Ghost writing really surprised me. My biggest surprise was how many famous people don’t actually do their own scholarly or creative writing, but hire others to do it for them. I should have known this obvious bit of reality, but I never really thought about it.
As a writer myself, I always do my own writing, I never hire it out; blogs, tweets, emails, postings, articles, books, all of it takes so much time, but I take great pride and ownership in doing it all myself.
First Ghost Writing Assignment
When I first considered ghost writing I was given a test assignment to see how I would handle it. Turns out it was huge. It was the introduction to a book that was on its way to becoming a best seller.
The introduction was to be “authored” by a famous radio personality, and the target word-count was somewhere around 3,500-4,000 words. This was no one-pager introduction. It was supposed to bridge historical events and meld them into current events, upon which the book was focused.
When I sat down to begin crafting some opening statements and to develop a theme, it became immediately obvious that my style and the radio host’s style were so far removed from each other that attempting to pass off my writing for his would stand out as an obvious fraud.
How could I remedy this?
Preparation For Character Acting
The content editors at Izzard Ink stepped forward to help me. Their consultant steered me toward several areas of preparation.
First, they directed me to listen to fifty hours of the man’s show. That’s a lot of radio time, but between early morning preparation to get out the door and then the drive to work, I managed to get almost 2 hours a day, so that part didn’t take as long as I had feared.
Second, they helped me begin listening to the radio host’s plethora of great ideas that poured out of his mouth but were not in print. I was encouraged to read as many blogs and postings from this man as I could lay my eyes on for two weeks. I took the advice.
Third, I was given a list of listening styles and was asked to rate this man’s style of speaking.
- Was he reaching out to the relational listener to connect emotionally?
- Was he appealing to the analytical listener with factual information?
- Was his issuing a call to action for the task-oriented listeners by getting to the point quickly and not belaboring it to excess?
- Was he assuring the critical listeners by trying hard to be consistent and error free in his messages?
- Which of these was his strongest suit?
Fourth, I was given tips on how to discover the structure of his longer monologue radio segments. Izzard Ink had me fill out a form to identify when a major point was made, if it was supported, and if so, by how many other ideas? And, did he ever summarize his comments, and if so, when did that take place—right after his major point? In mid-stream? At the end? Perhaps not at all?
Ghost Writing Takes On Personality
This was powerful guidance that helped me capture the man’s story-telling technique, better target when to insert facts to support an emotional statement, and how to build to an emotional climax. It took me 3-4 days to actually write the introduction. The editors at Izzard Ink made some minor fixes and I sent it off to the radio host for his approval.
When it came back from him he had changed only ONE word (he said it wasn’t in his vocabulary), and asked for an “action” paragraph at the closing—something to tell readers what they need to take away from this book, and what to do next.
It was a thrilling experience. To this day, friends and strangers who have read the book and who comment on the introduction state how those opening pages set the stage and made the book more relevant and easy to keep in proper perspective. I would love to tell everybody that I wrote that intro, that it was not the famous man, that it was MY writing—but I can’t.
For the personal satisfaction I gain from this ghost writing experience and for the money, I am, by choice, just a ghost.