One of the biggest reasons clients decide they need a ghostwriter is time. They don’t have enough of it yet they still need to regularly post articles on their blog, or prepare a speech for next month’s professional conference, or get started on that book they’ve always wanted to write. Without enough time, non-writers decide the best course of action is to hire a professional.
That makes perfect sense. The onus is then on the ghostwriter to prepare a well-written document in less time than it would have taken the client to produce it. While you would think that professionals would find it quite easy to craft a perfectly expressed article/blog post/book chapter, that is not always the case. Tasks can sometimes eat up massive amounts of time.
Since being successful as a writer or ghostwriter requires the regular production of client documents, and producing more documents means earning more money, I wanted to share some tips I’ve discovered to help the words flow more easily and more quickly.
Have the end in mind
First, be crystal clear about the assignment you’ve been given. What is the purpose, who is the audience, and what should the take-away be? How long is the document expected to be, how many sources cited, and when is your deadline? If you are writing in a client’s voice, have you reviewed writing samples to get a sense of their style, pace, and vocabulary? Knowing what your finished product needs to look and sound like will help get you started on the right foot, with a road map in place.
Know your subject
Granted, you don’t need to be an expert on a topic to write about it, but you should have already done your research before you start to write. If you’re feeling unsure of the points you need to make or which arguments are most important, you may need to do more information gathering. Do you need to conduct more interviews? Read more background studies? Watch more videos of your client in action? If you don’t feel ready to write and you have the time, take a step back and gather more information.
Plan your approach
Once you know what you are expected to produce and you have all your research in-hand, it’s time to strategize how you’ll present all the information you’ve collected. Although I don’t usually create a formal written outline, I do organize in my head what my lede is, what information I’ll use to back it up, what quotes and stories I’ll weave through and in what order, and what my conclusion will look like.
The only way to get into a writing rhythm is to physically start writing. If that deadline is looming and you have nothing on the page, start sifting through your research as you write. You can always go back and edit what you have if you decide you went off track, but get started. Sometimes the beginning is the most difficult section to write, so attack it first.
Stay with the flow
Some writers advocate stopping in the middle of a project so that it will be easier to pick up where they left off the next time they sit down to work on it. That may work for some, but I’ve found it much more efficient to go with the flow when I’m in it. So if the words are coming easily, I know which point I want to make next, and I’m in the zone, I keep going. When you’re in flow, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it, don’t walk away. Keep going for maximum speed and efficiency. Only stop writing when you feel your pace and thoughts slowing.
When I’m clear about the task before me and have reviewed all my background data in preparation to write, I can routinely exceed 500-600 words-an-hour.
How quickly can you write? Do you have any tips to share?