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Writing an Outline

eighteenth century chardin child 1 [1]It’s the first thing an agent or publisher is going to see, after your query letter: the outline of your book. So, important. But also, confusing, to try to decide what might work. Some people assert it should be short. Others, long. Descriptive. Analytical. Comparing the work to other authors’. Steering well clear of that. Giving the full story. Only giving a teaser.

I’ve been writing outlines to hook publisher-fish for more than twenty years now, and for more than fifty published novels. In the early days I had to have a full ms to back up my outline and sample chapters; these days, much more usually, I go from outline and sample chapters and wait for a contract before I commit myself to the full deal. That means I need to write pretty successful outlines: for despite being well-established, it’s still not guaranteed that publishers will take on my projects. Here are some of the things I’ve learned. These mostly apply to fiction, but can be adapted for non-fiction:

 Do you have any tips to add? Please share them in comments.

About Sophie Masson [2]

Sophie Masson [3] has published more than fifty novels internationally since 1990, mainly for children and young adults. A bilingual French and English speaker, raised mostly in Australia, she has a master’s degree in French and English literature. Sophie's new e-book on authorship, By the Book: Tips of the Trade for Writers, is available at Australian Society of Authors [4].

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