01 February 2018
As a ghostwriter, you need skills that not every writer has. Find out more in this introduction to our latest creative writing course
The skills a ghostwriter needs
“Everybody has a book in them” is a phrase that’s bandied about too freely. It’s debatable… but this much is certain: not everybody can write a book.
As long as there are people with stories who can’t write them, there will be a market for ghostwriters. However, a ghostwriter needs skills that not every writer has. Opting to write professionally for somebody else introduces a different approach to writing than you have used before.
Firstly, it should be said that unless you have been published yourself, you probably will not be deemed ready to write for somebody else to a publishable standard. For the purposes of this course, we’ll assume that you have already had some success as a writer and that your work has been published or broadcast somewhere before.
It makes sense on two levels: firstly, you need to be able to market yourself as an experienced writer to somebody who will be paying you to do a good job for them. Secondly, you’ll need to draw on all the experience you’ve acquired so far to see your way through a ghostwriting project. There are many potential problem areas, and you don’t want to spend precious time worrying about the basics of structure, plot and character development when you have contract, creative brief taking and client liaising issues to deal with.
One of the extra skills you’ll need as a ghostwriter is the ability to interview. Every time you take on a ghostwriting project, you’ll need to know how to drill down to exactly the right questions to ask your subject and how to guide and control a meeting. We will discuss this further later in the course, but for now it’s important to appreciate that an air of professionalism and competence is necessary in this form of writing, the project you’re about to write about is not yours: it’s your client’s.
Another is the ability to leave your dreams and ambitions to see your name in print at your client’s door. As a ghostwriter, of course, your name won’t be on the cover. You might be mentioned or thanked for your ‘support’ or something similar in the acknowledgements, but that’s about it. On the plus side, your writing will be earning you a solid, professional reputation and gaining you publishing success. Can you persuade your ego to step aside for a while and put in the hard work for somebody else? There is no room for self-indulgence in ghostwriting. Sometimes you’ll really wish you could shout out to everyone what you’ve achieved, but you’re being paid to keep quiet, remember.
As long as you have some writing experience before you take on a ghostwriting project, you’ll know how to establish a regular, hardworking rhythm. As with any other long form, writing project, finishing is all about starting everyday. When you are writing for your own pleasure, you can take as long as you like on a project. When you’re writing for somebody else, though, you have a deadline to meet. Do you have enough self-discipline to see a project through over a long period of time? Some ghostwritten projects take a few years to write, and it’s all too easy to procrastinate when you think that you have all that time to achieve it.
Ghostwriters need to be inquisitive, sociable creatures. Although this last point is more of a characteristic than a skill, curiosity can be nurtured if you can find a subject area that interests you. It’s your job as a ghostwriter to go far beyond the “Who did what?” question; the far more interesting story lies in the “Why did they do it?” question.
Are you naturally curious, sociable, hard-working and with some previous publishing experience? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you can ghostwrite!
To find out more or book your course, visit our Courses page