Member of the Week: Carolyn D. Roark

Carolyn D. RoarkName: Carolyn D. Roark

Can you describe your writing process?

My ghosting process starts a little differently from working on my own content, because it is collaborative by nature. I look over any materials that my clients already have. I spend as much time talking to them as possible. I try to get to know the person and the project as well as I can before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). It isn’t just about getting the ideas right—the product needs to sound as much like the client’s own voice as possible…the best, smartest, and most articulate version of that voice, of course. I gather lots of source material to work from, typically from interviews, and work up an outline. Then I arrange that material into a first draft, one chapter at a time. The client sees a chapter or two, and I tweak until they are happy with the content and the voice. From that point, it usually gets easier to generate material that will satisfy them. Once a full first draft is approved, I go in and wordsmith so everything sounds as tight, compelling, and reader friendly as possible.

 How did you come to do what you’re doing today?

I left a faculty job in the middle of the 2008 meltdown that made academic work tough to find. I decided I hated committee meetings anyway, so why not focus on finding work that related to the parts of the job I had loved? I found pleasure in editing and writing, so I looked for freelance opportunities to do that. Like many others, I spent some time slogging through the online work-for-hire swamp of Guru, eLance, and marketplaces like that. It gave me a chance to hone the craft and develop more business savvy, but I wasn’t meeting the clients I wanted. So, I learned to market myself, took some coursework on specialized writing skills, and re-invented my brand.

Can you describe a typical day in your life?

Life begins with hot tea. Then the dog pesters me for about an hour. I make a to do list, which breaks up the day. I try to mix one-hour bouts of writing/editing and pauses to exercise, cook, nap, etc. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might return for a second round of work in the evening, once the family is fed. I also aim to work in a little time for meditation and creativity each day, too. I have some go-to online yoga videos, a stack of coloring books, and a toy box of brain teasers and puzzles.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

I’m never bored. I get to meet smart, accomplished people and absorb the best of the wisdom they have to share.

Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?

Anne Lamott and her book Bird by Bird

Stephen King’s On Writing

Almost anything by Italo Calvino, but especially Invisible Cities 

Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

I still fret over every single query letter I send.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been thinking about a book on how to work with a ghostwriter. A friend of mine suggested it. He thinks I should call it Why Your Book is S*#! I have doubts about that title, but the idea is a good one.

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