Whenever I am ghost-writing I let the author of the book I’m putting together take me over. It is an exhausting process as I have to let their style, memories and ideas shine through me. Picking up the essence of the story is the first step, I may not agree with it, or the content may disturb me but generally the words will begin to take shape as I work through whatever blocks of information (be it written or audio) I have been given.
Walking a while in another’s shoes, or at least living inside their head – how creepy is that? – is a strange experience, but also an opportunity for development, increasing self-knowledge and perhaps allowing readers a view into a world of which, they previously knew nothing. It is all down to you, as the ‘ghost’ to discover it and write about it.
If like me, you find yourself ghosting, research, of course, is very important. Just because you have been told something as fact doesn’t mean it is true (how very like real life). We are lucky (oh, so lucky) to be living in a time with Google Maps and Wikipedia, you no longer have to visit places or sit in dusty libraries (much as I would like to do either, or both of these, however time is of the essence) to be transported to a scene or learn the ins and out of the subject you are describing.
It is all fascinating: learning, creating and stepping off the rails on which I usually run with my own ideas, plots and inspiration. Ghost writing gives me a chance to flex areas of my mind not regularly in use – a bit like my seized-up carcass doing Aerobics after a few months inactivity of the wine and Netflix kind.
Part of the procedure is dealing with how the client interprets my take on their vision. Have I clarified what they envisaged? Painted a picture they’d tried to describe and hopefully to have done it justice. It’s all very well building a story from a stack of bricks, but, sometimes you do have to be brutal, content may be plagiaristic (it is up to you as the writer to check); it may be wildly litigious (more research required); passages that clunk like rocks thrown into a drum need to be whipped out, cleaned and polished. Bring out the inner beauty, if you can.
And when the work is finished, for a while the spirit lingers on, using another’s style or tone is hard to shake off – just like when you have read a good book and it stays with you.