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Writing Tip: Focus

oponed book on a wooden garden tableWhen I begin a ghostwriting job, one of the first things I ask the author is: What is the focus of your book? One of the most common mistakes I run into as a ghostwriter is the author wants to write too much. They know all the ins and outs and exceptions and nuances about their subject, and they try to cram it all into one book. This is not only unnecessary; it makes for a bad book. The readers don’t need to know everything the author knows – only what applies to them, and what they care about. If you try to cram too much in, your important points will get lost. My job as a ghostwriter to help my client find the right focus for their book. I look for the story arc, or the common themes running through the story.

I once had a client who I met at a book fair where I had a table. He came up to me and said, “Oh, I want to write a book – I need to talk to you.” I said, “Great – what do you want to write a book about?” And he goes, “I don’t know.”

Now there was a challenge. He just felt that he had a book inside him somewhere, but he’d never written anything, or really thought much about what he wanted in his book, until that moment. And he actually hired me to find out if he had a book inside him somewhere. I charged him a consulting fee to spend some hours talking about why he wanted to write a book, what his passions were, who he wanted to reach, and so on, while I recorded our conversation. And you know what? Eventually a focus for the book did emerge, and he then hired me to ghostwrite it for him.

The book was about psychic hunches and how to follow them through.

If you are a writer seeking to learn how to write for others, as others, my online program Learn to Ghost will help you get started and succeed as a ghostwriter. Learn more here.

 

Haiku Friday: Ducks

AnimalsToday my haiku is from August 28th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days, for Students of Animals, Birds, Insects, and Other Teachers, one of a 7-book series. The topic for today is: “Ducks”

on the ship canal
ships for commerce, boats for fun
both must share with ducks

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Don’t Eat the Laptop

laptop search on the cloud interfaceAlex Terrgi here. My human spends way too much time with that thing she puts on her lap while she stares at it and moves her fingers around on it. Sometimes she sits there for hours. Doesn’t she know that sitting for hours like that is not good for her? Or for me.

The thing has almost no smell, except a dry gray smell that no self-respecting dog would ever sniff. This is the only reason I don’t attack it and try to kill it, it makes my stomach hurt to even think about putting my mouth on it. I don’t think my teeth would ever be the same.

Besides I think it is already dead and should have been buried a long time ago.

 

 

Haiku Friday: Quail

AnimalsToday my haiku is from August 21st of my new book A Haiku Book of Days, for Students of Animals, Birds, Insects, and Other Teachers, one of a 7-book series. The topic for today is: “Quail”

quail have feathers like
Sumo wrestlers have topknots
bobbling as they move

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

 

Writing Tip: Learn to Ghost: Getting the Work

If you are a writer seeking to learn how to write for others, as others, my online program Learn to Ghost will help you get started and succeed as a ghostwriter.

Here’s one of the many tips from this program, about something many writers dislike: marketing. The problem with marketing ghostwriting services is that ghosts are supposed to be invisible. You’re not supposed to tell people who you’ve worked for. But if you’re invisible, how do people know you’re here?

The marketing section of Learn to Ghost covers subjects such as Freebies, Diversification, Identifying your Niche, Networking, Promoting, Referrals, Teaching & Speaking, Persistence, and more. Here’s an excerpt for free:

Identify Your Niche

It is important to identify your ideal clients for marketing purposes, of course. But it’s also important because you will not fit with everyone. What kinds of books do you like to read, and write? What is your passion? Your best clients will come from those who share it.

Your niche will be unique to you, and it is worthwhile to spend some time identifying who you want to write for, and why. For example, the two niches on which I focus my marketing efforts are:

  1. People wanting to write their memoirs, either because they feel their stories will resonate with people with common issues, so the books will have commercial potential; or because they want to leave a legacy for their descendants.
  2. Small business owners or service professionals, who wish to enhance their credibility and prestige, and build their businesses by establishing themselves as industry authorities. These small business professionals also have another advantage as a target market – they often need writers for website content, blog posts, articles, or e-books.

Another good idea is to identify who you don’t want to write for, and why. I don’t write medical books (unless written for laymen), high-tech books, financial books (unless written for laymen), or fiction. There are ghostwriters who do, of course. I don’t write books, articles, or blog posts that require scholarly research, multi-sourced references, numerous footnotes, and the like. Scholarly ghostwriting is a whole other animal.

You might notice that my targets are often excellent candidates for self-publishing. I don’t focus on books that need to be published by well-known publishers in order to be successful. (Although many of my clients have been published by traditional publishers.) So a facet of my niche is specializing in writing for people who will likely be self-published authors. It is one of my missions to combat the poor-writing stigma attached to self-published books. Two stigmas at once – I am brave.

I have written many different kinds of books, covering a huge array of subjects, but even though I’ve written about hypnotherapy, psychic horses, generational differences, trans-cultural adoption, shamanism, combating constipation and diarrhea, prostitution, living with cancer, remodeling houses, company histories, financial systems – I could go on – but these all have something in common. They all fit my “niche.”

What I’m best known for are books that are rich in storytelling, especially if they contain historical elements. Often the books I write combine storytelling or history with promoting a business, service, or cause. I think storytelling sells. And it’s what I am all about. I am a historian by education, yet I spent twenty years as a marketing professional; so my educational and business background have come together in my ghostwriting niche, and married my passion for storytelling.

Haiku Friday: Bird Myths

AnimalsToday my haiku is from August 14th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days, for Students of Animals, Birds, Insects, and Other Teachers, one of a 7-book series. The topic for today is: “Bird Myths”

eagles see it all
peacocks are vain, owls are wise
are the bird myths true?

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: My New Home

curious squirrelAlex Terrgi here. So we did it. Moved away from the street I knew, to a new place with new rules and new smells. Except inside our new house, where we just moved our old smells with us. Thank goodness, because if you have too many new smells all at once it really screws up your nose. I know humans don’t get this, because their noses are so pitiful they can’t tell new smells from old ones, but dogs know what I’m talking about. If any dogs are reading this, which I doubt, because reading or listening to words has very little smell at all, so why would they be interested?

Anyway, we moved. So far I haven’t met any new dogs or cats, and the squirrel and bunny population here seems to be pretty small, so the view out the windows is kinda boring. Or maybe the squirrels and bunnies around here are good hiders. It’s hard for me to tell because my human won’t let me roam around by myself yet, because she says I might get lost. Of course this is ridiculous because my nose wouldn’t let me get lost, and how else am I supposed to feel at home if I can’t roam around and smell what’s up – like where the squirrels and bunnies hang out?

Sigh. Humans, what can you do?

Haiku Friday: Mice

AnimalsToday my haiku is from August 7th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days, for Students of Animals, Birds, Insects, and Other Teachers, one of a 7-book series. The topic for today is: “Skill”

mice can squeeze themselves
into holes the size of dimes
what a handy skill

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

The Synopsis Dread

Writer's BlockI finished my new novel, The Masks on Grandmother’s Wall, months ago. I had it edited. The editor suggested I expand some parts. So I did. The novel is now complete, and I am very happy with it. But now comes the icky part.

I have to write a synopsis for the book proposal. I’m okay with writing the promotion plans, my bio, competitive analysis, all that stuff. But for some reason I just detest writing synopses, at least of my own work. So for nearly six months I have been putting this chore off. And The Masks on Grandmother’s Wall is still patiently waiting …

So finally I made myself write a synopsis. But because of my issues around writing synopses, I don’t know whether it’s a good synopsis, or a bad one, or just mediocre. Therefore I am sharing it on this blog, to see if someone will give me their opinion.

So here it is, the synopsis of The Masks on Grandmother’s Wall. What do you think? Would you want to read this book? Please comment. (But be gentle.)

The Masks on Grandmother’s Wall is a short novel of 29,000 words, including fifteen original animal folktales. It is about the power of storytelling and how it connects, inspires, teaches, and heals us. It is about the elusive nature of truth and the illusion of safety. Finally, it is about the search for identity, and finding a place where you belong.

Long ago, or maybe only yesterday, cousins Emma and Lucy arrive at their grandmother’s empty house. They have come to pack up Grandma’s studio after her death. Grandma was a storyteller and mask artist, and memories of her stories and masks come flooding back during the afternoon Emma and Lucy spend at her seemingly now-empty house.

While they take the masks off the wall of the studio and wrap them up, Emma and Lucy tell each other some of the stories that go with the masks. The fifteen stories they choose are told in the classic folk-tale style, companions to animal masks, such as the Beaver who tells “How to Lighten Up,” the Flea who tells “How to Stop an Itch,” the Frog who tells “How to Take a Leap of Faith,” and so on, until they come to the final story, the Spider, who tells “How to Find Your Way Home.”

Emma and Lucy are young women in their twenties, closer than most cousins and also close to their grandmother, to whom they often told their problems and griefs. These problems are still operating in their lives, but Grandma is no longer there to help them. Emma is a self-described “waffler” who cannot decide on a profession or a man, and dismisses her inborn talents that are obvious to others but not to her. Lucy is a budding archaeologist in love with scientific facts and fearful of anything that could be described as “deep.”

As they tell the stories and wear the masks, the narrative shifts between Emma and Lucy. Until the last story when Grandma herself, through the mask of Spider, again helps Emma and Lucy discover truths about themselves.

And so it ends, or maybe it is just beginning.”

Haiku Friday: Home

WritersToday my haiku is from July 31st of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The topic for today is: “Home”

words pop out your mouth
once you birth them, they leave home
gone to see the world

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.