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. Brittany Hart Avatar
    Brittany Hart

    The most useful thing I’ve learned is that writing is like life–characters are real, scenes deserve the attention you characters give them, and plots cannot be forced. If writer’s block occurs, experience life. Life will always provide something to write. You just have to keep your eyes open and live in the moment, question motives and behavior. Writing is a Life of its own.

  2. Cynthia Avatar

    I learned from Think Sideways, the technique of clustering to tease out, what I’m trying to hide from myself.

  3. Lynn Avatar

    The best thing I’ve learned from reading Holly’s newsletters and advice is to keep a positive attitude about my writing. (No, really!) Through her “insane, 70-hour workweek” she always seems to be doing exactly what she wants and still has time to help others. I couldn’t ask for a better example.
    Now, if I could just be more like Holly!


  4. Eddie Louise Clark Avatar

    The most useful thing I have learned is to ‘live’ in my character’s skin. I now pace around the house trying out lines of dialogue and looking like a right fool. But my characters now speak with more honest voices and my dialogue is finally snapping on the page like I want it to!

  5. Dallas Thompson Avatar

    The ONE thing I have learned as I construct my “Yellow Brick Road” one golden brick at-a-time: Write only because you love to write. Everything else is a bonus..

    “Eyes Wide Shut: An Enigma”
    Next novel,


  6. Diane Avatar

    Hi Holly!!
    As an aspiring author currently querying agents, the one thing that sticks with me is to believe in myself and my manuscript. But to also be willing to learn and grow as a writer. By either changing myself or my methods and my manuscript and writing technique. Thank you.

  7. Sunako Avatar

    Thanks to your “piss people off” email, I learned (or maybe just remembered) why I still have faith in the human race, even though I’m bombarded daily by negativity, including my own. I suffer from fairly bad depressive episodes, and I often find it hard to explain to my more nihilistic friends just why I believe that people are worth saving. That email helped me realise just why I believe that there’s hope for the human race.

    Why is this more useful than the Character Clinic, or the Scene Writing Workshop, or the emails? Those things taught me a lot of useful skills, some helpful tricks and a fair few coping strategies for when my mind goes blank, but none of that would ever make me a better writer if I didn’t care about my work. If I see my writing as just a meaningless endeavor by a flawed individual living on a doomed planet, then the ache I’ve had to write since I could barely speak would just…dry up.

    So, yeah, the most useful thing I’ve learned from any of this is to believe in who I amm, what I’m doing, and the people around me.

    Thank you.

    (PS. If we do get picked, are we allowed to sign up on the site with a different email? This is the one I use for reading your newsletters, but it’s fairly out f date.)

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’ll e-mail winners personally with the details of how they receive their prize from . If your e-mail isn’t the one you want to use, you’ll be able to give them the one you do.

  8. SJ MArks Avatar
    SJ MArks

    I only just dropped in here one day not very long ago from Google and became very excited and impressed with the way the site is written and the tone of absolute assurance that yes, you can write, and yes, you can finish it, and yes, it is good! I am grateful for that alone!

  9. Emma Avatar

    So far the single thing I’ve found most helpful is how to mould all those wonderful ideas in my head into a coherent plot.

  10. Mxxpower Avatar

    The most important lesson the How to think Sideways course has shown me, is to have conflict in every scene or cut it out, and the reminder to “show don’t tell” in an active voice.

  11. Jen Avatar

    The most useful newsletter lesson for me was to never be a selfless writer. That’s a huge challenge for me. When I achieve it I’m great, but when I don’t, well … I hoped this course would give me an excuse to be less selfless.

  12. Michele Kesler Avatar
    Michele Kesler

    Holly, the most useful thing I’ve learned from you is finding out that the reason I’m resisting writing is that I’m scared!! So now I’m trying to work through the fear. The second most useful thing was your post about your dietary changes. I’m now gluten and dairy free and feeling better than I have in years.

    Thank you!!

  13. OmNe Avatar

    I learned not to give up. Cliche at it sounds, I really value the honesty, respect, and help that you give to aspiring writers and even those who are published. From your articles to your courses and workshops and more, those who are just learning about the industry and what it takes to be published are able to have a better idea of what is involved.

  14. Joanna G Avatar
    Joanna G

    When I first thought about wanting to write a novel I had no idea what to do or where to start. Thankfully after finding your webblogs and such, I have learned how to give my character’s life through your Critical Character Component Pre-Plan Module and amongst other things, I have finally figured out what my story line will intell. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with the World Wide Web. I am definitely a rookie, but through your teachings I know I won’t be for long.

  15. KD Avatar

    How can I choose just one? I’ve read pretty much everything you’ve offered, and at least ninety percent is directly relevant to my life and work.

    As soon as I typed that, though, I knew the MOST USEFUL THING was your One-Pass Revision method. Figuring out what my story is about before trying to revise it has saved me no end of suffering and frustration. I still can’t do it in one pass, but I’m hopeful that I will learn. I do know I’m improving.

  16. Dyre Avatar

    I’ve only been able to read through the free courses and the newsletter (as soon as I can afford it I’d love to take your other courses as well) but both have taught me a great deal. I’ve come to realize many things and owe much of my progress and new way of looking at writing as a whole to your words.
    The most useful thing I have gained from your many helpful guides; bravery. You are confident and straight-forward, unafraid of upsetting people or making yourself the fool as long as the point is made and the words are true. Your world and your characters are alive, unique and uncensored, you pour yourself into every page without apology and it shows.
    I could never do that. Not if I planned to show it to anyone. I was terrified that people would think me a freak or hate me for what I had to say so I watered it down and my writing suffered. You’ve shown me that it doesn’t matter what they think, I’m not writing for them. If I’m not writing for myself then I am doing it wrong, essentially. I’m not afraid anymore and maybe now I can actually get my stories out. This has given me so much that “Thank you” is just not enough.

    1. Holly Avatar

      If you’re on the “free stuff only” diet—and I know right now a LOT of folks are—I have a LOT more on this site than the newsletter and the free plot mini-course. I have more than 100,000 words of free articles and writing workshops and writing quizzes and, well, STUFF, at:

      1. Dyre Avatar

        Thank you! I will go look into those now.

  17. ayoola Avatar

    i learn t that there learnt i can do anything if i just try, and focus on my vision

  18. Edix Avatar

    I’ve learned that Stephan King had to write 6 books before he got one published and that I probably will have to also to be successful. Effort = success!

  19. Julia Avatar

    I have a gregarious, noisy and even rude Muse who is often offended by the curmudgeon bean counter on the other side of my brain. They each do their own thing well, but work together like a pair of sullen siblings forced to hug and play nice. Your course has taught them to appreciate each other, secretly knowing now that the other side, if handled carefully, can be used to meet their own ends. Yes, they can be a bit devious and selfish, but with your help I have them working together.

    Now that I ponder the thought this condition may not be safe at all, for me or the world at large.

    If I have to pick one tool that helped the most, although I am overly fond of the sweet spot map, the lessons that helped most in cooperation were the lessons dealing with “The Sentence” and using a sentence per scene to then outline the book. (Okay, maybe that was two or several all mashed into one….my muse will not let me narrow any further. So, this disclaimer is from the curmudgeon.)

    The Sentence kept my scenes relevant lest they be sacrificed to the Irrelevancy Bin at the side of my monitor. The Sentence per scene outlining was so clean and straight forward and obvious, now, that it very nearly made the curmudgeon weep with joy. (Curmudgeon Disclaimer: “very nearly” is not the same as actually crying.)

    Thank you Holly, from the both of us!

  20. Ann Marie Avatar

    So far a very useful thing has been the “how to get unblocked” mp3. I have to confess I haven’t listened to them all the way through–I do the exercise about what I like and don’t like about my story, and that gives me an idea about what to do next and I quit listening and go write.

  21. Megs - Scattered Bits Avatar

    The most useful thing I think I learned from HTRYN so far is the whole elements of a scene thing: PACTS. It really helps to quantify everything I’m doing, and being super-analytical myself, it just makes everything a million times easier.

  22. Gwynne Avatar

    My WIP has been in progress for several years,
    because I couldn’t come up with a plot that
    I liked. Thank goodness I bought your plot course,
    because it gave me an idea that has proved to be
    the breakthrough I’ve been hoping for. Thank
    you from the bottom of my heart.

  23. Mary Kennedy Avatar
    Mary Kennedy

    The most useful technical thing I think I’ve learned is the notecarding technique. I’ve tweaked it a bit, to make it work better for me, but it has to be the most all around useful technique I’ve ever come across. I even taught it to others in my writing workshop.

    The most useful thing that isn’t technical I’ve learned is just to write every day, even if it’s only a little bit. It’s made such a difference to my writing in general.

  24. Rose Avatar

    The most important thing I learned today is that I could win a free membership to savvy authors.

  25. Maroun Avatar

    I learned a lot here. Not only about writing, but also about myself. “Apples, Bananas”. I love this metaphor. In part ’cause it’s creative, in part ’cause it’s the title of best course you wrote. Writing is living. You can’t write about feeling cold if you live in the Sahara (Unless you’re Frozen-Man). You can’t write about sugar if you tasted nothing but salt (Unless Sweet-tongue). You can’t write about Holly’s courses without mentioning they’re awesome. (Unless you’re fool.)

  26. Rob Barron Avatar

    I’ve learned many useful writing tools from the email/website/classes, but the most useful has been to not tell my muse to shut up! When it talks, I listen and write, write, write.

  27. DaVonna Avatar

    I’ve learned to have courage when writing: courage to make mistakes, courage to bare my soul, courage to cry and scream and laugh, to be happy.

  28. Brenda Ratliff Avatar
    Brenda Ratliff

    The most useful thing I’ve learned from your website is that writers write. Period. So, I’ve learned to write something everyday whether it’s good or bad. After all, you can’t fix it if you don’t write it.

  29. Karina Fabian Avatar

    …and how about “make sure you spell your own last name correctly before hitting “send”? (blush)

  30. Mardou Avatar

    I feel like you set a great example about persistence, but I feel like I’ve gained the most (so far) from your program on writing discipline. Answering your questions really helped me figure out what my reasons were for writing, which weren’t necessarily what I thought! I used that to keep pushing myself through my writing (and I *still* am).

  31. Karina Fabian Avatar

    Hi, Holly,

    I recently signed up for your newsletter and haven’t taken any of your courses yet. However, I’m getting a contract for a fantasy trilogy, so I know the most useful thing I’ll be learning is how to give it a thorough editing scrub when I take your crash editing course.

    Karina Fabain

  32. Wayne Nash Avatar
    Wayne Nash

    Keeping true to the craft of words exemplifies my benefit of your instruction. While we all presume that plots and characters spill from our thoughts, words and grammar communicate our flittering ideas into a coherent dialogue for someone else to understand and enjoy. Descriptive words, honorable words, pulsating and guttural words. Words and structure are what give our craft the ability to draw in the reader and give them a taste of our imagination.

  33. RC Avatar

    Although, I’m not a romance author, so I really don’t need to be put in the drawing. I just wanted to voice how helpful your scene course has been. 🙂

  34. RC Avatar

    So many useful tips! Right now I love the scene-building tips. The three things needed to make a successful scene have helped me create a better focus on where/how the story is supposed to unfold.

  35. Erin Avatar

    The most useful thing I’ve learned? That would be the One Pass Revision. Brilliant stuff there. And I loved your newsletter about not breeding characters and the one titled Take a Stand. 🙂

  36. Deb Salisbury Avatar

    Keep trying, keep changing things around, and don’t be afraid to throw away words.

    I *hate* to throw away words. ;-}

  37. Kristen Avatar

    Jeez… to pick one thing I’ve learned over the years… I think my favorite has to be the evolution of note carding. I originally found your free course on note carding around four years ago. I absorbed, used, and loved. Then I found your critical scenes course. Absorbed, used, loved. Then the pay-for scene course. Then Think Sideways. Now How to Revise. Note carding and The Sentence have become such a huge part of my writing regime that I can’t imagine plotting and revising without them.

    Thank you for this opportunity and every one before it, Holly. It means the world to all of us.

  38. Karen Avatar

    The most useful thing that I have learned is to just keep writing. I tend to give up completely when I’m in a rut, and even though this seems obvious I’ve learned that I need to keep working at it and writing.

  39. Linda Avatar

    I’ve learned that the craft (and the polish) of writing are skills that can be taught, not innate traits of a born writer.

  40. Christa Holland Avatar

    Well, that would have to be a combination of Butt in Chair, helpful tips on developing characters and then encouragement to keep plugging away. Thanks for this opportunity!

  41. Gabby Avatar

    My favorite is “You cannot edit a blank page”. I love your notecarding info. Your site has definitely moved my writing forward. Now I actually have the courage to try and write a whole novel.

  42. Dianna Avatar

    I sincerely agree with Leona! We have a wall dedicated to our note cards and have placed them in a story board map that you gave us. Whenever an area of the book hits us to write, we don’t have to worry about the succinctness of the chapters, because the time line and story is already complete in the card outline.

    It’s also quite the talking piece, folks come over and say what is tha and it starts up a whole new conversation and they will give us ideas that we incorporate into the wall. It already has the branches for 2nd and third books to the series.

    It’s fantastic becuase I don’t have to worry anymore… what did who did with what where? It’s written out on the notecards… when we have time, then we flesh it out.

  43. Monica Avatar

    The most useful things I’ve learned from you are persistence and determination. Never give up. Just try another way.

    Thanks, BTW!

  44. Dave P Avatar
    Dave P

    I’ve learned different ways of organizing your plot, ways of developing your characters, even a glimpse of what a real first draft looks like from a real author, but the biggest thing I have learned so far didn’t come from just one lession but from keeping with your lessons and advice. The biggest thing I have taken away from your lessons are that writing is possible no matter what, theres a way to do things a way to develop the author that you want to become, there is more wealth in continuing on in learning who you are and the world around you then there is in trying not to be a writer.

    Thank you very much for sharing these things.

  45. Vanessa Wells Avatar
    Vanessa Wells

    Wow…how do I pick out just one thing?

    It might be adding action to every scene (no more ‘Character sits and talks to him/herself’ scenes) from How to Write Page Turning Scenes…

    It might be learning about promises in the HTRYN course….

    It very well might be the welcome information that no reputable agent charges to read your work (that saved me a lot of money; I found your website just as I was saving up to send my first draft off).

    But, after careful consideration the most important thing I’ve learned is that I can do this. I am a writer; I was born to be a writer. There’s nothing like reading the words that a professional has written about the job, and thinking “That’s me!” You gave me the confidence to proceed after spending a lifetime of writing and NEVER showing anyone what I’d written.

    Thank you. It doesn’t seem like enough really, just to say thanks…

    But thank you.

  46. Dianna Avatar

    I have learned that your books and courses are profitable through being your affiliate 😉

    I love the straightforward simplicity of how to create in the plots and character courses. I always come out of it knowing that my pages are much better!

  47. Leona Wisoker Avatar

    The most valuable thing I’ve learned (so far!) is the trick of parsing scenes and chapters out onto index cards, including word count, to check for balance among the scene and chapter lengths. That allowed me to completely revamp and add 50,000 words to my second novel to satisfy my publisher’s request for a longer book — and my husband (being goodnatured) eventually forgave me for deconstructing my novel all over the dining room table for three weeks! So thank you Holly, for that tool alone. You made my life so much easier!

    1. Holly Avatar

      I got a huge belly laugh out of this. As someone who has spread bits of exploded novels over the dining room table for a month or more at a time, I know where you’re coming from. And my husband feels your husband’s pain.

  48. Kelley Avatar

    I’ve learned that there are no sacred cows in my own writing and to not be afraid to cut something that doesn’t fit just because I love it.

  49. Bree.J Avatar

    The most useful thing i’ve learned is to keep my head up,keep writing and reading, and steel myself for anything.

  50. Jewel/Pink Ink Avatar

    I love getting your newsletters, Holly. I especially love it when you will write in second person and I feel like “Yes, she knows how it feels like to write from the heart, and to be scared to death, but getting the words out there anyway!!”

    Thank you!

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