Two Types of Ghostwriter

I’ve talked to a number of people lately who are intent upon choosing a ghostwriter for their memoirs, and I’ve been a little mystified by the process and priorities some people are using. Therefore, I’d like to give you all a little background on the ghostwriter-choosing process. There are a couple of different kinds of ghostwriters: those write a document based solely upon their own research and those who write a document based solely upon the information you provide as a first-hand account.

Regarding the former: sometimes a client will hire a ghostwriter to write a nonfiction book on a topic as esoteric as, “How to start your own medical marijuana dispensary,” or “Best kissing techniques.” (Two documents I actually wrote in the bad old days.) Usually these types of clients know nothing about the topic at hand but are engaged in a project where they intend to make money from selling these ebooks online. They rarely give the writer any input and completely rely on her to do all the research. It helps if the writer is knowledgeable about the topic at hand, but most likely the writer is just a good researcher. That’s all you need, in a situation like that.

But when you hire a ghostwriter to create a document from first-hand accounts, such as a memoir or fictional story you’ve been burning to tell, you need a very different type of ghostwriter. Sometimes library-type research is required in order to complete these stories, but usually the research involves simply interviewing you, the client, and asking the right questions. This type of ghostwriter needs to be someone to whom you are comfortable talking and opening up.

The ghostwriter will do more than listen. Her job is to ask you all the right questions to get to the meat of the story. She has to know how much delving into painful aspects of the past is going to be helpful, and then where to stop, also. A memoir ghostwriter is like a private investigator into your life. You may think particular aspects of your life are informative, amusing, or fascinating, but she has her dial tuned to what readers will find interesting, what will attract publishers, and the kind of details needed to bring out the essence of the story, in print.

In this case, whether your book is about your travels, discoveries, family strife, cultural conflict, science fiction, or anything else, you don’t want a ghostwriter that’s experienced in this subject matter so much as one who is interested in becoming knowledgable about it. In this case, her job is to learn something new, not to write about something she already knows.

That attitude of questioning and openness and curiosity is the very thing you seek in a ghostwriter. I would even go so far as to say someone who comes into the situation feeling they already know a lot about your topic is going to enter into the project with too many preconceived notions to really focus in on the unique aspects of your story.

This is why I do the memoir ghostwriting work that I do. I’m innately curious about different peoples’ lives and value systems. Also, truth is usually a lot stranger than fiction, which leads every memoir or novel-based-on-a-true-story to be a really new tale with something unusual to impart.

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