For a successful ghostwriting collaboration, both parties need to be on the same page. This is why it’s crucial to establish, in advance, what the client expects from his/her/their project, in order that the ghost has a structure to adhere to. With a clear direction in place, each person has a roadmap of sorts to follow; and while some deviation from that is expected – and, often, necessary, if the prescribed structure needs some refining – a complete overhaul is not only unhelpful, but a highly disruptive process.
In preparation for the actual writing, the client will need to be able to instruct the ghost as to the various intricacies of their story. This will include character descriptions/traits, and their arcs/overall plot, if fiction; and a well thought out rundown of content if non-fiction. Memoir is a little different, as the story is already in place, so in this instance, it’s more a case of what to include, and what not to, for personal and, sometimes, legal reasons.
When a client changes their mind about a project’s direction, though, it puts the ghost in a very difficult position. It might be comparable to, say, asking a plumber to fit a new boiler, only to request an alternative model once they have all but finished the job they were originally tasked with. Not only does it jeopardise the trust that has developed between both parties, it means the ghost’s work to date potentially counts for nothing, while loading them up with what could well feel like an entirely different story.
It’s fair to say that this has happened to me very rarely, with the overwhelming majority of clients sticking to their original idea; but on the occasions it has, it has resulted in my workload effectively doubling, which doesn’t strike me as a fair outcome. There may be some rescuable elements from work already laid down, but that can feel like crowbarring content in, and that’s something I avoid.
Building a good structure is like constructing a house. Solid foundations are essential for the resulting premises to stay in place and, likewise with a manuscript, those foundations need to be strong, so that the end product is as robust as possible. It helps that most of the people I’ve worked with have had their stories in their heads for years, and are thus at least fairly well established. But for anybody with only a vague idea of what’s required, I would advise that you take some time to work out what it is that you wish to say, and how, because the end result will be so much more pleasing, and save your collaborator a potentially enormous workload. And that extra work might well be chargeable, which isn’t in the best interests of either person.