Somebody’s Lying! 1392 words, 65,395 total… and “Too Good to Be True” comes to town

By Holly Lisle

Today was a hoot.


Yesterday, I left my main in the middle of a situation that could have turned into a nightmare for her.

And I saved and quit for the day having no idea how I was going to handle it. 

Today, though, the last line I wrote yesterday turned out to be just exactly right… because it could mean two completely different things at the same time, and it turns out I figured out a way to let it mean both.

Which SOLVED a situation that could have ended in bloodshed, disaster, and horror… and instead became pretty funny.

The truth underneath isn’t funny. It’s desperately important, and scary, and my main character both knows the truth and had a hand in engineering the plausible lie that’s covering it up.

She de-escalated the disaster down into “oops, it was all a big misunderstanding.”

It wasn’t. Isn’t.

And tomorrow, I get to bring out the truth, and start building toward the end of the novel, and closure for the fifth book, and maybe a slightly broader tie-up for the first five books of the series.

I have to wrap everything up with less than a third of the book remaining. So tomorrow, my objective is to let my mind wrap itself around creating the events that will conclude the novel, and tie up any remaining threads from the first four… and still leave myself elbow room for a bunch of stand-alones in the same world to follow.

And because I know not all of you guys are readers waiting for the book — some of you are writers watching what I’m doing (and some of you guys might be new to me) — I’ve covered in detail the way I’m writing these books in two classes I built:

How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers  … and How to Write a Novel.

I have a system. It looks pretty chaotic from the outside, but there really is a method to the madness, and it’s allowed me write books I’m happy with and hit my deadlines for about thirty-one years now.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Yesterdays revelation became today’s surprising scene

By Holly Lisle

I knew yesterday that I left myself in a good place when I wrapped up the words. I didn’t realize how good until I started rolling this morning. My main character had a massive revelation about the crushing mistake she was about to make, and figured out a way to avert disaster on the upcoming Day One of a big situation she has invited — and has to survive.

No way to avoid the fact that she’s got a potential explosion on her hands — but she didn’t make the Well-Meaning Big Stupid Mistake — and her ally is working with her to help her see through the lens of the past a couple of other big mistakes in history she doesn’t want to replay.

Bad things are still going to happen. She has folks who hate her and want to see her family line die out with her, and because she doesn’t know who they are, but they know exactly who she is, she’s at a major disadvantage.

But with an interesting new perspective, she’s at least figured out a better way to deal with what’s coming at her from out of the dark.

1398 words today, 60,171 total today, and I’m very happy with where this is.

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Wow! 1412 words, two hours… And LIGHTNING struck! (Or… “Am I making a huge mistake?”)

By Holly Lisle

I’d written myself into a corner yesterday, and I had absolutely no clue what was going to happen next.

See… Brain writes the outlines and the overall planning. Gut, however, writes the words, and Gut — like a willful horse — is entirely capable of getting the bit between his teeth and galloping straight toward whatever suddenly looks good.

Over the last few days (my time, not hers) my main character has experienced an appalling revelation, a near-death experience, and an unexpected triumph combined with a terrible loss…

And I thought she was still heading toward the same basic end-story objective, but getting there by some strange side paths.

I was still having to get there by pure pantsing, because I left my line-for-scene outline a couple chapters ago in pursuit of The Better Idea.

But today I found myself staring at a wall where I realized I’d just caused the utter obliteration of the ending I thought I was going to write.

Brain was muttering…

“Right… That thing you blew up yesterday was supposed to be the heart of your conflict for another five books after this five, and now… BLAMMO? You sure you want to save what you did yesterday? You can go back. Back is SAFE. Back in KNOWN. Back is the PLAN… and you liked the PLAN when you wrote it.”

Gut held firm. Gut said, “Don’t be a chicken. You knew yesterday’s stuff was cool when you wrote it, and now you want to wuss out and go with what’s safe? C’mon! Grow a pair!” 

Small side note here while I point out that my gut is kind of a jerk sometimes… but it’s almost always right about the fiction, so I have learned to look past the taunting to the meat of the argument.

Which is that what I got yesterday was really cool. Gut is absolutely right about that.

It isn’t what I planned, but it’s better than what I’d planned. It isn’t Safe. But Safe in fiction, the Known in fiction, the Expected in fiction… are always okay.

They are NEVER fucking amazing.

And today I had to look at the loss of some words to return to the Safe Known. Or to keep moving forward in pursuit of the hope of bringing home something fucking amazing…

With the acknowledged very real possibility that I will fall on my face, absolutely wreck this story, and then have a gruelling, long slog through it when I go back through to do the One-Pass Five Book Revision <shudder> that waits for me at the end of this process. Where I will end up turning it into the book I’d planned to write.

I’m choosing to chase the chance to make this fucking amazing.

This may be a serious tactical error on my part, and if you find me in here next month muttering, “Yep… should have got back to the outline…”


You’re invited to say, “Well, I thought you were nuts when you veered away from your plan into fresh new territory.”

Not yet, though. Let’s see where this goes.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

A second day of uphill — but progress uphill is still progress

By Holly Lisle

I’m at the midpoint of Ohio 5, the stakes are high, my MC has just discovered for the first time in the series HOW high… and, to rearrange some Rush lyrics that THEY borrowed, I’ve just discovered, from John Barth’s The Tidewater Tales, 

My characters will pay the price, but they will not count the cost.

I’d love to write further on the book, but today has not been easy, and brought with it both cause for a headache and the headache that followed. 

So I’m going to take my 701 words, and my nearly 40,000 total, and say “good enough.”

And disappear for the weekend, where I will play video games, and read books, and nap on the couch if the mood strikes me.

And Monday I’ll come back, bringing new words to the story.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

The Write Stuff 2022 Story Bundle… and me!

By Holly Lisle

This year I was invited for into a StoryBundle for the first time… and I accepted the invitation because the bundle includes not just a bunch of really good writers of both fiction and nonfiction, but two of my genuine writing heroes — Lawrence Block, whose Telling Lies for Fun and Profit helped me teach myself how to build a fiction career back when I was a registered nurse working ER…

…And Kristine Kathryn Rusch, whose work I loved, and from whom (in her other job as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction back then), I received a number of my better rejections.

There are also folks whose names I knew, and two who are brand new to me.

And I liked the cause: AbleGamers. While I’m primarily a solitary gamer, I’ve played with other folks on occasion — and you can build meaningful relationships through shared gaming peak experiences.


Find the story bundle here:

2022 Write Stuff Bundle

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More good words: 762 for the day, 24,969 total… and heading somewhere I didn’t expect

By Holly Lisle

Books surprise you. Characters surprise you. And my two MCs are, after a bit of stress and angst, heading toward a solution I didn’t see coming from a character I had not expected to take on a role of major importance.

But this is what characters do. They start out looking like these goofy buggers on the fringe, just there so they can have anvils dropped on them, and all of a sudden they grab on and do something really damn important.

Good writing day. Would have been longer if I weren’t still working on the website, but I am getting the relaunch set up.

Date for the reopening is t I have just got to get through this mess before I can get back to writing as the BIG job.

It’s still the first job, though. And the best one. 😀

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

151 words — Got started early on the HWC upgrade and am still working on that.

By Holly Lisle

I’m glad I got words. I didn’t get many, and this late in the day (when I got these early this morning), I don’t even remember if they were particularly good, or fun, or anything.

After an entire day of working on a website — and I’ve been over at since 7:30 AM today working at bringing stuff back to life — fiction is kind of a fuzzy dream.

I’ll be damn glad to get back to it tomorrow, though.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

409 words on Ohio Five… and the shoe dropped. PLUS a site update.

By Holly Lisle

My MC’s bad day just got a whole lot worse…

But then (as I finally get to bring out into the open a secret story thread that started back in Book 1) I got to add a tiny bit of sunshine to the story.

My poor main character is still going to have a rotten day. But now at least she knows it isn’t as rotten as it could have been.

UPDATE ON THE SITE… We’re lined up for the final tests.

Once we’ve done those successfully, we’ll move the site.

The moving part will go quickly. Getting people back in won’t, because we have to start with small groups and fix things that may have broken in the move, and then move in larger groups.

I think we have pretty much everyone now, but for any HWC members who might not have added themselves to the HWC member list, here’s the Member form that adds the HWC MEMBER tag, and that will make sure you get your new-software login instructions and invitation:



Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Finished Chapter 1 of Ohio Five!

By Holly Lisle

And it was not easy. I wrote words, then deleted a BUNCH of words, including some of the ones I’d just written, and then got the right words. 

I managed to capture this in pictures. 

My starting wordcount…Screen Shot 2022 01 14 at 10 42 53 AM

The wordcount after I realized I was writing in the wrong direction and deleted a hefty chunk of stuff…

Ohio 5 2 2022 01 14 at 10 43 17 AM

And my final wordcount after realizing what the right direction was…

Ohio 5 3 2022 01 14 at 10 55 57 AM

It’s a process. And this time the process let me dump a lot of thicket so that I could see both the forest AND the trees. Which, considering my main character and the guy who was first to the scene of a BIG crime are now hiking together towards the woods, is an appropriate metaphor.

With good and happy and dangerous words now on the page, I can head off to work on the website again, a more cheerful and considerably less stressed-out person.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Another stolen hour on Ohio Five… 541 words, and a new discovery. AND a website update.

By Holly Lisle

In Ohio Five this morning, I got a bit of additional backstory on the terribly important guy who has now gone missing, and am moving to a big moment for my main character.

And I got to write some more fiction, which was a pure joy.

Now back to the website, with the knowledge that we are very close to being done with it, at which point I’ll be able to go back to Book 5 pretty much full time.

Giving my first hour to writing Ohio Five these past couple of mornings has been a joy. Starting the day with my real job reminds me that the website building (which has never, ever been my favorite thing) is just a temporary disarrangement of my life, and that the work I love is waiting on the side of this.

Now, however, I’m off to to find out how close we are to wiping out the old software and replacing it with the new software. Pretty sure it will be early this week. And if it is, after my hour of stolen time each morning, I’m going to be doing a bunch of bringing writers into their new accounts a bit at a time, and working in the help desk with Becca getting folks back to their classes, and making sure all the links we break in the move get updated to working links in all the lessons of all my classes.

I’m SO grateful to have site members who volunteered to help out.

Wish us all luck on the post-site-upgrade repairs. <shudder> It is going to be a big job.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved