How to write your dream novel with a ghostwriter.
A conversation with Annette Parks
You have a story kicking around in your head.
Everybody does. The reason that your story is unique and must be told is because it’s yours. No two ideas are alike. Your imagination and personal experiences in life come together to form fascinating, enlightening tales that plunge the reader into another world. It’s an amazing journey to go from the first idea to the final draft. You’re smart to hire a ghostwriter for your novel. I can take you there.
Often, we have a general idea for a story, something that we know is going to be great, but we just don’t know how to take a small idea and expand it. People who reach out to a ghostwriter need support and guidance to bring something to life. That’s my job! For over 15 years, I’ve used ideas, both big and small, and expanded them into full-length novels. Let’s talk a little bit about how.
How do you develop the story before choosing a ghostwriter?
The process of writing a novel begins with an empty page. Yes, it’s terrifying. But once you start to write down bits and pieces of your story, you have something small that you can build on. If possible, the best thing you can do is write out the plot. This can be general or incredibly detailed. Don’t pressure yourself, just get it down. If your story is very visual for you, create a dream board. Find images online that evoke the atmosphere of your story. It’s useful to also find photos that depict your characters. This process is a lot of fun and helps you to make your story specific.
A dream board is also known as a vision board. This tool helps you to focus yourself and define what you’re going for in an exciting, stimulating way. Creative brainstorming is not only employed by authors, but also by other artists such as filmmakers, actors, designers, and even musicians. We are visual creatures and if words aren’t your forte, this is for you. Go through magazines, search online, get clippings from news articles. The dream board can be made online or on a piece of poster board.
Why does this method work? Simply put, images spark your imagination and give you insights into your story on a visceral level. That vague idea kicking around in your head becomes more tangible once it’s visual. This powerful mental exercise unlocks your brain in a way that jotting down notes can’t. I began to employ this method when I was writing a high volume of British Regency period novels. The storylines were often similar as well as the conventions of the period and settings. I defined each world as unique by giving each novel its own dream board. This kept me motivated and excited.
Creating a full plot outline.
Once you have your notes and inspiration, it’s time to create a plot for your novel. If this is daunting, a ghostwriter can help you do it! The reason I never feel daunted when taking on a new story or project is that I’ve trained myself over the years to go step by step. You have an adventure novel that takes place in Monte Carlo, the hero is a tourist and the villain is a diamond thief that takes the tourist hostage. Now what happens? We flesh this out one step at a time by expanding and filling in the blanks.
I’m speaking to those who have trouble doing this but some authors come to me with full outlines, beat sheets, and character breakdowns. That takes them ahead of the game. You can study the art of creating a plot but the real gold is inside your imagination and intuition. There will be points along the process where you get stuck, and that’s natural. Go back to your characters, what they’re doing, and what they want.
Where does the ghostwriter come in?
In my years of experience, the ghostwriter can come in to help at any point in this process. I’ve worked with outlines that are already as long as books and outlines that are short enough to be blurbs. The author/ghostwriter relationship is a tremendous collaboration that is different in each circumstance. Some people call ghostwriting “hand-holding” and I’m not opposed to that. Your story becomes my baby too, and I lead you through what most people think is a nearly impossible journey.
You can choose to consult with me about the story or say “screw you, this is my story.” Whatever feels right for you. I studied dramatic literature at Yale and know a thing or two about a good story. I can give guidance on character and plot choices, length, tempo, etc. Does it make my job easier when you know these things? Of course. But the level of help that I provide depends on what it is that you need. My job is to offer assistance by bringing your book to life, from Chapter 1 to Chapter 100.
What is my method as a ghostwriter?
I get asked this a lot. On my end, I organize the project into chapters. Before I start writing, I make sure that I have a preliminary chapter count and know what events happen in each of those chapters. This is my blueprint, and although I’ve written books without this blueprint in the past, I don’t recommend it. Before I begin, I’m all about logistics. How many chapters do we have? How long is the book going to be? These logistics help me to schedule my time and focus while I devote myself to your book.
When it comes to the writing of the book, my goal is to get inside your head. I’m not trying to sound creepy. I write your book so that it’s your book. If you already have some chapters written, I want to use those as a key to the “voice” of the book moving forward. This kind of shadowing is at the forefront of what ghostwriting is. I’m invisible. You’re the author.
My literary genres.
If you’re interested in working with me, you’re probably curious as to what genres I specialize in. You might not like my answer. I write all genres. But how can that be possible? What makes me successful at what I do is my ability to shape-shift. I see your story, I hear your voice within that story, and I bring it to life. A good book has nothing to do with genre and everything to do with great storytelling in different settings. I have ghostwritten for men and women of diverse colors and backgrounds. I’ve taken memoir manuscripts and refined and enhanced them in the original writer’s voice. I completely blend into whatever I’m doing.
My very first job after graduating from Yale was to write a memoir called Chinese Food. It was a terrifying story of rape and abuse and shared glimpses into queer Chinese culture. The story was way ahead of its time. This dark beginning to my writing career led to a whole slew of genre fiction with mass followings. Never had I written so much historical romance and cozy fiction in all my life. Although it gives people a laugh, this was the period where I learned to be disciplined. I could crank out over six books a year. To this day, I’ve still never not completed any book that I’ve been assigned.
Lighter fiction gave way to darker fiction and more memoirs. I began to work with experienced editors who taught me a great deal about fluidity, cutting out what is superfluous, and showing instead of telling. Because of what I learned, my writing is passionate and clear, precise, and nuanced. Do I continue to get better? Absolutely! That’s one of the reasons why I love being a ghostwriter.
What can you expect when you work with me?
Expect to have an amazing book. Expect fun, insightful collaboration. Anticipate being proud of yourself because the idea that won’t leave your mind is finally a book that readers are going to love from cover to cover. If the story is in your head, it’s just waiting to be a bestseller. Your job is to dream and my job is to make it happen. I’m a trusted, professional ghostwriter for over 15 years because I have brought ideas successfully to life without fail. I want to get inside the world of your story, get inside your mind, and the minds of your characters. What you can expect is the most rewarding literary achievement of your life.