Ghost writing is a delicate balancing act. A great ghost writer must master the ability to capture the voice of their subject, without losing their own. Here at BlueSky, we regularly have the privilege of ghost writing for our clients. From high-powered alumni short of time, to brilliant professors lacking the English fluency to do their research justice; we’re never without plenty of engaging articles to produce.
Any budding public relations consultant should know that writing well is a vital skill in the industry. But ghost-writing in particular has its own merits and challenges. This short guide breaks down my top tips for producing the kind of articles that our clients are proud to put their names to!
Get good at interviewing
This applies to any kind of ghost writing, but it’s particularly poignant with reference to academic ghost writing. If something is complicated, the best approach is often to talk it through. Research papers can be filled with jargon, and to a reader from outside the appropriate field of expertise, the crux is not always easy to identify. One short phone call can clear the fog instantly.
You just need to ask the right questions. The chances are, if someone doesn’t have time to write their own articles, they don’t have time to sit on the phone to you and walk you through all the intricacies of their research either. So do your reading first, and go into a call knowing exactly what you need to understand, and which questions you intend to ask.
Capture the voice
If you enjoy writing, and have a strong personal style, the temptation can be to take someone’s ideas and run with them in your own voice. Resist. Instead, it’s important to find a way to centre your subject’s argument in a way that sounds like them. Ghost writers occupy a position of trust, and imbuing your writing with the voice of your subject is an essential part of honouring that trust.
One easy way to do this is to include signature words and phrases. Most people have a set of default expressions that are characteristic to them, even if they don’t notice it themselves. If your subject has a catchphrase, do your best to include it. Although, be careful to bear in mind the tone of the publication you’re writing for. For example, if your subject speaks very informally, you may need to adapt their words accordingly.
At BlueSky, our client base comprises of universities, business schools and think tanks, so our ghost writing efforts often involve explaining academic research to a non-academic audience. It’s therefore essential that our writing can highlight and simplify complex ideas, without compromising their integrity. Whilst our client base is niche, this skill is necessary for all ghost writers; from memoirists sharing detailed life stories to speech writers conveying complicated political motivations to the masses.
In other words, your subject’s ideas take centre stage, but it’s advisable to exercise a little freedom in how those ideas are ordered and organised. This is where your own voice, as a writer, can feature. Good ghost writing involves creating seamless transitions between someone else’s thoughts and prioritizing their strongest and most convincing arguments. Superfluous details can be cut. Your subject is the expert, but it’s your job to convey that expertise to readers with style and fluency.
As easy as 1, 2, 3
Conduct a fruitful interview, capture the subject’s voice and add a little flair; these three top tips make up my recipe for ghost writing success. Once a solid strategy is in place, ghost writing quickly becomes both easy and enjoyable. At BlueSky, it’s a task we take great pride in. After all, accessing and relaying genuinely ground-breaking research isn’t such a bad way to spend a few hours.