When To Hire A Ghostwriter

When To Hire A Ghostwriter

The Writer’s Sherpa

South Carolina Writers Association member, Do you have a story stuck in your heart, but can't figure out how to write it? Click through to learn about ghostwriters and when one might be right for you!Melinda Copp, is a professional ghostwriter and editorial consultant.  Melinda is the owner and founder of The Writer’s Sherpa.  Like the Sherpas who guide mountain climbers to the crest of Mount Everest, Melinda guides her clients to their best, most compelling, completed manuscript.

Melinda sat down with me recently to talk about her work as a ghostwriter and editorial consultant.  Melinda’s career as a ghostwriter started serendipitously.  She and her husband were living on Hilton Head Island.  She had earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and was looking for a job at a newspaper.  This was around the time when newspapers were struggling to learn how to survive in an increasingly web-centric environment.  Her father saw an ad for an editorial assistant for a self-publishing company in the local newspaper.

Until Melinda took this job, she hadn’t heard of ghostwriting.  Over the course of the next two years, she wrote approximately 200 articles.

When she got pregnant with her first child, she opened her business, The Writer’s Sherpa. Since then, Melinda has ghostwritten twelve books.

When should I hire a ghostwriter?

ReginaMaeWrites GhostwriterWriting a sixty to eighty thousand word book is a significant investment of time.  Many of Melinda’s clients are professionals who are living their story on a daily basis and don’t have time to put the story on paper.  It may be time to hire a ghostwriter if you have a story that you need to tell, but you don’t have the time to write it.

Writing also takes a certain amount of skill.  Melinda has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing non-fiction.  It may be time to hire a ghostwriter if you don’t have the skill set to write a book by yourself.

How do I prepare to work with a ghostwriter?

Before hiring a ghostwriter, spend time thinking about your idea.  The clearer you are on the idea, the easier it will be to write it.  A good ghostwriter will take anything you have, rough ideas, notes, research, outlines, tape recordings, and organize them into a cohesive piece of work.

How do I find the right ghostwriter?

When you hire a ghostwriter, you can expect to spend six to eight months working with them.  Before committing to a ghostwriter, check out their website.  Is the writing compelling?  Does their style resonate with you?

Check out their testimonials page.  Not everyone is willing to admit that they’ve used a ghostwriter, but they should have some testimonials that you can review.

Take advantage of a get-acquainted telephone call or skype session to check your chemistry with  your potential ghostwriter.

What does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

Ghostwriters charge in various ways, including by the word, by the page or a set project fee.  Melinda charges a project fee based upon the number of interviews and the amount of time she will spend on the project, and the fee is paid monthly over the course of the project.

For a book, most experienced ghostwriters’ charges begin in the low five figures.

What won’t a ghostwriter do for me?

Ghostwriters will take your ideas and turn them into a compelling and engaging story.  But ghostwriters will not market your book for you. They do not participate in profit-sharing.  Once they have written and edited your story, their job is complete.

What if I really want to write my book myself?

cruise logoIf you’ve never written a book and you really want to write the book yourself, you might want to consider hiring a writing coach or editor.  In addition to ghostwriting, Melinda also acts as a writing coach or editor, helping writers organize and edit their stories in the most impactful way.

Melinda also offers seminars to help aspiring authors find their voice.  The Writer’s Sherpa’s next seminar is The Write Your Book Workshop and Cruise from March 2-6, 2017 on the Carnival Elation, Port of Jacksonville, Florida. If you are considering writing a memoir but don’t know where to start, this might be a good fit for you.

Where can I find the Writer’s Sherpa?

You can find Melinda Copp and the Writer’s Sherpa at http://www.writerssherparetreats.com, on Facebook and Twitter.

Ever Upward Regina Mae

Three Apps You Need To Write More Effectively

Three Apps You Need To Write More Effectively

The goal of most of the writers I know, including me, is to maximize the amount of writing we do while retaining the highest quality possible.  Most writers also hold down full-time jobs and are raising families while trying to contribute to the world in a meaningful way with their words.  Here are three apps that I have found that help me write more effectively, and will help you, too.


Scrivener ReginaMaeWrites.comOne of the apps that has helped me streamline the writing process is Scrivener by Literature and Latte.  The app comes in two versions for Mac or Windows and is reasonably priced at $45 for Mac or $40 for Windows.

I originally transitioned from drafting all of my books and articles in Microsoft Word to using Scrivener after receiving a copy of the book Scrivener Superpowers by M.G. Herron.  Herron takes you step-by-step through the app, showing you how to gather and save research, and draft and edit books, articles and blog posts.

Herron also explains in detail how to use the “Compile” feature to gather the disparate parts of your writing into one concise document in several different format options, including Microsoft word, a .pdf or an E-Book.

I originally wrote and edited my  memoir, Adventures in Dating, using Microsoft Word, and spent about six hours one weekend getting it formatted properly so that it could be submitted to an agent.  (That is just formatting time, too. Not writing time.)  After discovering Scrivener, I imported the text for Adventures in Dating into it, and am now ready to compile it as an E-Book to send to Beta Readers or as a manuscript to send to an agent, editor or publisher with a few clicks of the mouse.

My favorite aspect of Scrivener is the Binder, which allows you to organize your work according to chapter and scene.  Each scene is an independent document that can be dragged and dropped into any chapter, making global editing a considerably simpler task.

Scrivener saves documents on your hard drive and automatically backs up to Dropbox, providing automatic protection against losing your precious words.

Literature and Latte offers a thirty-day trial of Scrivener, which is plenty of time to decide if this app is right for you.


SimpleMind ReginaMaeWrites.com.jpeg

SimpleMind is a mind mapping tool that helps you organize your thoughts and ideas.  It is available on iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows and Mac, and synchronizes across all of your devises.

Here is the mind map I prepared using SimpleMind for my article Fifteen Hawaiian Words You Need To Learn Before Visiting Hawaii.

Mind Map ReginaMaeWrites.com.PNG

I knew I wanted to write an article about Hawaiian words and phrases.  I used SimpleMind to create a mind map of the Hawaiian words I was most drawn to and to make notes on their meanings.

After finishing my mind map, it was fairly simple to sort through and choose the fifteen words I most wanted to share.

I’ve also used SimpleMind to create mind maps for my Kirk’s Bluff Trilogy, which has helped me track characters, plot, and structure.

SimpleMind gives you the option of storing on your local device or saving to Dropbox.

SimpleMind offers a free version, and for $5 you can unlock all of its features.


Pomodoro ReginaMaeWrites.comThe Pomodoro Technique is a time-management system that breaks tasks up into set periods of time separated by short breaks.

The long periods typically last for 25 minutes, with a five minute break after the first three sessions and then a longer break after every fourth session.

I use the Pomodoro Time app by Xwavesoft that is compatible with iPhone, iPad and Mac, although you could use any timer.  One of the reasons I like using this particular app is because it helps me track how much time I am spending on each project.

I love using the timer because it reminds me to get up every 25 minutes to step away from my computer, drink a glass of water, take the dogs for a walk or anything.  I’ve found by committing myself to an uninterrupted period of time, I accomplish more because it shuts down my butterfly-brain that wants to flutter from idea to idea and task to task.

Wrapping It Up

These three apps have helped my writing immeasurably.  They provide me with the tools I need for brainstorming ideas, keeping my writing organized, and managing my time to produce the highest quality writing in the time I have available to me.

Have you tried any of these apps?  If so, what do you like or dislike most about them?

If you haven’t tried any of them yet, follow the links above and download the free versions and let me know what you think.  I am not a paid affiliate and don’t get anything if you download any or all of them.  I just love them, and want you to give them a try.

I can’t wait to hear back from you.  Until I do, keep your minds and hearts,

Ever Upward,

Regina Mae

Five Things Every Beginning Writer Needs to Know

Five Things Every Beginning Writer Needs to Know

An Interview with L.K. McCall

L.K. McCall - Photo Two

L.K. McCall is an Indie Author whose debut novel, Sway of the Siren, was released in December 2015. Recently, she filled me in on the five things every beginning writer needs to know over margaritas and guacamole.

Pay Attention to Strong Images

McCall’s love of writing began as a coping mechanism after her family moved when she was in high school and she was mistaken for a narc at her new high school.  With a twinkle in her eye and in her thick upstate South Carolina accent, she explains denying being a narc doesn’t do any good, because that’s exactly what narcs say.  

Beautiful Piece of Humanity Regina Mae Writes.PNGShe imagined herself becoming a writer, but when it was time to go to college, her dad steered her toward safer careers like teaching and nursing.  They compromised on an English degree, and after graduating from Clemson University, McCall became an English teacher. 

Her love of writing never wained, and she eventually took a six-hour graduate-level class at Clemson University called the Upstate Writing Project.  One of the speakers was Ron Rash, the Southern Appalachian author of numerous poems, short stories and novels including Serena and Above the Waterfall.  During his lecture, Rash told the students that his stories always start with a strong image that he can’t get away from.  He doesn’t know the story in the beginning, but lets it grow from that image in his mind.

It was in that same way that McCall’s idea for Sway of the Siren started with a strong image that came to her one day and wouldn’t go away.  That image became the ending of the story, and the beginning of her journey as a published author.

Find An Encourager

For the last few years, McCall has taught in an alternative school for troubled students.  Her classroom was in a two-room portable that she shared with an older teacher, Elijah Heyward, Jr.  Heyward, a gifted poet who published Stories and Poems of a Gullah Native in 2012, would tease her with mocking poems he’d jot down on scrap paper in the time it would take her to use the restroom, which was on his side of the portable.  Then, when she struggled to write a retort, he’d mock her further, asking if he had to write the retort for her as well.

Determined to impress him, she brought him a few things she’d written in the past, and he told her, “You’re pretty good, maybe you should write.”

During this time, while the image of her novel was swirling around in her mind, becoming bigger and more insistent, Heyward called her to his room and told her that he’d had a dream about her the night before.  Heyward is Gullah and in the Gullah culture, dreams are very important.  They can tell who’s going to be born and who’s going to die.  They can predict the future.  Although McCall isn’t Gullah, she has tremendous respect for the Gullah culture and community, and listened intently to his dream.  Heyward’s dream turned out to be, in essence, the image she had for her novel.

That day, she thanked him, told him she knew what the dream meant, and walked away.  It was another eight months before she confessed that she was writing a novel.  The last day before Thanksgiving break, she brought Heyward half of the manuscript and asked him to read it and tell her what he thought.  Because he’d been critical of her writing in the past, she trusted him to be honest.  Because he is Gullah and the story contains a lot of the Gullah culture, she valued his input. 

On Monday morning when she came back from Thanksgiving break, he was waiting outside for her.  She asked if he liked it.  

“What, that crappy novel you’re writing?” 

But then he followed her to her room to tell her how good it was. 

From that day on, he encouraged her, bringing her handwritten cards to let her know she’d been on his mind and he believed in her story.  He spoke to her every day.  He gave her honest feedback.  And then proceeded to mentor her through the entire process, from writing, to editing, to publishing and promoting the finished novel.

Ass in Seat Time

Writing a novel requires discipline, especially if, like McCall, you have a family and a full-time job.  If you want to write, you have to stop talking about it and just do it.  McCall calls it Ass in Seat Time.  

For McCall, that meant getting up at 4:00 a.m. every day to write for two hours before showering and going to work.  After dinner, while her husband and their two sons were watching television or movies, she was at her desk writing until midnight.  Every weekend was heavy on Ass in Seat Time and light on fun, or housework to the chagrin of her oldest son.

She maintained this schedule for two years.  Her May River neighborhood has bonfires, oyster roasts and get togethers every weekend, and she skipped most of those to devote time to writing for two years.

The one break she gave herself from Ass in Seat Time was when she joined a writing group, Write to be Heard, a chapter of the South Carolina Writers Workshop, which meets twice a month.  Those meetings gave her an opportunity to have fun, get encouragement from fellow writers, and be held accountable for her writing.

Find Beta Readers

Early in the writing process, McCall gave her manuscript to a published author who noticed that McCall used the same sentence structure over and over again. Even though she was teaching her students to use six different sentence structures, she didn’t realize that in her own writing, she wasn’t using them.  Thankfully, this author brought it to her attention after three chapters and she was able to avoid that mistake for the rest of the manuscript.

During this time, find people who will tell you the truth about your writing.  There are people who will always tell you how great your writing is, and that isn’t helpful during the writing process.  McCall says these are the people you need after you’ve published your novel, so figure out early who they are and save them for the time when the book is published and it’s too late to change.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Anyone Else

The last piece of advice McCall has for the beginning novelist is to avoid comparing yourself to anyone else.  This is your story, and nobody else can write it like you can.  And in that same vein, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about your story.  There will be people it resonates with, but if you try to write a story that resonates with everyone, you’ll end up with a story that resonates with no one.

Since publishing Sway of the Siren in December 2015, McCall has donated over $1,000 from the proceeds of the novel to the Pan African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network which, in part, helps the descendants of freed slaves save their ancestral lands by providing funds for taxes.

L.K. McCall - Photo 1You can learn more about L.K. McCall at her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Sign up for my mailing list for a chance to win one of two autographed copies of Sway of the Siren.  (And if you’re already signed up, you’re already in!)

Ever upward,

Regina Mae

My Fairy Daemon

My Fairy Daemon

The first time I read about the concept of a daemon or genius was in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic Ms. Gilbert, (or my BFF Liz, as I like to think of her), originally spoke about the concept of a daemon or genius in her TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius”, way back in 2009. (Watch it here.  Seriously, it’s required watching for any creative.)  But in the synchronous nature of the universe, lessons don’t come to us until we are both ready for them and actually need them.  I wasn’t writing back in 2009.  I was just getting divorced, running my law practice, raising my children and trying to survive, truthfully.  Thinking back to that time, I don’t think I’d even heard of TED, and didn’t have the time or energy to write anything that wasn’t required for my day job.

My BFF Liz shares with us that in ancient Greece and Rome, people didn’t believe that they were geniuses.  Instead, they believed that they had a genius, as it was called in Latin, or a daemon, as it was called in Greece.  Their daemon or genius was an entity completely separate from the artist.  Muse is the word that I was more familiar with before reading Big Magic or listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk.

Since reading Big Magic and watching “Your Elusive Creative Genius”, I’ve also heard my girl-crush Danielle LaPorte talk about daemons in session one of the Fire Starter Sessions, which I have now listened to an embarrassing number of times because I keep making other people listen to it with me.

In the way of the Law of Attraction, now that I’ve been opened up to the concept of a daemon or genius, they seem to be everywhere.

As I sit in my front yard, in front of my fire pit with my She Shed behind me and my water fountain burbling in the yard, I am obsessing about my daemon today.

My daemon or genius is a fairy-like creature who flitters about on glittering, gem-colored wings.  When I listen carefully, she fills my head with fantastical thoughts and stories.  She is generously visual, creating entire worlds of sparkling blue water and white sandy beaches or lush mountain streams and roaring waterfalls, all in my head.  If nothing distracts me between the time she draws these scenes until my fingers can reach a keyboard, the pictures flow into words until they cover the screen. 

I find her in the stillness of a walk along the causeway, or in front of the fire pit with the water fountain burbling and birds twittering, or sitting in the sun room with my little Yorkie snuggled by my thigh.

She likes Hawaiian musicians like Olomana and Hapa. But she adores classical piano music, which I found out quite by accident one weekend when I told my beau that I really, truly needed to write.  He put classical piano music on Pandora, left me in peace, and the words flowed.  The next day, he did it again with the same generous results.

My fairy genius will show up in a thunder storm or on a sunshiney day, as long as I am warm and dry.  She loves moving water in all its forms:  rivers and streams, water fountains, rain storms.

When I am trying to lure her out to play with me, I turn Pandora on the Classical Solo Piano Radio station. If I’m sitting outside, I freshen the water in the water fountain and turn it on.  If I’m inside, I turn on the diffuser with lavender essential oil.

My-Fairy-Daemon-ReginaMaeWrites.PNGAnd then I sit in front of my computer and type.  Sometimes, I type the words, “I don’t know what to type.”  Sometimes, I type those words over and over again.  Always, eventually, if I sit still long enough and lose myself in the magic of the music and the scent of wood smoke in the fire pit or lavender oil in the diffuser, the words will come.  My fairy daemon has something to say, and once she is sure I am serious, she tells me the message of the day.

Peace is necessary for my fairy genius to show up.  But solitude isn’t.  She’s delivered some of her best work with my beau sitting next to me, either watching a movie or playing on his fancy “computer phone” or chatting away to me about something I can’t hear because I’m listening to my fairy genius.

My fairy genius is even more skittish than I am, and discord chases her away.  Discordant classical music full of minor keys that sound like funereal tomes cause her to skitter away as quickly and efficiently as sharp words  thrown like knives between my beau and me.

The more I get to know my fairy genius, and the more she gets to know me, the more elegantly we work together.  I know now that when I am depressed, she won’t come visiting.  When I am angry or stressed, she stays away.  But when I sit with my face lifted toward the sun, close my eyes and sink into Beethovan’s Piano Sonata No. 14, she sits next to me, her head on my shoulder, and whispers fantasies into my ear.

She is instrumental in my Year of Big Magic, and is busy spinning the stories which are slowly becoming the Kirk’s Bluff Trilogy.  I am busy listening to her, listening for her, and creating conditions that will draw her closer to me.

Since I wrote my memoir, I’ve had friends and family members ask me, “How do you write a book?”  The simplest answer is you write.  As the author L.K. McCall told me, it’s all about “Ass in Chair Time.  You sit at the computer screen, or grab a pen and a pad of paper, and put words down.  But, of course, if it were really that simple, everybody would have written a book by now.

My-Fairy-Genius-ReginaMaeWrites.PNGSo maybe the advice should be get to know your daemon or genius.  Talk to him.  Lure her to you.  And when he talks back, when she whispers in your ear, listen.

One author I know says his guardian angel, (which is how he thinks of his muse), smells like strawberries.  Another says hers smells like lavender.  She asked me what mine smells like, and I’m not really sure.  But, incense seems like a good guess since it’s always burning when I’m creating.

If you are a creative, do you believe in a genius or daemon?  If you do, how do you nurture your genius?  How do you feed your daemon?

I’d love to hear your stories, my friend.  Tell me how you create.

Until next time, keep your hearts and eyes,

Ever Upward,

Regina Mae