It all started with a tweet. I was idly scrolling through Twitter, as I often do when I have a pressing work deadline, when I saw the tweet from an experienced and well-respected ghostwriter.
Hoping to smash my 20K word target today.
As I read it, I almost dropped my Americano in shock. I’m sixteen books into this ghostwriting business and I don’t think I’ve ever achieved that sort of word count in one day. However, it did get me thinking. Perhaps it’s just me but I’m fascinated by the mechanics of other people’s writing and I wondered how my fellow United Ghosts approach things when they have a book or two to write (as hopefully most of us do). Do they give themselves a daily word count? Or do they just sit down at their keyboard, let their creative juices flow and see where the day and the word count takes them?
I’ve seen for myself the popularity of movements such as NaNoWriMo (check out the hashtag on Twitter) or to give it its full title, National Novel Writing Month. Every year, on November 1st, thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand-new novel. A short novel, I would have thought, but 50k words in four weeks isn’t a meagre word count by any means, especially if you are writing it around a full-time job.
I know I have my own tried and tested method that I approach my mainly non-fiction ghostwriting with. I’ve been a journalist for more than twenty years so I treat each chapter of a book as if it’s a mini feature. I know that, as a general rule of thumb, my chapters tend to average out somewhere between 2500 to 4000 words, so I divide my time into chapters. It’s rare that I will write more than one chapter a day – and by write I mean to pretty much finished, ready to send off to the publisher standard.
On a couple of occasions I have written a 70,000 word memoir in six weeks, including interviews and research, and I know that, if the deadline requires it, I can do it. But I don’t necessarily want to make it the norm. Eight weeks is fine, ten or more is great and allows time for the little luxuries in life like eating, sleeping and tending to my children.
For some United Ghosts, word count is a mathematical equation. Dividing time to deadline by the number of words means they can work out how many they need to write per day in order to reach that deadline. One ghost even uses a spreadsheet to calculate word counts and to work out where they are, as opposed to where they should be. If I didn’t have such an aversion to spreadsheets, I would be trying this genius idea out for myself.
One United Ghost on a super-tight deadline for a celebrity memoir got up at 5am in order to write 10,000 words that day. But the most incredible story is the ghost who managed to write a 70k memoir in three weeks – and it was her first ghostwriting project. An amazing achievement, and one that she never wants to repeat again.
The one thing that us ghosts did all agree on was, even if we do set ourselves a daily target, there’s no guarantee that we’ll stick to it. And now, speaking of which, I must finish this blog as I’ve got a 20K word count to smash….