This week’s featured writer is Marlayna Glynn, an award-winning storyteller “on page” who specializes in helping others share their stories with the world. Marlayna’s published journey includes a 40+ book variety of memoirs, biographies, thrillers and business books. Her articles have been featured on Huffington Post, PBS Next Avenue, Elephant Journal, and The Good Men Project. Learn more about her on her website, and follow her on Instagram.
Tell us about your writing journey. How did you begin writing, and how did you break into the industry? When did you know you could make a career out of it?
If I hadn’t discovered journaling as a kid, I probably would have lost my mind. As an only child, the crayon, and then the pen, were my best friends and therapists and helped me to develop a healthy, daily writing practice. My early journals became a rich vein for researching my first book, as they date back to the early 1970s. Although I did receive an undergrad degree in literature, well, life happened, and soon I had four young children to support. This unexpected situation called for a job; a paying job, that was.
My paying job versus writing struggle happened around the time The Secret was released, and I was enthralled with the idea of “speaking a thing into being.” Although I was employed in the architectural world, whenever anyone would ask me what I did for a living, I would answer, “I’m a writer.” I wrote a blog, so I figured that qualified me. In between jobs—or more accurately, after I was fired for leaving work early too many times to pick up a sick child—I wrote my first book. It took three weeks to write, and two years to edit. I self-published and lived quite well on my earnings during the KDP heyday. I traveled the world for a couple of years and kept on writing, producing one book per month. I was a writer—The Secret worked!
Tell us what you can about your ghostwriting career. How did you get into that practice?
Once I told all my stories, I was looking for something fulfilling to do when a friend suggested I ghostwrite biographies. I was surprisingly lucky to land the first gig I applied for, and within the year I wrote the 500-page history of a triple Ivy League graduate nonagenarian. (I cried when we finished, and we’re still dear friends.) Ghostwriting biographies is the perfect way to combine my undergrad degree in literature, my MS in mental health, and my love for personal and world history. I love people and their stories.
What special considerations are required for collaborating on a book?
You must respect personality types. Having written 40+ books, many of them for clients, each experience has been unique. Sometimes I have to listen—intently—and oh so occasionally redirect. At other times, I must dig like a gopher for pomp and circumstance. But I must always be super organized with a sharp memory for random detail, and I’m fortunate to be very strong in both areas.
I’ve found my clients easy to work with; Who wouldn’t like to talk for hours and hours about themselves to an enthralled fan of humanity? I’ve been asked if it can become tedious or tiresome to listen and write, and edit and write, and re-edit and write, and my answer is always no. It sounds cliché, but everyone indeed has a different story. I find our differing paths to our present lives to be endlessly fascinating, and I believe it shows in the stories I create for my clients.
Most important, confidentiality is key to a successful collaboration. Sometimes the digging I do to get a story unearths some painful memories, anger, and even rage in my clients. I’ve weathered late-night phonecalls from distressed clients plagued by feelings. I’ve patiently helped them work it out while keeping our conversation out of the book, and unknown by family members. I studied to become a therapist, so I’m lucky to be trained on how to handle difficult conversations; it’s tough to unnerve me.
On a lighter note, I once received a “secret” current photo of a girlfriend from 60 years ago with the instruction not to tell anyone I received it. I never divulge information I am asked not to share. I also make it a point to question the client about adding information that I feel might hurt a reader. As the gatekeeper of these personal stories, I take my role seriously.
Do you have any quick tips for working with editors?
I love editors! I will gladly hand over that phase of a book so that I can concentrate on the music and movement of the story.
What does your writing routine look like? How do you stay productive and overcome blocks?
I run every morning, and then I sit down with my coffee and computer for a five-hour session. I set the timer for every 20 minutes to do some form of exercise, from sit-ups, folding laundry, planking, or ravaging the refrigerator. My chiropractor told me that if you sit for more than 20 minutes at a time, you’re damaging your back, and that stuck with me.
As a ghostwriter, I don’t experience writing blocks. There’s always a transcribed interview to edit and weave into the main story, prose to polish, or a meeting to conduct. To avoid project burnout, I shift day to day between projects as it keeps me and my writing fresh.
What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to be a full-time writer?
I often mentor other writers, and my advice is always the same: Pick a time and place to write and be consistent with your practice. I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s advice: practice your task until you reach expertise at 10,000 hours.
What are you working on next?
I have seven active projects on my plate: two real estate mogul biographies, tales from an Eastern woman who broke family tradition to travel the world alone, a book about the benefits of psychedelic use, a how-to on selling your book to Hollywood, a basketball story written by a 16-year-old phenom, and a 96 author business compilation on the importance of mentoring. I’m the perfect example of when you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Plus, I can no longer get fired for leaving early to pick up a sick child. Bonus!
Do you have a book idea? Pitch it to us below, and we’ll match you with a writer like Marlayna who can help you bring your vision to life.