If you work in the communications field long enough, you’ll end up doing a lot of ghost writing. Be it blog posts, social media status updates, press statements, or speeches, you will be expected to put words in someone else’s mouth on a regular basis. Ghostwriting means you’re charged with crafting a piece that’s explicitly created to be credited or attributed to someone else.
Many people find it scary to put their own thoughts on paper, let alone capturing the ideas of an executive director, board president or valued partner. So just in time for Halloween, we thought we’d treat you to our three favorite ghost writing tricks.
Trick #1: Interview Your Subject
For shorter blogs or quick press quotes, using your key messages to develop core content will often suffice. But for longer pieces where it’s important to capture the tone and voice of the person you’re writing for, schedule an interview with your subject. Get them talking, and record the conversation. (You can invest in a small, hand-held voice recorder for in-person interviews, or you can just download a 99¢ voice recording app for your iPhone. We get a lot of use out of Call Recorder for Skype, which you can try for free for 30 days to decide whether you want to spend $30 to purchase it.) Ask questions, and allow your interviewee to speak freely, explaining everything in his or her own words. Once you’ve drawn the information out of your subject in the interview, you have captured both the content and the voice you will need to ghost write an article, blog or op ed.
Trick #2: Edit Out Loud
Once you’ve written the words you plan to put in someone else’s mouth, read them aloud. Ask yourself “Does this sound like a real person, or more like a jargon-spewing android?” and “Does this sound like something my colleague would actually say?” If you’re not sure, go back and listen to the recording of your interview. And, of course, run it by your subject to ensure he or she is comfortable being quoted this way.
Trick #3: Don’t kill the final product in reviews
Resist pressure to let a committee review the final product, because every person who reviews it will suck a little more life out of the writing. The best writing conveys a single, coherent idea, whereas committees can’t seem to stop themselves from trying to cram in “just one more point” to ensure no program or department feels neglected. Maintain as much editorial control as you can, giving final approval to the person whose voice you’re channeling.
These tricks will make you a powerful ghost writer — invisible, but capable of stirring up quite a lot of action for your cause!
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LightBox Collaborator Renée Alexander is also a freelancer writer who has ghost written for centenarians, beer brewers, inventors and other assorted characters.