1. NoaMineo
    Offline

    NoaMineo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0

    Writting an outline for an agent

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by NoaMineo, Jan 19, 2011.

    So in my continueing quest to sell my novel, the next thing I'm seeing agents ask for in submission guidlines is an outline.

    Now, I'm of course no stranger to outlining, but obviously the agent doesn't want to see the blood-and-tear-stained, barely-legible outline I used to write the thing. Aside from being no longer accurate, it is little more than a rough, scene-by-scene idea of what is supposed to happen.

    So what exactly does an agent mean by an "outline"? More helpfully, can anyone point me to some guides or examples? I'm not even sure where to begin with this one.
     
  2. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Type up something that lists the general scene flow, plot progression, etc -- maybe a short paragraph describing what happens in each chapter. (Or several paragraphs depending on the nature of your story)
     
  3. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i've no clue, since i've never yet come across an agent who'd want an outline for a novel... are you sure it wasn't in re non-fiction mss?

    which agents have asked for one?
     
  4. NoaMineo
    Offline

    NoaMineo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0
    Actually, now that I look over my potential agents list again, I notice that only one of them was asking for an outline, and it may well have been a mistake. It was under requirments for fiction, but it's entirely concievable they didn't mean it since the same agent seems to handle a lot of non-fiction.

    Thanks, all.
     
  5. CJStarkey
    Offline

    CJStarkey Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2011
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Quite a few agents ask for outlines, actually. Just make sure you don't get them confused for a synopsis, another thing agents or publishers may ask for. A synopsis is more of an overview of your entire novel written in a few pages, whereas an outline is a far more detailed, often chapter by chapter, guide to your novel.
     
  6. NoaMineo
    Offline

    NoaMineo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0
    How detailed? Are we talking a few paragraphs per chapter, or scene-by-scene?

    Also, is there any specific format? Or is it just paragraphs?
     
  7. CJStarkey
    Offline

    CJStarkey Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2011
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    An outline is chapter by chapter, scene by scene, per paragraph. There's no strict guideline on how to set one up. I'm not claiming to be an expert by any means, but this is what I've found from asking others that have had to do these themselves. Personally, I try to stear away from anyone requesting an outline. They're a pain in the ass to do, and there are lots of agents and publishers out there that won't ask for one.
     
  8. NoaMineo
    Offline

    NoaMineo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yeah, I only had 1 out of the 18 I am querrying who asked for one. I may just drop them from the list, they weren't taking a very high percentage of new authors.
     
  9. Kevin B
    Offline

    Kevin B Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    1
    Is this something they've started doing in the last few years? I've never had an agent ask for an outline, and I've queried close to one hundred. I've had them ask for a sample chapter, or the first three chapters of a manuscript, but never an outline.

    Just curious. :)
     
  10. NoaMineo
    Offline

    NoaMineo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0
    None of the last 25+ agents I querried for a different manuscript asked for them either, and that was only last year. Of course, even if you add my 25 to Kevin B's hundred, that's still probably not a very large percentage of the agents out there.
     
  11. CJStarkey
    Offline

    CJStarkey Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2011
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I've only started querying (I'm not sure that's even a word! ;) )this year, so maybe it is something new. Out of about 25 agents and publishers combined that I've either looked at or submitted queries to, probably 4 or 5 have wanted either an outline or synopsis. It's certainly not a standard, but it is out there.
     
  12. NoaMineo
    Offline

    NoaMineo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0
    It'll become a word if we all start using it.

    I'm only looking at agents personally, but a lot of them wanted a synopsis. I'll break it down for posterity:

    I use WritersMarket.Com's searchable database to locate agents. My criteria for this round were the following: do they take fantasy at all, are they looking for fantast, do they take new writers, if so, what percentage?, what percentage of work do they take is novels, anything less than about 30% didn't seem worthwhile, and of course are they accepting new clients right now. There may have been a few other factors, but that was how I culled it down to a list of 18 folks to querry(19 if you count wuerrying 2 agents at the same agency).

    Of those 18, 10 wanted just a querry and a SASE. 5 wanted some combination of querry, SASE, synopsis, sample chapters, author bios, etc. 1 wanted an outline in addition to other stuff, and 2 were only accepting E-querries(which I put in a different pile for some reason).

    Anyway, we'll see where I go. Last manuscript I querried for yielded nothing but a big stack of rejection letters. We'll see if this one gets me anything better than 16 rejection letters and 2 rejection emails.
     
  13. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    not really... an outline would be just the 'skeleton' of the plot/subplots such as the author may use in developing the story...

    a 'chapter outline' may be what the op meant... and chapter outlines are sometimes asked for, in lieu of a long synopsis... one would consist of a list of the chapters' numbers and/or titles, with only the gist of each presented simply, in present tense... doesn't even have to be in full sentences...

    but just a plain 'outline' is something else entirely and wouldn't be asked for in re fiction, imo...
     
  14. CJStarkey
    Offline

    CJStarkey Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2011
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Personally, I would avoid an outline at all costs to avoid the risk of sending the wrong thing an immediately getting tossed out. If you were determined to send one, I would email them and ask specifically what the agency/company is looking for.
     
  15. NoaMineo
    Offline

    NoaMineo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    0
    I went ahead and just skipped that agent, they were among the least promising on my list.
     

Share This Page