Writing Books/outline


An agent asked to see the first three chapters and an outline.  How would I go about making an outline.  I have no knowledge and creating outlines at all. Like is there a certain format and what not.  Do you know where I can see sample outlines?

Well, first it depends on whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction. If fiction, you need to find out from the agent whether by "outline" s/he actually meant "synopsis." A lot of agents use the words interchangeably, even though they really aren't. It's perfectly acceptable to contact the agent by reply email (since they contacted you first) to ask for a better definition. Ask whether they want a "chapter-by-chapter outline" or a "synopsis" and how many pages they'd like to see.

If they really mean a synopsis, then here's a link to some sample synopses that sold the book to the publisher.


I had some authors friends post them up so people could see what format works for them. Ignore the fact that they're romance novels. You're looking for the STRUCTURE of them---what elements are included, which are ignored, etc. Note that often the character's "goal, motivation and conflict" or GMC are included. This just means (1) what the character wants; (2) why they must get it; and (3) what KEEPS them from getting it.

If the agent actually MEANS an outline, then it's usually in the form of a list, by chapter, of what happens in the book. So, chapter One would be introduction of the character, who does X, goes to Y place and meets Z person. Short paragraphs, probably no more than ten sentences. Same with chapter two, etc. It's normally a pretty long document, which is why it's better (for YOU) if they actually mean "synopsis."

Now, if we're talking about non-fiction, then it's very similar to what you used to do in high school. It's like a table of contents where you describe what elements are included in which chapters---along with the heading and how they reach the goal of telling the reader what you intend for them to learn.

Hope that helps, and let me know if you have any other questions. :)


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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