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Ghostwriting Books – Interviewing To The Working Table Of Contents


Once the author and I are clear on the 10 word purpose of the ghostwriting project, and have agreed on a working table of contents, we begin the process of getting the information from their head to mine so I can actually write the book they want written. It’s the working table of contents that gives us a place to start.

The first thing I do is set up a series of appointments. My preference is every other week on the same day of the week at the same time. My choice to interview people in the early afternoon, leaving the morning for writing, but I’m flexible on that. I ask the client to allow for an hour, although usually we’re done in about half that time. I’ve found that much more than an hour we both start to fatigue.

First I Want Chapter Subheads

In the first interview I’ll review 10 word purpose and the working table of contents. If the author wants substantial changes we have to go back and rework those until he or she is happy. Hopefully, however, we can talk about the subheads for the first chapter.

Generally I’ll ask for three to start.  Asking for subheads helps the author figure out what needs to be said and begins to get the information into my head.

Next I ask for information about each subhead.

Sometimes the subhead approach doesn’t work and what I’m really trying to do is get the information chunked down in a way that helps me understand what the author really wants written. Sometimes I can direct the process, sometimes I can’t and when I can’t my only choice is to listen and hope I can get the gaps filled in when I do a draft and ask questions.

Impossible To Predict What Gets Written When

The truth is when you’re ghostwriting a book for someone it’s impossible to predict what will get written when. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising; I find the same thing is true when I write books for myself.

When I think about what I really do when I ghostwrite a book a great deal of seems to come down to listening. I listen carefully to what the client is saying, often feeding it back reworded to be sure I understand.

I’m also totally willing to ask questions and show utter ignorance about the subject or the point the author wants made.

Recordings Are A Pain – Notes Work For Me

Author’s often expect me to record what they say. I’m willing to, usually using a service like FreeConferenceCall.com. The problem with recordings, however, is they must be transcribed to be usable. Transcribing is boring and I won’t do it at almost any price.The way I get around this is to assure the client recording can be done then letting them know they don’t want to have to pay me for transcribing. They quickly become willing to at least consider relying on my note taking ability.

And I do take fast and decent notes. You wouldn’t be able to read them, and neither would I in a week. Handwriting is not my strong suit. What I do is begin writing from the notes either the same day I do the interview or the next morning. That way I can rely on both my memory and my notes.

That first pass is very rough; I’d never send it to a client. Instead over the next few days I work with it, editing, writing, rewriting adding questions for the author. I try to work out my schedule so can let what becomes the first draft for the client rest at least 48 hours; as you know the more distance you can get from a piece the more likely you are to spot changes you want to make.

When things work well the client and I do an interview session every two weeks ago and the client is also prompt at returning drafts to me with comments.  On this type of schedule the book goes smoothly.

Do you have questions about ghostwriting you’d like to ask?


The series: My Start5 Ingredients I Bring To A ProjectElements Of My Contracts or Letters of AgreementThe Working Table Of Contents AKA OutlineIs Ghostwriting Fair? Ask Anne The Pro WriterInterviewing To The Working Table Of Contents


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