3 Ghostly Tricks to Help Finish Your Book

In more than 15 years of ghostwriting books, I've worked with a lot of extremely busy professionals: CEOs, entrepreneurs, wealth managers, academic deans, tech gurus, research physicians, attorneys, entertainers, and what have you. Their books might be very different, but they usually have something in common: they don't have time to finish their books on their own.

There are just too many demands on the time of the typical professional to make writing a 60,000-word manuscript practical. I have a client for whom I've written two previous business books, both very successful. He told me at the start of 2018 that he was going to take a whack at writing his next book, and that he hoped to have a first draft done by August. Well, stuff has come up, from work to legal issues, and to date, as far as I know, he still hasn't written a word. 

This is a gentleman who's brilliant, a hard-working expert in his field, so it's not about ability. It's about time.

Ghostwriting's Not All Smoke & Mirrors

Writing a book is difficult, and like anything, it's more difficult if you've never done it before. I've written more than 60 books, so I have a thousand tricks and habits that enable me to turn out high-quality nonfiction fast. The average person, no matter how accomplished, doesn't have those clubs in his or her bag. Plus, the more you do something, the better you become at it. I can write like the wind, but if my wife asked me to replace the hardwood floors in our bedroom instead of calling a professional, it might take me 500% longer than it would take an experienced flooring pro. Not to mention the risk of someone (hopefully, not me) falling through the floor.

Still, you may dream about writing your own book and doing it yourself. You don't want to get into ghostwriting (e.g. hire someone) unless you have no other choice. But how can you get the damned thing done when you barely have time to drink a cup of coffee in the morning? 

3 Tricks of the Trade

Here are 3 tricks any busy professional can use to get something down on paper:

Have someone interview you. This is my favorite trick. Find a friend or colleague who asks good questions, sit down with them for a couple of hours, and talk through your entire story—or at least as much of it as you have time for. If you need another session, plan one. Record everything on your phone or with a digital recorder, and then send the audio files to a transcription service (I love Rev). Once you get the transcripts back, you'll have a lot of text and the beginnings of a narrative.

Record yourself while you drive. This is the same thing, except that instead of talking to another person, you're talking into a recording device while driving to work. This has the added bonus of making you look like a crazy person -- but no more than usual. Record, transcribe, repeat. You can knock out multiple stories in a week's commute.

The 300-Word Email. Right before you go to bed, take your phone and send yourself an email of no more than 300 words relating to one key story or piece of your book. You can grab it the next day and expand on it, but you will have begun telling that story at a time when you probably don't have much else on your mind.


About the Author: Tim Vandehey is a long-time friend and our "go to" on all things ghostwriting. He has been a freelancer since 1995, and ghostwriting books since 2004. He has written about 65 books, won multiple awards, had New York Times bestsellers,  and made a great living. This post first appeared on Freelancium.co where Tim offers coaching and other resources for freelance writers.