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. Laurel Wilczek Avatar

    I’ve been circling your site for a long time, Holly. I’ve downloaded more than a few of your books, including “Create a Plot Clinic.” I’ve spent many years working on the elements of writing, style, grammar, dialogue, and narration. I’ve even taken part in a 13 month study on the short story. As I move from stage to stage, strengthening my skills, I visit different writing sites to glean what knowledge I can. I’ve come to a place where I am interested in studying the approach of an author. What attracted me to your class “How to Revise Your Novel” was a combination of your videos and the links you’ve sent which enable a writer to peek into one of your classes. I like particularly liked the audio/visuals where you would demonstrate writing by presenting a paragraph relevant to a topic and then dissect it, showing the viewers how you to go about “seeing” the work. Your approach is direct. At this point, I’d like to continue to study the noveling process. I’d love to be able to win a free class on your site, especially “How to Think Sideways.” That looks like a marvelous class.

    So,there it is. Thanks for offering this opportunity. It’s a very generous thing to do.


  2. Michele Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learned is to never give up. Every time I get stalled in my writing or hit a snag, somewhere on your site is a piece of information to help me get through the problem. Whether it’s practical advice or inspiration, you have helped me continue writing. Thank you!

  3. Emma Avatar

    There are a huge number of things that have been extremely useful to me as an amateur writer, thanks to your advice. I know that the most useful thing I’ve learned by far has come from your emails. I’ve learned not to be afraid. The Safe, Perfect, Victim and Feel thinking barriers have stuck with me ever since they landed in my inbox. Thank you very much. =)

  4. Vivian Lundgren Avatar
    Vivian Lundgren

    Dearest Holly,
    By accident and my gain, I came across your site a few years ago to learn how to build a world and creating maps. That part of your website was so helpful that you became my role model. You have so many good ideas, suggestions, and you have great resources on your website along with your newsletters. The important thing I learned with all this is to never give up your dream. Thank you so much!

  5. Anastasia Avatar

    Wow – I have to choose ONE thing? I…goodness.

    I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to never forget to write with passion. This feeds into your Sweet Spot concept, but is more about the attitude and enthusiasm you portray in everything you put together for your classes, your website, and in every Email you send out.

  6. Dawn Avatar

    Holly – the two most important things you’ve taught me are to move beyond perfect (saved my butt so many times in 1st draft revisions!) and to keep writing no matter how much crap is happening around me. You’ve written around so much worse, so I can write around my itty bitty problems. And I am.

  7. Al Lustie Avatar

    Probably the most important thing I have learned is from the questions you have us ask in the Create a Character workshop. To wit, (who says ‘to wit’ any more?), “What is your compelling need?”, and variants of the question (his compelling need, her compelling need). That question opens up more useful information than anything I have come across anywhere. Thanks.

  8. Margay Avatar

    It’s hard to whittle it down to just one thing, because I always learn something new. Probably the most important, though, is that writers need to keep learning and honing their craft in order to become better writers, as evidenced by the many courses you teach.

  9. phenix hall Avatar
    phenix hall

    You’ve taught me that writing takes courage an a serious commitment. I’m committed thus far to reading your newsletters but I haven’t quite found my yellow brick road to pick up the courage.

  10. Pam Hauser Avatar

    The most useful thing for me (I’m new, you see) is inspiration and focus. I get your emails, read your blogs and feel inspired to do what I am here on the planet to do. Thank you.

  11. Leslie Avatar

    Hi Holly,
    I think the most important thing I learned from you is to resist the urge to revise until I’m finished with the first draft. I have a tendency to keep going over and over the first chapters, finding ways to fix, and fix, and fix, and then get stalled when it comes to writing the remaining chapters. That advice has helped me tremendously and now I’m able to get some REAL work done. Thanks so much!

  12. Peg Cochran Avatar
    Peg Cochran

    Holly, it’s hard to pick just one thing, but your Notecarding–plotting under pressure has helped tremedously. I printed it out and those pages are coffee-stained, thumbed, smudged, etc. Probably time to print myself a new set!

  13. Katja Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    I’ve learned a lot from you… But the most important thing you taught me is how to get past the first draft. It’s always been easy for me to write things, but I never knew how to make them shine. Now I do. Thank you.


  14. Shawn mcgee Avatar
    Shawn mcgee


    in the think sideways course, the most important thing I hve learned is that I fall into the ‘safe’ category and I need to continually push myself to start and continue projects and quit falling into my comfort zone.



  15. Marianne Avatar

    I enjoy all of your advice as it’s always helpful to me, but I love that in a few core newsletters your basic advice was just to let go and write. Stop finding excuses, stop worrying about a perfect first draft…just write. It’s always been a hard thing for me and I’m slowly trying to learn to overcome it.

  16. Rosalind Avatar

    To be honest, the most valuable things I’ve gotten from following your emails, your books, and your classes is the constant reminder that even after I’ve had stressful periods that have seemingly dried up my wellspring of creativity, I can still return to writing, step by small step. And that a good novel doesn’t instantly pour forth from the author’s brain in a flood of brilliance; it takes time, skill, a willingness to stretch your own boundaries, and revision,revision, revision. It’s easy to forget that when you’re reading a published work and thinking to yourself, “Man, I would never have been able to come up with any of that!”

  17. Julie Avatar

    I am still early in the How to Think Sideways course, but the most important thing I’ve learned came from the Sweet Spot map. Realizing that the things I love, am afraid of, am drawn to…all of those…can be the basis for, not just one or two works, but a whole lifetime of creative work, was revelatory. And freeing. Thanks!

  18. Suzi Avatar


    I just found your site less than a month ago when my first draft was finished and I needed to revise it. Your one-pass Manuscript Revision page has helped me so much! I have printed it out and keep right next to my printed manuscript so I can refer to it as I revise. Thank you for that.

  19. Rete Avatar

    Most useful thing I’ve learned from you? Keep writing, even a little bit every day, and eventually you’ll have a complete story. I’m looking forward to practicing revisions really soon!

    Thanks so much for all your help!

  20. PD Singer Avatar

    Your phrase “exploding cats” has become a watchword for me and my writing partner. We’ve both learned to keep our foreshadowing in line with our final effect. It was a hard lesson, finally driven home by a published short story where the reviewer took official notice of the cat fur on the page. It had gotten past a writer, a beta, and an editor, but not a reader.

    We tend our kitties carefully now.

  21. Jenn Avatar

    Actually, the most useful thing just came in a newsletter- to wear the skin of your characters when writing in first person.
    I really enjoy writing in first, but up until I read that my writing always felt like it was lacking something- the details that the character would notice that I might not.
    Certainly not the only thing I’ve learned from your many wonderful free resources along with a few of the ebooks and htts, but it came at the perfect time for me.

  22. Justin Satov Avatar
    Justin Satov

    Two sentences:

    “Who am I?”
    “What’s the worst thing you could possibly do to me?”

    Now my characters struggle like you wouldn’t believe.

  23. Cheryl Murray Avatar
    Cheryl Murray

    Hi Holly,

    The most wonderful thing I’ve learned from your website is positive encouragement. I work in the medical field and as I’m sure you remember, I come home exhausted and often uninspired. My novel stares at me from my desk leaving me with guilt feelings regarding ‘am I ever going to follow through for me’? You have reminded me that anytime is the right time, stay positive, and even if it’s 11:30 at night, WRITE something/anything. Thank you so much for that!


  24. Julieann Avatar

    There are so many useful things I’ve learned that it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing. But, if I have to narrow it down…

    I love the “How to Think Sideways” course. The biggest thing I love about it is the practicality. Other books and courses talk about ideas all the time, or formless exercises that you aren’t quite sure you really are getting anything from, but your courses are about things a writer can immediately start doing and techniques that work right out of the box. These aren’t just ideas on a process, you have practical steps that lead to finished good novels. Since I took HtTS, I have finished every single first draft. And the drafts have been good ones.


  25. Deborah Bickmmore Avatar
    Deborah Bickmmore

    The greatest thing I found out from you is how to salvage all my old manuscripts. That has given me a much needed boost because I was afraid all that work had to be relegated to the ‘learning process’.

  26. Teresa Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned from you is two, simple phrases:

    Safe Never Starts.
    Perfect Never Finishes.

    Thanks for those simple words.


  27. Rachel Avatar

    Hi, Holly,

    Your site was linked from the featured websites area in my writer’s site. I was feeling particularly discouraged that morning about my writing, how it was horrid and would never go anywhere. I clicked around your site a bit, and came across a very encouraging page, where you compared your love to run to writing. It lifted my spirit tenfold and gave me the encouragement I needed not to give up.



  28. Alicia Gregoire Avatar

    The most valuable thing I’ve taken away from your website was your article on using notecards for plot. I used it when prewriting for NaNoWriMo this year, making it the most painless 1st draft I’ve ever written. (I’ve been telling all my other writer friends to use them now too.)

    So, thank you.

  29. Minou Avatar

    Dear Holly,

    I am not a native english speaker, and I don’t write in english, but in my mother tongue. Still, I have learned a lot from your newsletters. The most important thing I learned from you is to write about what matters to me. As an absolute beginner, I was working on this fairytale-like fantasy book of mine, and I was painfully stuck at several points, because I tried to write about stuffs that “had to be” in a fantasy book but I didn’t really care about. Then – thanks to you – I realized what I really wanted to write about was something completely different, something that is not the traditional fantasy book’s topic, but I didn’t want to waste my detailed fantasy world and my beloved dragons, princesses and knights, so I gave it a try and sticked with the fantasy theme. The book is still not ready, but now the sentences come without forcing, I’m truly writing with joy, and I’m really glad that I can tell people something that is really important to me.

    Thank You! 🙂

    p.s.: sorry about any grammar mistakes…

  30. Rebecca Jackson Avatar
    Rebecca Jackson

    I thoroughly enjoy your newsletter. I’m currently working on the Create a Character Clinic. It has helped me tremendously! 🙂

  31. Joan R Avatar
    Joan R

    Hi Holly, I’m not entering, though I’ve won a TON from your Thinking Sideways course. The reason I’m commenting is to thank you for the newest thing I learned–about the SavvyWriters group. I signed up for a membership the first day your email hit my mailbox, then I signed up for courses all through Feb, Mar, and April. There are more, of course, but I don’t like to schedule myself sooooo far into the future. I’ve already saved more than my membership price just from my membership discount for the courses–many of them free, including your own wonderful Crash Revisions. So, thank you! This is my newest wonderful “learn moment” from Holly Lisle!

  32. Emily Avatar

    How to make a Sweet Spot Map. It’s helped me more than anything. Thanks Holly!

  33. Phil Avatar

    I have learned that asking myself questions is of major importance in writing. When I get stuck I ask myself questions like: What is this guy afraid of? What if so-and-so dies? What is my main character thinking? Why is she so shy? One good question is worth a thousand (or more) words.

  34. Stephanie I. Avatar
    Stephanie I.

    I’ve been with your site for a year or two. I have copies of all your free clinics and was planning to buy one as soon as I graduated high school. There is so much you taught me– it’s hard to choose one thing!

    But I will. The most important thing I believe I learned from you is how to use description to my advantage. I love dialogue but I used the bare minimum of description, just enough to get by. Since reading your workshop, I created description in my stories that I know I can’t even skim through. I have made it entertaining, readable, and essential. Thank you so much!

  35. Michelle Avatar

    Hello Hollly, I have been a part of your website for a few months now and am completely blown away by everything I have learned from you, but the most important thing would be how to properly build a plot. Up until now i have been struggling to think up of scenes for my story to make it move forward, but with your guide I am now popping out scenes like wild fire! I finally feel like my book has structure to it and its all thanks to your wonderful courses =) Thank you for all the opportunities you provide for us!

  36. Christy Avatar

    It’s very hard to pick just one…

    But I’d probably pick just slogging through the first draft and making notes of how things should change, instead of eternally going back to Chapter 1 and revising from there every time you think of something better.

    I’ve learned so much from all the lessons of yours I’ve gone through. Thank you.

  37. Misti Avatar

    The MOST useful thing I’ve learned from you? As hard as it is to pick just one thing, I’d have to say…identifying conflict. That has made a huge difference in my writing, and the way I look at the entire process. Thank you for everything you do.

  38. M Kennedy Avatar
    M Kennedy


    After a year of incredible life changes – positive and negative – while at the same time trying to start a writing career of some shape or form, what I have learned from you is PERSISTENCE! Thank you!


  39. Laure n Avatar
    Laure n

    The most important thing I’m learning from you, Holly, is to hang tight and never give up on my dream, and to be who I truly am as a writer. Thank you!

  40. Amy Fendley Avatar
    Amy Fendley

    I just love all that you do for us as your loyal readers. Your point of view is always refreshing.
    Have a great Week!

    Amy Fendley

  41. Jenn Quinn Avatar
    Jenn Quinn

    The most important thing your emails have taught me is how to continue a story. Before I started reading your newsletters and website, I could always start stories but never get very far in them. Since I started I have managed to get to the middle part of my novel, and it feels great to think I might finish it!

  42. Kristi Luchi Avatar
    Kristi Luchi


    I found you site a long time ago. Your free workshops have been invaluable to me, as a writer and as a person in character and plot development.

    All of that aside, I think the best peice of advice, the most useful lesson I have learned is to give my character a peice of me. Not just me, but those around me. Some kind of superflous flaw, or massive issue, or random habit. It gives them that little bit of humanity they sometimes lack. It makes them real and everyone loves reading about someone realistic that they can relate to. Someone they could be sitting next to them on the bus.

    Thanks again for all your help.

  43. Kim Nunley Avatar

    Oh man… the most useful thing I’ve learned from you and your site.

    I guess it’s not one specific thing, but you make the writing process seem more manageable. You’ve helped me not get so overwhelmed when I sit down to work.


  44. Eoin Meehan Avatar
    Eoin Meehan

    How to write a scene.

    I’m currently muddling along trying to put some manners on a plot and characters. I went into a project folder and found the scene exercises I had done from your website lesson. It took me a few minutes to realise that *I* had written them! It really gave me a boost to see that I could write that well! I found myself reading off the end wanting to know what the next scene was!

    As I lay out the scenes for my plot, the key learning is that each scene should advance the plot rather than be a prosaic indulgence.

  45. Rachel Stevens Avatar
    Rachel Stevens

    The most useful thing I have learned is to be true to myself and not be afraid to piss people off. After all, it’s just fiction.

  46. Sandra Miller Avatar
    Sandra Miller

    Most useful thing? That’s a tall order–I’ve learned so much, from the clinics I’ve bought, the courses I’ve done, everything freely available on your website….

    But I think probably the Create a Language clinic is the one that I’d pick. Because, without that, I never would have had the guts to try making a language for my world, even a skeleton one. I can’t describe the impact it’s had on the work.

  47. Annie Sires Avatar

    Holly, you are constant source of encouragement to me in my writing. I know that I will get a newsletter from you showing me how to finish some aspect of writing: revision, motivation to write, character, culture. And what’s great is they are all so informative and give you ideas that point you in the write (right) direction! Thanks so much!

  48. Elaine Avatar

    Hi Holly,
    I’ve only just comes across your website(s), but already I’ve learned the most incredibly useful thing.
    It’s all in one line from Holly Lisle and the Case of the Fuzzy Secret:
    You’re home early, I said innocently
    I finally get what “show, don’t tell” really means.
    Thank you so much :0))

  49. Claudio Avatar

    I just discovered your site.

    Did you say something for free?

    I’ll take a dozen.

    Months that is.

  50. GrimleyEd Avatar


    I have learned so much from you, but I am going to say that the absolute most important lessons I learned from you were in the very first lesson. I have to give up some of that perfectionism. It is ok write whatever. It doesn’t have to be Pulitzer material. Being safe is exactly that. It is safely talking myself out of the dreams that I have until they die and wither away. I am so grateful that you helped me to get over that and finish my first novel.

    Truth be told, the first novel was absolute crap, but I am writing a second, and so far, it is much better than the first. The second one actually hits a few of the items on the sweet spot map. That really works too!

    Thank you,

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