No More Ghostwriting: How RTC’s Collaborative Process Brings Stories to Life
on May 18th, 2020
I didn’t want to be a ghost anymore.
Back when I was a ghostwriter, I gathered stories of human affairs and manifested them in the world, and I loved doing it. I learned so much from every client, and wrote some informative, entertaining books that way. But I only had the opportunity to get “just enough” from my clients to get their message on the page, and not a word more.
I knew there was much more to them, and they had much more to share. I heard it in the fascinating stories people started to tell in urgent tones, only to trail off in the middle of the tale because they didn’t have the opportunity to take the time to go “off topic.” I heard it in the silence when I asked a question they had never considered before, or when I felt the burning desire to go deeper. And then I would need to move on because of the “ghostwriting” model that didn’t allow for me to explore those questions or discover the deeper stories.
But those questions, and those stories—I knew that’s where the gold was. These were the nuggets of wisdom and meaning that the world needed to hear and learn from. I just had to figure out a way to be able to help people mine it. A better way to tell a story than being a ghostwriter.
That’s when I came across Round Table Companies and an approach I had never seen before. I discovered a creative culture rich with writers and editors dedicated to working collaboratively. They have a method for going well beyond what a ghostwriter does—a method for digging down, deep down, to the story the client was destined to tell, the story the world needed to hear, even if that client didn’t know what it was yet.
I realized that I had found my tribe! I was so excited I started sending emails to RTC right that minute. Enthusiastic emails. Many of them. Okay, I might have become a bit of a stalker, but only because I thought their process was exactly what I was looking for. And it was. I am now a part of a company that is living their values.
At RTC, writing a book with our team is a truly collaborative and meaningful experience. During the first weeks of any project, one of our writer-editor teams spends a lot of time with the client, asking questions and listening intently to the answers. Then going deeper into the stories behind the stories. We talk about passions and triumphs, mistakes and failures, things they’re immensely proud of and things they’ve never told anyone before. There’s no judgment, only exploration.
During these precious weeks, we discover together what really moves our client. We expand on their passions and purpose, and we begin to shape the book that only they could write. In the process, we shape a vision of what the book “wants to be.” We then review this with our client.
I live for the moment when we deliver the vision for the book to the client, because it’s often the moment when the person we’ve been talking to realizes they have truly been seen and understood by others, maybe for the first time. There’s power in having your truths reflected back to you in black and white.
Arriving at a vision for the book is rewarding in itself, but it does more than just generate good feelings. The vision establishes a solid foundation for the book, one based on honest communication, and one everybody on the team is authentically invested in creating. This mutual investment becomes a touchstone we’ll return to time and time again as we create chapters and, eventually, a full book manuscript, because while the process can be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling, it can also be frustrating and messy. What a relief it is, in those moments, to be able to return to our original vision to remind ourselves what we are trying to create and why. This is helpful for both the team and our client.
Sometimes, when returning to the foundation, we might discover a few cracks or consider changing its shape. Sometimes we discover that the vision needs to evolve over the course of drafting the manuscript, and we can capture those moments because our process allows us to maintain an open, trusting relationship with our client. If we need to update the vision to reflect the development that is happening, we do it.
We can do it because we plan for it; we make room for transformation. We deliberately take the time and space to explore something that the client identifies as feeling a little “off,” or something we’ve written that sparks new insights they feel we should incorporate into the book. The writer and editor, in turn, feel comfortable challenging the client when they think a story needs more detail or a concept needs to be clarified. In this way, the manuscript becomes a living, breathing document created collaboratively by all involved.
When the book is published, it is placed into the hands of the ultimate collaborator for any written work—the reader who receives the client’s message. It’s a big moment. At that juncture, I take a step back and marvel at what the client has created. And I get a glimpse of what it will help them create next. In that moment, I am so glad I gave up being a ghost and joined the land of the living.