Working with a ghostwriter is a process that you, the author and the ghost you have chosen to work with set out on together. It will go on for some time and will have a distinct beginning, middle and end and it will be both enlightening and, hopefully, enjoyable. But that’s not all that ghostwriting has in common with therapy.
Let me explain.
This is where you get to know one another and build up trust. You, as author, tell the ghost what you want and the ghost will tell you what’s involved in reaching that point, how long it will take, what it requires from you and the meetings and interactions that will be involved. A relationship is formed that is based on mutual understanding of the project, respect and confidentiality.
This is where you go deeper; peeling away the layers to discover what it is that you really want to say, and how, and to whom. And it can be intense. You talk, going through your story and the ghost helps you make sense of it, put it in order and create a structure on which your book rests. It works when you feel heard and understood.
This is true for all books, but with a personal story, an autobiography or memoir in particular, there are often areas – memories, experiences, which you’ve stored away and may not necessarily be keen to revisit. Anything that involved shame, doubt, hurt or sadness may feel hard to talk about. You may decide you don’t want to include it. But your ghostwriter will tell you that sometimes these experiences, the losses, the conflicts, the failures, are valuable. It can not only be cathartic to talk about them, but it can give your story the power of honesty and openness that makes a book into a remarkable read, bringing it alive and making it real.
Some people, especially those in the public eye, want to pick and choose what they will say in their books, tucking away the ‘grubby bits’; a child abandoned, a lover let down, a shameful business episode. But if they choose to include these in their books and to talk about their feelings and what they learned from the experience, it creates something deeper, something with which the reader can connect. Because we have all made mistakes, and owning up to them makes us human.
This is where you reflect on the whole process and the effort and energy you have poured into it pay off, as you read through your manuscript, making the final changes, polishing and smoothing, enjoying the sense that it is yours and therefore unique. And by this point you and your ghostwriter, having shared the journey, have an understanding and a connection that both have benefitted from.
And finally, your book completed, you move on. You may not come across one another again, but the experience has, in some ways, changed you both.