So you’ve written a manuscript…well, part of one, most of one actually. But now you feel you can’t see the wood for the trees any longer. You’re pretty sure it’s got some potential; in fact you’re excited about it because it’s a great story. But you’re running out of steam and you need some help to get it over the line.
This is how the scene is set for many a conversation between a would-be author and a ghostwriter.
The urge to get our stories down on paper can be a powerful, sometimes irresistible. But the reality of committing the time and the effort involved can be daunting. And having made a start it’s all too easy to falter as life gets in the way.
Most ghostwriters are also happy to edit a part-written, or ‘not quite finished’ manuscript. Many of the people who come to us have written something – sometimes a little, sometimes a great deal. Sometimes they’ve been working on it for a decade, sometimes just for a few weeks or months. But in every case they have reached the point where they want guidance, clarity, a professional opinion – and a bit of hands-on help.
That’s where a good editor comes in. And when I say editor, I mean someone who will:
- Become as familiar with your manuscript as you are
- Look at the big picture as well as the detail
- Fill in all the missing gaps, interviewing you and seamlessly writing in the extra material in your voice
- Re-structure your material so that the order works, the manuscript flows and it holds the reader’s attention and imagination throughout
- Think of all the aspects you might not have considered, from the right introduction through to the index and references.
Everyone is different. In the past year I’ve edited manuscripts for a rockstar looking back over 50 years of life on the road, a UN election observer recalling experiences of moving from one warzone or newly-fledged democracy to another, a woman who grew up in the wilds of Canadian logging country, a TV soap actress and a survivor of childhood abuse.
All of them had spent a considerable amount of time writing. One had written enough to fill two books, another had jotted down reminiscences over a period of ten years, and another had kept diaries throughout his life.
And all of them had reached a point where they got stuck. Which is when they contacted me, to say…
Can you help me make sense of it all?
I need someone to sprinkle a little pixie dust on it.
I think it’s all there, it’s just a bit…dry…more like a list than a book.
I need you to see if it all hangs together.
I wrote separate parts at separate times, I just need to get them to blend.
Like my fellow ghostwriters, I love a challenge and I love a story. So we will gladly take what you have written, whether that’s 10 pages or 100, and turn it into a complete manuscript, ready for publication. And you, we hope, will have the book you set out to write.
Caro Handley has ghostwritten and edited over 50 books, including four Sunday Times No 1 bestsellers.