NaNoWriMo And Your Ghostwriter Consultant

“Do you do NaNoWriMo?”

This is one of the first questions people ask me when I tell them I am a writer. My answer? No. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo but I am all too familiar.

For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Taking place every November, the project helps new and aspiring writers write a novel in a single month.

50,000 words. 1,667 per day. Every day. A daunting task.

NaNoWriMo is as much about support as productivity. The umbrella site organizes local groups. It encourages writers with positive words. On almost every social media platform NaNoWriMo groups post daily word counts and sprint together under hashtags.

On one hand, it is one of the most inspiring times in writing.

Our culture is fascinated with marking off processes with chunks of time. Consider the RPM challenge, which is an album written and recorded and released all in February. In April there is a monthlong script sprint. The shelves of every bookstore in America are teeming with books in which an author takes a period of time to abstain from or indulge in something.

Sometimes I wonder whether anything takes on its natural process anymore.

As a ghostwriter, I am particularly fascinated by NaNoWriMo for a couple of distinct reasons. For one, it gets people thinking about writing. Anything that accomplishes that makes me happy. Another aspect is the sheer audacity. Asking participants to wake up on November 1st and produce 1,667 words when they likely have not produced a single line of fiction in their lives is crazy, perhaps dangerous. Would you encourage the guy in the cubicle next door to run a 26.2 mile marathon without training simply because he wore tennis shoes on Fridays?

Writers are readers and readers buy books. The sheer act of staring down 50,000 words raises the bar for everyone in the business. When I am asked, I usually caution writers who want to take part in NaNoWriMo to perhaps consult with a ghostwriter or manuscript consultant first. Get an idea of your story. Flesh out some of the uncertainties. Give your concept a much needed test run and see if it works out. Not everyone wants to do that with their mother or wife or a brother who are likely going to be nice no matter what you have.

Get in shape first. The advice applies to marathons and NaNoWriMo. Bring on a ghostwriting professional to bring it into shape before you try and bring it to life.

No comments
Erick MertzNaNoWriMo And Your Ghostwriter Consultant
Read More

Ghostwriter as editor

Ghostwriter As Editor

Hiring a ghostwriter as editor of your manuscript re-write might be the difference between completing it, or not.

Sometimes I get the uneasy impression that there are an equal number of magazines and blogs about writing as there are writers. In my ghostwriting research, I often find that those magazines are chock full of articles directing aspiring writers to a formula for crafting award winning work into their busy nine-to-five and family life schedule.

These kinds of articles draw eyeballs. They work well for click bait. After all, who doesn’t want to get to the finish line faster?

If I had a guess though, those formulas leave more writers disappointed than fulfilled.

A wise person once said that a movie’s editor is the last writer. This acknowledges a reality any aspiring storyteller should understand. Creative products go through many phases before they are polished and market ready. A movie is written first by a screenwriter. Then it is acted out and directed by its director. Then comes the editor.

Each one of those roles adds a little and takes a little away. By the time the movie makes it to the audience it resembles what the screenwriter wrote. But in no way is that script line for line.

Writing manuscripts takes a lot of time. Between developing concept, building a coherent plot, breathing life into characters worthy of a reader’s time and executing those artfully, there is no magic formula besides pressure and time. We’ve all read those articles about marathon writing sessions or work that came in a flash but what those tall tales ignore is the hard work.

And hard work on a manuscript often translates into re-writing over and over.

Frequently, I am approached by writers who have taken that first draft as far as they can. Often those writers have been lured in by the promise of a quick fix. The truth is, in the craft of story telling there is no magic bullet to success. A writer must at all times be methodical and they have to be aware that there are starts and stops. It is a part of the process.

Hiring a ghostwriter as editor to help move that process along, going back to the drawing board is not indicative of a failure. Instead, it should be thought of as the next step.

You cannot watch the pages of a screenplay on the big screen. It may be helpful to think of ghostwriting on a novel re-write like hiring a director to bring the story closer to life.

Call me today and let’s discuss your manuscript and the potential benefits of working with a ghostwriter.

No comments
Erick MertzGhostwriter as editor
Read More

Four Truths For Increased Success In The Fiction Market

The fiction market today is as mercurial now as ever before. Working as a ghostwriter, I have watched those shifts first hand.

The ghostwriting fiction market that we explore today is vastly different than the one that will greet us tomorrow when the manuscript is done. This reality applies to everyone along the publication food chain. Everyone from authors and ghostwriters to publishers and agents and editors must navigate an ever shifting landscape in order to put fresh books on the shelf.

As unpredictable as the fiction market may be for a ghostwriter there remain a few simple guides that if you follow them, you exponentially increase your chances of success.

After all, readers remain hungry for new material and here is how you can get that to them.

Four Truths For Increased Success In The Fiction Market:

Rule #1: Accept That There Are Rules:

Ever hear that acceptance is the first step? That counts in for ghostwriters too.

One of the things I try and inform my ghostwriting clients is to play by the rules. We all relish heroic stories about rule breakers but the fiction market is very competitive.

You can break all the rules you want on the page (as long as you do it artfully). Your contact needs to feel comfortable working with you as well, or else they will move elsewhere.

Where I advise my ghostwriting clients to play by the rules is in how they engage people in the marketplace. For example, if the publisher is seeking female driven romance manuscripts there is no use in sending them volume one of your geopolitical thriller series.

So many authors apply a blanket approach though but a wide net is never as successful as a targeted on. It is important to remember that everyone from the author up is doing a job.

Rule #2: Regard For Self Publishing Is Increasing:

Dreams of a big publishing contract? We all have one and it’s OK to indulge it…

Just don’t let that get the best of you.

As a ghostwriter, I advise my clients to at least consider self-publishing. Over the last five years, self-publishing has become a vital proving ground for story property and new talent.

When I go to conferences these days (at least a few each year) I invariably hear stories about successful authors who self-published the first book and off of that success, they earned their first commercial break.

If you follow a strong game plan, self-publishing is as viable as any other avenue.

Rule #3: Think In Worlds:

The classic Hollywood ending is mostly a thing of the past. Walking your hero off into the sunset only kills the goose that lays the golden egg.

What readers want is vital characters and stories they can follow for multiple books (and movies and comics and TV shows and… and you get the idea). If you’re hiring a ghostwriter or development consultant to work on concept, discuss with them on how to give your story a life beyond the back cover. Answering the question of what comes next for your story world after your book is done is one you will answer at least a hundred times. Have a good answer.

Rule #4: Be Open To Form:

A hundred years ago, many books were published in serial form. Classic literature came out in installments in magazines and newspapers and in many ways, those days are back.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to hire a ghostwriter to break your novel into ten parts for the local newspaper BUT consider a series short stories. A novella.

A novel is a mighty undertaking. The market is increasingly looking for “proof of concept” from new authors. If you can publish a hand full of short stories in that market, you can feel confident in bringing that editor or publisher a proven story.

They’ll listen. You have, after all, done some of their job for them. Everyone loves that, right?

No comments
Erick MertzFour Truths For Increased Success In The Fiction Market
Read More

Professional Ghostwriter – Ghostwriting As Path to Publication (Part I)

Ghostwriting can be an effective way to learn how to make craft into a business. As a long time professional ghostwriter, the best practices I have developed have gone a long way to prepare me for more success in where my ambitions lie.

Here are a few handy tips on how you can parlay a successful ghostwriting practice into a better platform for your own publication:

Clear Client Communication:

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Yet it is an equal truth that no successful writer can be an island.

Whatever you choose as the path for your project (whether that be a novel or a memoir or a feature length screenplay) at some point you will need to communicate clearly with a team of editors and publishers, designers and marketers. Even if you choose to go with the self-publishing route to bring your book to market, you will still find yourself working with a team.

Use your ghostwriting experience to hone these skills. Learn how to discuss project specs. Talk about time lines. Be clear about expectations. Discover the value of saying no.

Receiving Notes:

No one ever wants to hear that they need to go back to the drawing board. As difficult as that may is for anyone to hear though, re-writing is the soul of good writing.

Humble yourself. Take good notes while listening to your ghostwriting client. Have your own ideas to add. Most importantly though, do not take getting notes as a personal attack.

Bring what procedural feedback you get back to the table and dive into draft two. Learning how to deal with criticism (especially the bigger monster: self-criticism) is key to becoming a professional in any creative venture.

That Professional Feeling:

This may seem a little corny… but feeling like a professional goes a long way toward becoming a professional. Call yourself a ghostwriter. Imbue that definition with class.

Put your title on your business card. A professional ghostwriter carries a certain feeling about them that amateurs do not. That can go a long way toward distinguishing yourself from others vying for the same publisher or agent’s attention. At a writer’s conference, everyone is out applying for the same job. It’s a helpful boost to feel as though you’ve been there before.

Stay tuned for more another set of tips on how to use your ghostwriting practice as a path to publication in the second installment of this blog.

 

No comments
Erick MertzProfessional Ghostwriter – Ghostwriting As Path to Publication (Part I)
Read More

Good Ghostwriting Habits

ghostwriter

Bad Idea

Writing requires a lot of discipline. Good work comes out of practice and solid habits. One of the keys to a successful ghostwriting practice is to keep focused on what works.

Sometimes however, this can be easier said than done.

By necessity, ghostwriting assignments come with outside constraints. On your project, it’s easy to take time to imagine and develop. Good ideas come from staring out windows.

In ghostwriting though, someone else is handing you the story. Often all that wondering has already been done for you. It is the nature of the ghostwriter’s role to deliver.

Assignments come with strings attached. Word count benchmarks. Time constraints. I have been hired numerous times over the years, and never once was I handed an assignment based on my ability to daydream. I get hired because I can write and deliver.

Accepting these realities going into ghostwriting assignments is critical to success. It keeps your client’s work squarely on the front burner. It prevents unnecessary marathons. If there are, for example, five thousand words due in a week, it’s best to move forward in digestible chunks. No one wants to be stuck with all that in a single sitting.

It’s tough. And odds are if you’re put in that position, the writing will suffer.

Creating bad habits undermine good writing. They won’t allow you to deliver a good book. Rather than search for the right word and proper turn of phrase, you’re looking at the bottom right of your Word program. You’re doing a dreaded word count down.

You may get by delivering a manuscript that is merely competent. Is that what you want though? Is that what your client hired you for?

Good habits won’t go out the window because you scrambled for the finish line. It happens. But it can be dangerously easy to lose your discipline and break creative momentum.

Bad writing habits can too easily form in a ghostwriting scenario, if you aren’t careful. And if you’re working on your own project side by side, you’re doubly polluting your craft.

Place realistic word benchmarks in your contract. Set mindful time constraints. Create a map and do your best to work forward. Communicate the need for extra time, if necessary. That extra week is nothing compared to undoing lazy, uninspired text.

Looking to hire a ghostwriter? Contact me for a FREE consultation on your project.

No comments
Erick MertzGood Ghostwriting Habits
Read More

North Coast Redwoods Writers Conference: Part III

Click on these links to read part one and part two of this blog series.

img_0307My name is fourth on the open mic list. At the podium, my voice shudders as I read. “What I’m Thinking About When You Describe How A Beehive Works.”

An open mic reading is an apropos end. I see many hand scribbled notes, poems and excerpts make it to the microphone. Shedding the polish from art feels good.

Ken Lethko announces the conference’s end. His voice is riddled with melancholy. This too feels refreshing. This was a labor of love for those who put the event on. Leaving for the weekend is difficult, which feels corny. I keep walking back in, looking for things I may have left behind.

img_0319I see the part of Crescent City that graces travel books. Down on Pebble Beach Drive at five on a September afternoon, the tattered coast begs for a confession. It wants me to mark the moment, so I take a selfie facing left. Then I take another facing right.

The bartender at Seaquake Brewing says I look like a writer to her. I search frantically for a wrinkle or stain on my shirt. All of her dinner recommendations are out of town, twenty or thirty minutes. One is an hour. More interesting than my dinner of Pad Thai and fishcakes is the ad hoc therapy session taking place in the booth next to me. I write a few choice moments in my notebook.

By 9AM I’m an hour down the road at the bartender’s favorite spot in Cave Junction. Already back in Oregon. Taylor’s a butcher shop/restaurant and for $5 my scrambled eggs, fresh sausage and toast are immaculate. I buy peach jam to bring home. I save raspberry for my next trip through. I need to figure out a way to thank that bartender for her recommendation.

No comments
Erick MertzNorth Coast Redwoods Writers Conference: Part III
Read More

North Coast Redwoods Writers Conference: Part II

To read the first of this three part blog series, click here.

img_0307Out of town conferences are to the writer what a local tour is for musicians. Time for strange beds. An occasion to sample of foreign delights.

My old man preached local. Ignore homogenized experience. I learned many of my travel habits from a few summer business trips with him as a twelve and thirteen year old.

My Air B&B room is in a house recently been ravaged by a fire. Mary is trying to put everything back together again. The only coffee in Crescent City at 6:00AM is a Starbucks. I look for singularity and settle on a man pacing back and forth in the half-empty strip mall parking lot wearing sweats while smoking a cigar.

The Writer’s Path is the theme for the 16th Annual North Coast Redwoods Writers Conference. As I glance around the library to the satellite campus of The College of the Redwoods, I count sixty other intrepid scribes who chose to blaze a path to this lazy intersection of lost coast and civilization.

img_0312I chose this conference because it seemed different. I don’t mind cattle calls and pitch events but it is nice to schedule time to explore the craft. None of the participants are here to sell a manuscript. This is about voice. Rather than how to, this conference is oriented toward why.

My first two courses are with Marsha de la O. Poetics of journey. The influence of landscape. Between classes is breezy. We tell bear stories. California black bear. I try to crack the code on Gary Snyder’s “Riprap” with a girl whose life travels are limited to a woman’s camp an hour east of Reno. We debate a sense of place. We scribble the definition of palimpsest.

Our lunch table discusses ghostwriting and poetry and the politics of craft beer. After our meal, I sit down to talk travel writing with Dahlynn McKowen. She’s been everywhere. She’s resourceful. My imagination drifts. Conferences are about sorting writing out. Subjects are cast out while others brought closer. You see how your writing path lays out. You follow it.

“Every day is a Wednesday,” McKowen says. “Get used to it.”

I love and hate this characterization. Then I write a few ideas, things I can see myself writing about on a bleary eyed Wednesday ten, twenty and thirty years from now.

The list is long. It winds down the page, crooked and navigable. Where I’m going is no straighter line than where I’ve been.

 

No comments
Erick MertzNorth Coast Redwoods Writers Conference: Part II
Read More

North Coast Redwoods Writers Conference: Part I

The Sandy Creek Bridge off Highway 42This was supposed to be the year I would branch out. So was last year.

No wonder September arrives before I eventually strike out for the North Coast Redwood Writer’s Conference.

The succession of rivers I cross runs from familiar banks where I was born, to more obscure names. Some sound made up. The Willamette. The Umpqua. The McKenzie. The Mighty Pudding River.

South of Eugene, Oregon, I break with I-5 out toward the coast on Highway 42. It is the Coquille River now, the many forks of which I cross on a sawtooth course southwest.

The same pale blue and gold lettered Jesus sign appears roadside every couple of miles. It feels as though a single, proselytizing soul was responsible for each one. My attention diverts. I look for one high enough on a hill to represent the original.

After thirty miles, the road branches onto Highway 42S and they’re gone.

Three classical music stations come in crystal clear in Bandon. I know I’m far from home when the Classical and Christian talk outlets are in a one-to-one ratio. Combined, they outnumber every other option.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, “I Hate Myself For Loving You” comes on as I pull into Tony’s Crab Shack along the half mile stretch of bayside, downtown parking. The line is long. The wait is longer. When my crab and shrimp melt on Texas toast arrives, I cannot complain.

A fog rolls off the coast as I approach Brookings. This is the last Oregon town before the border. Road construction forces traffic to stop over Taylor Creek. Suddenly, the DJ breaks in over Edgar Winter to talk about the local police blotter. He reads a list of petty crimes, so many more than when he started on-air eighteen years ago.

I wonder why. I turn the radio up. I am hopeful he’ll come to a conclusion, which turns out to be his idea that we all just need to say “yes ma’am” and “no sir” when we’re pulled over. As I pull away and change the station, I think, “This is the first fog I’ve seen since spring.”

Past the border, California 101 amounts to a casino followed by Pelican Bay State Penitentiary. A sign reads Crescent City 8 miles as the electrified fence angles back from the road, vanishing into the scrub pine.

On a map, an unvisited city is full of opportunity. As I pull into Crescent City though, a town I have not visited since a midnight romp through years ago, it feels odd. It’s a tired place that yearned to be more than a prison town. Yet, decades later, the deluge of tourists never arrived. All the coast art shacks faded and dusty. Fifty percent off.

Crescent City California is easy to navigate. After a couple of turns from the highway to the main road, I’m standing at a hair salon. It’s Lady Gaga at 4:14 PM.

“Who are you looking for?”

The hairdresser waits as I read the address and tell her a name.

“Oh, Mary?”

The woman in the stylist’s chair knowingly smiles.

“Yeah,” I reply. “She’s my Air B&B host for the night.”

“She don’t live here,” the hairdresser says, returning to work. “She’s next door.”

No comments
Erick MertzNorth Coast Redwoods Writers Conference: Part I
Read More

Tips For Writing Conference Networking

No Matter Your Writer Goals, Behavior Dictates Success

Willamette Writer's ConferenceLast weekend was the 50th Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon. I have attended this particular conference for going on eight years and I am consistently shocked by the way writers behave when they find themselves in confined spaces.

Some people get it. A majority do, actually. Others clearly don’t though. Four days in a hotel with your colleagues can be stressful even terror inducing. Don’t let it get to you.

Here are five tips to keep in mind before you attend your next conference.

Be Friendly

I’m always shocked at how the tried and true axiom “treat others the way you want to be treated” flies out the door in professional scenarios. It absolutely should not. These should be the moments this trait needs to come out to shine.

Talent is great. It’s enviable. People you meet have to want to work with you though. Are you acting like the kind of person who they’re going to want to call?

That impression begins the moment you walk into the conference room.

Don’t Be Over Polite

The flip side? Try and remain genuine. No one likes someone going over the top into phony. Holding doors and other obsequious behavior may get you into trouble.

Brand Yourself as Friendly & Helpful

While attending the Willamette Writer’s Conference I volunteer. Consequently, people associate me with some inner knowledge about the conference’s inner workings.

Even when my shifts are complete and I’m attending classes, people seek me out to ask questions. I don’t have to help but I do. Once again, it goes back to that age old axiom.

Don’t Get Star Struck

My father once said something very important to me when I was young and I keep it close to me now. Everyone you meet is just another person doing their job.

How I translate that in the conference scenario is, treat those agents and producers (and hotel staff pouring your drinks) like you would anyone else you encounter during your day.

That guy might be the perfect agent for your book but you know something? He’s probably thinking about the wife and dog he left at home. Or he’s just struggling to reach five o’clock.

Keep Your Mind Open

Remember your goal is connection. You may have your sights focused on signed with an agent or manager but you never know how that connection will happen.

It may not be during your assigned pitch session. Your long worked for break may come via someone you shared small talk with in a classroom.

Keep yourself open minded.

Subscribe to my blog today for more tips and pointers on the writer’s life.

Get in touch with me today for 20% off of your manuscript consultation. Just let me know how you found me in your first email!

No comments
Erick MertzTips For Writing Conference Networking
Read More

When No Doesn’t Hurt

NEVER FEAR THE NO, GHOSTWRITER

Ghostwriting, Ghostwriter, Erick MertzThere are precious few certainties in ghostwriting. Securing an assignment is (at best) a treacherous prospect, one often littered with confusion and self-doubt inducing silence.

One of the most precarious uncertainties facing a ghostwriter is the frequent lack of “no”. This is an eerie truth no one bothers to share when you go out on your own. You are going to get turned down for a lot of work that you throw your best effort at (much more than you’ll land) but learning that you’re not getting the gig by actually hearing no only happens rarely.

1 comment
Erick MertzWhen No Doesn’t Hurt
Read More