Open book

The task to find a writer to write your story can be a daunting one, but there are simple steps you can take to make choosing the right one easier.A simple internet search for ghost-writers in the UK leads to a vast array of results, some of them quite pricey, others somewhat dodgy.

Like all professional services, writing is a precision science replete with its own tools, as well as its own jargon. Sometimes, ghost-writing companies utilise that jargon to confuse you into paying a higher price than you should. Less reputable writers might utilise the jargon to fob an inferior service off on you.

Like all sciences, there are important factors, and less important factors. Everyone knows that a car with a faulty engine is a far worse purchase than a car with faulty tyres. Tyres can be exchanged easily, with little or no knowledge of mechanics. Engines not.

But what about writing? What is the engine and what are the tyres when it comes to writing as a science?

This article lays it our for you.

What kind of story should the writer write for you?

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Is it one or more articles for your blog, or is it an entire novel?

If it’s an article, you’re looking for a “Freelance Writer,” although in the UK many people tend to use the word “Ghost Writer” (or “Ghostwriter”) for this.

Yes, articles on blogs and company websites can be ghost-written, and usually are when they’re done by a Writer for Hire. I never sign off the articles I write for companies with my own name. Usually an NDA is signed, and I send the articles off which they will publish under one of their staff members’ names.

Hiring a UK freelance writer for articles versus hiring a ghost writer for a novel is an entirely different kettle of fish. A novel is a beast of another breed to the business article. It takes stamina, and years of experience to pull one off well.

Articles also require writing skill, but of a different kind.

Skills required of a ghost writer writing a novel

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When looking for THE writer to write your story for you, he must absolutely and without a doubt have the two following skills:

  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to produce high amounts of good-quality wordage in short amounts of time

Novels and memoirs are long projects. Someone who has written articles their entire life will rarely have the stamina to pull through on a novel-sized project while still maintaining the prose’s freshness. I should know — I’ve written thirty-four of them.

Writing a novel on someone else’s behalf is even more difficult, and the only way to do it successfully is through tight communication. Even the simplest of plots require your feedback. It will be your name, after all, which will grace the book’s cover if it has been ghost-written.

Skills required of a non-fiction ghost-writer

A non-fiction ghost writer must have immaculate research skills. He must be well organised so as to be able to cite references in his work. He must have an excellent filing system.

Communication skills are even more important for non-fiction writers. If the story is about your life, he must be able to gain a full concept of how you lived it, so as to be able to emulate your “voice” in the story he is writing. He needs to make it sound like you wrote the book.

He must be a chameleon, more than in any other genre, adapting his writing style to your tone and manner of speaking.

Skills required of a fiction ghost-writer

A fiction ghost writer must know the genre for which he is writing like the back of his hand.

There are “tropes” to each genre, and it isn’t enough to simply read up on these tropes. Only through extensive reading habits in the genre you wish for him to write in, can a ghost writer come up with the goods for your story.

He must know how to accelerate and escalate a plot so that it does not drag. Even the “slowest” of stories should be high-tension to keep readers reading.

The length of your story must determine the price, not vice versa

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You do need to know that the best ghost writers will not come cheap. You’re simply not going to get a stellar memoir written for 500 quid — not even for 2,000 quid.

But I have seen one company give people the idea that they can get “their memoir” written for about that much. That is, until you read the fine-print.

The fine print is that they’re offering a “novel” of 50 pages.

This is not a novel and it’s doubtful that one can encapsulate an entire life in such a small book. Fifty pages is about the length of a short novella, or a novelette.

The story determines the length, and it would be a disservice to the story to cram it into 50 pages when it really deserves, say, 300.

There are marketing considerations here as well. Just as there are “tropes” to fiction — things people expect in their romance or mystery novels, for example — so are there expectations by readers for the size of a book.

For an unknown author, a 50-page book just isn’t going to sell that well unless the story being told is life-changing, filled with pathos, and heartbreakingly beautiful. It could be done in 50 pages, sure. But you do need to be aware of companies that lure you in with a quote of £2,000 for a 50-page book.

Your story is your story, and the story should determine the length of the book.

Skills required of a freelance writer writing short business articles for a blog

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If you wish for someone to ghost-write your blog articles or your business articles, you would need someone with skill in writing short non-fiction.

He should be knowledgeable in SEO — Search Engine Optimisation. He should be able to research useful keywords for your niche and then integrate those keywords into a well-written article.

He should have somewhat of a “sixth sense” for keywords, not only chasing what is currently popular. He should be able to sniff out upcoming trends and keywords, then write articles rapidly so that, by the time those keywords become hot, Google and other search engines have already had time to index the page and give it the ranking it deserves.

Your article writer should be able to come up with fresh ideas, not the same hackneyed articles that already exist by the hundreds on the web. And then he should be able to execute those ideas in a well-written article.

He should understand that the typical attention span of someone searching the web is infinitely smaller than someone who sits down at night to read a good book. Therefore, his articles should be laid out in such a manner that they are easy to read.

Where to find a writer to write your story

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Ghost writers are renowned for gaining business through word of mouth. One of the pitfalls of being a ghost writer is that NDAs often prevent advertising who you’ve written books for. And the more prominent the personality for whom the ghost writer wrote, the more likely this is to be the case.

A quick Google search in the UK will bring up plenty of companies advertising this service. Take the advice provided above to suss them out before hiring.

Hiring a freelance writer is tricky for different reasons. But I’ve covered this in depth elsewhere. You can read about it here.

The main thing is that the writer you hire must be a professional, easy to communicate with, and competent at his trade.