If your goal is to ghostwrite books, the day will come when you land your first assignment.
It could be a memoir for a friend, an acquaintance, or a relative of someone you know. It could be a how-to guide for an expert in some field. Perhaps it’s a work of fiction based on actual events, or a self-help book.
Whatever the project may be, you might find it intimidating – especially if you’ve never before completed a book-length assignment.
Where do you start? How do you tackle such an enormous job?
The first thing to do is create an outline. I’ve never been a fan of long outlines, so mine are not very detailed. They include chapter titles and a one- to two-paragraph description of each chapter. Other writers like to create longer outlines with chapter subheads and stream of consciousness narratives that will serve as raw data for the book. Some people’s outlines are comprehensive bulleted lists. There is no right or wrong way to write an outline; do what’s most comfortable for you. Anything that will serve as your roadmap is fine.
Before starting on the actual writing of the book, share your outline with your client to make sure you’re on the same wavelength. Make any revisions as needed.
Now you’re ready to write. The trick at this point is to treat your budding manuscript as a series of shorter pieces. If you’re used to writing articles, then think of your manuscript as a string of articles. All you have to do is write one article at a time at whatever pace you’re accustomed to – one a day, one a week, whatever works for your schedule and your client’s schedule.
Let me back up a moment; breaking up a long project into a series of shorter works (articles, posts, scenes) will help you come up with a time estimate for your project. Do the math before giving your client an estimated schedule. Figure out how much time you can devote to ghostwriting this book each week in light of your other projects and responsibilities.
For example, say you have twenty hours a week to devote to this book project, and you typically complete a 2,000-word article in six to seven hours. In a week, then, you can write the equivalent of three articles, or a total of 6,000 words. If you’re aiming for a 60,000-word manuscript (approximately 200 to 240 double-spaced manuscript pages), it might take you approximately ten weeks to complete just the raw writing.
But don’t tell your client you’ll finish the book in ten weeks. There will be lag time as you wait for feedback … or for an invoice to be paid. Until I’ve established a good working relationship with a client built on trust, I wait to receive payment of the previous invoice before continuing. Once the client has established herself as someone who can and will pay for the work in a timely manner, then I feel free to keep going without pausing.
Add three to four weeks to factor in these delays, and then add another two to three weeks for edits, rewrites and revisions, and one more week for final changes and proofreading. The estimated schedule now is 16 to 18 weeks. In this scenario, tell your client it’ll take you about 20 weeks to write the book.
If you have to do substantial research or interviewing to gather information, you’re probably looking at closer to 40 weeks. Offer this as your estimated length of time to complete the project. Always clarify that you’re providing an estimate, not an exact schedule, because too many factors are involved – some of them out of your control.
And if you get done ahead of schedule, good for you. You’ll be a hero.
So remember, treat a book project as a series of individual articles, or blog posts, or scenes, and tackle each smaller piece one at a time. This is how to get a handle on a big project. One “article” at a time, one step at a time, you’ll work through it. Four or five months later – or seven or twelve months later, depending on the scope of the project and your best calculations – you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished. You’ve ghostwritten an entire book!
Until next time,
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