Being a good ghostwriter depends entirely on temperament and talent, which means it takes a special kind of writer to become a ghostwriter.
So what kind of skills do you need to become a really good ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is someone that enjoys working the shadows and not in the spotlight. This is because the reader expects to hear only the voice of the author and not the writer doing the work.
Ghostwriting allows the author to pass their knowledge and interpretation of experiences to the ghostwriter who then articulates the author's own story into a more meaningful and readable format for the reader.
So what do you need to become a successful ghostwriter?
The Ability to Listen
If you're going to collaborate or write a book for someone else then you need to be a good listener. This means that you pay more attention to the person than to the words spoken.
As a ghostwriter your primary job is to hear what the author has to say, this means not taking on your own agenda and passing it up as the author's.
Not Be a Guidance Counsellor
People love to send out their own suggestions and recommendations whether it's warranted or not. Often all you need to do is let others hear what you have to say, and have the opportunity to hear your own words, to know what you really think about something.
Your job as a ghostwriter is to listen to what the author has to say, not give out instructions, guidance or to correct what that person is telling you.
Keep Things Confidential at all Times
Everything the client tells you never leaves that room nor passes through your lips. Protecting someone's secrets is your primary goal, and should be honoured at all times.
Without empathy you're left drifting feeling nothing of what that person is feeling. The ability to sympathise is imperative, even if you think their decisions are careless and wrong.
Having the ability to get inside someone's head is a skill in itself, and not many people possess it. It's a gift to be able to see life through someone else's eyes. As a ghostwriter you need to be able to soak up all the emotion being poured out and put it into words on a page that gives depth and meaning to someone else's story.
Not Take On Other People's Biases and Opinions
If you're not in agreement with a client how are you going to convey their thoughts in a book or article? Strong disagreement leads to a broken contract.
At the end of the day you're there to perform a task, or job that needs doing, even if that means it goes against what you believe. Your job is to put across an author's thoughts and nothing else. Those thoughts aren't your thoughts but that of the author. Once the job is done you move onto the next one.
Ghostwriting means that your own thoughts and opinions are put to one side, and only that of the clients are heard and listened to, then turned into a book or other format that may be required.
Having the ability to write non-judgmentally means you have to put away your own sentiments even if you think that person is wrong. The audience wants to read the thoughts of the author, not the ghostwriter.
Here are some questions you should be asking yourself if you want to be a ghostwriter:
- Are you a go-getter?
- Are you self-disciplined enough to be a ghostwriter?
- Can you meet deadlines?
These are just some of the essential questions you need to start asking yourself if you're thinking of taking up ghostwriting professionally.
Can You Work to a Deadline?
Publishers aren't there to babysit you as a writer, they're there to help you get published, and they're never going to wait around for a manuscript to get finished. It's not surprising that most ghostwriters are experts at keeping a deadline.
How Professional Are You?
Once you've signed a contract you're expected to be professional right to the end. Which means you have to work to a specific schedule. In the case of a publishing house, this means you're given a due date to finish your work by.
It takes experience and hard work to find out how well you'll cope with any project given to you, and this can take a long time to master if you're new to writing.
The Business of Ghostwriting
When you start ghostwriting you're usually in it to make money, and not just because you have a passion for writing. Which means you need to be a good record keeper and keep everything up to date to pay your bills.
Are You a People Person?
This goes hand-in-hand with being a good listener, the ability to work well with others. The more you listen to what you're being told, the more you understand the personality of the person and why they do what they do.
Do You Hate Rejection?
You need the ability to satisfy both the author but also editors that will be looking over your work with a keen eye. Some people are never satisfied no matter what anyone writes for them. A ghostwriter needs to be able to take whatever rejection comes their way.
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