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Political Speechwriters Must Leverage Authenticity

What is the most important feature of a political speech?
  • Ideas?
  • Vision?
  • Alliteration?
  • Emotion?
  • Leadership?
  • Credibility?
No. No. No. No. No. No.  Authenticity is the key on which all of the above rest.  Our speechwriters capture the essence of who you are.  This is the one key ingredient that makes a political campaign successful – an ingredient most candidates overlook. 
Consider these two examples:
George Bush became President of the USA despite sounding hokey, despite malapropisms, despite the mockery of the media elite.  Why did so many people vote for a man that, even to this day, faces scorn and derrision in the media?  Why did they vote for him twice?  Because his hokey style was authentic.  People felt they could trust him, that he was revealing himself to them.  He was not pretending to be someone he was not.
Barak Obama was not supposed to succeed George Bush as President of the USA.  A lot of people forget this, but two years ago everyone was asking whether the United States would have its first female President.  Not to take anything away from Hillary Clinton, but she failed the authenticity test.  People felt she was trying too hard and was not revealing her soul to them.  Barak Obama, however, bared his soul.  People felt he was real.  People felt he was authentic.  Even people who usually didn’t vote, even people with racial concerns, even people with differing views warmed up to him — enough to make him President.
Not every speechwriter can create authenticity.  For that, the writer has to be able to capture the “you” in you.  She will need more than just information, she will need to understand you. Our speechwriters take the time and effort, and they have the skills to craft a speech the displays not just vision and leadership, but your authenticity.  Your audience will feel the connection and will warm up to you, not just to your message.
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New Year’s Resolutions for your Ghostwriting Project

Today on New Year’s, everyone makes resolutions for self-improvement. This year, more people are making resolutions that involve helping others.

One of the resolutions on your mind this year may be: I will write my novel/memoir/how-to/screenplay/business ebook, even if I’ve never written in my life and don’t particularly enjoy it. And after all the champagne and celebration, you might just add enthusiastically, “And I’ll hire a GHOSTWRITER! That will make it easier!”

By hiring a professional, you have just followed one of the experts’ tips about keeping New Year’s resolutions: Be realistic.

Think of it this way. If you want to get fit and toned/lose weight/stop smoking/get organized, you hire a personal trainer, consult your doctor or call a professional organizer. A ghostwriter is no different. Ghostwriters are the personal trainers of the written word.

After you make that resolution, however, I strongly suggest reading the following articles from The Happy Guy Marketing:

  1. Are You Ready For a Ghostwriter?
  2. Working With your Ghostwriter
  3. How Ghostwriters Can Help You Get Published

The next step is to resolve to gather your thoughts and any materials you’ll need. Here’s a tip: If you think you don’t need to tell about the murder suspect in a mystery or what the hospital smelled like when your identical long-lost twin, who you’ve just reunited with, was born, write that detail down.

Some experts recommend making a list of a series of small steps to achieve your goal. Your list might look like this:

  1. Read about ghostwriters
  2. Investigate ghostwriting agency
  3. Begin gathering thoughts and any documents (for fiction as well as nonfiction)
  4. Contact ghostwriting agency
  5. Discuss project with ghostwriter by phone or e-mail
  6. Organize ideas with clustering techniques
  7. Ask your ghostwriter about publishers, agents, producers

While it may sound like a lot of work, the steps you’ll put in (according to my experience) will bring you closer to your goal within weeks or the first two months of 2009 than you would be if you hadn’t made a list of steps and if you hadn’t resolved to hire a personal trainer for your manuscript.

Whether your project is a mystery plot you’ve been dying to write or something that will benefit mankind (or at least help someone through a difficult time), the goal is important to you. So make your New Year’s resolution specific, actionable. Investigate ghostwriting services or put your thoughts down on paper. Then you can look back on next New Year’s Eve and say, “I did it.”

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A tale of two clients – so you want to get published.

A lot of clients seem to think that when their book is written, it will get published, and that’s a wonderful idea too. It’s what we all hope. Note the operative word – hope. It won’t get published if you don’t get out there and hunt a publisher down, or indeed have one lined up before hand.
No one will publish your book if they don’t know it exists. Take two clients of mine. Both books were similar in that they dealt with the same topic – child abuse. Both were deeply distressing stories and affected each client differently. One was determined that others should not suffer as she did and immediately did the rounds to get her book published. It will be in the shops come February. The other wanted to prevent such abuses occurring again, but her whole life was so affected by her experiences, that once she had used up her energy telling her story, she had no more for the exhausting business of attracting a publisher. Her story languishes for the moments when she can be bothered to do something about it, which is a great shame, because although there was little to laugh about in these two histories, the as yet unpublished client managed to find some wonderful humour in hers.
Sure, I try to help her with advice etc. whenever I can, but I am a writer, not an agent, and I write for a living, which leaves little time for me to run around after someone who doesn’t make the effort to help herself.
So what’s required after you get your manuscript back from your ghost?
First, know thy publisher. Send it to as many publishers whose interests are appropriate to your story. You wouldn’t send an ‘adult’ book to a children’s publisher, so why send your fictional work to an academic publisher? Why send your memoir to a publisher of science fiction? If you cannot find an appropriate publisher at home, try another country.
Second, consider hiring an agent. The ones who are well established with the biggest mainstream publishers take a cut of the book’s profits. They take no up-front payments. They can be as hard to find as a publisher, so make sure they represent your genre of book before contacting them. Again some of them can be unimaginative, yet others can be wonderfully helpful.
Third, be prepared to accept rejection. I had a rather snooty publisher say of one of my books that the characters were flat, yet the same book was snapped up the very next week by another publisher who found the same characters ‘fulsome and rounded’. Remember publishers are people too, and one man’s meat and all that …
There are some very famous writers who will tell you about all the reject slips they got. Shall I just slip in the name J. K. Rowling? Yep! Harry Potter’s creator! Some unimaginative publishers cringe every time they hear her name. So don’t give up. I heard of a very famous writer of scary books who apparently had to wait for five years before someone took him on.
Fourth, there are e-publishers, many of whom are pretty good. Just make sure that you find one that doesn’t mess with your rights to the book. There are a few who magically make your copyright theirs, so be aware of the problem.
Finally don’t give up trying to get your book published. If it was worth your paying a ghostwriter to knock it into shape for you, why would you not seek a publisher just as energetically? Fortune favours the brave!

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In teaching a virtual seminar for the Muse Online Writers’ Conference about “Writing the Short Screenplay from Concept to ‘Fade Out,’” I’ve read the following comment in online forums: “I wrote this as a short story/novel, but I think it would be better as a screenplay.”

I’ll talk about adaptations of books to movies in another blog post. Everyone out there has an opinion of books on film. Sometimes the movie actually improves on the book, or at least offers a true translation–by that I mean it keeps to the essence of the book without reproducing it word for word (the “Harry Potter” films, especially the last one, “Order of the Phoenix, accomplished this magic.)

What about the reverse—the novelization of a screenplay? It’s a growing business. “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry himself wrote the novelization (with curious academic-like footnotes) of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” from 1979, the one every critic has panned. Studios hire writers to novelize popular movies such as the “Batman” franchise. Then there are all those kids’ adaptations of kids’ movies such as “The Incredibles,” “Cars,” “Underdog” and ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the movie that launched the new animated series on Cartoon Network.

 It’s difficult enough to transmute a publicly beloved property into fiction. For a ghostwriter, the pay may be great and the challenge satisfying, especially if you happen to be a fan of the franchise, because after all, the characters are the stars. Nobody cares who transcribes the words of Anakin Skywalker (or his feisty female apprentice Ahsoka Tano), Lightning McQueen or Captain Kirk.

However, when the script in question is personal, when a ghostwriting client hopes to have both a book and movie based on characters he or she has created, the challenge is greater, and in many respects even more rewarding despite the long hours at the computer.

David Leonhardt made the announcement last week about our client Alan Truax’s novel Mercedes being published. Alan has been a delight to work with. I rarely meet ghostwriting clients, but I had the privilege of dining with Alan and his wife last December. It was a wonderful evening. Alan is a remarkable man who believed in his story enough to condense a 300-page screenplay trilogy to a two-hour movie and to transform it into a novel.

As both a screenwriter and a novel writer who has adapted my own novel to a screenplay (and award-winning short story to a play), I understood the specific demands of the project. I understood that:

  1.  Not everyone enjoys reading screenplays—especially not producers and agents. This is because they usually have a stack of scripts to read and each year 50,000 scripts are registered with the WGA (Writers’ Guild of America). I do enjoy reading screenplays.
  2. Screenplays have to be minimalistic. Emotion has to be conveyed through dialogue and action, unless you have voiceover. Plot is sometimes conveyed through details—a sign, a phone call, a UFO suddenly descending. In that respect, writing a screenplay teaches you how to write fiction: show, don’t tell. However, novels can have diversions, side trips, and moments that, because of tiem constraints, wouldn’t make the cut.
  3. There are many times when telling/painting what a character is feeling and thinking is important. Example: Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City”. What would the TV show and movie be without Carrie’s voiceover columns dishing about her friends’ adventures? In a novel, you can be Carrie Bradshaw. Nicholas Sparks and J.K. Rowling convey characters’ interior emotions and thoughts—in J.K. Rowling’s case, usually all Harry Potter’s.
  4. A novel gives you the opportunity to explore characters beyond the confines of a movie frame. In the case of MERCEDES, we could explore the thoughts and motives of some unsympathetic characters such as the title heroine’s first husband Dirk or another character named Helga, a Nazi supporter in 1930s Germany. We could add chapters and scenes in a point of view other than the heroine’s. A screenplay is told chiefly through the protagonist’s POV. By that I mean everything revolves around the protagonist. The screenplay is about the main character wanting something and achieving or failing to achieve it. The antagonist (not necessarily a villain) or group of antagonists (in Mercedes’ case, her ex-husband and the Nazis) acts against the protagonist, but is not the star of the story—even though the antagonist must be compelling, such as the shark in “Jaws” or Major Strasser in “Casablanca” (although you could argue Rick Blaine is his own antagonist), or even, in a comedic sense, Robert De Niro in “Meet the Parents”. Robert De Niro, as the father of the woman Ben Stiller loves, is the antagonist who threatens to keep them apart. In a novel, you can explore other POVs. Fantasy epics such as the Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan excel at this.
  5. A novel allows you to “connect the dots” and talk about what a screenplay doesn’t express—within reason. After all, “Chinatown” says plenty when Jake Gittes confronts Evelyn Mulwray and produces the explosive revelation, “She’s my sister and my daughter!” However, many people get frustrated and think, “What was he thinking? Why did she do that? They never explored this, they never explained that,” and so on. Having sat through many movies with some of my friends, these are the questions I frequently have asked and heard. We don’t need to be spoon-fed, but some movies just defy understanding. Much of that may not be the scriptwriter’s fault. The editing and directing play a huge role. The studio certainly plays a role. In a novel, you are the producer and director—even though you may have to answer to a publisher and certainly you follow the client’s wishes. In MERCEDES, we could explore the relationship between the heroine’s father and his best friend. We could get into the head of Rick Willson, the man who wants to interview Mercedes for (surprise) a screenplay, and learn why he is doing what he’s doing.
  6. With freedom comes challenges. For example, we decided against a passage I had written regarding one of the characters’ experiences as a driver in post-WWII London. I spent too much time on incidental background that didn’t ehance character or story. It’s easy to get sidetracked, although explorations can sometimes yield different possibilities that a ghostwriter might pose to the client. However, the client is, as always, the one who has final say.

In a future blog post I’ll talk about “Identity Crisis: Helping the Client Decide If It’s a Novel or a Screenplay”.

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