By Sarah Tun
I’m having the time of my life all because of a new possibility.
No, I’m not dirty dancing. In fact, I’m ghost writing. It isn’t something I’ve ever thought of doing, but it just sort of came my way, and I’m so glad it has!
In fact, if I’d thought about it in the past, I’d only thought I wouldn’t want to do something like that – tell the story of someone else and get no credit for it.
But ghostwriting is as wide a concept as any other form of creating. In this case, I’m writing alongside a fantastic woman with an amazing story, and we’re putting it together from her journal posts and my interviews, chatting with her and others close to her, to get a feel for who she is on a deeply personal level. It’s a bit of psychology, a bit of acting and a bit of investigative reporting all rolled up into one. And then of course there’s the writing bit.
The neat thing is, I didn’t pursue it, but when someone pursued me I was open and said, “Yes.” And the rest is a part of history-in-the-making.
I’m not going to give anything away about whose story it is, or the content of the book. But I am going to say three things I’m learning which might help you in your own memoire or ghost writing project. And of course, these pointers can be applied to any writing project if you take them and adapt them to your liking.
But before I get into these three pointers, I simply want to re-iterate what I’ve already intimated…which is to stay open to all possibilities because you never know what project could come your way.
You never know who you might meet, or how you might bless others and be blessed in the process. Being open presents possibilities. Being transparent makes you accessible. Being friendly makes you approachable. In being open, transparent and friendly, I’ve made a new friend and got a book contract in the process. How wonderful.
Now to the THREE POINTERS for biography, be it yours or someone else’s.
I’m not an expert, although in the process of doing, I am becoming one.
- Find the Voice – In any piece of writing you must find the ‘voice’ or speaker for the piece. The messenger must have a clear and consistent voice that the reader can easily get acquainted with. If you’re ghost writing this may be a difficult thing to find, because it emanates from someone other than yourself. For me, the process was to get to know the person I was writing about, get to understand her motivation and her deepest desires, principles and character. Eventually, what revealed itself was a particular personality trait that rose up in every stage of her life. Out of this, I made a personal connection — I found a part of me which was similar — and that helped me develop a tone, a voice, to replicate throughout the book. I’m still in the process of writing, but with that clarity, I’m finding a consistency in the writing that is helping the work to flow.
- Keep your head down – This work is new to me. I’m telling a story that already has the beginning, middle and end mapped out. Quite different from fiction, it already has a through- line that I’ve been given to stick to, more-or-less. Yet, it is also unlike non-fiction, because it has a story to be told in the context of fiction prose, without the room to explore far from reality. So, I’m plodding through the interviews, journal posts and other resources… photos, videos, anything available about this person. I’m doing this research, as much to learn the people as to learn the story. Because a story is simply lives of characters, real or imaginary, that are woven together into a tapestry. I have to keep my head down, looking, absorbing, sometimes writing, so I can gather information, glean what I need, and hold the rest to the side.
- Enjoy – This ghost writing is very unusual. You have to please another as much as yourself while you’re in the process. So, you aren’t just seeking to please yourself in the story-telling, or to please your reader once you’ve created a tale, but to please another person whose life you are representing. The best way to create something enjoyable to another is to enjoy the process yourself. There’s a very simple point early writers learn – or must learn if they are going to become seasoned writers. That is, if you’re bored writing or reading your manuscript, so will others be bored. So enjoy this unique opportunity.
In closing, I’ll just add one little tip. Don’t be surprised if your eyes get to feeling sandy from all your research on screen. Take a break. Use some eye drops (but sparingly). Take rest stops. It’s a long road, and a long ride. Happy creating!