How Will a Ghostwriter Capture My Voice?

One of the main reasons people resist hiring a ghostwriter for their book is the fear that the ghostwriter will not capture their voice, and the book will sound as if it’s been written by someone else.

 

To capture your voice, the ghostwriter needs to understand two important rules about writing your book for you:

 

Rule #1: A voice on the page is not the same as a person’s spoken voice. Back when I was studying English linguistics in college, I had to do a paper analyzing an actual conversation that I’d tape recorded and explain why the speakers were able to drop certain words or make certain grammatical errors without confusing the listener. When I transcribed the conversation word for word, “um” for “um,” with all the half-expressed thoughts in place, the result was a document few people could make sense of, and yet the actual conversation had proceeded smoothly. If you’ve ever had your speaking transcribed word for word, you may have been horrifed by how often you interrupted yourself, changed directions, or spoke ungrammatically. A ghostwriter will create a voice on the page that captures the essence of your personality and how you express yourself, but this will be the voice you would write with if you were your English teacher’s dream student and you and plenty of time to craft your sentences and paragraphs.

 

Rule #2: Your voice on the page should not sound uptight and stiff. An excellent ghostwriter will stick to the rules of grammar without making you sound tightly wound. Read a few pages of a biography of a favorite celebrity or two. Does it sound as if the celebrity wrote those words? Or has this rock star written about an “ameliorating effect” or a “problem with which I wrestled”? The ghostwriter and, later, the copyeditor are responsible for retaining the voice of the expert or celebrity whose name is on the book.

 

A ghostwriter will look at any material you’ve written in the past and talk to you about the voice. It may be that you basically like how you sound in your blogpieces but want to be sure your voice sounds energetic and commercial throughout your book. In that case, the ghostwriter can look carefully at the elements of your voice in those blogpieces and make sure to retain your catchphrases and rhythms.

 

If you’re ever unhappy with what a ghostwriter has written for you, even if it’s just a simple word choice, speak up! It’s important that you feel comfortable with the voice your ghostwriter creates for you.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “How Will a Ghostwriter Capture My Voice?

  1. Thanks for this post, Nancy. I’ve been ghostwriting for so many years I’ve almost forgotten my own voice. 🙂 Some clients are easier to imitate, though. Ghostwriters must “tune” their ears to hear the underlying rhythms and inflections and then transfer those into writing. I’ve never ghostwritten a whole book; do you find it easier to sustain the client’s voice over a large number of words? It’s an incredible skill!

    • nancypeske

      My trick is to hear the client’s voice as I’m reading what’s written. Although the writing isn’t colloquial, I pick up on whether it feels natural to that person’s voice. My clients speak to me over the phone, not in person, so I’m never distracted by the visual image of them. I just “hear” them!

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