Hugh* is an actor best known for his comic work: a sharp improviser, a gifted storyteller, a talented singer and dancer who has won awards for his theatre work. Now a leading book publisher has invited Hugh to write a memoir. But when Hugh puts his stories on the page, they die: the technicolored images turn dull and gray and the anecdotes sputter and crash before his eyes.
Seth*, a motivational speaker and business coach, rang me last week in a state of frustration. He was working on an idea for an inspirational book, but as he put it, ‘My writing skills are the opposite of my speaking skills.’
Hugh and Seth are smart guys with great stories to tell, but they can’t write anywhere near as well as they speak. Yet both of them want to commit their ideas and stories to book form (paper or digital). What can they do?
They can work with me. Or someone like me. A ghostwriter, or a writing coach, or a great editor who will dig into the slag heap and pluck out the gold.
With Hugh, I did a series of interviews face-to-face, then he went away and recorded a series of narratives, all based on the plan we had worked out beforehand. Often Hugh would ask his manager to sit with him while he recorded his stories: he works better if there is someone listening.
I am the opposite of Hugh and Seth. I communicate better in writing than verbally. After a conversation I often think, ‘I should have said that differently – I didn’t really get my point across.’ My brain seems to go at the wrong speed or it wanders off in another direction: I gabble, I ramble, I take too long to formulate a response.
But then, I am a writer. It’s not so surprising that the written word is where I feel most comfortable. But I love working with people who are the opposite of me: I get a kick out of listening to their stories (it’s like story time for grownups!) and developing a manuscript that captures their voice and their essence.
Hugh and I have just completed an 80,000-word manuscript and sent it off to the publisher. Next week I’ll be doing a Skype session with Seth to work through a plan to get his book written. Teamwork is a beautiful thing.