Finding the Plot – Why I Outline by A.D. Garrett – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome A.D. Garrett to the blog. AD Garrett is the author of Believe No one and Everyone Lies and the latest book to feature Fennimore and Simms,  Truth Will Out was published by Corsair on 3 November 2016.

Today A.D. Garrett discusses why she outlines her novels

Finding the Plot – Why I Outline

by A.D. Garrett

Some stories are inspired a simple question: What if? Some from a single image. In the same way, the characters that populate a story can build from a single point: the victim, their friends, the killer, the place.

Inspiration is all very well, but what about plot? Should the writer know where the story is going, or just hang on and enjoy the ride? I knew before I began writing Truth Will Out that it would need to bring together complicated strands of backstory and Fennimore’s personal history, weaving them into a present-day case which somehow linked back to a cold-case he’s working on. So outlining was a must.


But what’s good for one book is not always good for another. Take Benjamin Black: his Banville books are all about the rhythm and music of the words, but he says plot matters in the Black books. Let’s face it, plot matters in all crime fiction, whatever the style. Yet Ann Cleeves says she never knows where the story is going when she begins – wouldn’t want to finish writing the novel if she did. So, I asked, are plot points inserted retrospectively? ‘I plot as I go along,’ she explained. ‘So the plot points are pretty well there in the first draft and integral to the story.’

I think there’s a parallel, here, with my own outlining – it fulfils two roles  in my writing process: getting to know the characters, and working out the plot. My outlines are detailed – 21,000 words for Truth Will Out. Occasionally, I’ll write an entire scene, but mostly it consists of snatches of dialogue, explorations of character and situation, descriptions of place or atmosphere – and, of course, plot points.


That takes about three months – the blink of an eye, beside the eight months Jeffery Deaver takes to research and outline. He agrees his novels are plot-driven, but adds, ‘The best plot in the world is useless if you don’t populate them with characters that readers can care about.’

I’m with Deaver on this – plot and character are mutually dependent, not mutually exclusive. If a plot-driven novel becomes plot-dominated,  it reads like a series of incidents told by a child: ‘and then, and then, and then’. It is people we are interested in as readers – and love ’em or hate ’em, we also have to care about them. For me, outlining is my way in to learning how characters speak, act, and feel. By the end of it, I do care about them, one way or t’other, and I have a framework on which to hang the story, too – which surely has to be a good thing.

Truth Will Out is now available in hardback and e-format

Connect with A.D. Garrett on Twitter: @adgarrett1 and at

Enter The Crime Vault competition for a chance to win all three books in the Fennimore & Simms series. (Ends 30th November)

About the book:


“A mother and daughter are snatched on their drive home from a cinema. The crime has a number of chilling similarities to a cold case Professor Nick Fennimore had been lecturing on. Then Fennimore begins receiving taunting messages – is he being targeted by the kidnapper?

Meanwhile, a photograph emailed from Paris could bring Fennimore closer to discovering the fate of Suzie, his own daughter, now missing for six years. He seeks help from his old friend, DCI Kate Simms, recently returned from the US. But Kate is soon blocked from the investigation… A mother and child’s lives hang in the balance as Fennimore and Simms try to break through police bureaucracy to identify their abductor.

Atmospheric, chilling, and full of suspense, the dynamic pairing of AD Garrett’s acclaimed duo, Fennimore and Simms, delivers a pulse-pounding plot that will keep you guessing until the very end.”

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