Query-Start Outline Method

If you plan on traditionally publishing your story, you might find it easier to *start* with a working query, rather than put a query together after you’ve written your story.

Use this method if:

  • You’re thinking of going the traditional publishing route, rather than independent- or self-publishing.
  • You’ll eventually be sending your story to agents.
  • You want something quick, but hits all the major points.

The query is like the resume for your story. It will be about one page long, with a blurb of personal and professional information pertinent to writing. The key part of the query is a summary of your story. This will be about 200-300 words.

The query should contain:

  • The Main Character (MC)
  • What the MC wants.
  • Who/what is preventing it.
  • What the MC does to get around/through the obstacle.
  • The stakes.

Here’s an example:

The Modern Juliet.

  • MC: Juliet Capulong.
  • Wants to be a marine biologist.
  • But [one of the main conflicts] is stopping her. It could be that the Jaws shark keeps threatening her every time she enters the water (Man vs. Nature); or her rival, Romeo, keeps sabotaging her lab results (Man vs. Man); or she lives in a country where women aren’t allowed to go to University (Man vs. Society); or there’s some kind of entity that keeps scaring her out of the deep (Man vs. Supernatural); or there’s a giant mechanical kraken guarding an ancient treasure (Man vs. Technology); or maybe she has such low self-esteem, she doesn’t think she’ll succeed, and self-sabotages a lot her own efforts (Man vs. Self); or maybe there’s an outside force that she’s convinced has other plans for her ((Man vs. God) but actually Man vs. Self???).
  • For this example, let’s pick Man vs. Society – she can’t go to University because she’s a woman.
  • To overcome this obstacle, she has to dress and act like a man until she graduates (tough, if she’s expected to change in and out of swim gear).
  • Stakes: She has to change her behavior and appearance or risk losing her dreams, but is she losing herself while she does it?


Using this type of guide, you can have quick access to the main points a story needs for a good plot arc and character development, without getting bogged down or distracted by  a lot of details.

This method might not be the best if:

  • You like a lot of details. (Try the Formal Outline Method)
  • You want to remember themes, symbols, etc., and see the connections between everything. (Try a mindmap)
  • You have more than one POV character, or you need to keep track of a lot of time-specific events. (Try the Timeline Method)