Allowing a manuscript time and space to settle is a fundamental component of the ghostwriting process. Building a solid structure upon which the manuscript can thrive is, for me, a necessarily painstaking task, and the writing itself can hit some speedbumps, when things don’t quite sit right on the page. Minor deviations on the planned route to completion are absolutely fine, expected, and actually welcomed, should they result in a stronger story that looks even better than planned and communicates all that the client desires.
Another essential part of the process is deliberately distancing myself from text for a period of time, in order for it to settle, and to return to it with a fresh set of eyes, so to speak. Not only do any typos/mistakes become more obvious, but any problematic sections of the text itself are apparent. It’s a bit like watching a film for a second time. Unless you’ve got a tremendous ability to recall pretty much every scene, character arcs, and twists and turns in the plot (I certainly don’t), there’s a good chance that parts of the film will appear fresh – unseen, even – and the same process applies to ghosting. I’ll remember most of the client’s story, but other elements feel less familiar, and it’s often here that I find finesse is required.
Rewriting is so much easier than the process of laying down a first draft. Even with a roadmap to follow, finding the right tone isn’t an entirely straightforward procedure. I need to echo the client’s voice, if memoir, or find the best characterisation, if fiction, and this requires a great deal of thought and reflection; and, sometimes, heading down a few blind alleys, if material doesn’t work. With a rewrite, however, most of the hard work has already been done, and there’s an opportunity to identify and bridge any gaps, and maximise the manuscript’s potential.
It’s like that expression: being too close to something. When you’ve engrossed yourself in a particular project, its flaws aren’t immediately obvious, so time and space help to highlight defects. Another means of achieving this is when other people read the piece. With my own work, it’s something I do regularly, as alternative perspectives often open up other avenues for further consideration. My readers might identify areas of plot that could be improved upon, or turns of phrase that don’t hit the spot.
As a ghostwriter, this isn’t something I’ve done with other people’s work very often, as confidentiality is paramount, and I would require the client’s permission to allow somebody else to take a read. Sometimes, I’ll suggest a client asks their friends to read their manuscript and feedback their thoughts, but for the most part they want to keep the material between us both, which is why our collective judgement is so important to improving the manuscript as it stands at that point.
I try and leave text to settle for a good few weeks, if possible. It isn’t always, as I may be on a deadline, which is where years of ghostwriting experience come into play, and a nose for identifying the weaker aspects of a project are required. So even if you aren’t able to give a piece of work as long as you might like to settle, at least a little distance will undoubtedly help when preparing to deliver the final product.