| Oct 28, 2021

Why Ghostwriting is About Resonance, Not Quality

The art of ghostwriting is just that – an art.

No matter how incredible your writing is, you’re not going to hit it out of the park every time. We’ve all read the stats about the hundreds (thousands? millions?) of creative people whose work was rejected by every possible publisher. Your issue may not be with quality – it could be with resonance.

Some writing, like Wikipedia, is a good source of information, which is one component of communication. But another aspect that can’t really be fact-checked is something a bit more intangible. 

Resonance is one of those multi-dimensioned words that crosses academic disciplines and finds, well, resonance in many applications. It’s described as deep, clear, full-bodied, reverberating, and long-lasting. Though there are many truths that appeal to a wide, general audience, this isn’t universal. You probably know what it is to discover that someone has the “same sense of humor” that you do. We’re different flavors of the same brew – what resonates with you may not resonate with me, no quality judgment needed.

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Find the Vibration

In sound, resonance is about vibration. When an author matches with a ghostwriter, there’s nothing more important than that vibe. Most of the time we can’t even describe why. “She just gets me.” “He found the words I was looking for.” “They just nailed it.” That kind of praise is not about words. It’s not about the strategic use of vocabulary, a well-structured paragraph, or the elimination of dangling modifiers. 

Good ghostwriting is a people skill. It’s an indication that you listened when your author spoke. It’s an indication that you were genuinely interested in what they had to say and couldn’t wait to give it life. Sometimes we roam the earth subconsciously thinking that the world would be such a better place if everyone were wired just like us. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Us scattered, big-picture thinkers desperately need detail-oriented partners who are focused on how to give us real-time feasibility studies on all of our ideas. Those of us who are wired as focused duty-fulfillers take joy in giving legs to this vision – you know, after it’s been vetted. 

We complete each other, and we all have something to say. Your job as the ghostwriter is twofold:

  1. Set yourself aside and embody the perspective of your author.
  2. Put yourself back into the mix to translate your author’s unspoken thoughts.

Keep being them, but make it better. Not your better. Their better.

Trust Your Instincts

In my experience, most ghostwriters don’t trust themselves nearly enough. When we’re commissioned to do a job, we want to do a “good job.” We’ve been taught that doing a “good job” means following all the instructions and delivering exactly what’s been asked for. But a ghostwriter’s job is a bit more nebulous than this. I’ve found that ghostwriters who seek to follow instructions too closely often end up missing the mark. They produce something that’s just…okay. It tells the intended information, but it doesn’t show us much. And there’s nothing more important than “showing” in good writing.

Unless your client is a skilled writer themselves, they likely know what they want to say, but not exactly. That’s the ghostwriter gap. If they give you a list of points they’d like to cover and you regurgitate those points and fill the rest of it with garbage – it will be noticed.

What I Don’t Mean

Ghostwriting is a partnership. And if you think you’re the smarter half of that partnership, you’ve already done it wrong. Ghostwriting is midwifery – and it’s not your baby. So before you run off confidently “trusting your instincts” about how you can write the piece better than the author, slow your roll. You’re not going to get this done without humility.

The 20% you veer from your author’s charted course is not about ignoring their instructions. It’s about giving them something they didn’t know they needed. It’s imagining a three-dimensional element to a two-dimensional idea, and then writing it in their voice. Their perfect, unique, weathered voice. Both the voice they were issued at birth that encapsulates their enthusiasm and personality and the one they’ve earned through their own set of mistakes and experiences. You become a vehicle of their goodness, and there are few tasks more rewarding.

By Amanda Reill
Executive Author

Lead Executive Ghostwriter, Massive Alliance

Amanda serves as the Lead Executive Ghostwriter for Massive Alliance, providing end-to-end oversight of the ghostwriter-to-executive match process and ensuring quality output. view profile

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