Monday, March 30, 2015

Ghostwriting Series #1: The Pros and Cons of Ghostwriting with Marcia Layton Turner


 Ghostwriting seems to be a lessor discussed facet of freelance work. It's been an important part of the launching of my career, but I don't consider myself an expert. So for this series, I'm going to let an guru share her wealth of knowledge and experience with my readers in a two to one ratio with my own. Her 30 plus pieces speak for themselves. Please welcome Marcia Layton Turner to EG Moore Freelance and Fiction!


If you’ve thought about getting in to ghostwriting, you’re not alone. After all, with magazine and newspaper work disappearing and web content writing often paying paltry rates, the higher pay that ghostwriting often offers looks mighty appealing. At least that’s what I hear from friends and colleagues who are on the hunt for new writing income sources.

What some don’t realize, however, is that ghostwriting is different from writing magazine articles, authoring books, or crafting blog posts for your own blog. You have your own distinctive voice. That voice might be casual and conversational or it might be scholarly, or it might be opinionated and peppered with expletives. We all have our own style and tone that we’re most comfortable with.

The biggest preconceived notion about ghostwriting is that it’s just like any other kind of writing for money. It’s not.

Ghostwriting requires well-honed writing skills on top of the ability to adopt someone else’s voice. That means writing to match another person’s tone, style, rhythm, vocabulary, and word preferences. A friend should be able to read something you’ve written in another’s voice and believe your client wrote it. That’s what a good ghostwriter does. It’s a skill that can be learned, of course, but it does add another element to writing assignments that can make it tough for some writers to do well.

There are a number of pros and cons with respect to ghostwriting.

Figuring out how to match your client’s voice is perhaps the biggest con. That is, it’s a challenge that must be overcome to be good at ghostwriting and to build a solid base of clients. Being able to mimic how another person communicates is just as important, maybe even more so, than mastering the topic. Writing articles or blog posts as a freelancer in your own voice is simpler.

Another con, or challenge, in ghostwriting is that some clients misunderstand the role of a ghostwriter. They may think that hiring a ghost means they don’t have to participate at all in the development of their book – they’ve turned that over to you. They’re wrong, of course, but clients who hadn’t planned to make time to be interviewed or to brainstorm how best to approach the topic of their book may become irritated at your request for their time. That’s why they hired a ghostwriter, they think.

Finally, whether you’re writing blog posts, an article, or a book for a client, you’re dependent on their being available to provide input and feedback on your work. Unfortunately, not all clients understand that. Finding time to connect can be difficult when dealing with very busy people, as most ghostwriting clients are.

Despite these factors to consider before striking out as a ghostwriter, there are plenty of pros as well.

For those of us who struggle to come up with our own ideas to sell to publishers, clients who want to hire us to write about their topic makes life much easier. As a ghostwriter, you don’t have to come up with ideas yourself, though sharing your perspective and feedback with clients regarding their ideas is essential.

And when it comes to research, a ghostwriting client typically has background information and opinions to share that can lead you to sources and material you might never have come across. Having access to clients who have expertise on a subject can make research so much faster and easier.

The reason many freelancers decide to explore ghostwriting has more to do with money than anything else, however. This is the biggest pro of all: ghostwriting projects often pay well. And by comparison to publisher advances today, ghostwriting fees look very attractive.

Yes, the money is good. But where it’s easy to identify outlets who might buy your written work, it’s more difficult to identify who might need your ghostwriting services. Many clients prefer not to reveal their need for professional writing help, making it hard to determine who, exactly, is in your target market.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to be a ghostwriter, only that there are a few barriers you’ll need to overcome and some challenges inherent in the job to be aware of.

As someone who earns close to 80% of her income from ghostwriting, I think the best part of being a ghostwriter is the opportunity to explore new topics, guided by the leading experts in their field. I certainly learn something new every day.

Marcia Layton Turner is a ghostwriter and freelancer who focuses mainly on business topics. She has authored, co-authored, or ghosted more than 30 non-fiction books. She is also founder and executive director of the Association of Ghostwriters. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks again Marcia! This ghostwriting series will continue in mid April, where Marcia will give you an example from her career and how to use ghostwriting to further your freelancing career.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rewriting the First Chapter: Putting it back together with purpose

If you're actively using online resources within the publishing industry (you are researching so you can learn, aren't you?) then you may have heard that rewriting the first page is not only recommended, but also necessary for your novel or project to come to fruition. I've decided to do a mini series on the steps of rewriting any novel's beginning. Part 1 discussed how to know if you need to rewrite your manuscript's beginning and last week (Part 2) I helped you figure out what to keep from your original beginning and what else your rewrite might need.

Today we're putting it all back together, like a well-crafted Frankenstein. (Okay, bad analogy, but you know what I mean.)

At this point, you've figured out what you need and if what you think were the best parts of your beginning should stay. Then its time to brainstorm how best to implement them. This is a great time to put your main character through some exercises if you are into that sort of thing. Think about how he or she will react to certain changes, write them into a corner and see what they do. Or just take a few steps back and get creativity flowing to figure out your best rewriting plan.

For me, it was a combination of brainstorming and talking it out with a great writer friend. (Thanks Shari!) After a great afternoon of story idea swapping and chatting and typing with some soup and coffee, she helped me realize that Dom just needed to come more alive and meet his nemisis sooner.

It took me about two weeks to rewrite the first chapter. Actually, it was combining my first and third chapters, working family intros into chapter two, and segwaying smoothly into my new chapter three. I thought long and hard about that first line, and as soon as I wrote it, I knew it was perfect. I made sure every sentence had a purpose, a part to play in each of the ten things I mentioned in part 2 of this series: initial surface problem, inciting incident, story worthy problem, character intros, setting, back story, language, foreshadowing, and setting.

I won a critique from a published author's blog and sent her the new first chapter. She helped me fine tune it, and then I gave it to a few CPs, the two that already LOVED Dom (and when I say loved, it was like fangirling and those moments when I wished they were agents.) With their thumbs-up, I sent the manuscript (that I'd already pimped to nearly every major agency) out to a few more on my dwindling list. 

The changes I made garnered two quick full manuscript requests in February, and landed me my awesome agent Jessica Schmeidler just last week on March 18th. (Emotional can't-believe-it post and shameless plug for her here) . Here's the first chapter. Let me know what you think in the comments below:

I snuck in the front door of our new house with a gopher snake dangling in my hand. Pops had to be in there somewhere. Searching between shafts of July sun from the holes in the ceiling, I found him hunched over a map on the kitchen table. 

"What are you doing?" I asked, thinking eagerly of treasure hunts and hunting trips. I slipped the snake into the pocket of my sweatshirt. He’d come in handy later.

"Well, Ol' Red is nearly out of gas, Son. And Mom don't get paid ‘til Monday. But I’ve got an idea." He pointed to the map. "When we go through town and ‘round to the mill, it's fifteen miles. But look."

He dragged his bony finger down the blue-inked lines of the creek, around the mill and South. Then he stopped, pointing to our property.

"If we drive through the creek..." I started.

"It's only ‘bout two miles," he finished.

"Will we make it?" Visions of white water rapids rushed around my mind.

"Should. Gotta avoid any deep spots. Mom’s off here soon. Load Rosie up and we’ll go get her."

It's not every day I got to ride up a creek in a truck, but even my excitement dimmed. Pop's wild ideas never panned out. The thumb stump on his left hand proved it.

My terrier Rosie’s blonde tail wagged as I lifted her up, and then she sniffed my pocket. The snake shifted as I pushed her aside and climbed into the cab.

Pop crept Ol’ Red around the hunched house and slumping shed. We’d only spent a night there, and already it felt like home. My brother Reed pumped his fist the night before when he turned the shower lever and nothing came out. Pop warned us that we had a busy summer ahead fixing things up, but I didn’t mind.

Even as Ol’ Red crawled slowly down the slope between the fields, I noticed something else that needed mending. The single-wire fence hung lifeless to the ground. We’d have to fix that when I got my horse. The truck tires bounced over gopher holes and upturned rocks, and the seat squeaked as it tossed us around. I kept my hand in my pocket, keeping track of my stowaway. Maybe I could sneak it onto the seat before Mom hopped in. I smirked. She’d be so freaked out. Gopher snakes look enough like rattlers to scare anyone who can't see the difference right away.

We stopped at the creek bank and got out to examine the depth of the water.

"I think we’re good. It stays shallow for a ways," Pop assured no one in particular.

"Yeah," I reluctantly agreed.

We climbed back onto the red bench seat. I made a show of snapping my seatbelt together and pulling Rosie into a protective hug. Pop grinned at me, double-checked our location on the map, and then waved it in the air like Charlie with Willy Wonka's golden ticket. I just laughed at him.

I held my breath as we eased upstream. A ways up, the front tires slipped. Dad shifted into reverse and circled around a big rock. I gazed out the window at the rising water, showing our progress. Pop did a great job of avoiding any major road blocks and keeping calm. I stroked a panting Rosie with one hand and the scales of the snake with the other. Eventually, I rolled the window down for all of us, and took in the view of the woods beyond our property.

Pop noticed my interest. "Lotta that land is a federal preserve. You guys can play up there, but be respectful of it."

"Yes, Sir."

Before I could say more, my feet felt wet. Pop detected it too, and we both panicked. Creek water was seeping under the truck doors. I pushed Rosie onto the bench beside me and clasped my knees to my chest.

"Uh, uh, uh, what do we do?" I asked.

"Well, we can't go back," Pop glanced at the map. "We’re ‘bout there. It should be right ‘round that bend. Hang tight."

The water started filling the floor board inch by inch. The movie Titanic we watched last year flashed in my mind. I imagined breathing the last bit of air in the cab just like Jack and his sweetheart did at the locked passage gate. At my funeral Papa Kyle would say, "Twelve was too young for Dom to leave this earth. Yet he loved his mom so much he died trying to pick her up from work."

Finally, the green tin roof of the mill came into view. Pop pulled up the embankment and parked on the side of the building by the office porch. When he opened the door, several gallons of liquid gushed out with him. Relief escaped my chest with a sigh. I rolled the window most of the way up and followed him, shutting Rosie inside. I patted my pocket to make sure the snake was there, and decided to stay close to the truck to beat mom back and pull my prank.

The menacing bark of a black-faced Rottweiler startled me. I made a face at her, egging her on. She barked even more. Who’d left her chained out here in the hot sun? I made a wide arc around her, searching for her owner, teasing her all the while. 

Someone had their back to me at the shop door. His husky voice snared into a phone, “I’ll deliver the goods tomorrow. Tell Rook to make the distraction happen.” The man slammed the phone back on its wall bracket and spun.

"Shut up, you stupid— Hey! Boy, what are you doing?” China Jin hollered. He skipped a step to the ground and marched toward me. Sharp eyes shot through black, greasy bangs, but a smirk lifted his thin mustache. "You keep taunting Missy, I'll let her off that chain and see how fast you can run." 

He was trying to scare me.

It was working.

Rosie howled like a hound dog and scratched the glass, not liking how close the stranger stood to me. I shushed her over my shoulder while scooting around Ol’ Red’s front bumper. My sweatshirt caught on it and fell off my waist. I didn’t stop to grab it. My parents came out of the office to see what the commotion was about.

"China Jin just told me he was gonna sick his dog on me!" I shouted to them, turning to point at him. But he and the dog had disappeared.

Mom shepherded us back to our ride. "You just leave that man alone. He works hard, but there’s something about him I just don't like."

I scooped my sweatshirt off the ground and searched its pockets. Just like China Jin, the snake was gone.


The bottom line? Sometimes you have to do what you know is best for the manuscript. Just slice, dice, and toss that beginning until it is worthy of the publication table!

Thanks for reading this week! Next week, I'm diving back into freelancing topics with a special guest and another mini series, this time on Ghostwriting. Don't miss it!

Warning: My big announcement has gone emotional in this post


If you haven't seen on Twitter or Facebook yet, my middle grade novel has landed me an awesome literary agent. On March 18th, (my sister's birthday, love ya!) I signed a contract with Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary. I'm not entirely sure it has sunk in yet, but the way there was pretty spectacular.

I started a blog series on rewriting the first sentence, scene, or chapter last week, and this week my post (going live here in a few minutes) has the rewrite for you. I had a line in there that said "I'll let you know if the full requests I received garners any agent contracts. Well, I just got to rewrite that line and it feels great.

Jessica is a newer agent with editor background. She opened Golden Wheat Literary back in the Fall of 2014. I'd had minor interactions with her on twitter, and I knew her name from her previous work and some online events and contests she runs. On Valentine's Day evening, I was cruising the #MSWL feed and saw an older one of hers: a faith-based story with a strong male protagonist and horses. My MS fit this description well, so I tweeted to her and asked if that was still something she'd be interested in. She swiftly replied in the affirmative, and told me this was an official request for my query and first three chapters. So I read through it one more time, made a tweak here and there, and sent it off. Less then an hour later, she wrote me back with this email:

"This is fantastic. As I was entering your information in to schedule a query review, I became rather absorbed in the query itself. Needless to say, that turned into reading the partial, and I would now like to see the completed manuscript."

Cue the longest two week wait of my life. And no, I did not stalk her or check my email every fifteen minutes.

and intensified....

and intensified...

and I wanted to throw something....

and I wrote some of another manuscript.....

and my email pinged on my phone on March 6th. She loved it! She absolutely loved it and can we talk next Wednesday? YES, YES WE CAN!!!

I researched a lot, even more then I had when I initially sent the query out. I checked out my favorite writerly blogs for advice on what to ask on the call and wrote down two pages of questions for her, and prayed a lot. I had reservations about how new she was as an agent or if she had any mentors or connections. I asked some CPs what they thought and got some great advice. I wasn't nervous, I knew it was the call, the one all writers dream about in some form.

The call was awesome. We hit it off right away, like old friends. We chatted about our families, she gushed over my book, I interrogated her with my questions. She threw out publisher names that were also on my list and had the same vision for it. She wanted to be my career agent and showed honest interest in my other WIPs. But I wavered, so I asked for another week to pray and think it over. (For more details about the call, keep an eye out for my post on Michelle Hauck's blog!)

Then I sent out "I have been offered representation" letters to the five remaining agents that had received my materials. Two of them passed on DOM, two didn't respond, and one asked for the full and said she'd respond in 10-12 days.

Seriously guys, the waiting. Agonizing. I continued to pray and think about Jessica, how well we hit it off versus this other agent who I didn't know very well but was from a major agency. My husband can attest to the conversations I had with myself and the random groans that escaped my mouth as I thought about it. If my story was good enough for one, the other might like it. If so, who would I chose? Is this a David and Goliath thing? The big agency has so many more parts of the publishing process figured out and a good reputation to back it up. But if I chose them, would that be selling out? Jessica was so genuine and warm, and she'd answered all my questions with flying colors. 

I drove myself crazy for no reason at all. On March 18th, the other agent got back to me with my one and only super encouraging and personalized pass. The deep breath I let out when I read it confirmed that Jessica had been the right choice all along.

I wanted to do something spectacular to celebrate. I told my mom that I wanted to hike a mountain and shout from the tippity top: I HAVE AN AGENT!!!! Instead, I announced it on twitter and facebook, snuggled my girls and read them a Nancy Tillman marathon before bed.

Thanks to everyone for the support! For all you writers reading this, DON'T GIVE UP!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rewriting The First Chapter: Mining Your Current Beginning For Gems

If you're actively using online resources within the publishing industry (you are researching so you can learn, aren't you?) then you may have heard that rewriting the first page is not only recommended, but also necessary for your novel or project to come to fruition. I've decided to do a mini series on the steps of rewriting any novel's beginning. Last week, I wrote a post on How to Know If You Need To rewrite your opening line, paragraph, scene or chapter.

Today, we're going to focus on the chapter you already wrote and which parts or intentions should get tossed or be recycled when you rewrite. I'm going to use my novel ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS as an example for you. Let's look as some questions you can ask yourself to figure out exactly how you should rewrite and what you originally did right (sort of.)

What did you love about it?
It's important to reread and remind yourself what you loved about your original chapter. Is it the voice? The character introduction? Or maybe its the way you worked in the setting.

For me and DOM, my love of my initial first chapter was based on showing Dom's trickster qualities, and reflecting the opening chapter of its inspirational book. (Dom is a Tom Sawyer Retelling.) I wanted to echo the opening of Tom Sawyer by having an adult looking for him and having him come out of hiding. I also needed to establish who his family and pet dog was, that they were poor and living in a new house that needed a lot of work, and that Dom really wanted a horse. My first chapter did that.

What may be hindering it?
This may be a harder thing to figure out on your own. Trusted Critique Partners or even beta readers may be able to shed some light on what's missing or if you are starting the story in the wrong place.

I'd had dozens of feedback and CP input on Dom, and many people loved its opening. But I had read on several agent blogs and heard agents as conferences mention that new houses, schools, and new kid in town could be tropes to avoid in the opening. I felt that Dom's was unique, but still worried about how it was coming across to professionals.

My other concern that one CP brought up was that my antagonist wasn't mentioned until chapter three. That seems too long to her, so she suggestioned cutting the first two chapters and starting there. While the idea was heart wrenching and exciting all at once, I just couldn't do it. Chapter two had a few key things that needed to be established for the rest of the novel. I couldn't think of a way to get that important info in another way I hadn't already tried.

Is anything else needed in the first line/scene/chapter?
Now you know what to keep and what to get rid of. But what else do you need? According to Les Edgerton, there are ten elements that should be considered. The first four are vital, the last six are things to consider.

  1. Inciting incident: what happens that brings forth the buried problem that pushes plot forward
  2. Story-worthy problem: that buried problem throughout the plot
  3. Initial surface problem: propels protagonist to action (or none-action), makes main character make a decision.
  4. Set up: only give what’s necessary for reader to understand next scene.
  5. Back story: dole out bit by bit.
  6. and 7. Opening line/Language: Reduce adverbs and adjectives. Each adjective diminishes first line by 10%. Avoid forms of “to be”. Reduce redundancy such as “ran quickly.” Avoid invisible words such as “beautiful” that dilute prose; the reader will skip over them anyways. Use these suggestions throughout manuscript, too!
  7. Character intro: pick telling detail and let reader fill in the rest as they get to know them in the manuscript. “ Also, don’t flood beginning with too many characters!
  8. Setting: the setting sprinkled in the opening should only help reader understand the time period, culture, or society of the story. 
  9. Foreshadowing: hint at action and/or obstacles throughout manuscript. More necessary for some genres than others. Thrillers and mysteries benefit from it.
For Dom, I was missing some foreshadowing via a bad guy, and a pull back of back story. I also needed to make it more exciting to grab some serious reader/agent attention.

Next week, I'll help you with the actual rewriting and give you an example from Dom to finish off this series!

What do you love about your current WIPs beginning? What do you think you need to change? Please tell me in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rewriting The First Chapter: How You Know You Need To

If you're actively using online resources within the publishing industry (you are researching so you can learn, aren't you?) then you may have heard that rewriting the first page is not only recommended, but also necessary for your novel or project to come to fruition. I've decided to do a mini series on the steps of rewriting any novel's beginning.

We're going to start today with how you can tell for sure whether or not you need to do any rewriting on your novel's beginning.

I actually didn't begin the whole "rewrite the beginning" thing with DOM. I was working on one of several WIPs, a YA fantasy with multiple viewpoints. I'd put the first chapter in front of several writing group critiques, a couple online critiques, as well as NANO 2014 forums for input. I got so much varied input that my head nearly orbited off the earth. Too much action, not enough grounding, too much intamacy between sisters, not enough personality from the sisters... the list went on and on. I finally set it aside and awaited trusted critique partner feedback.

In the meantime, I did what I do best: researched. I read dozens of trusted blogs' post on novel beginnings, editing, and rewriting. Following their suggestions, I stalked my local bookstore's shelves, reading first lines, pages, and chapters. I also used my kindle app to check them out. I even bought a used copy of HOOKED: Write Fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go by Les Edgerton at Lori Goldstein's suggestion. (By the way, if you haven't pre-ordered her book BECOMING JINN yet, go do it right now! It comes out in April!)

At this point, DOM had been through several rounds of contests without too much success. So what did I need to do to make Dom more attractive? I brainstormed for the millionth time, and wondered if maybe the opening wasn't doing its job just as my YA fantasy's wasn't either. I'd changed it quite a bit, but maybe it just "started in the wrong place" or "didn't give enough foreshadowing" or "didn't give the reader enough concern for Dom." Should I rewrite the first scene? Combine some of the first few scenes? Cut the first few chapters all together?

I sent it out with these questions to my critique partners and beta readers. I got a lot of mixed answers. It took me another couple months of hemming and hawing to finally open the document back up and force myself to look over every word of the first chapter with very, very subjective eyes. And I realized the first chapter just wasn't doing its job.

And by subjective, I mean tired.

What is the first sentence/scene/chapter supposed to do and how do you know if you need to rewrite it? Here are some questions for you to ask yourself before you get out the red pen or scissors.

Does it start in turmoil?
It doesn't have to be crazy action or fighting. It could be inner turmoil or an important choice. But if the scene is stagnant of some sort of conflict, the reader might just stop.

Does it offer even a slightest hint of foreshadowing?
This is one of the most common reasons agents encourage writers to rewrite their beginnings. Once the manuscript is done, the writer knows where the plot is going and can better foreshadow what's to come to keep the reader wondering from page one.

Do you hint or introduce the antagonist or major problem?
Just as you need to introduce your main character in all his or her personality, your bad guy needs to have some sort of mention in the beginning of the story. Even if its just a slur from your good guy.

Does your protagonist fully introduce him or herself?
Of course we all know that we should meet the main character right away. But its more then this is so and so and he likes cookies. We need a sense of voice, personality, and a reason to root for him (or her).

Does the reader get fully settled into your setting?
The beginning isn't a place for info dump, but like a well-seasoned soup, you need to sprinkle setting details into the beginning to ground your plot in an environment that your reader can sense.

If you can't answer all the questions above with a resounding yes, then you may want to consider a rewrite. Come back next week for part two of this series to find out how to mine your current beginning for its best qualities.