5 secrets of a ghost writer
If one of your media goals is to have your opinion or advice piece published, but you can’t quite figure out how to structure your story, maybe it’s time to become your own ghost writer.
Ghost writing is said to have existed for as long as the written word, and the likes of John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama and Gwyneth Paltrow have all used ghost writers to create content published in their names. Mozart frequently ghost-wrote music for people who wanted to appear skilled at composing.
If the Mozart equivalent in your industry is out of reach, try these five techniques ghost writers use to take your writing to the next level.
- Be objective. When editing, ghost writers have something that no author has: they aren’t wedded to any part of the story and they are ruthless in cutting out anything that isn’t objectively good content. Try to be as objective as you can when you read through your piece. If you’re only including something because you love the way you wrote it, get rid of it. If you identify any words, ideas or phrases that don’t expand on an idea or add new information, opinion or advice to your piece, get rid of it. The typical OpEd in any mainstream outlet will be between 600-800 words, so make every word count.
- Pick an angle. When you’re writing an OpEd, it can be daunting to come up with an angle. In response to that, many wannabe writers end up writing lengthy prose about a topic without taking a position. But to make a story truly compelling, a ghost writer will kick it off with a sharp, timely and unique angle. Don’t know what an angle is? It’s your unique perspective or viewpoint on a topic. What fires you up about the subject and how would you get that across at a dinner party in a quick one liner? Use that as your opening line.
- Choose a tense. One of the fundamentals of editing copy for this ghost writer is creating consistency in the tense used in each sentence. It may sound simple, but more often than not, a submitted piece will have some sort of tense mistake in it, somewhere. Be consistent with your tense, and your piece will make more sense.
- There’s a time and place for first person perspective. If you’re writing an account of a personal experience, the first person narrative is a great writing tool to make your story compelling and to get the human elements of your experience across. But if you’re writing an opinion piece, consider using the third person perspective instead – take the I out of it. This will make your piece more strident, which is very desirable in an OpEd. Writing, “the government needs to remove stamp duty from property valued over $500,000” is much stronger than writing, “in my opinion, the government should remove stamp duty from property valued over $500,000.”
- Clean your copy. Proof read your copy and make it clean. Clean copy is writing that doesn’t have spelling or grammatical errors in it. You may think you’ve read through your piece enough over the course of editing it that you don’t need to proof read it. But in actual fact, some of the most obvious grammar and spelling errors can be created accidentally while editing. Before you pitch your story, read through it carefully one last time to remove any grammar or spelling errors. No editor like seeing blatant mistakes in copy.