My Mistake, Your Gain–A Fun Drawing for 10 Free Memberships

My newsletter introducing the workshop I’m teaching for [LINK CORRECTED] started like this:


In the midst of my current insane seventy-hour-a-week work schedule, I got this crazy question.

It was “How would you like to do a free writing workshop for our

Now, in most cases, the answer to the question “How would you like to add about 70 to 100 more hours to your workload and not get paid for it?” would be “Not very much!”

In this case, though, I found two reasons that made me say yes…

And on my writing diary while making the same announcement, I said:


I’m not an affiliate of I’m not making a dime from the workshop, nor will I receive any payment for recommending the site.

I’m doing this because I think it will be fun, and interesting, and challenging, and because it will let me meet some new folks.

And then Sharon, my primary liaison for the workshop, sent me a happy e-mail about how many people had signed up (231 the last I heard), and she told me I’d be getting some money.

To which I said, “I honestly didn’t know I was supposed to get any sort of compensation. The long e-mail I sent out and my blog post both made it clear that I WASN’T being compensated.

“So as nice as the money would be, I’ll have to turn it down. Use it for something cool. :D”

Her idea of cool was, why don’t I give it to ten of you as paid memberships for one year to

And I agreed that would be pretty cool.



If you’d like to win a year’s membership to, just post here. Let me know the MOST USEFUL THING you’ve learned from my website, this weblog, or any of my courses.

That’s it. If you do that, you’re eligible in the drawing.

I’ll do the drawings NEXT WEDNESDAY (FEBRUARY 24th), which will give folks a LITTLE time to reply, and winners enough time to attend some of the workshops this year.

I’ll announce the winners on this writing diary.

[A NOTE: I am reading these entries. EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. If you attempt to use this contest to claim that I recommended a product I have never even heard of, I will delete your entry and block you from the site. I don’t tolerate spam. I have deleted one entry so far.]

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444 responses to “My Mistake, Your Gain–A Fun Drawing for 10 Free Memberships”

  1. Selene Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learned is that if something (technique, character, writing method, …) isn’t working out, there are infinite other ways to approach the problem, and one of them sooner or later gets the job done. 🙂


  2. Julia Avatar

    The most useful thing I have learnt is to take my time and plan every aspect of what I want to write before I start writing. I had many false starts before understanding this but now I have written six chapters of my dream novel.

  3. Joe Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned here is that you get out of writing what you put into it.

  4. John Melka Avatar
    John Melka

    The most useful things I have learned using this site and taking the “How to Think Sideways” course is how to navigate through the many options of story writing. This is not the first time I have attempted to figure out the “how” of writing. All of the other offerings I have found in this area are either incomplete, or assume that you are familiar with all the nuances of the profession.

    The joy of both the course, and the books offered on this site, is that they build from the basis of “so you want to write” and then add pragmatic and exemplified cases that allow you to expand your base knowledge without hopelessly fogging out your objective. This lady understands both the psychology and the physics of writing.

    This is what draws me here and keeps me here, just like a really good page turner novel, that you read until 3 am on a day when you have to be at work the next day. Bravo, Holly!

  5. Tuesday Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learned from your books and adivce has been to kill my inner editor and to stop trying to get “The Perfect…” It’s changed my whole outlook to my wriiting and made the whole process a lot more enjoyable. I still struggle with it, but I’ve taken the first steps because of you.


  6. Eileen Elkinson Avatar

    You are the most comprehensive teacher I have ever had.
    I have binders filled with your material. I refer to them often.
    You have a special energy that is contagious. Makes me want to push on even when things look bleak.
    Thank you for that.

  7. Sarah Avatar

    I stumbled into your website seven or eight years ago when I was just starting high school. I think the most important thing I learned from your website and newsletter is that there is ALWAYS more to learn and new ways to improve. I also learned that there was a whole community of people out there with the writing bug.

    So many thank yous for the resources you offer. I’m constantly pointing people towards your website because I know it’ll be just as useful for them. 😀

  8. Gerhi Janse van Vuuren Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned from you is that this writing thing is a complicated mess, and most people leave it at that just plodding along and hoping for the best.

    But you taught me that if you sit down and apply your mind to it then there is no mess you cannot solve and there is always a trick, or a system, or a process, or a worksheet that can take something that seems esoterically mysterious and make it very practical and do-able, and all that without taking any of the magic away.

    Wow, that’s a long sentence.

  9. Kathie Leung Avatar
    Kathie Leung

    Holly, have I told you how much I adore you? All that you give to writers is awe inspiring. When I grow up, I want to be like you (and for the record, I’m over 40)!

    Going back to when I first found you, I think the most indelible lesson I’ve learned comes within the territory of writing groups and was gleaned from your manifesto for Schrodinger’s Petshop: “Don’t say, “This is how I would write it;” how you would write it isn’t the point.” As the moderator of a group that started just a couple of years ago, I’ve kept this in the back of my mind when delving into the next week’s worth of manuscripts – because I used to have a professor that would re-write the manuscript and I didn’t want to be another one of “them.” I think it’s served me well.

    Of course, there’s a lot of other things I’ve learned, too. But you asked for the most important one.

    Cheers and good luck to everyone!

  10. Chas Warren Avatar
    Chas Warren

    I found your advice on notecarding extraordinarily useful. I use it all of the time, now. I’m in a small apartment, so I bought NoteZilla specifically for this task. Combined with virtual desktops, your notecarding technique makes scene-sequel construction almost painless.

  11. Alex Fayle Avatar

    I’ve learned how to approach my writing as a profession and not a hobby. Because of your courses I’ve learned that writing is as much a business as it is an art and how to merge those two ideas while enhancing and not sacrificing my creativity.

    Thank you!

  12. jenni Avatar

    I learned about sub plotting from your course. Something I had not even thought about as I was so busy working on my main plot. But the main think I have learned from you is to keep writing, every day. I have watched you write through tough times. I quit, and waited for days I felt more up to writing. I realise now it was an excuse really. I have wasted six months waiting for a better day. So now even if I only manage two sentences, I write every day.

  13. Violet Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learned…

    That not everything you write is going to be perfect on the first go.

    And, yes, I technically knew this. But there’s a difference between KNOWING and UNDERSTANDING.

  14. Eva Avatar

    The most useful thing I learned is to write with joy.

    It wins over all the helpful methods of character and plot development (the close second is to have conflict on every page). Writing with joy wins, because just yesterday a friend told me that while she liked the new stuff I wrote (using character and plot clinic), it was not as intriguing to her as the first story I wrote, and I believe that to be the case, because the first one had passion. My passion. And readers feel it.


  15. Jennifer Miyagishima Avatar
    Jennifer Miyagishima

    I recently became a subscriber. In these few short weeks you have taught me a powerful lesson.
    Love what I write.
    I thought I had to build and build. Get the necessary work up, (however boring) until the climax.
    Although I loved what I wrote, as I read through it, I realized it was boring, not the page turning stuff I had hoped.
    It takes a lot to admit, what I spent hours, even days conjuring is post script.
    So if nothing else thank you for reminding me, why it is I started this excruciating process.
    Your always.

  16. Treelight Avatar

    Thanks to your Writer’s Block course I learned how my muse looks like.
    I never would have thought such a thing really could have a face or body, and I certainly never would have expected it to look like THAT.
    And without your course I wouldn’t have known how useful it could be to know what my muse looks like.
    Besides, the promise I made to my muse is making me happy because I keep writing and thus it ensures that my stories keep growing, even it it often is only in little steps.

    Thank you!

  17. Katherine Avatar

    I’ll pass on the drawing, but you might want to double check that link. Points to, which is apparently a parking lot, rather than, which is what I think you intended.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Thanks. Fixed it.

  18. Tamlyn Leigh Avatar
    Tamlyn Leigh

    The most important thing I have learned is to plot using index cards. I used to be a pantser, but no more! I now have an idea where my story is going, and I am taking characters whom are more than just one dimensional (another thing I have learned) along a ride that I know from start to finish 🙂

  19. Charlene Avatar

    I’ve learnt that the most important thing about writing is that you have to have something you believe in, a standpoint that you are going to take and take to the very edge of where it takes you – and sometimes over the cliff. There should be no apologies, no hesitance in the viewpoint, otherwise it is just not believable and will more than likely be uninteresting to the reader.

  20. Amy Laurens Avatar


    To your readers, to experienced writers, to your characters – to yourself.

    That’s it. Just listen.

  21. Akerasi Avatar

    I learned a lot about putting a plot together, especially about what makes a plot that can really grip people. I’ve always been an amazing world builder, and a poor plot builder ^^. Thanks for all the hard work you put into your site.

  22. Dora Avatar

    Hey, Holly, I have learnt numerous times from you that writing is not easy and that at times instead of giving up, it is my passion and determination that ensures the blank page before me is filled with words. I recently got my first book out, and did so via a company in Pennyslavania because publishing in Kenya is just not easy let alone affordable. My book, “A FATHER’S PORTRAIT” is my voice and thanks to your advice about writing with my voise instead of someone else’, it is selling. Check it out at

  23. Dess Avatar

    The Notecard Plotting technique, definitely. It saved the idea and the characters I ruined with a hasty NaNoWriMo and helped me remember why I liked the idea in the first place.

  24. John Barnes Avatar
    John Barnes

    I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to properly plan. Too often I found myself either diving straight into a story, without any background or details beside an idea in my head, or putting everything in such detail that I had tired myself before I could even get to writing the story. With the tools you’ve given, I’ve found a healthy middle ground where I plan enough to have a foundation to build upon, but leaving me fresh and willing to work on the story.

  25. Jessica Montgomery Avatar

    I just found your site a couple weeks ago. The first thing I learned is that, to be the best, you have to give your best, and to give your best, you have to work hard, and know the ropes. You taught me how to write a good, clean, and professional query letter. You taught me how to network in the writing world. You taught me how to believe in my own writing and to make it more than what it could be, but to make it into something that I can be proud of, and something that I will dare to show off to the world.

    However, the most important thing that I picked up from your site was that there are COURSES for people like me who know how to write, have creative ideas, and love to make their own worlds, but know diddly-squat about revising, editing, and everything thereafter! I did not know this until last night. It was last night that someone on the Forward Motion boards told me about your HTRYN courses. I signed up on the notification list after I realized that your video contest was finished with winners awarded. I am just glad to be given the chance to get in on this special event for a membership.

    If you will let me, I will pick your brain for all the information it has in store. I have only been aware of your site for two weeks, but I have found so very much to encourage me to keep going, to write more, and to know that as much as I want this, I can do it!

    I will be reading your past posts here. I will be picking your website apart one piece of information at a time, and even if I am not picked as one of the 10 Paid Memberships to, I know that I will still learn much from you!

    Thank you for making this information known; all of it. Thank you for having the will and patience to teach others what you had to learn the hard way. Thank you for listening to the call of fellow authors, and aspiring authors like myself, and actually taking action. Above all, thank you for being who you are, and allowing us the privilege to know you so intimately over such a public medium.

    You are appreciated more than you know, Holly Lisle.


  26. Aaron Vincent Delos Santos Avatar
    Aaron Vincent Delos Santos

    The most useful thing I learned from you is that your characters are not your puppets. You cannot just dictate them what to do in a given scenario, you should consider the personality you have given them when you are to make them move. You have to think and feel that your characters are as tangible as a real person. To make your characters more believable, you have to believe first the delusion that these aren’t just your characters but some of these are your friends and ofcourse, some are your enemies.

  27. Susan Kaye Avatar
    Susan Kaye

    Persistence. Keep putting one foot in front of the other regardless of how far behind you fall.

  28. SZ Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned from your website is book =/= baby. If I want to write a novel, I can’t wait for a muse to come wandering my way. I gotta chase after my muse with a club. Most importantly, I gotta keep at it.

  29. Jadelyn Avatar

    I haven’t been able to take your courses, but the blog has kept me in touch with the writer in me, and kept that dream alive even while I’m struggling to find my voice.

  30. Anne Avatar

    The most useful thing I learned is a new approach to plotting. Hoping to put it into practice more.

  31. Angel Avatar


    The most important thing i’ve learnt from you, through website, emails and Talyasmana, is not to use flowerly words but simple strong ones. Going overboard in the word department to describe every detail doesn’t help your story. Instead it makes the reader feel like they are in a pond wading through weeds to find that one flower.

    There is so many aspects i need to learn but with every word i read of yours i am learning more and more.

    Thank you


  32. Grace Avatar

    Revising a novel is going to hurt–so don’t spend too much time on cosmetic details in the first draft, because major changes will come.

  33. C. Clark Avatar
    C. Clark

    The most useful thing I have learned is to just write and set goals. Sounds simple, but I think sitting down and writing is one of the best things to do. Something I strive for and might not make it all the time, but I always go back to setting a goal and trying to – just write. 🙂

  34. Neha Mediratta Avatar

    It’s a game of cat and mouse in a maze where you can’t see the cat and you’re the mouse. Where the maze shape-shifts and words don’t fall from the sky. Where its ok to trust your whiskers, put your small size to advantage, will the light, the words to ooze from walls around you and beat the cat at her own game.

    In simpler words, the most useful kit (which I put on my desk every morning) of what I’ve learnt from your newsletter, emails and books is that writing a story can most often feel like you’re out on a limb; that you use that feeling to your advantage; that you beat fear with faith, courage, information and knowledge; that you enjoy every minute of it.

  35. Linda Menkens Avatar
    Linda Menkens

    I think the most important thing I have learned from you is that writing is hard work. You really have to want to write and you have to work at it. That the only thing that really matter is that you work hard to make the dream a reality. I do believe that it you set your intention and believe with your heart, then your dreams can come true.

  36. Gretchen Jones Avatar

    Specifically the technique that rocks my world is the scene cards from HTRYN and the idea of flipping through while organized by plot to identify plot holes. It also gave me a visual way to identify where I had conflict problems. I am a dominantly visual learner and that gave me something tangible to focus on. The twist game with the cards gave me a way to identify that in many cases I DID have a conflict where I didn’t think there was one. But those are all techniques. The one thing that I learned more generally and is perhaps my biggest take away is that I CAN do this. I don’t think I thanked you for that.

  37. Meg Leigh Avatar

    The most important thing I have learned from your website, newsletter and workshops is to just get that first draft written, no second-guessing, no rewriting, no dithering…just WRITE!

  38. Diane Avatar

    Heya Holly,

    Lessee, the most useful thing I’ve learned from you/your sites/books what have you, is that the ONLY thing that pays off is persistence. I must show up at the page/keyboard everyday. I must be wiling to write craptastically. I must learn my craft. Practice, practice, practice. And maybe most importantly, I don’t….no make that can’t…just wait for my muse to show up for everything to fall into place, I can coax, cajole or even arm wrestle her into service, but I can’t just wait.

  39. Brandy Ackerley Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned from Holly Lisle is how to properly use Highlighters in my editing.

    With the use of highlighters to keep track of what I’m changing and why (each colour means a different focus for revisions), I don’t have to do anywhere near as many revisions.

    I may not be down to a one hit revision yet, but I am getting closer with each book I edit!

  40. Jen B Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learned from you and your site is that making a living off your art requires time, dedication, and a brutal self-evaluation of yourself — your work ethic, strengths and weaknesses — and requires you to put all that information to work **for** you. I learned that it’s more important to follow through than to have an idea, and that starting something doesn’t mean a lick if you can’t finish it.

    I guess that was more than one… but they’re all useful things!

  41. Ieva Avatar

    Darn. *One* most useful thing? That’s a tough, tough question, are you sure you don’t want to exchange it for something simpler, eg something from molecular physics?

    I’m cheating now and saying that the most useful thing I learned from you is… the method. The idea that instead of blindly following whatever new theory I am reading (including your workshops), I should test and try it, while carefully watching the way I am writing, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, slowly building my own method of writing that works for me best while being the most fun. And that’s helping not only my writing. I could learn a lot of things by observing myself.

  42. Rick Hawn Avatar

    The most useful thing I have learned from your emails, website, and other sources of advice is simply that an author not only writes best when they have a grounding, but also that every author should allow themselves to be merely human. Take care of yourself, and your writing will be better for it.

  43. djmills Avatar

    The most important thing I learned from you is how to construct a scene. All the rest, characterisation, plot, description, world building come from practice and in many other books, but the shape of a scene is what makes a page-turner and more precious than the rest. That is not to say the rest of your advice is not good, it is, but without constructing scenes correctly the rest will fall short.

  44. Mark Pincus Avatar

    What I’ve learned From the HTRYN Course is that my original plot and characters are NOT engraved in concrete, and that it’s ‘okay’ to let go of a character and actually (horrors) disgard both plot lines and characters that do not further the story in an enticing manner. When I read the parts about the first draft being for ME, but the revisions being for ‘the readers’ my changes began to come more freely. Thank you!,

  45. LisaM Avatar

    The most amazing thing I learned from the How to Revise Your Novel course was that inspiration and logical thinking can work together side by side and help me create the book I wanted to write.

    And using both is not that difficult to do. 🙂

  46. Elizabeth Barrette Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learned: One-dimensional characters will not stand up to credible threats. Robust, well-developed characters will send credible threats running for home with tail tucked between remaining legs. The latter altercation is much more fun to watch — and seeing someone else’s characters in action can illuminate more about your own characters if you think, “What would my gang do in Situation X?”

    Thank you.

    Oh, and today’s extremely useful thing? Never announce to your audience that you’re not going to make money on something! You never know when money will fall from the sky.

  47. Myriah Sosa Avatar
    Myriah Sosa

    I think the the most useful thing I’ve learned from your writing courses is character depth. I’ve always been naturally strong with descriptions, sometimes going a little overboard, but I’ve never been able to create a character that seemed more than words on a paper. Now my professors say that I’ve improved a lot since I’ve started and I have to say it all comes down to you. Thank you so much for helping me fix the missing piece of my writing.

  48. Jennifer Avatar

    The most useful thing I have learned is that I am not the only one who gets sidetracked and to just keep going. Fit the time in to write no matter how busy you are. I would love to take this course. Lost my job and sprained my back. The course would make me very happy.

  49. Jamie D. Avatar

    Wow – groovy mistake! 🙂

    Hmm…I’ve learned a ton from you both from the site and the HTRYN course. The most useful thing so far is probably how important world building is even in my contemporary romantic suspense novels. I really struggle with that, and your course is helping me break it all down into something manageable and “doable”.

  50. DaltonLynne Avatar

    The MOST USEFUL THING I’ve learned from your website, weblog, or any of your courses is to just HAVE THE COURAGE to put those words on paper time after time, day after day …. which ultimately led me to finally meet the goal of writing a novel – something I’d dreamed about doing more than two decades ago, but never got around to it.

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