Still building the website… Asking for help from HTTS students…

By Holly Lisle

Most of the classes are built, but there’s this series of “Quick-Fix” bonuses I was building for How to Think Sideways before the site software broke (and then hurricane… and hurricane… and then we moved, and my programmer moved on, and I got kind of buried in stuff)…

…that I’m having a helluva time finding.

This is kind of a long list, but I’m requesting that if you’re a current or graduate How To Think Sideways student who has any of the PDFs or MP3s for the quick fixes on your hard drive, you contact me in the forum.

NOT ALL OF THEM ARE DONE! But I don’t want to re-do the ones that are… and a vigorous search of my hard drive and BOTH backup drives suggests that somehow I managed to not SAVE some of these. Probably because I did them on my laptop — which does not get the same rigorous backups my work computer gets.

Get Beyond The Blinking Cursor
Get words—good words—on the page in just minutes, without anxiety, without dread, without second-guessing yourself, without struggling for the ONE perfect word, or sentence, or paragraph your mind insists you must have.

No. More. Wire. Hangers.
Or any other picky details, world-building procrastination, backstory bingeing, character indulgence, costume mania, or the rest of the fun distractions you’ve been chasing so you can tell yourself you’re working while you avoid writing. Do this, get story words now.

“But I’ll Never Be Shakespeare…”
Stall out because you compare yourself to writers you aren’t and never will be? Here’s a quick and dirty solution to stop THAT little problem dead in its tracks.

Write A Starter Scene That Doesn’t Suck
Smack your inner critic over the head with this one mean, fast sledgehammer, and get on with your words before the bastard wakes up.

Defenestrate The Dwindling, Superfluous Self-Aggrandizement Of Perambulating Verbosity
Description dragging your story through frozen molasses? This quickie will pitch the blather out the window in a hurry.

“I Don’t Love You Anymore… I Don’t Know If I EVER Loved You.”
Keep leaving your unfinished stories at the altar so you can run off with that hot young idea that looks so much better? “Hang on for one more day” with THIS short exercise.

“I Can’t Make Myself Write.”
If this is your problem, I have a fix. I call this one the “Ice Water” exercise. It’s a shocker.

Cure Hummingbird Brain
Write, delete, backup, fidget… New idea—”Hey, that’s cool,”—new character magically appears… “SQUIRREL!”—glass of water, check the email… Sound familiar? This frikkin’ defines me. Here’s how I fight it—and win—every damn day.

Fix Day-Week-Month Stalls
You’re moving along at a steady page, getting your daily word count… until you hit a story problem. And you stop to figure it out… only the quick stop turns into a day… a week… a month… This one is an EASY fix.

Write Interesting Plot Ideas
Plotting out your story in advance and all of a sudden, you’re faced with characters and story going nowhere fast? Take only a few minutes, and stir your anthill with this BIG stick.

Conquer Wild Bob, The Plot Destroyer
So you have this out-of-control character, and he insists that your story is going to go HIS way, in spite of the fact that HIS way bears no resemblance to the story you want to write. You have some new alternatives to get him to toe the line.

He won’t like them.

But you will.

Create Lightning Conflict for Every Situation
Struggling with what conflict is, how it works, or how to get it into your story now? I once plotted an entire novel using JUST this trick. (Deadlines, again, and howling desperation).

Hammer Out Human Dialogue
While consistent dialogue problems come from story issues rather than a failure of technique, and call for a more comprehensive fix, this quick trick can help you get your folks to sound like real people for the scene you’re writing.

 Stop Rushing Your Stories
There are a lot of reasons for rushing. The need to eat is a big one, and can’t be fixed by this technique. But if you’re galloping to the end of the story for no reason but to start writing the next one, my “tunnel” will help you take the time you need to do the story right.

 Break the Perfectionist Freeze
Can’t write anything because it doesn’t turn out perfect the first time through? Yeah. I remember that. You may have to repeat this exercise, but you’ll get wonderful first-draft words when you’re done.

Writing In The Midst of Chaos
Writers love the ideal of the silent room away from everything where they can be alone with their thoughts. But I’ve written whole novels at a desk jammed against one wall of a living room with a TV behind me, kids arguing on the couch, cats with the rips tearing through the house… and you can, too. If you can’t get silence or alone time, you can still write.

Fixing Transition Terrors
Some writers dread transitions like vampires dread pointy fire-hardened aged oak stakes. Unnecessarily (for the writers), as it turns out. Two minutes, five quick questions, and you’ll have your transition. And it’ll be a good one.

“So… I’m In the Middle, And I Finished a Scene, and… and… and…”
Lost in the vast desert of your story’s middle? Let’s chop this sucker down to size, and give you the next thing to write, right now.

Make the Time to Write Today
I have to thank my father for this one. It was his solution to all the time crunches he had when I was a very small kid, and it’s worked for me for everything, not just writing. Mix this one with Get Beyond the Blinking Cursor, and you can write every day for the rest of your life, no matter how hellish the day’s schedule.

Write Compelling Description
Ever write like you were flying, have the words just shoot from your fingertips, only to discover on rereading that you have written action, you have written dialogue, but the whole thing might as well have take place in a vacuum? This quick fix will give you immersive, fast-paced description. Fast-paced description? Seriously.

Stop Changing Your Mind Mid-Story
You want to welcome the ideas that help you move your story forward. This is how good stories become great stories. You DON’T want or need to welcome ideas not related to your story, that derail you, that prevent you from finishing anything, and that are in the end, destructive to your success. With this tiny workshop—as long as you USE—it, the ideas that destroy your progress will no longer bother you.

Muzzle Your Over-Controlling Inner Editor
This workshop is a walk on the weird side, a couple minutes of focused fix you can put into play when your Inner Editor (left brain) starts stomping on your Muse (right brain).

Learn Your Plotting ABCs
Have trouble with plotting? Need a quick, simple, no-jargon no-theory way to just get the damned story to roll in the right direction? In this micro-workshop, you’ll learn exactly that.

Gun-To-The-Head Emotion
Do you have a hard time getting characters to react with believable passion, fear, dread, shock, humor, lust, or rage? Need to give your story an emotional jumpstart? You’ll get the quick fix for that.

Speak With Different Voices
All your characters sound the same? Need to give each one a unique voice without resorting to the ear-torturing dialect of novels from the 1800s? This is simple, fun… but don’t let the neighbors catch you.

Pacing: Pick It Up
In this second Pacing Quick-Fix, kick a dragging scene into high gear with a 1, 2, 3 exercise that will both pick up the pace, and make you grin.

Pacing: Slow It Down
Have a scene you know is racing away from you that must go slower? Use this little technique to put the brakes on.

Life Is Short and Art Is Long and Marathons Are HARD
Writing and finishing novels—good novels—requires endurance. Patience. Unrelenting focus for long periods of time. And life has so many emergencies, urgencies, and bumps that can pull you away. SOME emergencies really are… but this trick will help you winnow out the chaff and keep your attention where you want it to be.

Butt In Chair
Want to write, but find yourself polishing the brass scones or folding underwear into 6″ squares (you know because you measured), or mowing your lawn with scissors instead? Okay—this one you may not like… but one way or the other, you’ll come to terms with the issue.

If you have any of these, log into your account here:

Then go to THIS FORUM LINK, and let me know which ones you have.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

6:47 AM – Finishing Ohio 4, starting Ohio 5, while building the new site

By Holly Lisle


My website over on is undergoing a massive overhaul (complete site rebuild).

And I anticipated the process taking FOUR months.

Turns out… it’s probably not anything like that.

My amazing community moderators over there have already finished building all the classrooms in the new software, and getting all the class materials into them — a process I’d expected to take about two months. That means that all the lessons, all the downloads, all the videos, all the EVERYTHING… are done.

Except for the lesson timers (the things that make a new lesson show up each week for the writer taking the class), which I have to go in and do manually.

Turns out, that takes about ten seconds a lesson, and all the lessons are (for the person building the class), on the same page, so you can just go through and check a box and put in a number and it takes a couple seconds if you’re being careful. 

So, timers are a non-issue. I have to do them, but they won’t slow anything down. That’s what I’m going to do today on all the classes… and I anticipate having all the classes done today… even if I have to duplicate the BIG classes to offer the slower-pace/smaller monthly price one-lesson-every-OTHER-week option.

I’d figured another two months for my two database guys to figure out how to move all the existing members and all their existing classes into the NEW database, while I built the front end — the sales pages for the classes, for us to test the new classroom with the new, beautiful, professional, already integrated shopping cart.

And it very well might take us that long.

But since the software we’re using has built-in professional integration with the shopping cart we’re using… probably not.

Moving ever single writer who ever bought a class (and who therefore still owns it) into the new database might in fact take two months. 

But I’m going to say odds are pretty slim that anything else will.

So I’m saying  BEST CASE, we could be on the new software and live on December 8th (one month from now).

I’m saying that the Reasonable Assumption is that we’ll be moving everyone and everything to the new site (and the new site to around the New Year.

I’m excited. There are a lot of things I’ll be able to do on the new software that I cannot do on the old software… but that’s a post for another time.

Right now… I’m heading in to write the ending of Ohio 4 novel. Yep. LAST SCENE. And I know what I want to have in it.

Tomorrow, I’ll start outlining Ohio 5.

Get Holly’s Free Fiction Sampler, plus Weekly Fiction Updates, and when these books go on sale, get invited to the launch.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

There were chickens. There was roosting… and Evil Took A Bow

By Holly Lisle

Another day of building the fix for the website.

And then a day of coming in late, and tired… and falling into the story.

I did not know that today was going to be the day one of my secondary villains came out of hiding. Or that the various things this character has done would pick TODAY to… er… roost like chickens.

I might have chickens on the brain (my daughter has taken up raising them).

But I stepped into the story distracted by work problems, by stuff that hangs over my head that isn’t any fun… and the story kicked me in the shit, howled “Pay attention…” 

And then did weird, interesting things. 

And I got good words and lots of them.

1,334 words for the day, 82,047 overall.

I’m closing on the end. I don’t know what it’s going to be — my outline went out the damn window some ways back like … like a chicken eyeing a big vat of boiling oil (now I want fried chicken)…

And now I’m thinking blogging while hungry is a bad idea.


I’m near the end of Book 4.

Something today changed everything. 

My MC has a new enemy. A new way of seeing not just her town, but her time since she arrived in Ohio.

And until I’ve slept on it, I’m not going to know exactly what changed, or exactly what effect it’s going to have. But I’ll say this: Tomorrow should be really interesting.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Had no sleep last night, feel like crap. 127 words

By Holly Lisle

It’s something. That’s all I can say.

I’m going to do two more small things today, and then go sack out on the couch.

Get Holly’s Free Fiction Sampler, plus Weekly Fiction Updates, and when these books go on sale, get invited to the launch.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Ya gotta love an evil plan…

By Holly Lisle

…And in Book 4 of the Ohio Series, way toward the end, (where I only have about 14,000 words left to finish the damn thing…

The Evil Plan just crawled out of the woodwork.

Not just for my characters.



I’m at roughly seventy-six thousand words in the FOURTH book of the series, with only one more book to go to wrap SERIES ONE…

And NOW the monsters let me know what they’re up to?!


Yep. Apparently now. It’s way better than anything I could have planned, because it so much meaner than anything I would have planned, and so much BIGGER, and so… horrible.

And while I know my brain does this shit all the time, and while I know that no matter what I’ve planned, my subconscious mind is going to be actively working to make all of that feel too stale and too small when it hits me with its next bit of better…

It’s still always a shock when it happens.

So. Today was… AWESOME!

And even more so because there’s not a single thing that landed on my head today that’s going to have to be retrofitted into the nearly 400,000 words I’ve already done.

I’m all about the HAPPY DANCE today, lemme tell you.

Now, I’m off to work on the replacement website for the next four or five hours. Wish me luck.

[And for my writing students following this blog, I’m not going to flog the current class discounts via email. I am going to say here that prices on the classes are going to return to normal as soon as the new version of the site goes live. And that is going to be AS SOON AS WE CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN, BECAUSE our old software is now way too creaky and old to keep using.]

Anyway… Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you in here next Monday.

My daily words are funded by my Ko-Fi supporters.

All supporters are thanked by name (withheld by request) in
each book’s acknowledgements.
To add your support, use the orange Support me button
on the bottom left corner of this page.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Juggling work… and work… and WORK… 70,935 words total

By Holly Lisle

Holly’s Writing Classes is on old software, and I’ve delayed as long as I can on upgrading it.

Now I’m having to move it to really nice PROFESSIONAL class delivery and teaching software… and even though I have awesome moderators who are helping me do this, there’s some stuff ONLY I can do, and even that takes a lot of work and a lot of time. 

And I got a bit sidetracked this morning on figuring out how to run the new site.

Meanwhile, I’m writing novel four of five in the OHIO series.

And today — well, I did not Dorothy Hamill this particular Monday. I landed on my ass.

I only got about 900 words done on the book, and I don’t know the exact number because my damn word counter on Scrivener had my “day” (the hours between which words will count for this day, and when they will roll over to the next day) to 2 PM.

So when I was still working on the book past 2, Scrivener ate the day’s count.

And I didn’t record what I accomplished Friday in my journal.

Shit happens, but this wasn’t that. This was me screwing up. I allowed my attention to be dragged away by the lure of awesome new software.

I know I got ABOUT 900  words.

That’s not the way I want to run my Mondays.

But now I do have other things I absolutely have to get done. So tomorrow, I’m going to pay attention to staying focused on just one task at a time.

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Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

So today I’m sixty-one… RIGHT…

By Holly Lisle

We had our little pizza and birthday-pie (I’m not a cake fan) celebration last night, because Matt doesn’t have today off.

So today, while I AM going to be taking the day off from the novel, I’m working on fixing the website.

Doing a big overhaul, upgrading stuff to a new platform and new software, moving ALL the students and class owners…

This isn’t going to be done today. The actual work of it isn’t even going to be STARTED today. Today, my moderators and I are just figuring out the new software, and trying to find the easiest ways to bring everything over.


I’m kind of thrilled, actually. I love doing this stuff — and I keep seeing how much more smoothly everything is going to work, and how much more fun it’s going to be to use.

And I’m still keeping my promise to myself that I would not work on the novel on my birthday.

Get Holly’s Free Fiction Sampler, plus Weekly Fiction Updates, and when these books go on sale, get invited to the launch.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Today I studied the map, asked WHY… made good progress on OUTLINE 5… figured out why YESTERDAY crashed…

By Holly Lisle

Can’t say today was easy. I walked in circles (literally) because pacing helps me generate ideas, talked to myself out loud to ask important questions, looked at my map and drew a few circles on it to identify story issues…

And then I went back to the line-for-scene outline and managed to come up with eleven line-for-scene sentences, a MASSIVE conflict I’d forgotten to consider while pushing for the series end, and now not only do I love the new direction the series takes in the final novel…

But I cannot wait to write the damn thing.

Could stuff in BOOK 4 break things in the final outline between now and then?


Could I hit some sort of wall tomorrow while figuring out the remaining eleven LFS sentences?

Oh, most certainly.

But there are solid principles to storytelling that I follow… and if I don’t end up using what I have now, it will only because I have something that is provably better.


About the Tuesday Crash…

I forgot that I hadn’t had any food since Sunday at about 7 p.m.

It’s a mostly regular intermittent fasting thing we do — one meal a day Tuesday through Sunday, then don’t eat again until Tuesday at around 7 p.m.

And mostly that works just fine. Sometimes, though, I get a little hungry by Tuesday morning, and instincts kick in that send me in search of food: BODY gets up and walks to the fridge or to the cashew can, BRAIN grabs body, turns it around, and sits it back at the desk, BODY waits until brain is engaged in though (so not paying attention) and walks over to the damn fridge again…

That, with multiple repetitions, was Tuesday.

Tomorrow, I have eleven more Line-For-Scene Sentences to go to finish the Book 5 outline.

So — this is within reach… and I should be back to writing Book Four on either Friday or Monday.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Have figured out the plot summaries for Ohio 4 and Ohio 5 — now to the line-for-scene outlines

By Holly Lisle

Kind of a headdesk day today.

Been at this for about three hours already, and it looks like I’ve only achieved 60 words so far: A 30-word plot sentence for Ohio 4, and a 30-word plot sentence for Ohio 5.

It’s a lot more than that, though.

While I can’t count any of the words, I had to rant at myself in my text notes to figure out the primary and secondary conflicts on each of the two remaining novels, and make sure I included stories for each of the primary series characters…

And I had to figure out how to retrofit one of this morning’s revelations into the three earlier books without breaking anything…

And I had to ditch my main character’s sister — not just for novel four, but for the entire five-book series. It won’t affect that many scenes, or the overall plot (which, in fact, was one of the problems and part of the reason I have to do it), and I’ve figured out how most of the affected minor scenes be adapted for secondary characters who already have other things to do in this series.

If there is a second five-book series in this world… or just one-off novels… I might be able use the sister.

In this series, though, she ended up having nothing essential to do, and her presence raised questions about why she was there in the first place (she gave my MC something important to do at the start of Book 3) — but I figured out a better way to begin Book 3 that will still hit all the same goals.

So… now I’m going to start the new Book Four line-for-scene outline, and hope I can salvage some scene sentences. If I can’t, I can’t.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Reworking the Ohio #4 Outline — The outline from the current chapter on is “burn to ground, start over”

By Holly Lisle

As noted in yesterday’s post, today’s work has required me to gut the outline for Book 4, and rethink.

While I’ll be able to keep the scenes I’ve already written in Book Four, I won’t be able to keep much of any of the future scenes I’d planned.

Progress is slow, and also (big surprise) painful, because all changes to what I’d planned in Book 4 will have a domino effect on what I’d planned for Book 5, and once I finish the first draft of Book 4, I’m going to have to replot Book 5.

This is the price of the better idea — so before you turn your series upside down to chase this beast, you have to know that your “Better Idea” really is better.

This one is.

It is worth all the work it’s taking me to redo the final two outlines, because the single critical piece of information about the villain that my subconscious mind withheld from me through the writing of the first three books and the first quarter of the forth brings a depth and a power to the story that I hadn’t imagined was possible.

I already built the critical pieces of this story line into the first three books… without knowing I was doing it.

However, in Book 4, I started veering away from this secret I was keeping from myself and what it meant — and that was when my gut told me I’d gone in the wrong direction… and FINALLY told me its secret.

No words today. (There’s no point in counting outline Sentences because they don’t ever show up in the actual story).

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved