I’m closing “How To Think Sideways”

Friday, October 9th, I’m closing my “how to write novels and have a writing career” course, How To Think Sideways.

There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, the course worked much better when people were going through all at the same time, as a class. It was more fun for students, and it was more fun for me. The board discussions were great.

Second, I’m getting ready to start into the writing of
How To Revise Your Novel, and it’s almost certain to entail the 70+ hour weeks that Think Sideways did, and I need to simplify as much of everything else as I can. Which means, in this case, not having sign-up issues to track down at the same time that I’m buried in course work.

Most student problems occur during the first week, when students are unfamiliar with the classroom interface, miss the tutorial (top of left-hand column), and because of this, can’t find lessons, or don’t know where their private workgroup is, or how to sign up for it, or are new to the internet and need help downloading lessons the first time.

Normally, this is no big deal. It’s fun helping people find their way around the class and discover the cool stuff I have in there.

But 70+ hour workweeks change drastically how I operate.

When I’m on a BIG project—and HTRYN is one—I only check e-mail once a day, and NEVER on weekends.

I give my TS students top priority—so this complicates things. I have great moderators in class, but some things (including PayPal stuff) only I can handle.

TS emails are the first e-mails I answer, and some days, the ONLY emails I answer.

AND I’m doing my own e-mail again—the helpdesk software I found was actually eating e-mails that neither Craig nor I got. Actively evil.

ALL mail is once again coming to directly to me.

Two weeks from now, I need to have my mail box mostly calm.


I want the current students to have the fun and excitement with this that the first class had—a good group of folks, lively discussion on the boards, great support from other writers for both the triumphs and the tribulations of getting the words down right.

If you’ve been on the fence, now’s the time.

I’m keeping the doors open until Friday at noon Eastern Daylight Time. I want students to have time to settle in, and I need you to have at least a week to find everything and to give me a chance to make sure everyone has everything working, so I won’t be making exceptions for latecomers.

If you’re not familiar with the course, you can find out more here:


THIS week, I’ll check e-mails even on the weekend, and make sure folks can get settled into class and find everything.

This week and all next week, new students will start finding their way around and I’ll be on hand (with Margaret, Tech Goddess, on call) to iron out any difficulties you may have early on.

And then you’ll be a veteran of the course, and the few e-mails I’ll get, I’ll be able to handle.

I’m not sure when I’ll open Think Sidways again, but it won’t be until after the “EarlyBird class” of “How To Revise Your Novel” graduates, which should be around March? April? It could be when the Official HTRYN Class graduates, which will be in mid-May.

Furthermore, I’ll only be offering Think Sideways in limited-sign-up classes from now on.

I’ll probably make the class available twice a year, but I may alternate it in availability with HTRYN, would would make it available once every 10 months.

We’ll see.

For now, if you know you want to take the course, or simply want to find out more, go to:


Questions? Ask them here.

Want to ask questions to current students and grads. You can ask those here, too.

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37 responses to “I’m closing “How To Think Sideways””

  1. lorri hager Avatar
    lorri hager

    Oh Ok, I understand more now. And i definitly want to take the next course, I know I am not ready yet, however, I do not want to miss out on any of Holly’s courses, they are great. When will HTRYN be available?? Can’t miss it.

  2. Sari Avatar

    Sorry about the extra questions Holly, but just to clarify, if we sign up now we will go through with a class of people, but as you will be busy with HTRYN, we won’t see you too regularly on the boards. But if we wait for the course to reopen when you have more time you will have more of a presence.

    Do I have this right?

    1. Sari Avatar

      Well I have now taken the plunge and signed up regardless of the answer. I am so glad I have finally done this! I really need a kick up the bum to keep writing right now (you may or may not have noticed that I was once active on the WABWM thread, and am no longer – but do still read them everyday!). So this is me taking my writing in my hands and saying “this is non-negotiable, you need to write”.

      So see all you other students and prospectives on the HtTS boards I hope!

  3. Elise Avatar

    I think this is a wise move, Holly, although I’m only on lesson 6 and so kind of caught in the middle. I believe I posted on my workgroup board that while starting the class on demand gave immediate gratification to those who just can’t wait for things, it would be a lot easier if several (or all, as it will be in the future) people were working on the same lesson at the same time. It will be even better if you guide students through the class.

    So, just to make sure I’ve got this right (and sorry if I sound a little dense), when you reopen TS to a class in March/April/2011, those of us who have been doing the self-paced version will be able to go through the class again with the new enrollees, right?

    Meanwhile I’ll muddle through the rest of the lessons on my own (with the help of my workgroup buddies) and look forward to all the good things to come.


    1. Holly Avatar

      You have it exactly right. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Heather Avatar

    Hello Holly,
    Kind of a random question, but I was reading your post about role-playing and it got me to pondering the idea of characters as mythic archetypes, and THAT got me wondering: do you use ’em? Archetypes? Do you recommend doing so? Is there a way to use archetypes in building characters without turning the characters into cliches?

    Yeah ‘kay, back to re-reading the Plot Clinic.
    (Oooh! Almost forgot: do you have any news on the World Clinic?)
    (Which reminds me, because my brain works this way: you tag some of your posts as “writing neep”. What the heck is neep?)


    1. Holly Avatar

      As with many things writing, I have strong opinions—in this case, negative.

      I don’t like archetypes. I don’t like the sort of straight-jacket they seem to mold around my concepts of my characters. I tried them early in my career, I didn’t like the results, and I discarded them in favor of my own process, detailed in Character Clinic.

  5. S. Megan Payne Avatar
    S. Megan Payne

    And you’re very good at it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for caring more about the writers, though. You’re one of the first people that’s ever told me, don’t. Wait. So thanks.

  6. S. Megan Payne Avatar
    S. Megan Payne

    Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I went ahead and did sign up, simply because I’m only borrowing $47 to do it. That will be more than easy to take care of this month. It just hit on the wrong paycheck. Sleep easy, Holly. And I didn’t see your message yet when I went for it. :blushes slightly: Oh, well.

    1. Holly Avatar

      S’okay. I’m glad it wasn’t the way I was envisioning it.

      I have no way of “seeing” people, so I always imagine the worst. Borrowing from the corner loan shark, owing Short Wide Vinnie the vig that would cost more than the course, having two guys with a baseball bat come to the house…

      I’m a writer. I get paid to imagine worst case scenarios, and then make them EVEN WORSE. It’s a spiffy job, but it has its unfortunate side effects.

  7. Leah Avatar


    It is most definitely worth it to borrow the money and get in before Holly closes the course. I have never, and I mean never, received more value for my money on any other type of online course or workshop. Plus, there’s a built-in support system between Holly and the student forums, and to me, that’s priceless. Honestly, I think it will only help you and your current WIP.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’m delighted that it was worth your money…and thank you so much for saying so.

      HOWEVER…I will not sleep nights if I’m worrying that people are going into debt and risking their futures to take the course. And I’m already not doing too well sleeping nights.

      Middle age ain’t my favorite thing, though it beats the alternative.

  8. S. Megan Payne Avatar
    S. Megan Payne

    I saw this last night on my RSS feed and COULDN”T read the post. Talk about freaking me out. I have two questions to the folks already in the class.

    1. Is it worth borrowing money to get into? Because I don’t really have the money to even start the course until my last paycheck of the month. But I REALLY want to do the course.

    2. Is it good to work on a novel as you’re doing the course? I’ve just started a new novel, and I’m not sure if this will sap my minimal time from that or be just the ticket to get it done.

    I’m really thinking it’s the latter, but I don’t exactly know.

    Any thoughts or comments appreciated!

    1. Ieva Avatar

      I can’t give you an advice about borrowing money but regarding 2….
      I was working on a novel when I started the course, I worked my way down it, slowly, while reading the lessons, and that was all right for me (I’m approaching the ending fast now). The material is easy to adapt to your current project and you don’t have to start new ones for exercises and whatnot. All the lessons were useful for me.

      1. Holly Avatar

        I’ll give you advice on borrowing money.


        Save up.

        This is a recession. I’m not going to raise the price on the course during a recession, even though I’m still adding value. (And I’m breaking every marketing-shortage-scarcity rule on the planet when I say this, but fuck it. You shouldn’t have to worry that the price is going to be out of reach the next time I open the doors. It’ll be the same. Okay?)

        Plan to take the course the next time I offer it. DON’T go into debt. If you take the 12-month course, it breaks down to $5.77 a week. Save that much or better and take it when you can.

  9. Crystal Avatar

    Holly, can you clarify that current students will still be able to access materials? Are you planning on closing that off at some point? It sounds as though students already in the course are ok but just want to make sure. What about grad students? Will there be any new materials at a future point?

    1. Holly Avatar

      Everybody keeps everything. I’ll be adding new materials for Grad novel students after I write HTRYN.

      Grad Novel students will get the HTTS bonus to HTRYN and the Early Entry pass (along with my apology that I’m not currently adding other stuff.)

  10. HannaBelle Avatar

    Yikes ! I was planning to start H2TS soon, so now I don’t quite know. I like class interaction, but I need to get moving with writing. I am planning to have Bx1-Pedestal done so that I can use it when I take HTRYN. Should I start now? Or wait?

    All the above is kinda my problem, but your answers to questions on this thread will help. So, mine is, will it probably, really, actually re-start in March or is there a chance it could be much later? If it is the latter, I will start right away.

    Will new signups now further compress your time?

    Will WABWM continue, or is this sapping your time also?

    BTW, ditto what others have said about knowing your limits and sticking to them. I just hope there will be a way for us to continue to know what is going on.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Okay. Not in the order that you asked them. But…

      WABWM will continue. I’ve discovered that if I don’t do fiction regularly, I get a little wonky. My word counts may drop to the low end of my spectrum. But I’ll be there, every night, Sunday through Thursday.

      Next, I honestly don’t know when I’ll restart Think Sideways. I KNOW I’m going to need some recuperation time after I write and teach through the first class of HTRYN. I was a dishrag for a couple of months after I finished Think Sideways.

      I don’t know if HTRYN is going to be the same sort of physical and emotional experience. It could be. I won’t re-open the doors on Think Sideways until I’m ready to be active on the boards, and to actually lead a class through the course without having to write it at the same time. That could be March. It could be later.

      And I gave myself two weeks to deal with new signups, questions, and so on, (and because of my unfortunate shortening of a too long headline, it’s a good thing, because that’s been my morning.)

      The headline was going to be “I’m closing the doors on How To Think Sideways. It was too long to fit comfortably into the tiny e-mail header space.

      I thought “How much of a problem could eliminating the words “the doors” be?

      Well, I found out.

      STUPID question.

      1. HannaBelle Avatar

        Thank for clarifying. I appreicate you giving us a chance to get in, even though your time is so compressed.

        That said — I’m in. I was going to do this at the end of the month, so this inspired some faster action on my part.

  11. Mac Avatar

    Your email was the first I read this morning (I don’t live in the U.S., so it IS morning…), and I can safely say it scared the bl**dy living daylights out of me. I’ve just taken Lesson 5 of “How to Thinks Sideways”, and was enjoying the course tremendously – no, that’s an understatement – you kind of showed me the trail after years of being lost in the woods. So, after letting out a short (yet LOUD) scream of terror, catching my breath and gulping three mugs of coffee (not necessarily in that order) I re-read your mail and blog entry, and realized what Anne realized, that you weren’t terminating the course for students already in, just not accepting new ones. Or is it wishful thinking? Okay, now that scared me. I’m going for another cup o’ joe.

    1. Holly Avatar

      All is well. Breathe.

  12. Ryan Stoughton Avatar
    Ryan Stoughton

    I’m halfway through the course.

    Will the course materials still be available to me?

    Should I be frantically downloading all the pdfs so I don’t lose access?

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’m not shutting down the course.

      I’m closing the doors to NEW students after Friday. Behind the locked doors, ALL existing students, ALL grads, everyone who’s in there will still have everything.

      Plus the early entry to HTRYN if you want it, and the permanent HTTS discount on HTRYN for current students and grads.

      I’m not bailing on the course. I’m organizing my workload so I can keep everything excellent.

      1. Debora Avatar

        Thank you for clarifying this! I am so very relieved. I did not think you were going to shut down the course, but was feeling a little panicked.

        And thanks very much for extending the HTTS discount to this new course!

  13. Julian Adorney Avatar
    Julian Adorney

    I think I’m going to take HTTS before I start my next novel. I was debating taking it now, but I’m in the middle of a novel and it would cause way too much trouble. Better to learn the lessons an apply them to a fresh piece.
    The only problem is getting the money…but a problem is only insurmountable if you think of it that way. ๐Ÿ™‚
    After October 9, when would be a good time to sign up?

    1. Ieva Avatar

      Actually, I think that taking the course while writing a novel is not a bad idea because many of the lessons (especially the first two months) are actually showing their true worth in the middle of the novel, not in the beginning. Basically, you can adapt and apply the techniques as you go. The course is not a “all right, kids, now lets sit down and do it by the book” one, it’s more of a “take what you can and return for the rest later” course. Or at least it was for me.

      1. Julian Adorney Avatar
        Julian Adorney

        That makes sense. My problem is that I’ll learn all these awesome lessons and want to apply them immediately. The course itself might not dictate that, but my own perfectionism will. So I’ll end up going back, rewriting my novel top-to-bottom, and working on it for another ten years.
        Much simpler to finish it now and start fresh.

  14. Clare K. R. Miller Avatar

    “If youโ€™ve been on the fence, nowโ€™s the time.”

    Well… I guess that answers that!

    Probably a good thing for me to get that kick in the butt, anyway.

  15. Shawna Avatar

    I agree wholeheartedly with Leah, although as someone who’s only on Lesson 2, I was worried briefly that I’d find my experience cut short. I’m very glad that isn’t the case, because I’m already so much more excited about my writing than I have been in ages, and if that was the only thing I got out of this course it would have been more than worth it.

    I am a bit curious as to how this will impact those of us still working our way through the course. It sounds as if us stragglers get to keep on as we have been, just wanted to make sure that was the case. Although, if I have to wait until spring to pick up the course again, you can bet I’ll be the first in line!

    1. Holly Avatar

      If you’re in the course now:

      • You’ll have some new folks coming in, which should make the boards more lively for you.
      • You as a TS student (or grad) will have early access to the “How To Revise Your Novel” course, along with folks on the HTRYN.com priority list.
      • You as a TS student or grad will get the Revise Your Novel course at the exclusive HTTS discount.
      • When I am once again whole and sane following the writing of HTRYN, you can go through the course again when I lead a guided tour the next time I open the doors. No extra charge. You keep the course and access to the course for as long as the site exists and I (or an heir) can keep it running.
      1. Shawna Avatar

        – Yay for new folks! The more, the merrier. ๐Ÿ™‚

        – Oh, that’s nice! I’m already sure I’ll be taking that once I’m finished with How to Think Sideways, although I don’t think I’ll be finished on time to jump on board with the early group. Unless I did them both at the same time. As long as I have a novel ready to revise, I should be good, no?

        – Discounts are always nice.

        – Oooh, I might just take you up on that. Even though I’ll have already been through the material solo, it’d be fun to tackle it again with a whole class.

        Thanks for taking the time to clear things up. Sounds like you got nailed with a large scale panic attack this morning!

        Good luck with the new course, and thanks again for making these wonderful resources available to us.

      2. Gabby Avatar

        “When I am once again whole and sane following the writing of HTRYN, you can go through the course again when I lead a guided tour the next time I open the doors. No extra charge. You keep the course and access to the course for as long as the site exists and I (or an heir) can keep it running. ”

        This is the part I am confused about. I am seriously considering taking HTRYN course once I finish my WIP and taking the HTTS class for my next WIP. Are we able to keep the content if the site disappears? In other words, is the content completely downloadable and the only thing we might lose access to (…in say 10, 20, 50 years (lol)) would be the community in the message boards. Everything else is ours to keep.

        Are the lessons all pdf files?

        1. Meghan Avatar

          Hi Gabby, I’m a HTTS grad. Yes, all the lessons and handouts are in PDF format that you can download to your computer or storage device. HTH!

          1. Gabby Avatar

            Thank you. I usually need to try something out and then re-read so I’m glad it’s something I can take with me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Leah Avatar

    This is why I like and respect you, Holly.

    You give 110% to everything you do, but you know your limits, and refuse to sacrifice quality. Just another reason I will continue to purchase your high-quality, uber informative products. So keep up the hard work on the HTRYN course because I can’t wait to sign up when it’s through beta and ready to rock. Take care!

    P.S. I think a limit on your HtTS classes (a set number of sessions per year) will help increase the demand for it.

  17. Anne Lyle Avatar

    Phew, for a moment there I thought you meant you were cancelling the course! Glad to hear it’s just that you’re not taking new students for a while…

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