Notes From a Ghostwriter
Last month at Barnes and Noble’s Writers’ Night I caught Jane Lorenzini, a freelance writer, speaking on her recent ghostwriting project. This is not paranormal stuff; I’m talking about writers who write a memoir for another person. Often celebrities and corporate executives will engage a ghostwriter to tell their story either because they lack the time or the talent. I hadn’t thought much about being a ghostwriter before, but Lorenzini’s topic caught my attention. She was asked by Hoda Kotb, co-host of the Today Show’s Hoda and Kathy Lee, to write her memoir. Kotb had known Lorenzini from their days working together in New Orleans. Lorenzini took on the project for her friend though she now lives in Nashville, Tennessee while Kotb lives in New York.
They accomplished the task through the magic of skype. With a great pitch and Kotb’s connections in New York they received a contract with Simon and Schuster. The publisher gave Lorenzini specific directions as to the length of the book and the time line for completion. They wanted 80,000 words in 300 pages delivered in five months. A daunting task even with skype.
Lorenzini worked from an outline of major parts of Kotb’s life from her youth as the middle child of Egyptian parents, to the Peacock network with many reporting tales including the Thailand psunami, Katrina and Afghanistan, to her present show with Kathy Lee Gifford and recent survival of breast cancer. Lorenzini’s method of viewing home movies of family gatherings captured Kotb’s youth.
When writing a memoir it is difficult enough to find one’s own voice, I couldn’t imagine being able to authenticate another person’s voice. Voice is key to the success of the memoir and Lorenzini was dead-on in that accomplisment–at least as far as one can judge from watching the Hoda and Kathy Lee show on daily TV. Testimony to that is the back cover blurb by Brian Williams. “This the Hoda I know. She’s written this book the way she lives: out loud and up front. She has written about the stuff of all of our lives–love, loss…and what she wore!”
The book, titled HODA–what else? was launched in October, 2010 on the Today Show. At that point Kotb began marketing around the country at book signings including our own Nashville.
Now that you know the back story, read HODA for yourself. You’ll enjoy it and see the brilliant work of freelance ghostwriter Jane Lorenzini.
Lorenzini’s message to writers is, freelance writing can open up many and varied opportunities for writers.
Note: In Writer’s Digest March/April issue find an excellent article by Kelly James-Enger, a ghostwriter and freelance writer, which answers questions on breaking into ghostwriting, understanding your role, establishing parameters, getting the job done and getting paid. Ghosting projects can bring a writer $12,000 to $60,000 per book project depending on the topic and number of words. Got your attention yet?
James-Enger is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books.
If You Write, You Are a Writer
I remember the day a published author said, “If you write, you are a writer.” That was an eye opener to me. She was speaking to a group of wanna-be writers at a writers’ conference. With that comment she instantly gave us permission to think of ourselves as writers. It took a while, but I gradually began to respond, “I’m a writer,” I responded when someone asked “What do you do?” Always before, depending on what stage of my life I would respond, “I’m a teacher or administrator,” or “I’m a decorator.” It took courage to begin saying “I’m a writer.” I felt like an imposter. Everyone is interested to meet a writer. Of course, I had to brace for the next questions, “What do you write?” and “Is it published?” “Where can I find it?” In the beginning I was writing personal essays. That response usually killed their interest. With more experience and focus to my writing I began writing a memoir. “I’m writing a memoir,” usually evoked a faint smile and a changed subject. No one wanted to directly say, “So what’s so special about your life?”
After attending writing workshops and joining writing groups I felt more like one of them—a writer. I designed business cards with my name and address and WRITER boldly printed under my name. By doing the cards on the computer, I could add information as needed. One of my first writing endeavors was writing a column for a local newspaper on decorating—a topic taken from my profession as a decorator. I added WRITER/COLUMNIST to my business card. Newspaper editors are eager to have new column ideas. Write what you know and share it whether it is your hobby or your profession. You feel like a bona fide writer when you see your byline in print.
For one of my writing groups I volunteered to write a monthly newsletter—The Collective Connection—with writing tips and member news. Writing groups are wonderful support for new writers. I recommend joining or starting a writing group. I became a member of The Tennessee Writers Alliance and attended their conference. I added member TWA to my card. As a member of The Council for the Written Word, a writing group, I submitted a story for an anthology and had it accepted for publication. With that accomplishment, I proudly added AUTHOR under my name.
Publishing is not necessarily the goal of every writer. Writing for many is simply for their own pleasure. For some, as Pulitzer Prize nominee poet Stellasue Lee says, “writing is like breathing, I have to do it.” She breathed life into two recent poetry books, Crossing the Double Yellow Line and Firecracker Red.
If you enjoy writing, write. If you write, you are a writer.
YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK
I guess almost everyone has thought about writing a book. It has been my intention forever; I always loved to write. Though I had no idea what I would write about, there it was tucked in the back of my mind—the goal to write a book some day. Writing a whole book of fiction seemed daunting—still does. I was better at writing about life experiences or taking an idea from reality and embellishing it into a fiction piece. Something like television shows do with story lines—taking an idea right off the front page.
As the years went on and I got older, my plan of one day writing a book became just a line on my “bucket list” and not even near the top of the list. There were many days in the convent—especially in the novitiate—as young new entrants breaking rules and getting into trouble, we often commented that “we should write a book.”
One day I wrote a story about my experience of surviving a tornado as a child. I joined a group of people interested in writing who offered critiques at a Barnes and Noble book store. It was a group of new writers, many like me, wondering if what they wrote was considered any good. Experienced writers critiqued the work of anyone brave enough to read their stories. I took the plunge and read my tornado story. The idea might have been good, but the writing was limp. Even so, the group gave me an encouraging critique. I continued to edit and rewrite the story. Rewriting is a way of life for writers. As literary agent Noah Lukeman says, There are no good writers, only great re-writers.
After sharing experiences of my convent life with friends, the mantra became, “You should write a book.” And so more than five years and many rewrites later the manuscript is complete—FROM MONASTERY TO MATRIMONY. I can cross that one off my “bucket list.” Getting a book published is the next line on the list. I’m making progress.
New Year’s Resolution
I have not made a list of resolutions for the 2011. I have one goal: To get my manuscript FROM MONASTERY TO MATRIMONY in the hands of a publisher. In preparation for that I am slowly joining the social media scene. You can find me on Facebook now. Never thought I would be a Facebook friend. After reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, CRUSH IT, I see it is imperative to join the rush to social media in order to build a brand. Vaynerchuk writes a compelling book on using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and a half dozen other sites I have never heard of. He advises use of them to monetize your personal brand–yourself–your passion.
Writer’s Digest article Elements of a Successful Fiction Platform by Christina Katz, speaks to combining your blog writing talents with other blog writers by guest posting. “If you are too overwhelmed with maintaining your own blog, consider teaming up with other likeminded writers.” Jane Friedman utilizes guest blogs frequently. Her blog, There Are No Rules, has recently posted a four-part blog by Darrelyn Saloom, an emerging writer. Saloom recently attended the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference; she shares experiences of meeting and pitching several agents resulting in requests for her book proposal. In reading her written images of the conference you will definitely see the value in attending a quality writers conference.
Don’t miss Jane Friedman’s daily blog, There Are No Rules. If you don’t have time to read it each day, capture it in a folder to read later. But do capture it. Good luck with your New Year’s Resolutions.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
My wish for all is a peaceful, prosperous, healthy and Happy 2011. I rang in the New Year in beautiful downtown Nashville. A friend invited me to the Re-Opening of our magnificent Schermerhorn Symphony Center. It was the celebration of the first concert in the Center since the devastating May, 2010 flood that destroyed it and many other downtown venues. The concert began at 9 p.m. nearly my bedtime. The guest artist was virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman. The concert lasted two hours culminating with champagne and sweets to toast in the New Year. While we were enjoying the concert in the Center, crowds filled Broadway Street to enjoy country music stars performing at Waterfront Park. They rang in the New Year as a giant guitar dropped counting down the seconds to midnight. Fireworks illuminated the sky over the Cumberland River. We live in a beautiful city. Make it your destination in 2011.
A PIGGLY WIGGLY CHRISTMAS
Author Robert Dalby has written a series of Piggly Wiggly books; the most recent is A Piggly Wiggly Christmas. I heard him speak at a book signing at Spring Hill Library, Spring Hill, TN and gleaned words of wisdom about developing characters. Dalby says characters need a real story; the writer should know ten times more about their characters than they reveal. Back stories should pace the revealed information about characters. Don’t give away their entire story when they are introduced. “Reveal your characters as a spool of thread unwinds.”
Settings in his stories are of places he has known or wants to know. His Piggly Wiggly series is set in a southern town much like where he grew up. He likes to write about strong southern women.
Robert Dalby signs A Piggly Wiggly Christmas for Mary Ann Weakley.
THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHER
I attended a Barnes and Noble Writers Night in October. The speaker was Matt Braugher, Senior Vice President of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville. Some of the notes I took: Publishers are looking for emotional experiences, a deep story in memoirs. Have something unique to say and it must be written well. Agents and editors can size up a book proposal in ten minutes or less.
It is best to work with an agent. It is the best way to go to reach a major publisher. If you have your manuscript edited professionally before submitting it to an agent, look for an editor who has worked with publishers, not just someone who knows English and can proofread.
When writing fiction, don’t follow trends, e.g. vampires. By the time your book is ready for publishing, the trend is often long gone.
Have a personal platform, know how you will promote yourself. A publisher will not invest in you if you will not invest your time and energy in promoting yourself.
Thomas Nelson Publishers has recently added a self publishing arm–Westbow Press. Occasionally a self published book through Westbow will be picked up by Thomas Nelson.
Baugher suggests following the blog of Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson. He shares many tips on writing. His blog incudes agents that Thomas Nelson works with.
The writings in this blog will vary as my day to day life varies.
I’ll share the progression of my writings,
tips on writing
and books I have found helpful in writing.
My life with a rescue cat may appear now and then;
we rescued each other.
I’ll try to make an entry at least once a week.
WELCOME TO MY BLOG
When I first started writing I joined a writers group to see what real writers did. I felt like a groupy hanging around celebrities; I didn’t claim to be a writer. A writer friend asked, “Do you write? Then you’re a writer.” That lifted the guilt burden of taking up space in the writing group. When I started writing seriously, I subscribed to writing magazines—Writer’s Digest and The Writer. I devoured articles on all “How To” subjects, which is nearly the full content of these magazines. Articles by famous and not-yet-famous authors inspired me. As my writing progressed my focus advanced from grammar tips to first-line tips to character development and story telling. I absorbed every piece of writing I could find on line and in print on writing query letters and book proposals. I am now studying and venturing into the social media avenue. Writing down the words is easy in a way; the nuts and bolts of writing can be laborious but rewarding.