m consistently letting down all of the thirst trap followers with professional pictures. (And, the occasional pole dancing video in my stories. Do I know how to separate my professional and personal life? Nope. Do I care? …also, no.)
Okay everybody, have fun being a ghost in whatever form that takes for you!