It has recently come to my attention that some would-be authors out there need a ghostwriter because they’re disorganized. You might have a great writing style and engaging ideas, but writing a full-length book is a daunting task. So, let’s talk about how ghostwriting for disorganized people works.
Ghostwriting for disorganized people: a timeline is the first step
When I ghostwrite a memoir, the first thing I do is get all the information by doing recorded interviews, then transcribing and organizing the interviews. The organizing process includes me making a timeline of the events of your life.
It’s important for ghostwriting clients to know they don’t have to be organized during these interviews. It’s my job to take your stories and information and put them into chronological order in the timeline.
Will there be gaps in the information you provide? Yes, there always are. It’s my responsibility, when I create the timeline of your life, to show those gaps in the timeline. I then do interviews to fill in those gaps.
What if the timeline of your life makes no logical sense?
Clients often give conflicting information, such as saying that a certain event happened at two totally different times. This is perfectly normal. Memory recall is like that, especially when it comes to emotionally charged events.
As your memoir ghostwriter, my job is to notate those mix-ups and then guess, based on the other information I’ve gathered, which date was right. I’m not afraid to get it wrong. Fact is, I often get things wrong in these timelines because clients are a lot more helter-skelter in their interviews than they usually realize.
When it comes to helping you get organized, sometimes its easier for me to let you recall events as best you can, then I write it down with the mistakes in place. Once you’re looking at the events of your life on paper, it’s easier to correct the errors than it was to recall things in order from your memory. That’s all part of the process.
Memories are often incorrect, but that’s to be expected
These mix-ups in oral storytelling, and these errors in the written timeline, aren’t mistakes. They’re simply part of the process of taking disorganized memories and turning them into a book.
When it comes to ghostwriting for disorganized people, my clients need to be fearless in recalling their memories in whatever imperfect manner they can. Then they must let me be fearless in creating a timeline that will, inevitably, be flawed.
When clients edit these timelines, they finally realize the true order of the events of their lives. I make the corrections, and then we move on to the next phase of organizing a memoir.
Phase two for disorganized ghostwriting clients: the synopsis
In phase two, we write a synopsis of the book. That means we select the time period the book will cover, which life events should be included, and sometimes a theme or overall message for the book. When I’m ghostwriting for disorganized people, this process can run into a few dead ends.
Clients don’t always know which parts of their lives are the most interesting or which stories best emphasize their overall message. Sometimes they don’t even know if they want to write about their childhood or their career history. (Here’s a blog about writing about teen years)
So, we discuss all the possible ideas for the story’s plot, then settle on our first idea. I write the first synopsis based on that agreement. The client examines it and sees his story, for the first time, through a memoir writer’s eyes.
Structuring random thoughts can feel uncomfortable
My skill is to apply the structural requirements of a full length book to the individual stories of a client’s life. Sometimes, the client loves the first synopsis I write, and we’re ready to start writing the book. Oftentimes, however, seeing the book idea written out in such a definite way makes clients re-think their stories.
It’s not uncommon for a client to ask for a second synopsis that tells his or her story with a different emphasis. He or she may even decide to write about a different time period. If so, I’ll write another one. Perhaps a third one. Perhaps a fourth. This is a quirk of ghostwriting for disorganized people: seeing their thoughts written out in an organized way can sometimes be really jarring for clients.
I’m willing to write synopses until we get it right, because your words will define you, and they matter. (Here’s more on how Words Lives Matter.)
Disorganized people are rebels and commitment-phobes
A lot of disorganized people rebel against the idea of organizing their thoughts at all. But when they realize readers won’t want to read a book that’s a big jumble, they gradually get used to the idea of organizing their thoughts.
How we organize these thoughts and stories is up to the clients. As for me, as a memoir ghostwriter, I’m willing to write one synopsis after another until we arrive at the best solution.
Disorganized people, don’t worry, there will be an end to your indecision. You will eventually run out of ideas. You will eventually look at all the timelines we’ve created and say, “That’s the one that gets it right! Number seven!” You will eventually look at all the book synopses we’ve created and say, “Yes, by God! This is what I want to say and how I want to say it! Let’s write the book!”
There is a light at the end of the tunnel of organization, I promise!
Sometimes it can be a long process, getting to the point where you make a decision on how your thoughts should be organized, but that’s what I’m here for. I know how to organize books and ideas in general. I do this, so you don’t have to. All you, as the ghostwriting client, need to do, is to have the courage to look at the options and make a decision.
I’ve noticed that a lot of being disorganized is about the fear of making a commitment to any specific way of telling your story. If you want to write a book, though, you need to get used to the idea of getting your ideas organized.
Letting a ghostwriter organize you is a great way of making this happen. The challenge then, to you, disorganized would-be author that you are, is to get used to the idea of having someone else put your ideas into a set format. Sometimes it feels weird to see everything written out like that, but writing a book is kind of a weird experience. This is normal!
In summary, it’s okay to be a disorganized writer as long as you have someone to help you get things in order. The more closely you work with your ghostwriter, the better outcome you’ll have for your memoir.