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. Raymund Avatar

    The Sweet Spot map is the most useful thing I’ve learned. It’s applicable to more than writing–it’s shone a spotlight on issues in my personal life and helped me better accept sides of me I’ve suppressed for a long time.

  2. Geir Avatar

    I am an accountant. Pretty bad start, eh?

    But it is true. I am an accountant after taking a very wrong turn somewhere in my past.

    Recently I have had the opportunity to rethink my ways. Not by choice, but still, don’t look gift horses in the mouth, even when it is kicking you. Although you might want to rethink the bit about “mouth”.

    Having had some time to think, I have decided to try out an old dream of mine. To be a writer. I want to write exiting. Interesting. Entertaining. I started working on my autobiography, based on the fact that a lot of the things people will do to avoid paying taxes are quite funny. Even for people not in the accounting-business.

    I started writing a western-series. Not a single book, no. A series of books. So far, I have the plotline ready for 5 books.

    Then I wanted to write a sci-fi-series. Again, a series, not just one single book. Here I have the first 3 plots ready.

    Let’s not forget my hard-core crime series. And the rework I did on my spy-series from 20 years ago, to make it fit today’s world.

    Then there are the Lawrence Block’ish crime-stories, both the hitman and the burglar, although my stories are better. But don’t tell him that.

    And a short-novel about suicide. Which I think will be really good, when I just get it finished.

    Then I saw your newsletter. And, to be honest, a couple of others as well. And I started to get organized. I started to see what I really needed to do to get these stories started. To get from plot to actual stories. Let’s face it; almost anyone can come up with a good idea for a book. Or a TV-show. The real work is getting from “idea” to “completed”. And now, I am actually starting to believe it can be done. By me!

    What have I learned so far?
    1. I have to WORK to get this done, not sit about with great ideas and thinking about what a great story they would make
    2. I have to PLAN what I want to happen in the story.
    3. I have to like what I am writing, or nobody else will.
    4. It is OK to write out of sequence, as long as I tie the loose ends before finishing. (Actually, I think I learnt that from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, but it still applies)
    5. It is supposed to be fun, at least some of the time

    Please ignore the errors and “non-English” in this text; I AM better at this in my native language. Honestly.

    And I keep getting better.

  3. Victoria Dixon Avatar

    I liked the idea of the candybar scenes. That’s helped me a lot – both in realizing WHY I did that sometimes and that it’s ok and even natural to write like that. No more guilt. Guilt is bad for writing, I’m convinced. LOL. Thanks!

  4. Kathi Wallace Avatar
    Kathi Wallace

    The most useful thing I’ve learned from you is that no matter what, keep trying. It’s attainable.

    LOVE your work, BTW. Love it, love it, love it.



  5. LaTessa Avatar

    Holly, I’ve gotten quite a lot out of your newsletters, mini-courses, & lesson clinics I’ve purchased. If I had to pick one thing, one lesson that stands out the most, I would have to say that it’s been your Create A Character clinic. I never realized how little I knew my characters until I completed this workshop. This was an “ah ha” moment for me. I was over 50% through my wip, but with what I learned about my characters, I had to make some changes to my original plot. I will say that the writing process is smoother for me now that i’ve allowed my characters to shape their journey .

  6. Sam Avatar

    How to find, engage & listen to my Muse! I always knew he was in there somewhere however I was always too busy, too noisy & too dismissive of what he had to say.

    My Muse is now my best friend.

    Thank you Holly!

  7. Liz Staley Avatar

    Wow, how exciting! I was looking at Savvy and wanting to join because it seems like a great resource.

    I think that, honestly, the most useful and important thing I’ve learned from your site is the Dvorak keyboard layout. You pretty much convinced me to try switching about a year and a half ago and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve gone from being in constant pain from fingers to elbows in both arms to having no arm pain at all, and that’s enabled me to be a much more prolific writer! Instead of writing for a little while and then having to stop, I had days in last year’s NaNoWriMo where I typed upwards of 7K without pain at all.

    So, that has to do with writing in a round-about way, I guess.

  8. R Rector Avatar
    R Rector

    The most important thing I’ve learned is to keep plugging away. Even a few minutes, a few hundred words, a day will carry you toward your goal.

  9. Mie Avatar

    I’ve learned not to get too obsessed with worldbuilding, how a simple sketch of a map can help you create a story, to do timed writing when I’m stuck and lots of stuff.

    I think I’ve found all your workshops and e-mails useful, really.

  10. Marcelo Macedo (Brazil) Avatar

    Once I downloaded your material “Create your professional plot outline”
    just for fun…because I’m not a writer..but your ideas, your style, your wish to help people…caught me…and now…I’ve started writing my book…I’m totally engaged on it…and having fun…
    Thanks a lot…

  11. Liliana Avatar

    The most useful thing I learned from Holly was that writers write! I just wrote every day even, developing the habbit. I tried tips, tricks and ”secrets”, or just put words on paper, not waiting for the muse to show up. I enjoyed discovering how the writing course can be clear, sipmle, motivating and sooo funny. However I always remember to be greatful ”for one good enemy”. And I told others about it!

  12. Breiab Avatar

    I learned never to stop learning.

  13. Rob F Avatar
    Rob F

    One great thing I’ve learned: When you allow yourself to write “crap” in first draft, quite often what you get is pretty damn good and not crap at all. Of course, I have to constantly remind myself of this. 🙂

  14. Claire R. Avatar

    Through your newsletter and website, I’ve learnt that to become the best writer I can be, I just need to speak in my own, honest voice and work hard, writing regularly, even if a little bit. I’ve also learnt that I can do this.
    Plus, now I know that whenever I doubt my abilities, I can go back to your ‘Emails from hell’ series and be reassured because I can actually write this language.
    Thank you for your hard work, Holly, it helps so, so much.

  15. Krystal Harlen Avatar
    Krystal Harlen

    I think your newletter and courses have taught me a lot about how to get serious about my writing but in a way that makes it fun. My enthusiasm for writing went way up after I used some of your advice.

  16. Felicia Fredlund Avatar
    Felicia Fredlund

    The most useful thing I’ve learnt from you Holly is:

    Although there are strategies to help with writing, nothing is as important as a joy of writing and discipline.

    Thank you so much Holly for all your support, encouragement and hard work!

  17. Ana Avatar

    I am a beginner writer and what I have learnt the most sbout reading your newsletters and visiting your sites is that first of all if I want to be a good writer ,I must read good books not only about the genre I am interested in but reading about everything,acquiring a wide knowledge.
    I have started doing that.Secondly, the best advice is that I should write with joy. These words are beautiful for me as were do what you love doing no matter what others say.Sometimes this is difficult but I am trying to do it. I am really listening to you. Thank you,Holly.

  18. Anne Morton Avatar
    Anne Morton

    Hi Holly,

    The one thing i’ve learned from your website – writing IS fun 😀
    Comes over strongly in your HTRYN course material too!

    Have fun!


  19. Susan Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned so far? The importance of keeping your promises to the reader, be they planned promises or unplanned.

    It’s so intuitive to the reader that every named character/prop should reappear, but it’s just not that obvious to the writer! There were so many little things that got dropped into my story as I wrote, and they all had higher promises than I intended to keep.

    Thanks for that lesson, Holly — it really cleaned my WIP up.

  20. Kathy Avatar

    Honesty, truthfulness and integrity as modelled in your email are also the cornerstones of all effective writing.

  21. Amanda Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learnt from you is to write and write some more and then when I’ve done that, write some more. Your newsletters are teaching me vast amounts and have given me the encouragement and faith in myself to just keep on writing and practising. To be completely honest, its not just that you’ve taught me any one particular thing, its the frequency and regularity of your newsletters that really keep me going. I read books on writing, I buy magazines, I search the web for tips but the main thing that boosts me and makes me want to write regularly are your courses in your newsletters. I open my email box and there it sits. I read it and then have to try out whatever is in there. Its great, the practise is helping my confidence and I’m no longer scared of getting it wrong because the help you give makes me want to practise and try things out. I save them and go back to them whenever I like. They are never complicated, I can mostly understand them and they are fun.

  22. Sakhi Shah Avatar
    Sakhi Shah

    The most important thing I’ve learned is that no one, not even great published authors, know everything about writing, and that writing is a craft that can improve with practice. So the important thing to do is not to wait for that perfect word, or phrase, or story, but to write your story like your life depends on it. A real writer writes. There’s nothing more important.

  23. Elmi Avatar

    Everything I’ve gotten from you have meant something, EVERYTHING. Your writing tips, your ‘life’ tips, just you being the motivation that you are :). The most important global ‘useful thing’ you’ve taught me is that great writers aren’t “born”, they “become”, and then you go and proof that point by giving the most practical tools to help with Plot and Character and Conflict and just about any other aspect of writing that just make me go, “Oh, I get it! I can actually do that!”

    A recent tip that I received in your newsletter came at just the right time for a story I was struggling with. You said (paraphrased), “You have to hurt your hero.” And that made me realize I was being too nice and careful with my precious heroin and that changed my whole story from something that could be good, to something that was great. Your mini-Plot clinic was also a life-saver with that same story. Heck, even your sales-pitch page for the HtTS course had more usable content on it than some entire websites about writing, and you were simply listing the course points! You are an inspiration — your “Mugging the Muse” e-book pushed me from feeling like a writer to actually BEING one, and that is something that’s life-changing.

  24. Toby Tremayne Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned from reading here is the distinction between a well built world gilding the narrative and taking it over. Since learning that I’ve been able to exploremy world building in depth without getting lost in it, but then just using that as background knowledge to write well flavoured descriptions and dialogue that work perfectly without too much boring backstory.

    It’s made a huge difference – totally rewrote my first chapter and now it has all the depth of feel without the boring bits!

  25. CJ Avatar

    Most truly useful thing that I have learnt thus far? Simply that it can be done. That all it takes is the love of writing (that I have), the knowledge (that I am getting) and the habit of using the two together (that I am working on!)

  26. Kris Wilcox Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learnt from HTTS and your newsletters?

    Just write. And enjoy it. Get my butt in the chair, every single day and write. Some days it flows, some days it doesn’t, but as long as the words happen somehow and they mean something to me, then that’s all that matters. I’ve learnt a huge amount of plot and pacing and characterisation, but those are all incidental if I’m not sat with the keys under my finger tips or a pen in my hand.

  27. Stephanie Avatar

    The single most useful item for me was to plan the story using Scene Cards from your Plot Clinic. Having tried and failed in the past to complete a novel due to “losing the plot” whilst writing, I started a new book in January using your tip. I have created all the scene cards, written over half the novel in two weeks and know exactly where I am going. That one item has changed my writing and renewed my desire to be a successful novel writer.

  28. Stacy Avatar

    While all the tips and advice I’ve gathered through HTTS are priceless, the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know everything. I’ve been writing and workshopping for a long time, and after a certain point, lessons seem to repeat themselves and my eyes tend to glaze over. This, unfortunately, lends itself to arrogance and an unhearing spirit. This course opened my eyes to the fact that I have a pea-sized understanding of the writing process. Every lesson so far (20 so far) has reinforced this lesson, and for that I am so thankful. (which sounds funny: thank you for showing me how ignorant I am? LOL)

  29. Kim Hoffmeister Avatar

    I think the best things I have learnt from you haven’t come from one particular package, course or freebee (although many of them are fabulous), but come from being part of your writing community. ‘Support’, ‘motivation’ and ‘persistance’ are such a huge part of becoming a good writer and having you and a support network behind me cheers me up, sparks my imagination and keeps me moving onwards!

  30. Rachel Cox Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learnt from you is all the supporting stuff I can do to help me write and trigger ideas (collages, drawings, making stuff, worldbuilding) and to just do enough of all that fun extra stuff until I have my answers and can start writing again – otherwise I would be spending all my time making stuff instead of writing!

  31. Tony Dyer Avatar

    Writers write.

    Do I have to say any more?

  32. Stefon Mears Avatar
    Stefon Mears

    I think the most important thing I’ve learned from you was the importance of questions to a writer. A good question is worth ten thousand answers, and I approach every writing problem by figuring out what questions I need to get through it.

  33. Cheryl Avatar

    Just write. That’s it. Write!

  34. Emerald Avatar

    Probably the most useful thing I learned is that even really good writers can produce first drafts with the occasional cringe-worthy line.

  35. Brett Ashley Avatar
    Brett Ashley

    The most important thing I’ve learned is that I’m learning all the time… even things I thought I already knew or assumed I had down pat. In other words, there’s no end to the usefulness of rereading or hearing again about a particular device or aspect of the craft. It all goes into the mix, and it’s all valuable.

  36. Kyle Christie Avatar
    Kyle Christie

    Hi, I’m new to your website and work. I just recently started into the mini-courses and TalysMana content, but it’s already helped revitalize my efforts to actually get my stories down in black and white. I tend to get bored and wander into a quagmire in my own work very easily: trying to take on too many topics and directions as my mind flits between whatever fancy it currently indulges on a given day. The very practical approaches in the mini-courses have been exactly what I need, and I’ve been trying the exercises and experimenting a bit. What was an immense beast of a project is slowly becoming smaller animals that can be dealt with at my own pace. I feel more free to choose a direction for one story or character, and let others pick up trains of thought and content elsewhere. Plus it’s really cool to see the inner workings of another person’s process and know that I’m not the only one with a plethora of problems between me and a finished work.

    P.S. How on Earth do you manage to keep up with it all? It’s inspirational that this stuff exists at all.

  37. Shay Avatar

    Hi Holly
    I only recently came across your books, workshops and newsletter, but I already learned how to approach the process of writing, to organize and prepare the ideas, characters and plot items (scenes). I only wish that I would be able to use this knowledge and come out with something that would make me pround.
    You’re doing a great work.
    With respect

  38. Katyjo Avatar

    I’m doing the HTRYN course at the moment, and while every lesson has made me think about something I do differently, the real eyeopener, I think, was the Promises, Promises lesson. I’d always had problems with too many characters, and just figuring out the weight I’d allotted them showed me that most of them were both surplus to requirements, and weighing far too much! I’ve just had great fun smooshing and shooting them in lesson 12.

  39. Christel Avatar

    Thank you for getting me to ask the right questions to the right persons: my characters!

    I’ve been writing for years, asking myself the who, what, where, when and why of the plot and the characters. But the stories never got the edge I wanted them to, and my latest project just sat there.

    Then came across your plot and character clinics. Now my characters answer all questions for me instead of the other way around, and I get to write characters I love in plots that work.
    I can now give both plots and characters the chance to surprise me (and they do!). And that, more than anything, has put the fun back into writing for me.

  40. Jennifer Avatar

    I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to open my eyes… and by opening my eyes I mean; reading what others write (or MORE of what others write), building my vocabulary, and getting a sense of what’s REAL by reading more nonfiction.

    In fact, never mind the other stuff, I think the last one is probably the most important to me, because I can be more confident in how believable my writing is.

  41. Kenny Avatar

    The most useful thing I gained from you was Forward Motion. Yeah I know it’s an old project of yours but it’s helped. Of your more recent works I’m most glad of your Worldbuilding Workshops.

  42. Heather Avatar

    The most useful thing I read in one of your ebooks was to ‘live your life’ and live it well. How can we write about stuff if we haven’t experienced it? I use this tip for nearly everything else as well as writing. We can’t only be doing the writing, we still need to be living and learning new experiences. Cool way to give back to the people, Holly. 😉

  43. Anastasia St. James Avatar

    I’m learning in your How To Revise Your Novel class that well prepared index cards will help me write great scenes on first draft. 🙂

  44. Petra Avatar

    I learned what “I hate” and “what I fear” is great! No kidding! And I am turning into a brave writer! Thanks, Holly!

  45. Melanie Avatar

    Writing is like making a sculpture out of clay;
    You start with a big lump of meaningless stuff,
    You chop bits off and stick bits on,
    You squeeze it and push it around until it looks right.
    But if you start with nothing because you’re scared of digging out that big lump of mud, you’ll end up with…NOTHING.

  46. Emily Avatar

    I’m very new to all of this (I only started getting the newsletters today!), but I have already learned some very valuable information.
    I’ve always heard “write what you know” over and over again, but I always just figured that meant I wouldn’t have a lot to write about, besides my own experiences.
    I learned that “what I know” should always be growing and expanding, as I should always be learning new things. No information or knowledge is useless – anything I can learn could help me to create complex characters and intricate plotlines.
    I’m very grateful for this advice, and I really look forward to learning more from this program in the future!

  47. Karen Avatar

    Holly, I LOVED your “One-Pass Manuscript Revision” article. It really got me thinking, because I’ve been bogged down in manuscript revision for far too long and I was over it, repeat o.v.e.r. i.t. Your article gave me some much-needed clarity – regarding both process and overall goal. It reminded me that I’m not here to write one perfect novel, but to write many good novels.

    (And the great news is – I’m almost through the revision process, thanks to those wonderful words of yours. Thank you!)

  48. Patrick Avatar

    The most important advice you gave me was, strangely enough, the section I read in one of your books explaining how to use note-cards really well during plot construction.

  49. sudharm baxi Avatar

    Holly, you are like an angel to me. Your tips that come wrapped up in my email is the best motivating thing i receive throughout the day. Hence, for me your daily emails are my doses for beautifying and enriching my writing skills and hence applying them in the daily life.

    From the bottom of my heart. Thanks Holly !!


  50. klharrds Avatar

    I think the most important thing that I have learned is that worldbuilding is not writing, I repeat, world building is not writing. If I want to finish a project I need to put the maps and coloured pens to one side and actually write the thing.

    Oh and that all my worldbuiling does not need to be somehow crammed into the manuscript!

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