Ghostwriting Jobs: How To Build Your “Mimicking Muscles”

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Many moons ago, long before my current career in business and writing, I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenager who loved cheese fries, the Legend of Zelda franchise, and above all else the French Horn. I aspired to play in a professional orchestra one day and get paid to sling the fanfares that have moved grown men to tears for centuries. So at eighteen years old I maxed out my student loan options (The first major line of credit for many an innocent dreamer) and headed off to music conservatory to become the best French hornist on planet Earth… or, at the very least, capable enough to win an audition for a salaried position with a full-time symphony.

 

Music school is all about training your ear, and call-and-response learning is a major element of your curriculum. “Listen to this, then make yourself sound just like it” is a popular instructional technique that doesn’t have much direction, yet works mysteriously well.

In one particularly terrifying drill, my mentor would have me play through an exercise and intermittently yell out famous French Horn soloists from past decades whose tone and style I then had to instantly implement. “Tuckwell! Cerminaro! Vlatkovic!” Imagine a belligerent football coach screaming at you and calling you garbage, except that it’s happening while you navigate playing a Beethoven sonata — it was kinda like that. (Actually, it was that.) Mimicking trained you to search for components of someone else’s approach and figure out how to reproduce them yourself, which expanded your range as a musician.

 

“When writing for others wears you down, you’ll deplete yourself of energy.”

 

It seemed… a little over the top. But now, years later, mimicking has become a competitive advantage in building my book of business for client ghostwriting. And unless you’re an established author swimming in book deals or an international slam poet, some or most of your writing income will come from writing for other people, which means you need to adjust your writing style and tone on a regular basis. Mimicking is a skill that will not only strengthen your abilities as a ghostwriter but also improve your writing voice overall.

Why Work On Your Mimicking, Writing, And Ghostwriting Skills

“Through others we become ourselves.”― Lev S. Vygotsky

 

One of the biggest obstacles that slows people down in growing their writing business is turnaround time. If you find it takes you hours to produce an article, an email newsletter, or a series of social media captions, you’ll struggle to scale up. It will simply take you too much time and energy to produce good content, especially if you’re on the hook to push out words for clients in ghostwriting jobs.

 

This is where the real villain in the business of writing begins to surface: Resentment. When writing for others wears you down, you’ll deplete yourself of energy and resent the game of trading words for dollars sooner rather than later. Writing has so much potential for you and your future; think like an athlete and take the time to deliberately practice skills that make the job you’ve been hired for that much easier.

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How To Develop Your Mimicking Muscles For Ghostwriting

What types of week-to-week activities will help you strengthen the skill of mimicking? Here are the three tips that gave me the biggest bang for my buck when I transitioned into writing and ghostwriting on the reg. Some of them are tried-and-true tools in the business of writing, and some might be new to you.

#1: Sit Down And Write 1,000 Words As Fast As Possible

I can’t stress it enough: The ability to write continuously without distraction will make the single biggest difference in your writing career. The first few times you try this for yourself, you will probably end up free writing your stream of consciousness, and it will be terrible. Even to hold your eyes on the very sentence you’re typing for thirty seconds will tax your brain and your attention span. Over time, you’ll acclimate to this holding pattern, and full paragraphs will emerge from your fingertips in seconds. Being able to write a coherent paragraph in sixty seconds or less is empowering.

 

“Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains continue to be malleable as adults.”

 

This exercise will also challenge you to hold a single idea in your mind and not allow your thoughts run ahead to other parts of your article, other articles, or the world wide web in general. Much to the chagrin of my significant other, my breakthrough moment with this technique was to speak the words I type as I type them. It’s not a good look at your local coffee shop, but we’re all quarantined at the moment anyway so you might as well give it a shot.

 

Be mentally prepared to “kill your darlings” and throw out fifty percent or more of your first draft on a later pass. This is normal and your draft building skills will improve with time.

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#2: Block Out Time To “Research The Research”

Arrange a separate period of time to block out different studies and notable anecdotes around the internet that are related to your client’s expertise. The magic of a compelling citation is that it can instantly supercharge any argument and has little to do with language or syntax. Your client will feel power emanate from your words, when really you’ve just reinforced a point with a backlink to some research. This is an easy way to inject power and gravity into your writing (or ghostwriting).

 

I’m a student of Google and like to use the Google Scholar search engine. These results are in most cases the exact published scientific studies you’re looking for, not media interpretations or reframes. Link to the original science whenever you can.

 

I also like to subscribe to aggregators like ScienceDaily; their newsletter sends me an email every day of new studies that have been published and their abstracts. Much of this science is in fields I don’t need to follow — astrophysics, biology, and other smart-people subjects — but quite often you’ll find solid research hot off the presses on psychology, sociology, and human behavior which can help reinforce your writing.

#3: Transcribe Something Already Written By Your Client…By Hand

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery — it’s the sincerest form of learning.”― George Bernard Shaw

 

You’re gonna hate this one at first! Nothing will get your client’s voice and tone into your head faster than straight-up plagiarism of their past work using pen and paper. Studies have shown that students absorb material more deeply when taking notes with pen and paper, and thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains continue to be malleable as adults, so you’ll build synapses over time if you take the time to write something by hand.

 

As you do this, note industry jargon or preferred phrases used by your client, as well as interesting or unusual word combinations. Identify these idiosyncrasies now, because when these zingers show up in your final draft, your client will say “Ooooh, wow, that sounds just like me… but better!” which is the reason we’re all being hired in the first place.

 

Mimicking takes some practice. But the last thing you want is to have the opportunity to increase your income and not be able to act on it because it takes you too long to figure out how to sound like your client. Write faster, reinforce with research, and use pen and paper to deepen your mimicking skills, and you’ll soon develop the chameleon-like qualities needed to sustain long-term success and fulfillment in the business of writing and finding ghostwriting jobs.

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Nick Wolny is a media and marketing strategist for entrepreneurs. Named a “40 Under 40” by the Houston Business Journal, he’s a contributor for Entrepreneur and Fast Company and a technology commentator for NBC and FOX with over 60 live TV appearances.