Show, Don’t Tell and Ghost Writing

I learned about ghost writing in my early teens, which were a long time ago. I was constantly in the library returning books I’d read and taking out new ones. I had a spell when I devoured sportsmen’s autobiographies. At this distance I may have got the names muddled up, but I’m pretty certain it was Tom Finney, Preston North End and England outside left, who described how he met his wife when he went into a restaurant with another player. The book recounted how he had looked at one of the waitresses and told his colleague, ‘I’m going to marry that woman.’ And he had. Well, there you go. Seeing someone for the first time and thinking, “That’s my wife I’m looking at” – it doesn’t appeal to me but I’m sure it could work for some people. Whatever turns your crank.

But then, a few weeks later, I read the autobiography of Nat Lofthouse, swashbuckling forward with Bolton Wanderers. Lofthouse described in identical terms how he had first seen the woman who would become his wife. I thought: What a coincidence! It was only when I read a third footballer’s story and found that he, too, had seen a previously unknown waitress and said, ‘I’m going to marry that woman,’ that I realised what was going on. These three men did not have the same real-life experience. What they had was the same ghost writer. And not the best ghost writer in the world, either.

Now I spend a large chunk of my working life as a ghost writer. I’m probably writing my own books for about 30% of the time and other people’s books for the rest. And one of the things I’ve learned is the importance of Show, Don’t Tell. I heard people talk about Show, Don’t Tell – spent any time around writers and you’re going to hear those words. What I didn’t hear was anything about the important bit – how to do it. So I put together a webinar to tell aspiring writers how to move from telling the reader things to showing the reader things. And I got two customers – a publisher and another writer – to validate the webinar by telling you how good I am at it. You’ll find it here.

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