Outline Contest Winner!

Told you good things come to patient writers!

After an incredible, busy week at the 27th Annual Antioch Writers Workshop, where Les has given a fiction writing seminar for a wide range of writers, he is now back and ready to give us the winner of the Five Sentence Outline contest.

He’s also taken the time to comment briefly on each of the outlines posted right here in the comments before the deadline of July 6th. How awesome is that! And trust me, it pays to listen to Les, he knows what he’s talking about.

So without further ado, here’s Les just for you guys. 🙂


Hi Veronica and participants!

I’m truly honored by the contest Veronica has created and by all those who took the time to create an outline for their novels. I hope all of you feel like the winner, especially if this kind of outline helps you with your work.

All of them were terrific and it was difficult to pick a winner! Fortunately, both Veronica and I came up with the same outline as our pick for the best, so that kind of shows we were on the same wavelength.

Ashleigh inherits a logging ranch. Cole Ferguson and Ashleigh dislike each other and disagree about the future of the ranch. Ashleigh and Cole grow closer after Ashleigh has a near fatal accident. A missing brother arrives and drives a wedge between Ashleigh and Cole. Cole and Ashleigh find out the truth behind the recent events and agree about the future for both the ranch and themselves.

~by Donna B. McNicol

Nice! This shows the author’s grasp of his or her novel and that’s the entire purpose of the outline.


George, Fred and Kira are diverted on their holiday by a blocked tunnel and explore a silent city in the middle of the woods. Kira acts strangely afterwards and returns to Buckmore with George, while Fred discovers the silent city was asleep and is run entirely by females. The real Kira is kidnapped again from the lost city by the cause of her alter-ego’s mission, their outcasts turned bandits, but she escapes back to Buckmore. Kira and the imposter return with advice from Buckmore and assistance, but the Queen resists and the bandit groups force another attack in which one of the Kiras is killed. The Queen accepts the need for change, Fred finally earns Kira’s hand in marriage, and George completes his life’s work on their wedding day.

~by Jemima Pett

Again, a great effort! This could be cut a bit in a rewrite (couldn’t everything we do?!), but it shows a sure grasp of the novel for this writer.


Alphonsine falls pregnant to Pierre. They go home to Quebec and get married and start farming. Pierre dies of pneumonia leaving Alphonsine to care for their thirteen surviving children. After a few years when she only has the two little girls at home, she runs out of money. She finally consents to marry Leandre to take care of the girls.

~by Sarah Jansen

Sounds like a book I’d buy. Again, another writer who “gets it” and has a solid road map in place. Now… write it so I can buy it!


Caught in a struggle between domains Shi Ni finds a survivor from another side. Helping him to find the humanity that was denied to his existence she remains unable to mend his broken mind. His origin and the knowledge he carries are the few sparkles of hope that remain. As turmoil reigns, her father has no other recourse but to sacrifice her humanity, using her death and being to mend the man. Healed to stand as a bridge between empires at war, the very best he can hope for is to stand as a wall against oblivion.

~by Meijers

Sure-handed grasp of what to write. Only thing I’d suggest is to look for specific terms to describe the major turns in the work and this would have been an even stronger contender.


Ezekiel’s master is gravely injured by the Word Eater. Ezekiel is sent with a group to find and kill the Word Eater. They barely defeat creature who is the WordEater’s servant. They accept the WordEater’s offer of penance. Ezekiel is offered the crown, and the people learn to coexist with the Word Eater.

~by Nadia Solis

This one was close. Even if it didn’t win, it reveals a writer with a clear road map to his or her novel and that’s really what this was all about. Write it!


A witch, a blood sacrifice and a late C19th ghost-dance changes the past. Colonial America is on the verge of extinction faced not by Indians but by ‘Shades’ that feed on men and cannot be killed. Jack, Verity and Moses have to sort out their own love-triangle, and work as one to find a solution. Jack realises that one of the three is the ancestor of the future witch, but so does a more powerful magician intent on thwarting them. Moses makes the ultimate sacrifice.

~by Mike Keyton

Focus a bit more on the protagonist so the reader has a clear idea of who to invest our interest, sympathy and empathy into and this will prove to be a terrific novel!


Order warrior Anara kills a thought-to-be-extinct monster. Anara and her apprentice get captured by the rebel gypsies. The Gypsy camp gets attacked by vamps then the Order. Anara is forced to choose a side. New leadership makes Anara realizes that her time in Alvera is long over.

~by Sarah O.

Way to focus on the protagonist. Another close one, but more importantly, this shows a clear idea of the novel.


Venker, a mage, and a company of marines board an alien spaceship. He discovers that the ship is alive and they are the pathogens. The marines start planting explosives; Venker struggles to stop them. The ship starts devouring the planet, so it can reproduce. Venker escapes from the exploding spaceship.

~by Andrew Phillips

Very close again! (All of these were close—hardest contest I’ve had to make a decision on!) Work on the ending a bit so that it reflects both a win and a loss for Venker and you’re home free.


Ren and Don are sentenced as gladiators. Ren develops her iron heart. Ren leads in the fight & ‘mutiny’. Ren survives losing Mat. Ren and Don save Leta and return home.

~by Morgan Hyde

And… the winner!

Firmly created from the protagonist’s pov and a clear through-line revealed. As with the one above, take one more pass through this and show a resolution that contains both a win and a loss. Congratulations… but don’t gloat too much… there were a bunch that were very close! Okay… gloat a bit…

Thanks to everyone who participated. You truly are all winners. I hope you feel you have a solid grasp on your novels now and from what I can see here, I’d read each and every one of them. Let me know when they hit the bookshelves! I’ll be there with my checkbook.

And, thank you, Veronica. This was fun!


Thank you very much, Les! This has been a great and very education exercise for all of us.

Congratulations, Morgan and everyone else who participated — you guys rocked this!

And now — to the prize.

*huge, sparkly eyes*

The winner — Morgan — will receive a copy of Les’s book Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go straight from Les! And because he’s more than awesome, you won’t just get an ebook emailed into your virtual pocket, you’ll get a real, signed paperback copy just for you!

We’ll get in touch with you via email, and make sure you get to have the book soon, Morgan! 🙂


I hope you all had a great time doing the exercise and reading every one else’s outlines as well. Hope it might have changed the mind of a few anti-outliners about the value of a brief, concise road-map, and validated the importance of having a clear idea of where a story is heading in order to hit the mark and hit it good.

Did the 5 sentence outline work for you? Did you gain a fresh perspective on the plot? Let us know in the comments down below!

Thank you all again for participating!


Les Edgerton is a literary heavy-weight and author of fourteen books (gaaasp!!), including two incredible ones about writing fiction: Finding Your Voice and Hooked (which was also the prize for this contest).

His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award (short story category), Jesse Jones Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Violet Crown Book Award.

Les writes short stories, articles, essays, novels, and screenplays, and teaches creative writing at the university level, via private coaching, and also via various webinars. He’s also the Editor-at-Large for Noir Nation International Journal of Crime Fiction, and has a great personal blog which you’re very welcome to visit.

If you want to know more about Les, I suggest you read his awesome interview with Richard Godwin, or check out the interview I did with him for OnFictionWriting.com — which will be up in August! And because a good short story caries a world in a handful of words, you can also check out his latest crime story Tourettes. I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy his unmistakable voice!


Published by Veronica Sicoe

Science Fiction Author — I deliver the aliens.

6 thoughts on “Outline Contest Winner!

    1. That’s exactly the purpose of an outline — to bring things into perspective. I’m so glad you found the exercise useful, Jay! And thanks for posting your outline even after the due date. 🙂


  1. Congrats Morgan! You’ll love HOOKED.

    And kudos to all the participants in the contest who “put it out there.” 😀

    (Vero, if this posts twice, sorry! It timed out on my first try.)


  2. I personally would have picked the one by ‘Meijers.’ Not trying to be argumentative, just want to make sure the other contestants know that their work has value even though they didn’t *win*. Though I’m probably judging by different measures (creativity and originality), it also seems like he/she has a clear idea of where they’re going with their story. I get the feeling there is a deep and rich world that the author has created. Wish they had a link, as this sounds like a story that I would love to read!

    Just my two cents. 🙂


    1. Thanks for the honest two cents, Timothy! 🙂

      Of course each outline was great in its originality, and the stories they describe would all make for fascinating reads. I’m really excited about the entries in this little contest, and I hope the writers all follow through with their stories so I can get to read them sometime.

      The winner was chosen based on the amount of detail included in the outline (among other things). This type of mini-outline is supposed to only include crucial plot-points without details about the setting or character motivations, so from this technical pov the winning outline was the clearest. But that doesn’t mean the others were bad — in fact, they were fantastic! 🙂

      Thank you very much for stopping by to comment! I appreciate it.


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