By: Kevin Quirk
Copyright 2005 by Kevin Quirk.
Itís been quite a life. I fled China for Taiwan under the cover of darkness when Mao took hold. I helped support Navy fleets heading across the Atlantic from Newfoundland in support of Great Britain early in World War II. I worked as an engineer for MCI and made millions from a simple trade show business before ďretiringĒ by age 39. I prowled the jungles of the Amazon to unlock secrets coveted by thousands. I rubbed elbows with Donald Trump in Atlantic City and spearheaded a blockbuster project on the coast of Costa Rica. And I pioneered research on personal Internet habits and what happens to people who become obsessed with life online.
Actually, I didnít really do any of these things in my own life. But as the ghostwriter for the memoirs of people who did, I feel as if I have lived all those amazing adventures and many more.
Benefits of Ghostwriting
Thatís one of the most exciting benefits of ghostwriting memoirs and autobiographies. Ghostwriting brings many other rewards, probably none more gratifying than helping someone tell their story through a memoir when they lacked the time, the inclination, or the writing skills or confidence to do it themselves. And it doesnít take chronicling dramatic life experiences like prowling the Amazon on a spy-like mission to feel that gratification. I derive the same pleasure, or more, by bringing to light the simple, everyday lives of people setting out to capture what Natalie Goldberg calls the ordinary and the magical: Sunday family dinners, unforgettable lessons from teachers, heart-stirring moments with family, and memorable triumphs and challenges.
Starting with Trust
So how does it work? How does a writer who didnít live the same experience write about it as if they had?
Ghostwriting a memoir usually begins with a yearning. You have a story that must be told, whether to family and close friends or to a larger audience that could be touched or influenced by it, and you canít or donít want to write it yourself. I offer myself as the bridge that can transport your words, ideas, and experiences across the divide to your intended audience. We enter into an agreement and a relationship built on trust - I am entrusted with speaking your words in a way that looks and sounds like you.
Making it Happen
Once we agree to work together, my job is to talk to you about your mission: why do you want to tell this story and what do you hope to gain for yourself and for others by telling it? Then we decide on a process. We may choose to gather the material to tell your story through:
- Oral interviews, usually in-person but with follow-ups sometimes handled through phone calls and email. Interviews may also extend to other family members, loved ones, or close friends or associates. This is often the most enjoyable and engaging part of the process because as the interviewee, you get to relax and just tell your story, without having to worry about how itís all going to fit together.
- Written materials, including your own journals, diaries, and notes, as well as other documents and articles that touch upon some aspect of your life story.
- Memory pegs - all those photos and physical objects that can prompt a specific story.
- On-site research, including possible visits to your current home, your long-departed hometown, or any other locale where something important happened to you.
- Other supporting research, which may include studying historical reference points or perusing other comparable memoirs.
Once the material has been gathered, I write your story. Then I show it to you, either through a completed first draft or initial chapters or sections, and you direct necessary changes to make it all sound just right. I complete the necessary revisions, and we strategize together on the best means to publish your book: an online forum like memoirsbyme.com, a print-on-demand or other self-publishing option, or perhaps an attempt at attracting a commercial publisher.
As ghostwriter, I remain ďinvisibleĒ on the finished product. You are the author, unless we decide together to add my name on the book cover as collaborating writer. But there is one thing we both fully share - the rewards of seeing a life story come out into the world!
Finding the right ghostwriter to help you tell your story makes a difference in how your story is told. It is worth your time to check out several sources before committing yourself. Many services will give you a free consultation if you just ask. Writing your memoir is a noble, worthwhile endeavor...so go ahead and start down the path of getting it done by investigating your options.