Ghostwriting for a Dog: Samhain

Goody Beagle here. My human celebrates the old holiday called Samhain, which other humans might call Halloween. This time of year the days grow dark and the nights grow long. When my human lights candles on this night, it is a symbol for hope, hope that the light will come again. Samhain is also the time to honor the ancestors. She puts photos of those who have passed out of this life in a special place, and she and her human friends tell stories about them.

This year she will put a photo of The Grandpa in the most special place of all. He died only 2 months ago, so this year especially he needs to know that he will always be remembered.

I remember The Grandpa. One reason I remember him is that his dog Alex now lives with us. I’m slowly getting used to Alex, and I don’t growl at him anymore because I know The Grandpa loved him.

I remember that The Grandpa took me on walks and gave me cookie treats and at dinner time he always saved one last bite of his dinner and gave it to me. When Alex can do that, maybe I will learn to love him like I loved The Grandpa.

Haiku Friday: Secrets

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Secrets:

growing underground
buried family secrets
sprout toward the Light

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.

Writing Tip: Fiction and Reality

When you write fiction, you need to make your characters seem real. They need to come alive. This isn’t always easy, because of course they aren’t real – you’ve made them up, and their existence began in your head.

When you ghostwrite, you’ve got to take a real live person and put their thoughts, ideas, feelings and stories into words that convey who they are, without inundating your readers with the minutia that real people carry around with them.

I’ve found that a good way to make my real people seem real on paper is to pretend that they are fictional characters. When I write fiction, I have to ask myself questions about my characters – their opinions, their motivations, their histories, and so on. I have to develop their unique voice, gestures, or looks so that readers can recognize them in just a few words. This technique works really well for real people as well.

Compost: Curiosity

Did you know that the most important characteristic for a successful ghostwriter is not writing ability? It’s true. The ability to write well is necessary, of course, but there is a trait that’s even more important.

That trait is curiosity. When you write for someone else, your client’s life and ideas must be as interesting to you as your own. You need to really want to know what Cleveland looked like in the spring, even if you’ve never been to Cleveland and have no plans to go there. You need to want to understand what it felt like to be a soldier in the Vietnam War, even if you would never consider the military life. You need to want to know the secrets behind the plumbing business, or the history of a house you have never seen, or … you get the idea.

To be a successful ghostwriter, you must have a rock-solid belief that life is fascinating and that everyone has a story or an idea that can illuminate someone else’s life.

Haiku Friday: Dawn

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Dawn:

a slow creep of light
all the secrets of the night
slip into hiding

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.

Sharing History: A Book for Grandma

I wrote my book Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life to especially appeal to the large and growing population of genealogists, family historians, and scrapbookers. Making History provides a comprehensive, easy to use, fun method of exploring the times of one’s life against a backdrop of historic events. This book illuminates personal power, and provides an antidote to the apathetic assumption that one person cannot make a difference.

“Before I read this book, we had tried and failed to get my father to share his stories of the past,” said one librarian reader, “but with these fabulous timelines and writing triggers, now he’s singing like a bird!”

Are your parents, grandparents, or (if you’re especially lucky) great-grandparents alive? Do you wish they’d share the stories of their past? If you want to help them remember so they sing like a bird, I encourage you to buy this book.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Another Book?

Goody Beagle here. My human says I should write another book. The first one, Dog Park Diary, did pretty well, and people seemed to like it.

Well, maybe. I’m pretty busy with the couch and all.

Maybe I should just take all my tweets (there are a lot of them by now) and put them together in a book, with more pictures. I could call it Goody Beagle: My Life in Tweets. What do you think? Would you buy such a book?

Haiku Friday: Giving

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Giving:

at the giveaway
what you give comes back to you
dressed in different clothes

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.

Writing Tip: How to Get Known

One of the challenges of ghostwriting is figuring out how to stand out while remaining invisible. This tip is a simple one: network! Then network some more. It is the only answer to this challenge. You must convince other people to recommend you.

How to network successfully is covered beautifully and completely in a book I was fortunate to edit: The Intentional Networker, by Patti DeNucci. Whatever your business, this book will help you get known, and if you are a writer (or especially a ghostwriter) you really should read this book.

Compost: Writing Success

I often tell my clients that if they want to write a book in order to become rich and famous, they should probably think of another way of getting rich and famous. Being a published author has not brought me fame or pots of money, although it does help to pay the mortgage. Mostly, it has brought me a great deal of pride and satisfaction. If 100 years from now, my great-great-great grandchild is reading something I wrote, it might even have brought me a measure of immortality.

The most practical benefit I got from being a published author is that it opened doors in helping me to establish my business and my reputation as a ghostwriter. When I was writing my own “stuff,” I couldn’t make enough money to quit my day job and be a writer full time. It wasn’t until I started writing for other people that I was able to go out on my own. There’s a lesson in there somewhere – I think it is this: “It’s not about you.”

Even when you write your own stuff, it still isn’t about you — it’s always about your readers. If there weren’t any readers, there’d be no point in writing. Writing is just another way of communicating; but writing allows you to communicate without the restrictions of time and space. I think if you keep “it’s not about you” in front of you all the time, you can’t go far wrong.