How long does ghostwriting take?

One of my authors told me recently that, when he’d begun the process, he had not understood how long it would take. I understand that, because that author is not a seasoned writer. This is his first ever book. He’d spent years developing his idea. He’d written notes, drafted outlines, prepared character sketches: he’d done everything but write the book. Oh, he’d tried to write it but he’d realised after several abortive efforts that he didn’t have the skills to turn his ideas into a finished work of fiction.

There is a way to deal with that, of course. It’s how every writer starts. You’ve got your idea, you’ve thought it through, and though you may not know how it ends you have some ideas about where the beginning is going to take you. So you start writing. And, as you write, you realize how much you don’t know about the job you’ve taken on. You don’t know about Show, Don’t Tell. You don’t know about narrative arcs, and scene construction, and how the second fits into the first. You don’t know… Well, I could go on listing the things you don’t know but we’d be here all day. So, if you’re really set on becoming a writer, you start learning about those things. Maybe you sign up for a creative writing course. Maybe you buy a lot of books about writing. Some people do both of those things. Others write their book and pay serious money to have a professional tell them what’s wrong with it.

Then you send it off to a publisher and sit back thinking it can’t be long before the Nobel Literature Prize committee is sending you a telegram. (Are telegrams still a thing in the 21st century?) Instead, you get a rejection letter. If you’re determined to become a writer, that is by no means the last rejection letter you’re going to see.

But not everyone wants to do all of those things, because not everyone is daft enough to want a career as a professional writer. All some people want is to see their ideas translated into book form by someone who – unlike them – does know what they’re doing and will produce a book good enough to get at least a second glance from agents and publishers.

The people who produce those good enough books are called ghost writers, and I’m one of them. I’ve been one for quite a long time now and I’ve written more than sixty books that have been published under other people’s names. And it’s easy for the author to imagine that the ghost writer will simply sit down, read the idea and the other material the author has sent, and write the book.

It isn’t as simple as that.

If I’m going to do the author’s ideas justice, I need to get that book as firmly rooted in my mind as it is in the author’s. And that takes time. You know that feeling you have when you just finished a book that really grabbed hold of you? And now you feel as though you’re living the story, you know the characters because you’re one of them, you understand how they feel and why they do the sometimes odd things they do? That’s how I have to feel if I’m going to give you the best book I possibly can.

Oh, yes, it’s easy enough for any ghost writer who has mastered all the things an author needs to know to knock out 80,000 words good enough to meet the brief. Good enough for the writer to be able to say to the author, ‘There you are. That’s what you asked for; that’s what you’ve got.’ But a ghost writer who cares about the work wants to deliver more than that. We want to give you a book that, when other people read it, will allow them to feel the same deep involvement as you felt while you were developing the idea in your head.

You can have it good. You can have it quick. But you can’t have both

Isn’t that what you want, too? I used to say, “You can have it good. You can have it cheap. But you can’t have both at the same time.” I still say that, as it happens, but I also say the same thing substituting “quick” for “cheap.”

Want to know more about me, ghost writing, and your ideas? Fill in your name and contact details below and I’ll get back to you.


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