1. Learn about ghostwriting. Becoming a ghost writer is still a relatively new idea. Talking about ghostwriting and introducing yourself as a ghost writer has an appeal that is more attractive than being just a writer. Even the idea of a ghost writer is unusual to people. You will find that people ask further questions about the work because it sounds and is secretive. You will need to be up to speed on what a ghost writer does. So to become one, you must first learn your industry. I recommend Andrew Crofts book Ghostwriting – this was the first book I read on the subject and it helped me secure my first job.
2. Build a portfolio. Your client will want to see examples of your work. If you haven’t written in a variety of styles and to a high degree – get writing. I have been writing all of my life and professionally since I was eighteen years old, always building and refining my portfolio. This way, I can pass a prospective client examples of work for them to review. The longer you leave this, the worse a position you will be in. Furthermore – are you not a writer? If so, write. I average 500 words a day but sometimes 1000 words or 5000 words a day.
3. Market yourself as a ghost writer. With a strong portfolio prepared or even a self-published book to point people to, and a thorough knowledge about ghostwriting, and the services you will be providing, it is time to start marketing yourself. This can be done for free with a web site, a twitter account and a basic understanding of SEO. Talk to people as a ghost writer and see stories everywhere and in everyone. Offer to write them for people. What is the worst that could happen?
4. Land your first paid job as a ghost writer. After this, everything changes and your world as a writer will become a different one. If you are just beginning and don’t feel worthy of payment as you are ‘still working out your craft’, then offer to write someone’s book for them for free. Your first job may be for no fee and a royalty share in the story. If you have a contact to someone famous or there is someone you admire and think their story will sell, offer to write their book. If nothing else, it will be a good experience and good practice for you. Until I landed my first paid writing job, I had done this. It was free training for me, it was what I wanted to do and it all guided me toward that first job.
5. Believe in your abilities. If you are reading this blog, then you have the ability to write. It might be buried inside – it might be time to unleash. If it is time to get to work: you need to be writing every single day and a minimum of 500 words. This does not include e-mails, social media, or lists. Write 500 fresh words of fiction or non-fiction every single day. Even if you have no current project, write 500 words a day. Via this process, a project will emerge. Don’t think – just do. Write. People over complicate this and the internet is covered in all types of courses to help you get there. There are only two rules. i) Write 500 words a day and ii) Do it every day. You will have your first draft manuscript there in six months from today. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t pefrect.
6. Read. Read every single day and aim for one book per week. This may seem like a lot but consider this… one book a week is only 52 books a year. The next time you are in a book store – simply count 52 books on the shelf and look at it as a section. You will be surprised with how small a section this is. Next, count 10 of these ‘sections’ and look at the amount of books as a whole. What you are staring at is ten years of books – again, you will be surprised how small this is. Next find 5 of these ‘sections of 10’ and you are looking at 50 years worth of reading one book a week. You will find yourself looking at one very very small section of books, a lifetime of reading and it won’t even take up one wall at Waterstones. I have repeated this exercise a number of times – it is such a small amount that it encourages me to keep reading my one book per week. If you commit to this, your world and life will change immediately and dramatically, your writing will improve and your general knowledge. If you want to make money as a ghost writer, reading one book per week is key.
7. Read with a pen in hand. My English teacher told me to do this when I was sixteen and I have done so ever since. I will read with a ruler and a pen and underline as I read through a book. The exercise has helped me remember facts and my general knowledge has improved because of it. I can even recall entire lines by surprise or accident during conversation: ones that I don’t recall consciously remembering. The process of reading with a pen in hand has been extremely beneficial to my life. It is important to remember that you are a writer – this is your job. Every book you read is research so it is time to get serious. Take it seriously and read with a pen in hand.
At the end of a book, I will go back through the underlined sections and highlight the best underlined sections with a highlighter pen. Finally, I will scan the highlighted and underlined pages into my computer, building my own personal research library that I am completely familiar with. This becomes a great resource for inspiration and referencing when writing non-fiction.
8. Learn to write screenplays. Scriptwriting is widely known as one of the most difficult types of writing to do well. Due to the confines of screen time, genre convention and established formula, scriptwriting is challenging in ways that a book is not. Once you have mastered the screenplay, everything after that is easy. There is also opportunity for ghost writers to work as scriptwriters – they are sought-after and the work can pay well. I recommend attending the London Screenwriters’ Festival or doing a one year masters degree in scriptwriting.
9. Live. If you want to write and inspire others with words, you will need to experience life. Else, I will not feel anything when I am reading your book. Conquer your fears, work toward your creative goals and travel to different countries. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
10. Develop a sense of urgency. Understand that there are millions of people out there writing while you are not, reading while you are not and travelling while you are not. What are you waiting for? Develop your own sense of urgency. Stop talking about it, start doing it and keep doing it. This process of doing will give rise to great works. Don’t wait for something to be perfect in your mind before you begin. This waiting is in direct opposition with the creative process that is screaming to come out. When Michelangelo carved the David, he did not know it was the David. He got to work and David emerged. Don’t wait, just do and let the creative process take you.