View Full Version : Questions on Outlines?

03-28-2005, 11:40 PM
First, really great and informative site. I'm very glad I came across it and I'm hoping to become more of a contributor as I gain experience (hopefully I will be sharing insights into what worked rather than building a library of what hasn't but time will tell).

I'm a first time author with a completed and what I believe to be well worked over novel in the fiction/suspense genre.

Several agents seem to be requesting outlines in addition to other materials. The outlines I'm familiar with are from a writer's perspective and likely a lot longer and more detailed than what they are looking for (as compared to the length of a typical synopsis).

If anyone can pass along some insight into what exactly I should be submitting I'd be very grateful. Maybe 3-6 pages with a few bullets under each chapter? Maybe a short summary for each chapter? Is there an example anywhere on the web?

Any help is greatly appreciated,


Daughter of Faulkner
03-30-2005, 04:34 PM
Be brief, be known, and be gone!

What I was asked for was something in the way of a paragraph from each chapter. Leave out all fillers--extra words--and go straight to the point. An agent then an in-house editor will only spend 60 seconds or less on your first page and if you don't grab him at once then you do not get a second chance.
Your outline should tell the reader if he wants to read more and exactly what your novel is about. No opinions, things you think are cute rather go straight to the point as if you were getting a grade on it from an instructor. Remember you want an A+.

I would do it like this:
Bold Chapter 1, then Bold title, then beneath it a paragraph or two about that chapter then d/s before the next. Of course, you need your header with your name, and an outline with book title, page number on every page. Absolutely no typos!

Less is always more with an outline (the less the better) and a one page is best synopsis. First novel 110,000 or much less will be welcomed and easier to get published.

All good wishes to you!

03-31-2005, 09:45 AM

Thank you. That's perfect - exactly what I was looking for. I didn't want to spend days doing the Roman numeral point by point style outline only to have agents wonder what I was thinking and send an instant reject.

We have about 84,400 words right now which should put us fairly close to the sweet spot for a first novel. The first 3 chapters are exactly 50 pages (total coincidence) so it makes round page number submissions fairly smooth. Everyone has said they were hooked somewhere in chapter 2 and tend to finish it in a couple of days (even those who are more casual readers). Might as well take a shot and put it out there.

Thank you for the advice and good wishes. We (my father and I are co-authors) need all we can get.


03-31-2005, 06:21 PM
Excelent post, Eileen! And good luck, Chris!

Daughter of Faulkner
03-31-2005, 10:44 PM
Dragonjax and ChrisF,
I have fooled myself into thinking I know what I'm doing at the moment because recently I've been working with a fine editor and a former NYT book reviewer editing my novels, writing an outline, and synopsis.
That's all!

I suppose when I get slammed again, I'll learn a bit more to share!

the debster
04-08-2005, 10:20 PM
Eileen and other veterans:

A couple of agents have requested outlines for my completed thriller novel. I understand this is one way they determine from debut writers that the manuscript is indeed finished.

Regarding FICTION Outlines, I understand about 2/3 paragraphs max per chapter.

But could you confirm/clarify for me:
1) 1 page per chapter? I've been told this but it seems like such a waste. Especially if the chapter can be wrapped up in one short paragraph. In my case, the materials will reach 53 pages.
2) Also, what writing style? Active, like a synopsis, or in the style the manuscript was written (3rd person in my case).

Any other details about the presentation of this submission element would be greatly appreciated.


Daughter of Faulkner
04-09-2005, 02:45 AM
I would say one to two paragraphs per chapter. If you know your agent well enough to ask what he would like to see from you, then you will know what he thinks is enough not only now but for your future submissions.
I was told one page synopsis per novel and 5 tops for an outline. Of course, nothing is set in stone but at the same time this will help you in your future work to be concise. Again, be brief, be known and be gone.

Good wishes to you. It's not easy but once you get through the first one the rest will come with ease.