Ask readers what they love most about their favorite books, and inevitably, the answer will come around to some form of this: “I love how wonderfully the story was told. I love that by the end, I felt like the narrator was a trusted friend.”
It’s not surprising that readers say this. Reading is a process of trust. As authors, we ask a lot of our readers. We expect them to devote both time and money to our books. In return, readers trust us to reward them with a story well told, using a distinct and memorable voice.
If you write your own book, your voice naturally comes through. The words that flow onto the page come from your thought processes and are informed by your experiences and views. Even authors of multiple works of fiction featuring different characters and storylines often have a distinct style. When readers pick up a book by a well-known author, especially one whose previous works they’ve loved, they enter into a trusted experience.
But what if your book is ghostwritten? How can you be sure a ghostwriter will capture your voice when writing your book?
One of the hallmarks of a skilled ghostwriter is the ability to write in the distinct voice of each client. Before deciding to work with a particular ghostwriter, ask for samples of that ghostwriter’s work. You should be able to discern distinct voices from one client’s book to the next.
Once you’ve decided on a ghostwriter, the book process generally begins with a series of interviews. As the client, you’ll spend a lot of time telling your story to the ghostwriter. You’ll be asked questions and prompted to deeply explain your thoughts and feelings about a situation or scene. A qualified ghostwriter will record these interviews, which are often then transcribed. Using this material, the ghostwriter creates an outline for the book. Reading the transcription and/or re-listening to the interview tapes gives the ghostwriter a good sense of your distinct voice.
Next, the ghostwriter should provide you with the book’s outline and a sample chapter. The intent of the sample chapter is to nail down the voice. You should hear yourself loud and clear in the sample pages. If the voice sounds stilted, but in person you tend to be exuberant, the ghostwriter has likely missed the mark. Likewise, if the voice sounds casual and breezy, yet your typical way of speaking is more formal, the ghostwriter should make another attempt to get the voice correct, before proceeding with subsequent chapters.
At this stage, it’s vital to ensure the voice is spot on. As the writing process continues, an experienced ghostwriter will carefully construct each chapter, ensuring that the voice remains consistent – and that it’s your voice – throughout the entire book.
The end result? A book that tells your story, in your voice. A book that will have readers saying, “I love how this story was told. I feel like the storyteller is a trusted friend.”