Should You Hire A Ghostwriter or Write It Yourself?

Of all the things that I do, ghostwriting seems to garner the most interest.  Recently, Twitter and blogging buddy Patrick Ross mentioned in a comment that he'd like to hear more about it.  (He also passed along the Stylish Blogger award.  Thanks, Patrick!) So here you go.

In this post, I'm going to look at the difference between hiring a ghostwriter or writing the book yourself, perhaps with some coaching along the way.  In general, I'm a huge fan of writing the book yourself. Dcist_ghost_halloween_391239_l

Why do I believe this?

Because even though it is a ghostwriter's job to enter the head of the client and write like he or she would, the most authentic voices still come from the client himself.   But sometimes writing it yourself just isn't possible.  So let's consider when you might want to hire a ghostwriter:

  • When you don't have time to write it yourself
  • When you don't have the inclination to write it yourself
  • When you know you hate writing
  • When you realize that your time could better be spent on other aspects of your business
  • When the subject you want to write about is way out of your area of expertise

Most political books are ghostwritten.  (Do you really think Sarah Palin or Al Gore has the time to write a book?  I actually have a passing acquaintance with the guy who helped Al with his book, help being a euphenism for doing all the work.) Some self-help books are ghostwritten.  (Again, can you picture Dr. Phil sitting down to write his very own little book?) And even some novels are ghostwritten.  (It was widely rumored that Margaret Truman's mysteries were ghostwritten.  And then you you have authors like what's his name, um….the guy who write the Alex Cross mysteries–Jame Patterson!  He has a whole stable of writers who churn out crap books for him.)

But you, my dear friend or client, are different.  You have a passionate idea inside you that your long to express into the world for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps you have a business you want to promote, or you desire to begin a speaking career.  Perhaps you are looking for a career change, or in loftier ambitions, have an idea that will change the world.  So have a book inside you that needs to come out.

And while it may be tempting to hire a ghostwriter, I believe that you have the chops to do it yourself.  Consider this:

  • Ghostwriting is labor-intensive and so it is expensive. 
  • There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your name on the cover of a book–and knowing you wrote it yourself.
  • Writing a book probably isn't nearly as difficult as you've made it out to be in that fertile brain of yours.

For some lucky reason, I think that book-writing is not only fun, but easy.  I think this harks back to my days in elementary school, when there was nothing I loved better than getting assigned a school report on a country, or a planet, or even something as simple as a bird.  I couldn't wait to find out what topic I'd be assigned, and once I found out, I sprinted to the library to start researching.  Love writing those reports.  And today I love writing books.

But I believe you can write your book yourself.  And that you can actually enjoy doing it.  I know, I know.  But trust me, it is possible.  

Because this post went in a slightly different direction than I first intended, and got long at the same time, I think I'll do another post on the same topic, slightly different focus, looking at ghostwriting more from the writer's side of things.

In the meantime, if I've convinced you to write the book yourself, I am offering a telelclass on Book Proposals That Succeed, and the early-bird pricing ends this Friday.  Check it out here.

 Photograph by katmere from Everystockphoto.com

Promptitude: LA

As you are reading this, I'll in in LA.  Not lounging by the pool, even though I am staying in Santa Monica.  No, I'm at the first Suzanne Evans 10K Coaching Club Intensive, working my little tail off to come up with new and wonderful ways to serve my clients and readers.  Yes, you.

And since I am in LA, I figured LA-related prompts would be in order.  (You can go to my post from last week to get the links for all the prompt posts I've written.  I'm too busy being busy to relist them here.)

Ready? Here we go:

He was shocked that all the women looked alike.

Palm trees and blue sky mean home.

It never rains in California.

It is difficult and time-consuming to be beautiful.

There are way too many cars in the world.

"Everyone is rich, or should be," he said.

Amazing how ordinary celebrities look in real life.

The sun set over the Pacific.

She loved the ocean.

The sand felt dry and crunchy beneath her toes.

Have fun.  And if you get bored, check out my Book Proposal Teleclass, coming up soon.  You can read about it here.

Off I Go Again

I'm heading to LA tomorrow.  Coconuts_trees_tree_221641_l

Yep.  Swimming pools.  Movie stars.  Just like the Clampetts. 

Except I'll be working the entire time, attending a two-day business intensive that is part of the Suzanne Evans 10K Coaching Club.  Together with 98 other women, I'll be designing a plan for the next stage of my business.

Frankly, I'm terrified.  And excited, too.

Some days I just want to be a writer.  I am a writer, it is the basis of all that I do, every single thing.  But sometimes I want to go back to the days when that was all you had to do.  Before you needed to do nearly all the marketing for your career yourself. Before social media and coaching and blogs and websites.

Some days all I want to do is write novels.

And instead, I'm designing classes and products and writing newsletters and blog posts.  I'm coaching clients and critiquing student work and attending networking groups.

Truth be told, I love everything that I do.  I love all the extra stuff almost as much as I love writing, and I know that if I decided some day to stop it all and just write, I'd miss it.  (And of course, that day will never come, because the world has changed now.)

But still, some days I just want to write.  And that is good.  Because it is what drives everything.

A couple notes:

Patrick Ross has requested that I write a post on ghostwriting.  Meant to get to it today, but I ran out of time to do it justice, so expect this brilliant expose next week.

I'm taking registrations now for the Book Proposals That Succeed Teleclass.  It is going to be rockin' so don't miss out.  Check out the page here.

There’s Revelation in Deprivation

Hey–before you read this, hop on over to Jodi Milner's blog, My Literary Quest, and read her interview with me.  She asked great questions that I enjoyed answering!

For the next couple weeks, I am off coffee and alcohol.  Okay, I get to drink one cup of coffee a day.  But no alcohol.  And no nuts, seeds, spicy foods, chocolate or popcorn.


Blame it on the ileocecal valve.  Or you could blame it on my new chiropractor.  But whoever you want to blame it on, here's the deal: I've had pain in my shoulder and my knee and leg off and on for the past two years.  My acupuncturist would get it knocked back and then it would flare up again.  Finally, at her insistence I went to a doctor who practices Applied Kinesiology. 

Which is magic.

He poked here, rubbed there, moved my leg around, adjusted my spine and voila! I feel way better.  Like, no pain in my shoulder for the first time in forever.  And only a bit of pain in my leg when I rise after sitting for awhile.  Plus, I have my normal gait back.  I've been walking like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man for the past year or so, all the while suspecting that one leg had got shorter than the other, which turned out to be true.

I'm getting to the point of all this.  Which is that in the AK world, as with all alternative medicine, everything is connected.  And my doc suspects that some of this muscle pain has to do with a cranky ileoocecal valve, which happens to be the case for most people.  It's a little flap between your large intestine and small intestine and it controls things I don't want to think about too much, like waste backing up into your colon or something like that.  Anyway, all the things I listed that I am not currently eating or drinking irritate it.  Which is why I'm not eating or drinking them.

Coffee and wine are the most problematic, as I love them both, and my first thought was no way.  But I truly want this lack of pain to continue.  And so I've committed to this path.  And I have to say, it is amazing what results.

I'm finding that if I don't leap to sip at my coffee or drink a glass of wine at night, there's openness.  I'm not tamped down, I'm not suppressing myself, I'm open.  It's not always the most comfortable feeling, this being open.   Hence, the tendency to depress it.  But I'm hanging in there.

And I think, no I know, this is crazy wild good for my writing and creativity.  Simply feeling different is always a generative state.  But feeling different and open?  Unreal.  Mad writing is the result.

What opens you up?  Have you ever had an experience of revelation in deprivation?  Or even just revelation?


Promptitude: Hair

After a brief break last week because I was off doing a VIP day, Promptitude is back.  For those of you who are not familiar with it, every Saturday I post prompts on whatever topic suits my whim.  You can read more about the process here, and find a list of all the Promptitudes so far at the end of this post. Woman_long_hair_271986_l

I am getting my hair done today.  The last time I went in for a cut was in September and afterwards I met my friends Sue and Mayanna for dinner and we sat at a sidewalk table of an Italian cafe in the autumn sunshine.

Ever since then, I've been dithering: cut it short, or leave it medium length?  Straight or layered?  I'm here to tell you, dithering results in only one thing: inaction.  (The same is true in writing, of course.  As above, so below.) And so, because of this inaction, my hair has gotten longer than it has been in years, it has no style, and the maintenance of it is driving me nuts.  Plus, I've got split ends for the first time since I was a teenager.

The problem is, the results of my informal polls of friends and family (cut short or not?) have been mixed, with violent opinions on either side.  So I'm just going to do what I've truly wanted to do for months now: get it all cut off.  I'll once again look like that photo that accompanies this site.

And so today I have hair on my mind.  And so will you, if you use the following prompts:

The woman with the scraggly hair pushed her shopping cart full of junk by their restaurant.

It hurt when Mom used to brush the snarls out of my hair.

He got a buzz cut at the start of every summer.

She used her hair as a flirtatious device.

With the first snip of her long locks, she cried.

Oh God, it looks awful.

Blondes have more fun.

There you have it.  Seven prompts about hair. 

Saturday Promptitude

Promptitude: What Makes a Good Prompt?

Promptitude: Departing for Another World

Promptitude: Super Moon Edition

Promptitude: Whiney Baby

Promptitude: New Moon

Promptitude: Rain

Promptitude: Wide Open Spaces

Writer’s Tips: Managing Energy For Writing

Last Wednesday, I wrote about time versus energy, how sometimes we complain about lack of time but what we really are missing is energy.  You can read the post here. Power_energy_wind_265065_l

I promised specific tips on how to manage energy, and as if by magic (or ma-gic with a hard g as my daughter used to say when she was little), here they are:

1.  Know Thyself.  My eyes pop open at 6 AM and I'm up and doing my morning ritual soon thereafter.  (Except I will admit to sleeping in a bit this morning, as I was up late watching the coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden last night.  What an amazing year it has been so far.)  I love to get up early and launch into my day.  My friend Robin, on the other hand, stays up late, until 2 or 3 AM, and sleeps late.  If she went against her natural tendencies and tried to get up early, she'd be really cranky.  And if I went against my preferred sleep schedule and stayed up late to work, I'd be fighting drowsiness the whole time.  So figure out your natural rhythms and go with them.

2.  Do What's Most Important First.  Whenever you can, give your best energy–that which comes at the start of your day or work session–to your most important goal.  If it is writing a novel, work on that first.  If it is working on a book proposal, spend some time on that first.  Committing your best energy to your main goal will feed your energy for the rest of the day or work session.  I wrote more about this here.

3.  Move Your Bod.  This comes in two parts:

A.  Throughout the day. Recent studies have shown that if you sit at a desk all day, you're basically unhealthy.  Even if you go exercise after that day of sitting on your ass, you're still unhealthy.  This is an occupational hazard for writers.   So, move throughout the day.  Get up every hour from your desk and walk around the office or house, or stretch.  And, every time you are on the phone walk (if you can) or stand.  I've taken to pacing around the house when I'm on the phone, to the great puzzlement of my pug.

B.  30 minutes a day. Or more.  Exercise is as vital for the brain as it is for the body.  Creativity and walking has long been linked, because when you're out walking, ideas just seem to come.  Ma-gic.  I've been struggling with this lately due to a knee energy, but I've been a walker for years and it is the best.  However, do whatever you love, whether that is swimming or biking or Zumba.

4.  Use Intervals.  Experts are now touting interval training as an efficient way to get optimal exercise in and you can follow this same theory for writing.   Set a timer or agree with yourself that you're going to write for 45 minutes and then go full out for that time.  This means don't look at email or the latest on Twitter.  Just write.  When time is up, take a break for 15 minutes.  This is when you get to look at email, talk to your dog, call your girlfriend.  And then launch in again.

5. Understand Creative Cycles.  Just as the year progresses through the seasons, so too does your creativity progress through stages.  You may be writing full out for four months and then not scribble another word for two weeks.  After I got my MFA, I could barely write for six months.  Two years of intense deadlines had done me in.  It is naturally to have periods of intense activity and times when you are less energetic.  Use the latter for less demanding tasks, like note-taking and so forth.

Those are my best tips for creating and conserving writerly energy.  What are yours?

P.S.–On Saturday, I held my first VIP Day with the amazing Holly Marie St. Pierre, and it was fabulous.  We got at least a month's worth of work (the core of a book proposal)  done in one day!  If you're interested in catapulting your writing to a new level, check out the VIP Day page here.


Photo by kevinzim.


Guest Post: Erica Nelson and Happiness Quotations

I'm pleased to offer you this guest post from Erica Nelson, author of Happiness Quotations: Gentle Reminders of Your Preciousness.  Read about her book and enjoy an excerpted passage below.  Be sure to visit Erica's site at www.happinessquotations.com.

“Most people pursue pleasure in money, sex and power but are still unfulfilled. Why? Because they are non-sustainable energy sources whereas happiness is the purest, most sustainable and reusable form of fuel for the human spirit. Thank you Erica for writing such a meaningful and important book. I love it and it makes me happy.”

– Michael Port, NY Times Best Selling Author of The Think Big Manifesto HQ FB2

When Michael Port sent this recommendation for Happiness Quotations, it lit a fire for me to finish the manuscript and get it ready for the publisher. Glowing recommendations kept pouring in during the book creation process with this book. Michael actually recommended the book when it was nearing completion. The concept was born right after my last birthday in September 2010. I was ready for the next book, the first book was published in 2008. Two manuscripts are sitting on my hard drive, neither worthy for me to take the time to get them into print and before people.

Initially, Happiness Quotations: Gentle Reminders of Your Preciousness was part of a trilogy on happiness. I considered having a journal created, for people to write down wins and happiness experiences; writing a book on the how-to of happiness; and writing quotations to practically apply the happiness way of life I was born knowing.

When I began to post Happiness Quotations, smaller quotations I wrote to encourage people to feel good about life, to forgive old wounds, to recognize ego and connect to source energy – the response was so great. The light of these quotations quickly left the other projects in the dust. I began to concentrate fully on Happiness Quotations, and developed each smaller daily post into a longer passage with more insight, and more information on how to live and integrate the concepts into our lives.

Here’s what came up when I opened the book “Happiness Quotations: Gentle Reminders of Your Preciousness” to a passage for you this morning:

Experience Everything More Fully

Ask more of yourself. Ask yourself to feel joy more fully. Lift your heart higher. Believe in yourself more deeply. Follow your intuition more truly. Be bigger than you thought you could be. Experience love with more depth. Just ask yourself to be more than you thought you could be, and feel more than you thought you could feel.

As you ask, so it shall be. As you step more deeply into the joy that is your birthright, more joy becomes available to you.

So often we forget to ask ourselves to become more than we are. The set-points that become our normal waking consciousness grow engraved and rooted into our behaviors. Yet, you can change a set-point. You can change how deeply you feel. You can experience more of all that you came onto the planet to experience. Just ask.

The next step on my journey will be to write what I’m calling HQ2, or the second in the series of Happiness Quotations. I’m also in creation on a happiness e-class people can take to deepen the experience of living in happiness each day. To find out more about Happiness Quotations, go to www.HappinessQuotations.com, where you can read quotations and get into inspiration to embrace your day.

Erica Nelson Here is a little bit more about me:

I believe that happiness takes time each day. To step into happiness means to let go of judgment, fear, and programmed beliefs that hold you back. I started writing about happiness professionally in 2006. I coach others to let go of negative binds and free up joy and delight, awe and gratitude in living each day. A former Sacramento Bee and Santa Barbara News-Press news reporter, I wrote for California newspapers for years covering education, schools, cities, entertainment and water. She presently writes a weekly advice column in seven San Francisco Bay Area major metropolitan papers including the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. I worked for about a decade in philanthropy, before I became a coach and independent author. I’m married with three beautiful children and a fabulous Tennessee Walking Horse. We live in California.

More: www.HappinessQuotations.com.

Do You Lack Writing Time or Writing Energy?

Time.       Metal_mechanics_type_221267_l           

It's elusive, isn't it? 

Weird how in the same amount of hours on one day you get a ton done and the next day you fritter it away.

Time is either the writer's friend, or the bane of her existence, more often the latter.  Nearly every client and student I coach struggles with time, and most of the time that struggle is about trying to get enough of it.

But lately the truth of the time conundrum has hit me.

It is not about time, it is about energy.  Or more to the point, a lack thereof.

Case in point: watching TV.  For years, I've been a dedicated non-TV watcher.  One of my favorite rants has been about how much time we all waste watching TV, how brainless it is, yada yada yada.

Enter the ancient sexy elderly pug named Buster, who we rescued from the Humane Society shortly before Christmas. (Alas, his buddy Ally died in March.  Miss that girly.) For you civilians who are not pug owners, pugs are creatures of habit, sort of like your crotchety grandpa who has to have dinner at the same time every night.  Buster has developed a TV-watching habit, fueled by his admiration for Steven Tyler on American Idol

Buster likes to snuggle up on the orange Ikea futon in the family room and watch TV and every evening, he yips and barks if this doesn't happen.

So I have started watching way more TV than I have in years.  Because, you know, I gotta keep the pug happy. And here's the deal:  I kinda like it.  I find it relaxing.  I find myself working harder during the day so that I can watch TV with Buster at night. 

Because the truth of the matter is that by the time I'm done with dinner, my brain is fried anyway.  And I'm no longer good for writing or working on business stuff.  (I know, I know, I could read a book and I often do–last night I tore through If I Stay by Gayle Forman.  I think it is time to admit that some of the best writing these days is for the young adult market.)

Thus, the point of this post: it is not about lack of time, it is about lack of energy. 

Yeah, technically I've got time in the evenings to work on my novel.  But I don't have the mental energy.  And that's the real issue we have to face.

I've got a few suggestions, but this post has already gone on way longer than I intended, so I'll take up the topic again next week.

How do you gather and maintain energy for writing?

In the meantime, come back on Friday, when I'll feature a guest post by Erica Nelson, author of Happiness Quotations.  See you then!

Photo by clix.

7 Ways to Find Ideas

How do you get ideas?  Do you struggle to find them, or do they come to you in an endless flow that is frustrating only because you can't act on all of them? Light_bulb_lamp_266884_l

Although most creative types fall into the latter category, I think if we're honest we'll also admit that there are fallow times when ideas aren't quite so forthcoming.  Your writing life will be a lot happier and less stressful if you realize that this is part of the creative cycle and don't beat yourself up over it.

I've been experiencing this myself lately, as you might have noticed from the lack of blog posts.   This morning I told myself I absolutely had to write a post.  But I had nothing to write about.  Nada, zip, zero, zilch. 

Until I realized that a lack of ideas is a problem all writers face at some point and I could just write about that.  The main reason I decided to do this was that I'd followed my own advice and consulted my list of ideas.  One of the items listed was "How to Get Ideas."  Voila! And so, here you go:

1.  Keep a list of ideas.  I have a pretty little Amy Butler three-ring binder that I keep ideas for blog posts and articles in.  This morning I perused them as I pondered what to write.  Even if you don't use an idea from the list, looking back over it will get your brain going.

2. Go surfing.  Spend a few minutes navigating about on the web and see what jogs your interest.  Warning: this can be dangerous.  As in, an hour later you're still reading articles and posts, justifying it because you're supposedly searching for ideas.  To avoid this, give yourself a time limit.

3.  Go for a walk.  This is the antithesis of #2.  But it is amazing how physical movement can jog your brain and let ideas flood in.  I find it especially helpful when I need inspiration in the middle of a project.

4.  Just start writing.  Not for the faint of heart, because it can so often bear no fruit.  But if you're really desperate for an idea pull out pen and paper and start writing.  See what happens.  You might surprise yourself.  You can also:

5.  Collect prompts.  The reason why prompts are popular is because they work.  A prompt is a jump-starter for your writing, a sentence or phrase that you use to get going.   I like to use them to gather ideas for current projects as well as to just practice writing.  It is best to cultivate prompts the way you cultivate friends–keep a list of them handy so you can go to it when needed.  I offer lists of prompts here every Saturday.

6.  Read a book.  A real book.  Step away from the computer screen and pick up a book, any book.  Grab a volume of poetry and sit with it for 15 minutes.  See if that doesn't get the juices flowing.

7.  Visit a museum.  Or an art gallery.  Or an art supply store.  Or a stationery or office supply store.  Or a book store.  Go somewhere that contains either the finished product of creative effort, or offers supplies for said activity.   A location that showcases finished containers or offers empty ones.  Either will inspire.

Bonus Item: Meditate or pray.  Or if you don't like any of that woo-woo stuff, get quiet and breathe.  Ask for an idea.  See what happens.  It might be magic.

What are your favorite ways to get ideas?

Photo by brokenarts, from Everystockphoto.

Promptitude: Wide Open Spaces

I just got back from visiting southeastern Oregon. 

The east side of Oregon is totally different from the west side of Oregon, where I, and most of the state's population, lives.  The east side is basin and range, gold and brown, mesas, cattle, warm, dry, long stretches of wide open spaces. The west side is green, rainy, lush, forested, hills and valleys, cities, people, business. 

When you live in a green, rainy city, visiting the open landscape of the east side of the state is mind blowing. Vfiles27241

To wit: the photo on the right, which is an image of a dirt road on Steens Mountain, the peak that looms over the entire area.  (It also moves.  Depending on where you are in the landscape, it looks like it has changed location.  It is very agile for a mountain.)

So, for your writing pleasure, here are some prompts having to do with wide open spaces, rainy landscapes, and blowing your mind:

She couldn't believe it.

The road went on forever.

In the mountains, there you feel free.     (With thanks to T.S. Eliot)

Oh my God, really?

Rain dripped from the boughs of the fir tree.

When the car broke down in the high desert he started walking.

Cows mooed loudly as they hiked by the fields.

Snow fell on a cold April morning.

Fields of gold and brown caught the sunlight.

Only one hundred more miles to go.

PS–My friend Debbie and I reserved the Diamond Hotel for a writing retreat in April of 2012.  It is going to be fabulous, so stay tuned!