For most people, the idea of writing a book is often little more than a wish. Even if we know there is a ‘book in us’ and that we have a fascinating life story, or an interesting passion to share with the world, it’s difficult to know where to start. The reality is that authoring a book is a more complex and involved undertaking than many people imagine. But it’s not a mystery. As in many areas of life, seeking help and guidance can turn ideas into something real.
Authoring a book about our lives and experiences
As a ghostwriter, I have found the greatest professional and personal fulfillment in helping those with a story to tell, to bring that wish to life. That is my passion. To work together with my clients to manifest their story or their life’s work into a book. But I have found in working with people, that there is much more to it than just words on paper. The act of reflection, revelation, and expression that the process requires, creates a collaboration of the deepest levels. It is a project that can be deeply healing.
Because just as in conventional therapy, where we are often taken back into our past to discover what has made us who we are, we encounter our fears, traumas, and hidden pain, but we also re-discover our innocence, a sense of wonder, and openness. In the same way, submerging ourselves into our life story can often reconnect us to our inner child again, and bring us a deeper perspective of our life. It can also reveal to us how everything we’ve been through, has marked our journey and what that means for us today. Recalling the past brings up to the surface the emotions and experiences that we have lived through, so trust is the foundation of the relationship. It must be a safe space because not all stories are easy to tell.
Many books I’ve ghostwritten have included memories that are profoundly difficult to address. Trauma, abuse, war, disease – in fact, all that it is to be human. I have had to handle those projects with great care and thought so that my storyteller experiences a gentle release and not simply a reactivation of those painful memories. So in many ways, I must also be a coach or a councilor. And sometimes I just have to listen. My job is to hold the space for a journey that can be confronting, but it is in the end, an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved. I am always humbled and honoured to be given the trust of a storyteller, and to be allowed access into their world and their history.
Authoring a book about our work or passion.
Another aspect of my work is collaborating with well-being practitioners, therapists, teachers, and artists of all kinds. Many of my professional clients are excellent communicators in person, but when it comes to articulating what they do and what they’re about, all kinds of limiting beliefs like imposter syndrome, and fear of being criticized can become an obstacle to reaching more people. Promoting ourselves, especially in the realm of personal growth and spirituality, can be fraught with all kinds of mental nonsense around money, our abilities, and experience, or how we might be judged by our peers. Releasing a book involves putting our head above the parapet. That takes courage and no little effort, but there is no doubt that being an author – an author-ity on a subject, creates credibility and confidence in those who seek our skills or talents.
Whether I am working in collaboration with a professional or telling a personal story, I guide my clients through the many stages of the process, ending up with a manuscript that is worthy of not just being published but being read by a wide audience.
So here I want to demystify the task and hopefully encourage anyone with a story to tell or a passion to share, to begin that journey.
Most books, whether they are biographical or educational will follow a similar path to becoming a finished piece of work. I like to use the analogy of making a movie to describe how a book is created.
Structure – Direction
The first stage is to create a structure – a direction or a theme. So I will first look to answer these questions. What is the purpose of the book? What is your intention for it as an author? What will the reader take away from the experience? This inquiry is crucial because it reveals the motive. That motivation is what will keep the momentum of the whole project going when challenges arise as they always do.
Interviews and meetings
Once the direction and intention are established, then begins the process of collecting all the ‘footage’ needed for the book. That means interviews and meetings with you the author, where questions, are asked and often answers are questioned.
My focus in this phase is to help you to get the story or message expressed with as much clarity and colour as possible. So I chase detail, context, and background. I dig down to get to the real story because that’s where we find the life behind the words. That’s what makes a book great – authentic, honest, storytelling. It’s what captivates the reader, and makes a story memorable and relatable.
This is how we create the content of the book. It’s all in there, but at this stage it’s still all over the place.
The next phase, just as crucial to the outcome as everything that has gone before, is editing. Just like in a movie, we have to make sure that everything makes sense. That the reader is led through the information about your story or life’s work in such a way, that they learn as they go, and have the background and context to understand what comes next. Even if flash-backs or flash-forwards are used, it must all be laid out in a clear and comprehensible way. As well as this, editing cleans up the text, doing away with repetition, wasted words, and superfluous content. Every word must earn its place. Every sentence must have a job to do. A well-edited book is always more readable and engaging so it is an absolutely crucial part of the process.
Once edited, it’s time to get some objective feedback from non-professionals or ‘beta readers’. These can be valued friends and colleagues or trusted individuals that can bring a fresh eye to the work and can often bring up issues missed by experts or trained editors. This ensures that the text makes sense and is engaging to a broad audience. Now we have a polished manuscript, ready to submit to publishers or literary agents or to be set and formatted for print or self-publishing. The cover design and text are created, and the book is born.
Getting your book out there
In a way, this point can be seen as both the finishing line and also the starting line for the project. The book is available but who knows about it? This is where it is decided to either approach publishers or find ways to make your book widely known. This task is again a call to step up and be seen. To stand by the book and believe in it. Though not strictly within the remit of the ghostwriter, marketing, and promotion is what will decide how widely read the book is and of course what income can be gained. Today there are many resources and people that can help you achieve financial success with your book if that is your goal.
Why a ‘ghost writer’?
If I have done my part of the project successfully, the reader should come away feeling the presence of the storyteller. When people read the book, it should be the author’s voice in their heads. The tone, language, and terminology used must be the storytellers. The writer remains invisible, undetectable – a ghost.
And that is as it should be. Of course, as a professional, I charge a fee for the work I do, but my real satisfaction and fulfillment comes from seeing my client receive the recognition and acknowledgment they deserve for their courage and openness. That is my reward.
To have written a book about our lives or our passion can be an incredibly rewarding and uplifting experience. Not just for the achievement of its manifestation, but also for what we learn about ourselves on the journey. It is a challenge that no one I know has ever regretted taking on. We have one life, and I believe that sharing who we are is an act of great courage and for me, the opportunity to support and guide my clients on that journey is the greatest gift.