One of the skills I have that makes me an excellent ghostwriter is that I read voices. Yes, I am a good listener and I almost always take handwritten notes during business conversations, so I have good content recall (I’m sure this is one of the skills that made me an excellent student too). But I also hear more than the words.
Finding your voice is an important skill for any writer. The tone or voice of a piece of content is as important, if not more important than the message and ideas being conveyed. The right message conveyed with the wrong tone can cause loss of meaning and confusion—or worse, the wrong tone can alienate your reader.
If this skill doesn’t come naturally to you, finding your voice can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing. It’s no wonder that this question has come up in talking to a few of my ghostwriting clients and potential clients recently. So I have been thinking about tips for helping them find their writerly voice.
Thinking Out Loud
One challenge for authors who use a ghostwriter and for ghostwriters themselves is that when we write, we do a lot of thinking. Because in the ghostwriting process there is separation between the person doing the writing and the person with the ideas, it can be tough to bridge the gap.
The solution is close collaboration. I have worked with blogging clients and book clients who prefer a hands off approach to content creation. In the extreme cases, they offer little beyond a blog title or a list of chapter titles. These clients tend to care less about whether the writing sounds like them, which is fine. Each to her own, here. The risk, though, is that the resulting content lacks color (or sounds like me, which may or may not be what they want).
Occasionally, clients hesitate to offer a lot of feedback because they don’t want to come off as being overly critical. Remember that you’re the customer and you are paying for a service in the end. You want to get what you are paying for. This is one reason I encourage brutal honesty from the start. If a client is afraid to tell me “I would never say that,” she isn’t going to be happy with what I write in the end. (And P.S. I come from the world of professional philosophers, where criticism is welcome and expected. I won’t take it personally.)
For best results, work closely with your ghostwriter and offer constructive criticism on tone as well as content whenever possible. Because your unique voice reflects your special perspective on the world and your work, you want your writing to be infused with this perspective. This is what gives your content color. This is the reason your readers will pick up your book or read your blog post. If you want to connect with your audience, making your voice heard through your ghostwriter is crucial.
- Write even as your ghostwriter is writing. Even if you’re simply journaling without showing the writing to anyone, writing will help you think through the ideas in the book. This will make your conversations with your ghostwriter more fruitful and ensure the content reflects your perspective.
- Get into the weeds with your ghostwriter. Be willing to talk about the dirty details of the writing process with your ghostwriter. If you want to leave the nitty-gritty to her, not only do you risk disagreeing with the choices she makes, but this can also slow down the process. Two heads are always better than one. So commit to working through any challenges together.
- At a minimum insist on regular check-in conversations throughout the process. Communication is king. I learn so much from the conversations I have with my clients. I need to know what language, structure, and syntax you prefer, but chances are, unless you were an English professor, you can’t simply tell me what I need to know. So, I pick up on these things by reading your voice during our weekly calls.
Spoken vs. Written Voice
One piece of advice I’ve seen other places about finding your voice is to write the way you speak. This can work. I tend to write the way I speak and it gives my writing a conversational tone, which is great for certain types of content. However, keep in mind that you won’t likely be able to simply transcribe a voice memo and have the tone be up to your standards for writing.
I do recommend recording yourself, especially if you can’t find any time in your busy schedule to write. Just as we think when we’re writing, we do a lot of thinking when we talk out loud. When you listen back to what you said, you can pick up on the words that feel right. You will find yourself thinking “that’s exactly the way I want to say it.” You will notice favorite phrases or words. So, this is a valuable tool for finding your voice.
Also, many writers, especially those who don’t do a ton of writing, end up trying to mimic a particular style when they put their fingers on the keyboard. I’ve seen many incredible conversationalists come off as dry, frigid, or jargony in their writing. It’s as if they’re using a whole different part of their brain or separate mode of cognitive processing (and this may be precisely what’s going on).
More beneficial than speaking to yourself (or your voice recording app) is speaking to someone else. If you can find a trusted colleague or really reliable friend who wants to bounce ideas with you, this person can be invaluable to your process. I love bouncing around content ideas with people! In fact, in 2019, I’m going to start offering content consulting and strategy sessions so that I can do more of this kind of work. If this type of service could help you meet your content goals, let’s talk soon!
I have a marketing consultant, who does this for me once a month and this partnership has been instrumental to my getting my monthly newsletter started and coming up with new marketing ideas for the business. I have been on both sides of the content consulting business relationship and have found it to be valuable every time.
I’m sure I could say more about how to find your writerly voice and I expect to write more on this topic soon. I think I’ll leave it here for now. Suffice it to say, helping you own your story and tell it in a way that reflects your voice is perhaps the greatest benefit a good ghostwriter can deliver.
Not only do I hear more than words, I write more than words. I’m actively signing new ghostwriting and developmental editing clients for 2019. Will you be one? Contact me to schedule a discovery session.
Photo credit: andersonrise