Pocket Full of Words: Holly Lisle’s Blog


The Philosopher Gambit is off to the copyeditor!

LONGVIEW 3-The Philosopher Gambit

LONGVIEW 3-The Philosopher Gambit


I’m having the folks at Silver Jay do an in-depth proofread for me—I’ll do the clean-up and publish when I get it back.

I’m considering offering a print version of the first three stories, which would give the reader the equivalent of a 90,000-word novel. I KNOW I’m going to offer this book later, when I have all six stories finished. I’ll put the series together in two volumes.

My issue is offering the first print version now. Like Episodes 1 and 2, Episode 3 offers a complete internal story. Unlike Episodes 1 and 2, it also contains one big cliffhanger that will form the core story of Episode 4: Vipers’ Nest.

I’m starting in on Viper’s Nest tomorrow. I hope to have the story written fairly quickly, because I want to be able to start up Module Four of How To Write A Series, and I can’t until the demo story for that module is done. (Vipers’ Nest is going to be a particularly important demo—the whole focus of HTWAS Module 4 is keeping both writer and reader interest high in each episode of your long-running series, and I have a whole stack of techniques I need to demo in the story.)

The way things have been going, though, it will probably be six months before I have all three episodes that conclude the series available, because the HTWAS Modules take more than a month apiece, and the stories have been, too.

And I HATE getting something that ends on a cliffhanger, and having to wait forever for the next print volume to appear.

This is where ebooks have it all over print.

Anyway, that’s where I am today.

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Writers, I Want You.

After the fix is in, and the store is reopened, I will be announcing a plan for inviting writers to help maintain, build and operate the systems Holly uses to write and teach, including her websites, databases, servers, and writing tools on her personal computer.  Specific jobs need doing on a regular basis, such as making sure backups are running and work when called they are needed.

I am developing all the training necessary for all the jobs.  Prior experience in IT and related disciplines can be helpful, but not required.  In  fact, lack of experience is just as helpful.

I am looking for writers who are interested in helping and receiving training.  I am confident that Holly will help make sure the training doesn’t suck.

Holly and I are determined to do everything possible to keep these systems or their successors running for seventy five (75) years.  Neither Holly nor I will be here in 2090, but there is a chance her systems will.  That tells you right there, we are going to need people making this happen, besides us.

No one can do much work for free.  The training provided here is the same training provided to interns and apprentices at my company.  One of the goals we all share is making what I’d call “a lot” of money working on systems  In other words, the technology and work experience her at Holly Lisle’s Online Writing School is a path to professional work with the pay that comes with it.  We are not only teaching how to run the machines, but we are teaching how to make money and have a good life as a result  of working on the machines.

If not enough writers get involved, then I will be recruiting interns who are not writers to work here, because there is to much for me to do alone. The reason I am reaching out to writers first is writers will do the best job.  Not just on writing systems either.

Trudging your road to the Happy Destiny of professional writing might cause you to lose sight of something I can see, and I know every writing must have seen at some time or other.  There is not a single thing in the universe that is like writing.  Only humans do it.  Not all humans do it the same.

If we had to make a list of the most important things humans have done, it easier to imagine an argument over which books to include, not WHETER books, writing should be included.  Most of the writers I have worked with professionally were journalist or marketing people.  I have spent my share of time around lawyers, because my family is filled with them.  Lawyers take special note of their writing.  All writers, of all kinds, plug into world in a different way than the rest of us.  You all know, your writing talents have no end of potential uses.  What you might not know is writing skill possibly is the absolute best background for people coming into the field of professional computing.

Think I am just making this up?  When I worked for
Andersen Consulting, (now Accenture), their preferred hire for their programming staff was English majors.  Not just any, they looked for motivated, intelligent people, but no background our main work, programming, was needed.  They would train everyone.  They built a company with more than 300,000 employees and $30b in annual revenue.  I am not looking for $30b in annual revenue.  Not even $one billion.  I am looking for people to start a chain of people that will operate without stopping for 75 years.  If we have people doing that, there will be a chance that some of what we make in system today will still be operating and useful in 75 years.

I am looking for people who either just want to help out, or maybe people who see a higher purpose served by Holly Lisle’s Online Writing School, who can see that work needs to be done to keep this purpose alive.  Well, it is an online school, so systems are part of what this school is, and Holly, for reasons I really do not understand, has vested in me major responsibility for the systems used by this school.  I love this work.  I work harder on it than any work I have ever done.  With all my time and effort, I cannot come anywhere near doing all that is needed.  So, what I am doing is building a perpetually growing team.  Except for some writers, everyone on the team will be doing this work primarily for support of their career development.  Instead of paying a school or college  to walk them through impractical unrealistic classes on programming, they will get training on the practical requirements of keeping a working system alive and building replacements.  Do any among us think Holly is going to stop innovating and redefining the systems she needs?  There always will be a mountain of development work here.  This work is the basic purpose of the business and eduction program I am building.  Why this school as my focus?  Well, what better purpose could there be?  This school brings writers and writing into the world.  Seriously, name one thing that more worthwhile that.  I’ll tell ou what I told Holly.  When my day comes to chat with my buddy, Peter, Up at The Pearly Gates, if he’s going to tell me an area I fell short in was picking support of Holly Lisle’s Online Writing School as the best thing I could to culminate my career, my conscience will be clear that I gave my all to something I really thought was such a good thing, I didn’t see any reason to look for something better.  It is not just my feeling I am talking about.  I have heard from a a few people around here  There is something here that comes from another dimension of human existence.  It a dimensions that thumbs its nose at science.  Science cannot detect it, but that does not make it unreal. The Human race is here.And here, people take what they are doing very seriously.  What could be better to support than this, in the real world?

And as you can see, one of the things I am going to need help with is explaining this to people.  For that, and many other reasons, Holly Lisle’s Online Writing School needs writers working on its systems.

How this goes is going to matter.

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Lessons from the Fall: Beta Test Hell

The Current HTTS Website: Undead and still coming for me.

The Current HTTS Website: Undead and still coming for me.

To see if I could make things easier for writers using the How To Think Sideways site, (still with the shop locked while it awaits installation of the interim site), I put together a beta test site using a theme I thought would help, and a plugin I REALLY thought would help. (Both theme and plugin shall remain nameless because I have no desire to rip apart the work of others.)

One of the writers who did the beta test contacted me after reading my post-beta analysis (link opens in new tab), worried that if I got so few responses from so many folks who had actually joined the beta test, he had no hope of anyone ever finding his work.

Not so.

Here is my reply to him:

Hi, BOB, (name changed to my all-time favorite fall-back name to protect the innocent)

I spent the weekend down with a migraine that I still have. More on that in a minute.

As for the beta test, I think what happened was fatigue.

I built the site and sent folks in to give me comments in the form at the end of the first test class.

People went in and did the comments in the form.

The form didn’t work.

I sent everyone back in to do the comments in the form again after “fixing” it.

The form didn’t work.

I set up a page for comments, and the people who had already done the damn thing twice thought, “Fuck it, I’ve already done the damn thing twice,” and didn’t comment a third time.

But I could only use the comments I had, and the comments I had were not sufficient to demonstrate to me that repainting my current sinking ship was valid use of my time.

I’d already wasted about a week building the beta, and my long-suffering testers had made two attempts using software I was hoping would make life easier for everyone on the current site, and had received resounding proof that the plugin I’d hoped would fix things would in fact… NOT.

And this process, which has a lot in common with most of my experience with building my own sites—and which is why I don’t WANT to build my own sites anymore—gave me the migraine that I still can’t shake.

Which is further proof that I need to focus on writing, let Dan do the software end of things, and make life less hideous for my head.

I wanted to let folks know where things stand right now.

Dan is running ahead of schedule, and may have the fixed interim site up on HowToThinkSideways.com as early as tonight. If he does, I’ll go into the help desk, grab all the ON HOLD tickets, and fix each of those accounts tomorrow morning. AND open the shop.

Even if he doesn’t, we are very close, and will be using the same URL for now.

The new site will go live when Dan is done building my new software, and not in a half-assed fashion beforehand.

So now I’m getting back to Episodes 3 and 4 of Tale From The Longview, so that I can get Module Four of How To Write A Series started.

Onward, migraine in tow.

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HowToThinkSideways.com Is Moving to A New Site

Moving HowToThinkSideways.com

Moving HowToThinkSideways.com

If you have ever purchased a class or a book from me using the old HollyShop or any of my sites, please put yourself on the list below. We'll be moving HowToThinkSideways.com to a new URL, and I need to let my readers, as well as past and present students know the following:
  • How to get to the new site
  • How to get to your purchases once you're there
  • How to use the very nice coupon I'm putting together as a thank you for folks putting up with the multitude of things that have been going wrong with HowToThinkSideways.com over the past...well, quite a while.
We're not moving onto the software Dan is building for me yet. We're just getting out of the earthquake zone and onto stable ground so that he and I can actually get work done without having to put out fires on the existing software. Thank you so much.


Before I was so RUDELY interrupted…

Rude Interruption

Rude Interruption

I had just put together my schedule for the next couple of months. (Link opens in new tab).

The VERY next day, a WordPress update broke an old plugin on my HowToThinkSideways.com site that just happened to have been delivering about 90% of my readers’ and writers’ purchased downloads.

I finished manually locating and manually moving each of those roughly 800 downloads into new download software and manually attaching those downloads to the correct class and purchase pages late yesterday.


Today, I’m resuming my Writing Life plan. Onward.

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Helping to Clear Holly’s Schedule – Work on Her Systems

I wanted to let people who read Holly’s blog know I took a hard look at asking if people here are interested in helping with the work of putting together the systems she needs.  With so many people showing such a willingness to help, I thought there must be  way to put that energy to work on the systems.


About a week ago I  kept seeing the race into the Oklahoma Territory, only it was writers racing to the aid of Holly’s systems. Then just as I was ready to open the gates to anyone who wanted to volunteer, I got a horrible feeling.  Here  is what I almost published:

going for help

I was seconds away from publishing this.  Click for a full-sized view.


The problem was, I could not see how this was going to work.

Reining-in enthusiasm.  Sometimes, slowing down accelerates a resulkt

Reining-in enthusiasm. Sometimes, slowing down accelerates a result. (image is in the public domain).

Writing a Guide

It’s taken a few days to work this through, but basically, I have to prepare for making something like this work.  With the help of a writer, I am making a guide for the work that goes into making Holly’s systems.  Once the guide is usable, it will spell out the preparations needed to train and support people who would like to help with Holly’s systems.  I wish I could do more immediately.


Can’t we just go buy a guide? We can go buy a guide.

Or download a free guide from the internet?  Yes, we can do that too.

I mean, can’t we just go buy a  good guide?  No, that is not possible.

Are you saying there is not a single good guide we can use instead of writing our own?  What I am saying is, we need a guide that is tailored to our situation.

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Scheduling a writing life: Follow-up #1

Picture of me in my office. Sort of.

Picture of me in my office. Sort of.

I’m following up on the “How Would You Clear My Schedule” post.

First, INTERNS!!! was the cool and awesome suggestion that I leapt on, only to discover that the legal ramifications made it impossible for me to do. (Enormous thanks to Margaret Fisk, who did the research and let me know about this.)

There are folks actively hunting for ways to monetize the suing of folks who offer internships, so I killed the intern program. I don’t make enough to pay even one full-time employee at minimum wage, much less the numbers I need to actually get my out of print and “messed-up-in-print” work into circulation in a professional fashion.

So here are the three things I’ll be dealing with in May (with probable leak-over into June)

PART 1: Working with Dan on software development for my new sites.

This HAS to be done, and it has to be done now. The most recent WordPress update broke HowToThinkSideways.com admin for a full week. Dan had to do major, major overhaul work to get it up and running for me again so that I could go in and fix accounts for folks and do the other things I do in admin. (Create products, set up coupons, kill spammers, add new pages for things like the live chats…)

I have to consider that the NEXT WordPress update is likely to not just break MY access, but everyone’s access.

So, as I said, this has to be done, and it has to be done now, and I am not a passive observer. I am wire-framing the designs for my future software, designing interfaces and front-ends and describing how I need elements to interact with users and databases. I am designing a fair amount of stuff that doesn’t exist yet, but so far, I haven’t done anything that Dan says is impossible.

I have most of the wire-frames that I think I’ll need done. As we build, and as we start bringing in live testers, I’ll have to amend things and I’ll have to add things. But Dan’s and my objective is to have me off of WordPress for good, and onto the software I need, by the end of the year, and sooner if possible.

PART 2: Finishing up The Prisoner Gambit, and then writing the next HTWAS Demo Story for the HTWAS Class.
Before I can take the next module of How To Write A Series live, I have to write my proof-of-concept story for my writers. MODULE FOUR of How To Write A Series, by the way, is going to be PREVENTING SERIES BOREDOM—Yours and Theirs.

So figure that I’m going to have to pull out all the stops for the fourth HTWAS demo story—Longview 4: Vipers’ Nest. AND keep it between 20,000 and 30,000 words, which is getting really tough. These things keep trying to turn into novels on me, and in the first three stories, I’ve already done the equivalent of one full-length novel.

PART 3: Working with RMW Beta Testers
What I’ve done instead is ask founding members of ReadersMeetWriters.com to beta-test the in-house certification courses I’m putting together for RMW, and to test the courses using my lessons, letting me know where there are problems, and letting me fix the courses while they practice on my books. That way, RMW members who take the training for things like Manuscript Layout and Cover Art Design will not have to get the versions with splinters. My volunteers are taking the pain for them.

I’ll fit in other things as I can, but getting my out-of-print stuff off of my hard drive is done, and delegated, and the weight off of my mind from just that is massive. If I can also get two stories written, and my part of the software development mostly finished between now and the end of June, I’ll be in much better shape than I was when I asked for help.

Thank you for your suggestions. I wanted you to see what I’ve done with them so far.

I’ll be back here when I’ve finished something. 😀

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Now available to everyone: The Indie Pub Live Chat plus links

I think this particular chat—covering some of the issues of indie publishing, is one of the best live events I’ve done in a while. You can watch it and get the links, plus all the other chats in this series, here:

No login necessary. Just go ahead over.

HOWEVER: I experienced technical difficulties.

What this means is that I’m going to look for someone who can go in there for me and help me out by popping up links, polls, other screens, and other things that take my focus away from answering questions. This is just a volunteer thing, but if you’re interested (AFTER watching the chat—please make sure you know what you’re getting into going in) just let me know here.

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Live Writing Chat #3: Today, May 5th at 1 PM ET

If you haven’t yet signed up for this chat, you can do so here:

This is what I’ll be discussing:

WEBINAR #3: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015, 1 PM ET


  • Building A Backlist
  • Existing Backlist
  • Indie Publishing
  • Beta Readers
  • Editors
  • ISBNs
  • Copyright
  • Pricing

In order to make tomorrow’s live chat run a bit more smoothly, if you have additional questions on these topics not included on pages 9-11 of the chat download here, please post them below and I’ll add them tomorrow before I go live.

I hope I’ll see you there.

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Intern Program #1: FICTION Critter, Editor, Copyeditor, Text Layout, Cover Design, Fiction Launch Path

I’ve created my first intern program: COMMERCIAL FICTION DEVELOPMENT. The first intern program is for people who want to work with WRITERS OF FICTION (and personal non-fiction). And who want to get paid to do this.

I’m looking for people with whom I can work LONG-TERM. I want to build a team I can rely on to work with every fiction project I write, and ideally the first interns who join the program would become my team, and will still be working with me as indie contractors 25 years from now.

However, I know other writers need help, too—and I know where hundreds of these writers are (ReadersMeetWriters.com), and I can train more folks than just my own team.

Whether we end up working together long-term or not, I’ll make sure that, if you take the program seriously and apply the necessary effort to learn the skills I teach, I’ll recommend you in ReadersMeetWriters for the skills you learned, and you can offer your skills in the RMW Market with my recommendation as your first client.

This is the program to apply for if you want to get to read a lot of fiction, and work with writers to help them make their fiction the best it can be, and to learn how to get it out into the world to reach other readers.

If you maintain your active status as an intern, you will get hands-on experience and training in doing:

  • Professional-quality crits
  • Manuscript Content Editing
  • Manuscript Copy Editing
  • Manuscript Text Layout and Manuscript Formatting
  • Cover copy and promotional copy
  • Cover Design
  • Fiction copy and launch building

Each of these skills is needed not just by me, but by the members of ReadersMeetWriters.com

And I’ll be recruiting FROM the membership of ReadersMeetWriters.com for my first interns. Here’s the program.

BEGINNING INTERNS—You’ll work with my previously published work doing:

  • Reading and bughunting
  • Manuscript layout and pre-formatting (for novels) and ebook creation (for short fiction)
  • Writing cover copy and other promotional copy
  • Designing cover art
  • BASIC fiction launch training

ADVANCED INTERNS—Interns who perform well and reliably and hit deadlines consistently will move on to working with my new fiction as I write it, doing:

  • Reader crits of first drafts
  • Content editing of final drafts
  • Manuscript copyediting
  • ADVANCED fiction launch training

BEGINNING INTERNS will receive my downloadable training for bug-hunting, manuscript layout and formatting, writing cover copy, designing cover art, and basic fiction launches, and you’ll get my input on each step you complete.

When the split-tester becomes available, we will split-test cover-copy, cover art, and launch elements, and you will be able to see which of your own work is best (you’ll do multiple entries), and how your work stacks up against the work by others—and you’ll be able to use what you learn to improve your skills.

By successfully completing each section, interns will receive my recommendation and points in ReadersMeetWriters.com, as well as the courses I offer that include additional training.

Interns will also receive an acknowledgment in each book on which they are an active participant.

I have room for twelve interns who will work in teams of three on the 19 projects I have ready to go. I will open up replacement slots for any interns who drop out of the program.

Interns with whom I work well and who enjoy working with me will progress to the ADVANCED PROGRAM.

All advanced interns will take How To Revise Your Novel at an accelerated pace, and will use this course to understand how to revise and edit fiction. You will each receive first-draft manuscripts of previously published works of mine to use for practice, and once you have completed the course and a full edit of a first-draft manuscript, will work with me on live fiction as I create it.

ADVANCED INTERNS will also take the advanced fiction launch training I am currently developing, and will set up test launches. Successful test launches will become live launches. When each ADVANCED INTERN runs a successful live launch, that intern will receive fiction launch certification for use in RMW. I will contract with one or two certified fiction launchers to plan, set up, and run my own launches, and will recommend certified fiction launchers to RMW members looking to hire them.

This intern program will be a lot of work, will not cost you anything, but also will not pay you anything.

You’ll receive free training; you’ll receive points and recommendations in RMW if you do well; you’ll receive acknowledgement in the books you help fix.

And as I’m able to move from the intern-training model to hiring contractors, I will.

If you want to apply for an internship, watch your email from the RMW list. If you are not currently a member, you can join ReadersMeetWriters.com, which is still in its BETA stage. I’ll send an email out early next week.

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