Providing an Outline for a Ghostwriter

Creating the Perfect Outline (with examples!)

Something to consider when you are hiring a ghostwriter is how involved you wish to be in the project. Some clients prefer to provide a premise and give the ghostwriter (me!) free rein to do with what they please. Other clients wish to be involved through the whole process. And others, fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. All of the above are fantastic options, and everybody has their individual preferences. However, it needs to be decided straight off the bat. Changing your mind part-way through the project, or even when the ghostwriter is finished, just makes life difficult for everybody involved.

Questions to ask yourself before you decide your level of involvement…

1. Do you have a story arc already planned or do you have a vague idea of the story?

2. Would you care if the ghostwriter deviated from your plan, if they thought it was what was best for the manuscript?

3. Would you want to be notified of every plot/character deviation?

4. Do you wish to work alongside the ghostwriter?

5. Do you have the time to plan and write the outline for the ghostwriter? If not, are you willing to pay them to do this for/with you?

A ghostwriter will always ask what level of involvement you would like to have, and most will be happy to accommodate your wishes.

Each ghostwriter will have a preference of how they wish to work. For me, I love to be given a premise and then plan the outline (chapter by chapter), which I then share with the client for them to approve or request changes. However, I am more than happy to work alongside the client to write the novel.

Before starting any project, it is important that both the ghostwriter and the client share their expectations.

If you want to be involved throughout, then what does this look like? It might look different for every client, and that’s cool, as long as you’re both on the same page. If a client wants to be super involved, then I always ask for a chapter-by-chapter outline. This might be written together, or the client might ask for my support. From this point, we will decide upon how often I will send my writing back to my client for their feedback and for them to suggest/request changes.

A detailed outline means that both the client and the ghostwriter work efficiently.

The less information on the outline, the more the ghostwriter uses their own imagination to fill in the blanks. This is, usually, a good thing! However, if you want the project to exactly match the idea in your head, then you need to provide the most detailed outline you can. Please, please, please don’t be the kind of client that provides a vague outline and then when the project is delivered, asks for a complete re-write and a million revisions. Unfortunately, my answer will be a resounding ‘no’, unless you are happy to pay for my time, in which case, go ahead!

My aim is always to provide the best ghostwriting experience for my clients.

If I sound pedantic, or even a little mean and demanding, it’s because I want to ensure that you get exactly what you want out of the project. That might entail me asking you to add to outlines, or needing to charge for additional revisions outside the scope of ‘typical’ revisions. At the end of the blog post, I’ll include some examples of outlines for people who occupy different stages on the involvement spectrum. However, before we get there I have one request of you. If you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter, please be honest with yourself, and them, about the level of involvement you wish to have.

There’s a common misconception that the more involved you are the cheaper the process will be.

In fact, the opposite tends to be true. Hiring a ghostwriter isn’t a cheap thing to do. You are paying for a person’s professionalism, experience, and education. Some ghostwriters work based upon hourly rates, and price themselves at what they believe they are worth. Other’s charge per word. The more involved a person wishes to be, often the more time consuming the project is. I’m sorry if that’s not what you anticipated, but that’s how it is.

There’s this whole taboo thing about hiring a ghostwriter which leads to many misconceptions, mainly that we are unable to write our own books and therefore we will work cheaply.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Speaking for myself, I fell into ghostwriting and love my job. It’s not that I can’t write my own book, it’s that I’m too busy writing other people’s books. I love my job. I love helping people find their voice, and make their stories come to life. I love my clients (I work with some seriously cool and amazing people), and it is the minority that spurs blog posts like this.

If you have questions about hiring a ghostwriter, and how the whole process works. Please do just ask!

I’m actually a fairly nice person, I promise. I will answer any questions you have, openly and honestly. This will allow you to decide whether ghostwriting is the right option for you. There is no judgement here. I would love to hear from people about their experiences of ghostwriting or hiring a ghostwriter. Definitely reach out and ‘spill the tea’, as the kids are saying. My inbox is always open.

As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,

Sarah Jules


A detailed outline should include everything you can possibly think of… and then some!

A semi-detailed outline should still include chapter by chapter – but a sentence will suffice.

A vague outline needs only be an idea, premise or theme.

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