Your Guide To Outlines for Ghostwriters: With Free Templates
Most writers love working from an outline, whether it is one they created to help make the writing process easier and more organized for themselves or whether a client provided one. There are, however, few writers who hate outlines as they believe that it tempers and stifles their creativity, but outlines for writers are the foundation on which an ebook is built. A basic and lacking-in-detail foundation will only result in an ebook that is low in quality (and we know you don’t want that!).
You may wonder, “Why are outlines important in writing?” Detailed outlines, more so than general ones, lead to better content creation—whether that is for ebooks (fiction and non-fiction alike) or any other kind of writing project.
Consider outlines as being part of the ghostwriter's contract. Your writers are required to meet the stipulations of their contract, so it's important for you to ensure that all your non-negotiables are included. Additional fees could be incurred if you need to add things the writer didn't plan for at the end of the project.
That is why we’ve put together this guide on the importance of providing detailed outlines for ghostwriters for you—not just to help our writers but also to help your ebook be the best it can be, and we’ve also included a detailed writing outline template that you can use!
What Is a “General” Outline Vs a Detailed Outline
There is quite a big difference between providing a ghostwriter a general outline for your ebook and a detailed one. Let’s look at the difference between these two outlines before we delve into the reasons why a detailed outline is always the better option.
What is a “General” Writing Outline?
A general outline is a very basic ebook structure or skeleton with only the main headings or points to be covered. A general writing outline would be like the vague-but-trying-to-be-helpful directions you may give to a stranger to get to their destination.
“Turn left at the traffic light, and then at the big building, you turn right. Drive a little further, and the post office will be on your left.” We hope the stranger arrives at their destination.
The problem with those kinds of directions—and the general outline—is that the person may not know at which traffic light they need to turn; this one or the third one? Which big building did you refer to? At least three buildings look big. And how much further must the person drive? One mile? Half a mile? One block?
Non-specific instructions, whether they are to help someone get somewhere or to tell the ghostwriter what you envision for the project, are only going to get you so far. The writer may be able to figure out some things on their own, but you can expect a lot of back and forth between you and the writer as they will require clarity; or worse, you never hear from them and get a really bad surprise with the ebook! That is ultimately the biggest risk with a general outline: the result may not be at all what you wanted.
What Is a Detailed Writing Outline?
As you can imagine, a detailed outline for writers is very much the opposite as they provide clear, detailed information about the project.
Continuing with the example of giving directions, you would instead say: “At the second traffic light, turn left. You will pass three stop signs and at the big building on your left (the one with a glass- or mirror-like exterior just after the school), turn right. The post office is about half a mile from there, just opposite Walmart.” Now the stranger is sure to arrive at their destination without a hitch.
Similarly, a writing outline that is detailed will give the ghostwriter information about the following:
The objective of the book
The target audience: Who are they? Who is your ideal reader?
Key reader takeaways: What do you want your readers to remember at the end of the book? What important information do you want to impart?
The hook for the book in general
A table of contents (the book’s structure)
For each chapter, provide the overview, the hook, the main headings, and subheadings, plus detailed information, stories, studies, and examples to include
What you don’t want to be included in your book
Detailed Writing Outlines for Fiction and Non-Fiction eBooks
While there are many similarities regarding the writing of outlines for fiction and non-fiction books, for fiction ebooks, you need to:
Include a synopsis of the book
Give detailed information about the genre, setting, premise, plot, characters, themes, and so forth
Provide a complete list of the scenes for each chapter and what should happen in each
Detailed Outlines for Book Covers and SEO Articles
The creation of book covers is a far more artistic process than the writing of your book, but your designer still needs a starting point and some guidance to ensure that the end-product matches your vision.
SEO articles are often far shorter than fiction or nonfiction books, but this simply means your outline can be shorter. An outline is still really important.
Importance of Providing Detailed Outlines to Ghostwriters: Top 9 Advantages
So, how do outlines help when writing? Just like detailed and clear directions can help a stranger arrive at their destination without any issues, so can a detailed writing outline lead to a higher quality end product that is sure to meet your needs and expectations.
Here are the top nine advantages of detailed outlines and why they are important for ghostwriters:
#1 Reduces Lots of Back and Forth
A detailed outline that is more than just a skeleton (the bare basics) ensures that you and the writer are on the same page and it is the best way for you to communicate exactly what you want. This reduces a lot of back and forth in which the writer doesn’t need to constantly message or email you to get more details and clarity on what it is you require exactly.
For example, if you just give the topic and general info about the book, the writer will not know what tone to use, who your ideal reader is, or what the key takeaways are. While they can still write the ebook and draft a structure for the book, it most likely will not be what you envisioned. And if they constantly message you when you have questions or doubts about the content, what to include, etc., you will not be very happy either.
Don’t get us wrong; communication between you and a ghostwriter is important, but we’re sure you wouldn’t like to get your inbox filled with questions that could have been avoided had you provided a detailed book writing outline that answers the common questions the writer would have about a project.
#2 Helps the Writer Write Faster
A detailed outline also helps the writer write faster because they don’t need to wait for inspiration to strike to “put pen to paper” or worry about what section comes next, how to structure the book or chapter, etc. Some inspiration is certainly needed and can make your ebook better, but they can essentially dive in with the research and get started. Plus, should inspiration strike for a certain scene or chapter, they can get started with that—this is especially great for those ghostwriters who don’t like too much structure as they don’t have to start with the first chapter.
Related to reason #2 above, knowing the overall structure of a book, as well as all the other bits and pieces the writer needs to know about, like the target audience and goal of the book, makes them more motivated. Plus, a detailed ebook structure is very much a checklist that the writer can use to monitor their progress. This also helps them with time management as they can schedule what they would like to do and get done by which date to meet the deadline and have the book ready for you.
#4 Keeps the Writer Focused on the Topic
Without any kind of writing outline, it is very easy for writers to lose track of the topic and what is essential by going off on a tangent or getting too lost in the details. So, an outline keeps your writer focused on the topic.
They can also use the overall word count for the project and see how many words they need per section/chapter (you can even include this in your detailed outlines). The benefit of this is that they then don’t have extra words or space to go off-topic.
#5 Ensures Balance
Detailed outlines for ghostwriters ensure that the ebook is balanced as per your requirements. For example, if you want a recipe book on one of the new diets, the writer may write five out of ten chapters on what the new diet is and only spend two or three chapters on the recipes. On the other hand, you probably only wanted an introduction to the diet or at most a detailed chapter on it with the focus of the book on the recipes.
Providing a detailed outline ensures that this doesn’t happen and that the ebook is “balanced.”
#6 Limits Continuity Errors
Another great advantage of an outline that is detailed is that it limits continuity errors. For non-fiction, this means the content will flow logically and no important details are left out.
For fiction, this means that each scene follows logically from the previous, ensuring you fulfill your contract with your readers (promises made at the start of the novel or story are kept and resolved at the end). There should also be no main plot holes, leaving the reader confused and disappointed.
#7 Ensures the Topic Is Covered Thoroughly
Related to the three previous advantages, a detailed writing outline means the writer knows exactly what needs to be written so that the topic is sufficiently covered and meets those requirements of yours. Furthermore, this will ensure that the ebook is written according to the angle you want the ebook to take.
#8 Helps Avoid Confusion
Detailed book writing outlines will ensure that the writer is not confused as to the project’s specifications; they will know what you want and will be able to deliver that. In essence, well-written and clear outlines help avoid vagueness and stress from both parties.
#9 Helps Visualize the “Big Picture”
Like a good roadmap, a detailed outline for an ebook helps you and the writer visualize the big picture. It shows you the start, the middle, and the end, as well as the in-between components.
Top 3 Disadvantages of Detailed Outlines
The benefits of writing detailed outlines for ghostwriters far outweigh the disadvantages, which are:
Outlines can create a narrative that is forced, strained, and/or awkward; however, a talented ghostwriter will be able to skillfully navigate such challenges.
The book can feel too much like a formula that was followed; again, a ghostwriter will be able to add their voice and spin to the content and structure so it reads naturally.
In fiction ebooks, following a detailed structure too closely may mean that you tell more rather than show, and we all know showing trumps telling. This is why good communication with your ghostwriter is a must, as they can let you know about any of these kinds of potential issues and you can work together to resolve them.
Providing a ghostwriter a detailed outline is a great start for you working together, but if you’re looking for more tips on how to work successfully with the ghostwriter, check out this video:
7 Tips for Writing Detailed Outlines for Your Ghostwriter
There are various ways of writing detailed outlines that will lead to great content creation. Follow these tips for writing an effective outline for any writing project, be it fiction, non-fiction, book covers, or SEO articles:
1. Brainstorm: What should your ebook be about? What content does it need to cover? How many chapters should there be?
2. It is good to start with a mind map and jot down all your thoughts.
3. Next, revise the mind map. See what is practical to include in the book and what isn’t, plus any “nice to have” sections if there is space.
4. Use your budget, which will translate into how long the book will be, to further guide you on what are absolute musts and must nots.
5. Create a TOC: A table of contents will form the most basic structure of your book. From this, you can see whether each chapter logically leads to the next. Also, include a summary (1-2 sentences at most) about each chapter.
6. Flesh out the chapters with headings and subheadings, as well as information about what each section should comprise.
7. Make note of ideas you’d like the writer to include as well as what you don’t want to be included and/or focused on.
If you’ve ever wondered why outlines are important in writing and why you should put in the effort to create a detailed outline for a ghostwriter, now you understand that a good foundation (which is the detailed outline) is essential to high-quality content.
The key takeaways to how outlines help you and the writer are:
It reduces communication between the two of you as well as unnecessary questions and clarification.
It helps the writer write faster as they have a big picture of the project.
The writer is more motivated as the outline is a kind of checklist so they can see their progress clearly and better plan their research and writing time.
The book will have limited continuity errors and the content will be balanced, resulting in great content.
If you are still not sure where to start with a detailed outline or the process seems a bit intimidating, why not check out our Platinum Bundle Package that includes professional outline creation?