Posts Tagged ‘fiction proposal’

August 25, 2014

What is a Chapter Outline?

If you’re like me when you first started writing, you probably thought a chapter outline, which some editors request with the proposal, was Roman numerals I, II, III each with the subpoints of A.,B., and C. And if you’re like me, once you were in the writing /publishing world for any length of time, you discovered that a chapter outline is nothing like the outline you wrote for English class in high school.

To put it simply, a chapter outline is a brief summary, maybe one to three short paragraphs per chapter, explaining in third person your story’s main characters and plot. If you know how to write a good newspaper article, then you’ll do a good job writing your chapter outline.

The Components:

A good chapter outline should include:

1. The names of your main characters

2. The setting and time frame

3. A summary of each chapter (as far as you’ve written if you haven’t completed the book yet)

4. If possible, (and the editor might request this), the outline for the final chapter

A good chapter outline should not include:

1. Dialogue

2. Detailed descriptions of your main characters

3. Your opinions

4. Questions for the editor

To give you an idea of what a chapter outline should be, here’s a sample of one of mine. I’ve included only the first three chapters of twelve in the book:


By Marsha Hubler

Chapter Outline

Chapter One

Dallis Parker is a thirteen-year-old tomboy who loves horses more than anything else in the world. However, she fell off a pony when she was six, breaking her leg in three places. Since then she walks with a brace and a limp. Because of her bad leg, Dallis has a poor self-image, is withdrawn, and does not make friends easily. Dallis’s parents will not allow her to be around horses, let alone own one. Yet, she has never given up her dream to have a horse again someday.  Much of her time is spent dreaming about a white stallion named Snow who leads a herd of mustangs in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

Living in farm country, Dallis raises chickens and shows them at 4-H Club. Her only friend, Sheila Elliot, is an African American girl who lives with adoptive parents on the farm next to the Parker farm. Sheila is also a member of 4-H and raises lambs. Matthew Spencer is an eighth grade boy whom Dallis has had a crush on for years. A member of 4-H, he shows his champion quarter horse, Scrabble. Unfortunately, two other members of 4-H, Jane Dowling and Courtney Fulmer, who also show horses, dislike Dallis and belittle her constantly.

Sheila invites Dallis to go to a youth group meeting one Friday evening in the fall. Dallis is reluctant to go because she’ll be forced to mingle with kids she doesn’t know. But when she finds out Matthew will be there, she sets out to gain permission to go.

Chapter Two

At the youth group meeting, Dallis focuses on one person, Matthew Spencer. She ignores the events of the evening, studying him and resenting Jane and Courtney who latch unto him all night long. Near the close of the meeting, Dallis finally tunes in to Mr. Markham, the youth group leader, when he announces that the group will be going on a four-day survival camping trip to the Pocono Mountains in December. One of the reasons for the trip is to look for Snow, a “phantom” white stallion, supposedly the leader of a small band of wild Mustangs that roam the Shamokin State Park. When Dallis hears about the horse and learns that Matthew is going on the trip, she makes up her mind that she is going too.

Chapter Three


Dallis is overwhelmed with the beauty and excitement of Camp Icy Maples with all its activities to enjoy in new-fallen snow. There are eleven youth groups with over a hundred teens at the camp. However, she’s more interested in a certain young man who, as usual, is constantly smothered by Jane and Courtney. Dallis faces new ugly feelings about the two girls, feelings of jealousy, which she doesn’t like at all.

The first night of activities, while her youth group goes sledding, Dallis sits alone at a pavilion watching kids build snowmen and ice skate on a large pond. Even though others have invited her to join their activities, she chooses to wallow in self-pity and watch the fun from afar.But as she hobbles toward the gymnatorium for hot chocolate, Matthew joins her. As they walk together, they share their excitement about the next two days when the group goes to survival camp, looking for the white stallion.


So there you have a sample of a chapter outline. For those of you who fly by the seat of your pants and you’re never sure what’s coming next, a chapter outline will be a very difficult task to accomplish. But if an editor from a prospective publisher wants one, then…well…

…start writing.

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July 7, 2014

The Elements of an Eye-Catching Fiction Proposal

In your writing and publishing venture, you might be asked to submit a proposal to an editor or agent once you’ve caught his/her attention. So what is a proposal?
Other than asking someone to marry you, a proposal in the publishing world is quite the complex project. Of course, the first thing you want to do is check the publishing houses’ guidelines. They might have them outlined for you on the website or if an editor asks for a proposal, then you ask him/her for their guidelines. If there are no guidelines, then follow a standard format that all editors will accept to get to know you and your project better.
Let’s look at the basic elements of a good proposal for a fiction manuscript. In later blog posts, we’ll look at samples of each of these (if applicable). One word of caution is merited here. Be careful to spend quality time on your proposal. Depending on how many sample chapters you send, your proposal could easily be 40 to 60 pages long. It’s not something that should be taken lightly because your proposal will either earn you a contract or send your manuscript back to you to try again some other place.

Basic Elements of a Good Fiction Proposal

1. Cover page – includes title of your work, your name, address, phone number, email, website, and to whom you’re sending the proposal
2. Table of Contents – list all the sections included in your proposal and their page numbers
3. Synopsis –  a one-to-two-page synopsis of your entire manuscript, including the climax and resolution. Don’t keep the editor/agent guessing how it’s going to end.
4. About the Author – a one-to-two-page bio of you, including a photo, a little background, and your writing credits and awards won; include your involvement with social media, i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, blogsite, etc. with all URLs.
5. Character Sketches – a one-page description of your main characters (one or two main characters, no more); include time period, personal appearance, quips, goals in life.
6. Market Potential (this one takes the most time) – spend quality time in bookstores and/or online, researching the other books already published in the same genre and age group. Include these elements: Layout and Audience, Competitive Works, Marketing Ideas, and Date of Completion.
7. Chapter Outline – this is not a I, II, III, A, B, C “outline.” It’s a one-to-two-paragraph summary of each chapter in your book. If your work is not finished, just write the outline up to the last chapter you’ve written.
8. Sample Chapters – the publisher’s guidelines might indicate chapter one, two, and the last one, maybe chapters one, the chapter in the middle of the book, and the last one. If not designated, send the first three chapters.

Well, there you have the basic elements of a proposal that will catch that editor’s or agent’s eye.
Why is the proposal so important?
If an editor or agent reviews a well-done proposal, he/she will recognize that the author already has good writing and organizing skills, has a goal set to finish a project, and can meet deadlines. All these qualities are essential in maintaining a good relationship between the author and editor.
Write an eye-catching proposal, and you’re one step closer to reaching that unreachable star: publication!

pen and quill

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Writers’ Tip for the Day: Writing an Eye-catching Proposal, Part 3

The Character Sketches and the Backdrop

So far in our review of what makes an eye-catching proposal, we’ve looked at the Title Page, the Table of Contents, the Synopsis, and the Author Bio. Today, we’ll review Character Sketches and the Backdrop.

As previously mentioned, editors and agents might offer different guidelines for their proposal’s components or they might have the components listed in a different order. Always ask for their guidelines before you spend much time writing your proposal for a specific request. However, I think it’s a very good idea to get a proposal ready with the basic components as soon as you start working on a new fiction manuscript. It’s much easier to tweak a 60plus-page proposal than start from scratch, especially if the editor or agent wants the proposal ASAP.

Below I’ve included samples of some character sketches and backdrop. The character sketches are “sketchy,” which might be adequate for some editors, but for others, might not be. Perhaps they’ll request a full-page sketch of the main character or a few of the secondary characters, as well. So be prepared and give the editors what they want.



Louellen Bidleman Friesen – twenty-five-year-old Amish woman unhappily married to Eli Friesen, a mid-twenties Amish man. Louellen feels trapped in her life for two reasons: she craves love from her husband, which she is not receiving because she can’t give him children, and she is questioning her Amish roots and belief system, which leaves her empty and with no assurance of God’s love or her eternal destiny. Louellen is a beautiful woman, slender with long wavy auburn hair, green eyes, and a rosy complexion.

Eli Friesen – mid-twenties six-foot-tall Amish farmer with thick, brown wavy hair, dark brown eyes and curly eyelashes. Eli is a troubled soul, who publicly fits into the Amish mold but in his heart questions his Amish beliefs and longs to know God more intimately. Eli also guards another secret well that only he and his medical doctor know – Eli is the reason he and Louellen have no children, but his pride and bitterness cause him to resent Louellen and ignore her longings to have an intimate emotional relationship with him.

Dr. David McAndrew – 40 years old; gentle brown eyes, wavy blonde hair, tall, and handsome; doctor of obstetrics; not a Christian; bitter at God for taking his wife; performs abortions; finds himself romantically attracted to Louellen Friesen.

Andrea McAndrew– 18 years old; blonde hair, brown eyes; slender; interested in spiritual matters but doesn’t tell her father because of his bitterness toward God; would love to see Louellen and her father get together; a freshman in college.

Jenna McAndrew – 16 years old; blonde hair, brown eyes; slender; interested in spiritual matters but doesn’t mention it to her father; would love to see Louellen and her father get together; a junior in high school.

Cheryl Whentfield – 32 years old; RN who works in obstetrics with David; divorced with two boys, Brent, 15, and Conrad, 13, and would like to connect with David; deep blue eyes, long styled black hair (bottled because of premature gray); shapely and very attractive; wears make-up fashionably; not a Christian. 

Jacob Knapp – Amish farmer; neighbor of the Friesens. Married to Emma and has five children, ages 16 to 5.

Ezekiel Romig – Amish farmer;  neighbor of the Friesens. Married to Martha and has six children ages 17 to 3.

Zeb Clouser – Amish farmer; brother-in-law of the Friesens. Married to Esther, Louellen’s sister and has three children, ages 7 to 4. Two girls, Rebecca, 7, and Sarah, 6, and Joseph, 4

Pastor Hugh Grove – pastor of Community Fellowship Church where David and his wife went before she died; mid-fifties; parts graying hair down middle; has pot belly; passionate about soul winning and cares deeply for David’s soul.

Louellen’s family –

  1. Dad Bidleman – thin mid-forties Amish farmer; graying beard; brown eyes; leathery skin
  2. Mom Bidleman – plump mid-forties Amish housewife and mother; graying auburn hair in bun and kapp; green eyes and rosy cheeks
  3. Zeb Clouser – brother-in-law; blonde hair, blue eyes; thin farmer with weathered skin; 28 years old; farmer
  4. Esther Bidleman Clouser – 27 yrs. old; same features as Louellen; often mistaken for her twin
  5. Rebecca Clouser – seven years old; looks like father; blonde hair; blue eyes
  6. Sarah Clouser – six years old; same features
  7. Joseph Clouser – four-year-old nephew of Eli and Louellen; the boy Eli idolizes
  8. Samuel Bidleman – Louellen’s brother; typical Amish man; auburn hair and brown eyes; 29 years old; farmer; kind
  9. Marie Zook Bidleman – Samuel’s wife; 28 years old; plump; dark hair; brown eyes; pregnant with third child
  10. Samuel Bidleman – eight years old; looks like his father, Samuel. All boy
  11. Adam Bidleman – five years old; rosy cheeks; brown hair and brown eyes; plump




Mapletown – small town in central Pennsylvania where the story takes place

Presbyterian Community Hospital– where Dr. David McAndrew works

Washington High School– where Jenna McAndrew attends

Wellington State University– where Andrea McAndrew attends

Bald Eagle Valley– where Friesens and other Amish families live; west of Mapletown


In an Amish/Mennonite fiction novel, in which family is so vitally important to the storyline, it is expected that you would include the family members of the main character. However, in most other subgenres, the editors would probably not ask for such detail.

Next time, we’ll discuss the last components of a good proposal: the Sample Chapters (or the entire manuscript), Marketing Information, and the Date of Completion.

Happy writing!





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Writer’s Tip for the Day

Writing an Eye-catching Proposal (for Fiction)

From Marsha Hubler


In last Monday’s blog, I mentioned the importance of writing an eye-catching proposal. What I’d like to do over the next few weeks is analyze the components of one of my proposals. The latest one that I wrote went to an agent after I tweaked it to her specs. She liked what she saw and offered me a contract for an Amish fiction series.

So, let’s get started with some vital information every writer needs to know to be able to introduce himself/herself professionally to an agent or an editor.

Components of an Eye-Catching Proposal


  1. Title Page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Synopsis
  4. About the Author (Bio and Credits)
  5. Character Sketches
  6. First Three Chapters of the Manuscript
  7. Synopsis of Other Books in the Series (if writing a series)
  8. Market Potential and Competitive Analysis
  9. Marketing Plan
  10. Projected Time of Completion

Now, these ten components are not set in stone. Editors and agents have different guidelines for proposals. If you get that email or letter giving you the initiative to proceed with your proposal, the agent or editor should offer his guidelines for the proposal. If not, then ask. Sometimes, these components will be in a different order or several might not even be included in that agent’s or editor’s proposal specs.

Today we’ll look at the title page and the Table of Contents from my proposal for THE AMISH LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY:

(Page one of the proposal; information centered on page)











By Marsha Hubler

1833 Dock Hill Rd.

Middleburg,PA 17842




(Page two of the proposal)






Synopsis ……….………………………………………………………………………3

About the Author …..……………………………………………………………..6

Character Sketches/Backdrop ……………………………………………..7

Sample Chapters: One, Two, Three …………………………………….9

Synopses for Book Two and Three of Series …………………….50

Marketing Information …………………………………………………………55

Date of Completion ………………………………………………………………55

Next time we’ll look at “About the Author” and some character sketches.

If at any time in this proposal journey you have questions about your own proposal, please don’t hesitate to email me at marshahubler@wildblue.net and ask.





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