How to Get Started on Your Book | Martin Toseland

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How to Get Started on Your Book

If you’re considering writing a book, you might be asking yourself how do I even start? If you look around for advice, there are about as many ways as there are authors.

For fiction, broadly, the advice can be parcelled into three or four approaches. Some writers start with a basic plan, some a meticulously thought-through plot, others a character or situation while Stephen King starts with nothing but a ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…?’ question.

(As an aside, I recently came across a writing method that would make 99% of writers call their therapist. The fabulous Sarah Moss whose recent work includes Ghost Wall and Summerwater described her process like this:

‘For every novel I write a full draft and then I delete it and write it again properly. I even delete it from the trash can. It’s like being a dressmaker – mocking it up in a cheap fabric, to then make it in silk later.’


For non-fiction, at the very least there is a subject to work with rather than the novelist’s blank page. And as a non-fiction author you will have at least an idea of what you want to say. That doesn’t help get words on the page though: a book is such a complex entity with many and various components that creating something coherent is no easy task. If you’ve hit a wall, you might decide to look for a ghostwriter. Why do that? Well, at the start of any potential collaboration, an experienced ghostwriter can help you in ways that you might not realise. Ghostwriting isn’t ‘just’ about helping you express yourself on the page, it’s also about helping find the right structure, the right length, the right tone, and level for your market. It’s about making your book stand out and giving it the best chance to succeed.

Finding a ghostwriter

There are thousands of ghostwriters out there – some hugely experienced (like everyone in our group and others not so much. Finding the right one is an essential first step to a successful collaboration and you’ll find blogs on our website that help you refine your search before you start talking to likely candidates. Most good ghosts will tell you if they think the partnership won’t work and suggest other ghosts to talk to who they think might be a better fit.

Starting to work with a ghostwriter

I can’t speak for all ghosts, but when I first start talking to a potential author, there are two parts to the conversation. The first is logistical: timing, availability for interview, whether the author wants to go the agent/publisher route or to self-publish, and the fees involved are typically the areas we need to cover.

The second is the creative part. Here I ask the author to think about the kind of book they want to write. This can be modelled on a book they’ve read and admired, or one that ‘feels’ right (length, tone, structure, readership), or we start with a blank sheet of paper and map out the sorts of things the author wants to say and discuss different ways of achieving that. Either way, it’s an editorial discussion out of which we lay the foundations and draw the blueprints for the book. All experienced ghostwriters will guide you through this process and by the end of it, you should have a much clearer idea about whether you can work together and what sort of book might come out of the collaboration.

That, believe me, is a great place to start.

But, if we do work together, I beg you not to delete the first draft.

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