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. Colin Donnelly Avatar
    Colin Donnelly

    The one tool I find myself using consistently and automatically from the course is a list of questionnaires I built up:
    – Create the sentence.
    – Critical dot and line.
    – Character questionnaires.
    – Critical conflicts.
    What this does it force me to think wider than just the original idea before plunging into the plot.
    If find this adds so much to the potential of the story. Ideas, conflicts and entire sub plots emerge that were really already there as seeds in the ideas I had, but I probably would never have found if I hadn’t done the exercise.
    Now, when I flesh out the plot line, I can build all these goodies in.

  2. Malin Larsson Avatar
    Malin Larsson

    I stumbled upon your page by not something I would call “accident”, but something close to it. And what you gave me is this:


    You told me I could be a writer. Now I am. Half a decade of insecurities and feelings of being oh-so inadequate gone in a matter of weeks. For that and so much more, I (and my nevermore dormant muse), give thanks.

  3. JAPartridge Avatar

    As I total noob, I’ve not yet had a chance to take a course, but from your articles I’ve learned there is no secret to getting published except hard work and believing in your story.

  4. Stacy Avatar

    The most useful thing I have learned from this site is that mistakes can turn into little treasures. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  5. Larkk Avatar

    “You can do this.”
    Of all the things I’ve learned here, (and there are many) that would by far be the most important one.

    I love words, I love reading, I love writing; making sentences sing, hunting down a perfect adjective, and painting images with language. I have pictures dancing in my head, fighting each other to be the first one to get out onto the page.
    Only one thing went very wrong for me- I was atrocious at writing exercises. I couldn’t write a decent scene card to save my life, filling out character worksheets made me want to scream, and by the time I had described my character’s exact tone of voice I had forgotten what they wanted to say.
    So I concluded I was not cut out to be a writer of stories.
    But after sampling from the feast of information available here, first the dialogue workshop, then the plot clinic, and now the revision course I understand that getting it wrong the first time through doesn’t have the far reaching implications I feared. It just means that I haven’t yet figured out what works for ME. I learned that every writer just has different ways of internalizing this stuff, and that my path will always be slightly different than anyone else’s. So I tried again, and again, a little differently every day, because-well-
    I can do this!
    Now, dialogue has become one of my favorite things to write, plot happens as a result of what my characters need, and my behemoth first draft has been summarized in a 30 word sentence.

    Creating a pattern of success, by setting attainable goals and reaching them, has really helped me believe that I have what it takes to do this. Maybe someday, if I keep at it, I will be a writer of stories.
    In the meantime, I’m having a blast learning to make them better.
    Thank you for this site, Holly!
    And now I should really get back to revising my novel. I hope I win a membership!!

  6. Rebecca Avatar

    The most useful tip was recently sent out regarding how to edit a novel, the right way vs the doomed to failure way. This is the first year I participated in nano, and while I’m very proud to have written a novel, I’ve been sitting back since the end of November wondering where to start. I know that my fifty thousand words a riddle with grammatical errors and detail errors, but I also know that the story would be any good in its current form. It was great to read that I can go rewrite/work the story before trying to fix all the little grammatical problems.

  7. Kelly S. Bishop Avatar
    Kelly S. Bishop

    I would say it’s the reassurance that yes published authors have had the same problems I struggle with – and worked through them.

    And the pithy way you describe how you do it…

  8. Carol Englehaupt Avatar

    The single best tool I’ve learned is the scene cards. Always before when I wrote I’d start strong, go about 80 pages and the story would fizzle out. Learning how to figure out length of book, how many scenes needed to fill that book and then create the scene cards has completely changed how I work. They allow me to maintain focus, keep the story on track and stick to my word count. I actually finish my stories now.

  9. Jeff Avatar

    I’ve learned that even if I am the only person, one out of 6.5 billion, who believes “something” matters; that it does, in fact, matter.

    Thank You Holly, for everything.

  10. Marilee Davis Avatar
    Marilee Davis

    After I purchased your Create A Plot Clinic, I realized that maybe I should have started with Create A Character Clinic, so I bought that one! While working through the Create A Plot Clinic, I found my muse, I found I loved writing again and my mind is now so full of story ideas (yes, I’ve taken the time to write them down in a short 5-page reminder), that I can’t wait for my time to write. I’ve shared your site with others in my writing group and several have purchased your clinics. Thanks so much for sharing your passion and your knowledge. My aha moments are coming with more frequency and I’m so thrilled to have your clinics to refer back too. Your truly a goddess in a human shell.

  11. Maddie Markham Avatar
    Maddie Markham

    The most important things I have learned from your emails is to never give up and to keep trying and to always write for yourself and to not breed characters. Your emails have been so helpful to me thanks.

  12. Jazonda Avatar

    The MOST USEFUL THING I’ve learned from your Writing Tips is that I should Write For Myself. Everything I wrote was always for my audience and not for me. I’d never written how I wanted my stories to play out because I wanted to keep my readers satisfied, but as soon as I read your article it made me realize that I don’t owe anyone my story.

  13. Crystal Avatar

    The most useful thing(s?) I’ve learned from you came from Mugging the Muse, and from your exemplary behavior over the years. I’ve been reading along with your site for a long time, and when I read Mugging the Muse I realized this: that writing is a constant battle. Not that you can’t enjoy the battle, but neither success nor failure are a given, whether you’ve been working on the same novel for 10 years or whether you’ve been publishing regularly for 10. And as in other battles, not only *can* you come at writing with a real strategy — you *should.* Your honest sharing of statistics, real numbers, and real hard-won experience has given me some of the most important and useful information I’ve learned about writing for publication, period. Because of you, I understand that getting published by a big name publisher doesn’t mean you can coast, or that you’re suddenly rich, and it doesn’t mean you have it made from now on. But I’ve also learned that you can think you’ve failed, that you can make mistakes, that you can think you’re hopeless, and actually still have hope, and still have a future. That’s the nature of a battle, that’s the nature of writing, and that’s the nature of life.

    So I guess you’ve helped me have a more mature, but also more firmly hopeful, way of looking at writing. It’s not about wishes any more; now I know that hard work DOES mean something, and that publication isn’t all about star writers and lucky breaks.

    Thanks. 😀

  14. Jae Avatar

    The most useful thing I learned from your How to Think Sideways course was that Perfect Never Finishes, and that that was my biggest problem with all the writing I had done. I had so many starts but only one or two finishes, and I’ve kept that phrase in my mind ever since for not just only my writing, but my life. Thank you for all your wonderful workshops and courses, because taking them did so much more than influence my writing.

  15. Knicky Silverwolf Avatar
    Knicky Silverwolf

    One of the greatest gifts you have given me, Holly, is clustering which you covered in your HTTS Course. I never understood the concept or usefulness of this tool. You showed me through explanation, instruction, and demonstration not only how to use this tool to generate ideas for stories, but also how to use it for anything I need to work out in my writing – such as how this or that ties in, titles, characters, sketches, scenes, magic, etc. I even use it for my artwork to generate composition ideas. Thank you, Holly!

    1. Knicky Silverwolf Avatar
      Knicky Silverwolf

      Sorry. I didn’t see Ron had posted the same topic just ahead of me until I put mine online. Really I didn’t copy, Ron.

      1. Holly Avatar

        With 331 entries (as I write this) there’s bound to be a bit of overlap. 😀 I didn’t think you copied.

  16. ron bruce Avatar
    ron bruce

    One of the most useful tools I’ve gleaned from you, Holly, is that my Muse is closer than I think and there are ways I can speak to him. For example, I can get Mr. Muse closer by using mind mapping techniques.

    You’ve given a lot to other writers and I am grateful for that and it’s nice to have a chance to win at this contest when you could have socked away the cash. Thanks bunch.

  17. Sarah Mäkelä Avatar

    Wow, where to begin. I’ve really learned so much from you about a wide variety of writing topics. When I first started writing seriously, I found your website with the workshops like “Fast Plotting” and “Set Writing Goals.” Most recently, I’ve been taking your HTRYN class, and I’ve signed up for the Crash Revisions since revising/editing has been my current bane and the step I’m on in my writing journey. I would love to win the membership to It seems like a great writing community.

  18. Michelle Carras Avatar


    Thank you so much for your work and for yet another chance to improve as a writer. The most useful thing I’ve learned from your How to Revise Your Novel course is that there’s a method out there that can be followed. There IS a way to revise that makes sense. I especially like that it involves assessing your novel’s strengths and then involving your own vision and dreams in figuring out how to correct the weaknesses. I’m all for anything that combines hope and hard work!


  19. Danzier Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    The most important thing you’ve taught me so far is that writing is building rope bridges across a bottomless chasm using nothing but the power of thought, starting from a place I didn’t want to leave, guiding tours through a place I never wanted to go, and coming back safe and sound with a goodie bag.

    Thanks for the cookies.

  20. Wal Forester Avatar
    Wal Forester

    The most important thing I learned from you is how to be a maggot. No, it’s not a personal attack, rather an apropos metaphor for an editor. With a surgically precise, unemotional detachment, editor maggots eat away the necrotic flesh, the dead weight that bogs down a story. Almost robotically, they seek out and devour bacteria, the extra words, that infect our works. In the end, maggots secrete a soothing balm that eases the pain of killing your darlings. All that remains is fresh meat. Thanks.

    1. Holly Avatar

      With a little shudder, I’ll state that we’d started experimenting with using maggots on decubitus ulcers and diabetic gangrene my last couple years as a nurse. I’m not sure if it remained a regular form of treatment, but I can say the maggots did a fine job of leaving healthy tissue that could then heal.

      And I can also say how very much I loathed dealing with them. 😀

  21. Crystal R Avatar
    Crystal R

    “Plot Loosley”. Those words helped me so much. I kept trying to control everything down to the last word. Giving my writing room to evolve and change made the process so much more fulfilling. Thanks for the advice and the contest.

  22. Bren Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned from your course, Think Sideways, occured in lesson one. Overcome your fears: your fear of not being absolutely PERFECT, your fear of not being SAFE, your fear of everything, hence being a VICTIM, and your fear of rational thought over raw emotion.

    I learned, then, and try to remember always that unless I put these barriers aside, I cannot achieve my dreams–no matter what they may be.

  23. MJ Avatar

    Fight Perfect tooth and nail!

    That’s been the single most important thing you’ve taught me, and I am now writing so much farther than I ever have managed before. Thank you, Holly!

  24. Caitlin Avatar

    The most important thingI’ve learned from you would probably be to, in relation to world-building, only build what’s necessary. For the longest time I would work out the smallest details of the world, meticulously scrawling little notes in my notebook for days on end before I actually began writing. Your advice has saved me LOADS of time now, and I thank you for it!

  25. Catherine Avatar

    I have found that there are many others out there who struggle with the torment of writing when ideas are not flowing freely and despair they will ever have another original idea. Perhaps just re-working ideas is enough at times. Sometimes brilliance is only seen by others.

  26. Kelly Avatar

    When I first started writing, I had no idea where to start. I just knew I had “the itch”, and your website was just the scratch I needed. I started mapping out characters and outlines bases on your profession plot outline. I would love to be able to access more writing information.

  27. AmyElizaDal Avatar

    I haven’t been a subscriber for your tips for long, but the few that I have read was very crucial and needed advice. The one that had to have helped me the most was to Only Write the Good Stuff. I’ve been struggling to write a story of mine that has a few surprising plot twists and unexpected turns, and I know exactly how the story is going to develop and end, but I had a problem with scenes that I just HATED to write. I only wanted to get to writing the more exciting portions of it and just completely skip the boring-but-completely-neccessary scenes. But after reading your tip, I found other ways to get around the sleep-inducing bits of the story and get right to the fun things. I’m now over my major writer’s block because of that tip, and I want to properly thank you for doing so much to help out other struggling writers-in-need. If and when I’m forced to finish my story, I will definetly add you as one of my guides who made my story all the more better! Thank you!

  28. Rene Avatar

    It’s hard to pick just one technique; I’d have to say what’s been most useful to me has been arming myself with the tools to identify problems in my writing, and then analyze WHY they’re problems. It’s been enormously helpful to (start to) learn how to get from “Well, I know that doesn’t work, but I don’t know why” to “Aha, I see the problem there, and these are the ways I can fix it.”

    For example, learning to diagnose the conflict or lack thereof in scenes. What a difference that’s made. Thank you for all that you do,


  29. Chris Avatar

    Hi Holly
    Everything you have shared with us I have found usefull, but perhaps the most important thing that you taught me was to write with joy, to never give up and to keep dreaming.
    And essentially, I think that that is what writing is all about.
    Thanks for all your wonderful work, Holly!
    P.S. “Write with joy” is also in your signature 🙂

  30. anactoria Avatar

    I think the most important thing I’ve learned thus far is that what often seems like an almost magical creation can be tamed and made into a set of steps that follow each other logically.

    It doesn’t really make things easier–it just makes getting to each step less of a scramble (for an idea/ a muse/ a character/ a theme, et cetera) and more of a process.

    And it is still a magical scramble with all the joy and frustration that can be!

  31. Ryan Avatar

    Quite honestly, I’ve learned a lot about writing and everything that goes with writing on this website. Things you’ve prepared for us on this website just exudes passion of someone who’ve personally experienced it. Particularly on the article, “On Good Enemy”. I don’t know how many times I’ve doubted myself, asking if I should really continue to pursue being novelist and many times I damn near quit, but at those times, a phrase of yours comes to my mind, “Maybe what you should be praying for is one good enemy.” and needless to say, I’m still pushing on one word after another to this day 🙂

  32. Shanelle Avatar

    Honestly, the most useful thing I have learned on this website is that possiblilties are endless. That is what this website has taught me in a nutshell. I have come to realize that there is no limit for a writer or reader. As worlds are created and journies are taken, it makes the world a whole lot happier. Where possiblilites are endless, it made me understand that one should never give up on writing.

  33. mhbsye Avatar

    I have learned so much in such a short time, that it is difficult to choose one, but I’d have to say that you’ve opened my eyes to what a shallow world my characters were living in. I was including details in the story, but I didn’t have a good grasp on what their world was like outside of that scene. I think that if they had looked out of their window they would have seen my office!
    I have now started to dig into their world and observe it with the eyes of a child–or maybe an alien. It is not only making my writing more interesting, but it’s driving my husband crazy!

  34. Melissa Odell Avatar
    Melissa Odell

    The most important thing i have learned is to be true to yourself and to never give up on my writing no matter how stuck i get.

  35. Cass Avatar

    What I’ve learned from your website is that no matter what happens in life, I will always keep writing. I’ve beat cancer and separation, I can beat writer’s blues and climb the brick wall too. Thank you for that.

  36. Megan Manning Avatar

    Outlining! Number one thing overall.

    I just love your writer tips in general too.

    Thanks for all that you do!


  37. Cheyenne Morgan Avatar
    Cheyenne Morgan

    Hello, Holly,

    Oh where do I start.

    I love to write, anybody who knows me or even anybody who doesn’t know me can tell you that.

    But I had one little problem (if little in this context means HUMONGOUS), I had a problem with my characters. I loved the idea of a story, it’s just then I started to write and every single person I came up with I instantly despised due to a design flaw called Unrealism.

    Then I signed up for the newsletter and it helped me so much I really can’t even describe it. (another problem, I’m good at description for about a chapter, then I start getting lazy.) Now, I love nearly every character I have, even the antagonists, because I’ve walked in their shoes and acted them out, a tip from the newsletter.

    Thank you for the advice over the years!

  38. Jancsó Noémi Avatar
    Jancsó Noémi

    Two years ago I had my first book published (in Hungarian). I had so many naive hopes then, but – although locally the book was quite successful if a few prizes mean success – it turned out there weren’t many people out there who would be genuinely interested in what I wanted to say. Being a teenager at that time, this discovery was a shock for me. I thought readers would enjoy my writing as much as I did while working on it. But it seemed like they were just a little bit curious, or a select few maybe even a little bit more, but that was all. After this, I’ve spent two years without writing anything, but a few notes, scribbles. About one week ago I’ve found one of your e-books (Mugging the Muse). I’m thankful for it most of all for one of your advice: write what you mean. This may seem to be obvious, but it isn’t. Sometimes I find it very difficult to write what I mean, although I usually do struggle to find the right words and a clear way of expressing thoughts. I find it easy to let myself mislead by a word and I tend to put down words just because they “sound well’, instead of thoughts I initially wanted to express. Your advice reminded me of something very important, so thank you for it.
    There is something else, too, that I need to thank you for. It’s not an advice but the fact that you helped me regain my enthusiasm. After I read your book, I started writing again, but this time with no ridiculous expectations towards the world or myself. I write many hours a day, simply because it makes me happy. You gave me a more down-to-earth optimism and this attitude was what I needed to be able start everything all over again. So once again: many thanks!
    (P.S. Excuse me if my English is not perfect.)

  39. Martha Ramirez Avatar

    You have shared so much, hard to say. It would have to be how to be creative when planning a plot.

    I am crossing my fingers! I would LOVE to win the worshop!!!!!!!

  40. Cathrene Gehue Avatar
    Cathrene Gehue

    Hi Holly,

    After experiencing a calling toward writing about 8 or 9 years old, I began reading “how to write” material and unfortunately at that age, I was very resistant to a lot of the techniques proffered, especially timed writing. I in no way wanted to accept timed writing exercises as a way of improving writing. As a kid, I hated the concept that I should take something I enjoy and do it fast. Yet, it wasn’t until I read your Create a Plot Clinic and took your Think Sideways course that the very technique I have been furiously resisting over the years has become the most powerful tool in my toolkit. Furthermore, early last year while using timed writing to mend an undeveloped gap in a plot for a novel, the technique brought about a wonderful revelation. Sometimes when my Muse doesn’t respond to my questions, it has nothing to do with her being moody and has everything to do with my question; when she doesn’t respond, it means I haven’t asked the RIGHT question.

    And that’s my submission. I’ve learned more from your courses and workbooks than from any other “how to” instruction. Thanks Holly!

  41. Barry Avatar

    It is really hard to pinpoint one thing I have learned as you have been a wonderful addition to my desire and wanting to become a writer. If I had to mention just one thing I found it very challenging and extremely helpful when I began following your idea of summarizing my main character in a paragraph. I have taken that and have done this for every character. Thanks for the great advice.

  42. Keith Avatar

    Hello Holly,

    The most important thing I am learning from HTTS is to be true to myself.

  43. Ansh Avatar

    The one most important thing I’ve learned is that there’s no such thing as a perfect novel. Everything has its own imperfections

  44. Wanda Hughes Avatar
    Wanda Hughes

    The most important thing I’ve learned from your emails is to never quit, to keep on trying, to write it down even if you suck. I really look forward to your emails, they’ve been giving me a reason to keep writing.

    Thank you for that.

  45. Marissa Avatar

    The most helpful thing I’ve learned from you is how to do a one-pass revision! Thank you so much! This has saved me so much time and worry over whether I’m revising properly.

  46. Marie Andreas Avatar
    Marie Andreas

    I think the best thing I’ve learned is to never give up and to allow errors (yes, that’s two- but they are very connected!). Sometimes you need someone else to say, “You don’t need to be perfect”.


  47. Rhys Avatar

    I’ve learnt a lot from your website….but the most important thing I’ve learned is to keep writing no matter what, that you don’t have to be perfect straight away and that usually if you can’t write it’s not because of some mystical force but because you aren’t looking hard enough ^_^

  48. Sarah Avatar

    It’s hard to pick just one, but…

    The character workshop has taught me to look deeper than skin deep with the characters I create. What I often do is write, and learn about the characters as I write them. It can be good, but it takes a while to fit everything together. The first time I used the character workshop, I slipped so far into the character’s head that it was a struggle to get out again. And that was a good thing.

  49. Belinda Watson Avatar
    Belinda Watson

    “World Building Exercise”… I still have a printed copy I refer to frequently! I’m an avid art-journal fanatic who uses my journals to enhance and inspire my fiction and poetry. The best advice regarding fantasy fiction came from the “World Building” writing exercise I got from your website years ago. I swear by it! I have taken it to the point of using graph paper to map out rooms so I can keep the location of items/furniture in mind when I’m describing a scene. Along with my ‘map,’ I add pictures from magazines. I learned quickly how your advice of drawing out the cities, geographical features, borders, etc., and then telling the story of how it came to be the way it is on the map makes the fiction write itself – genius!

    I’d love to win the chance to participate in the writing workshop.

  50. Melissa Avatar

    The most important thing I’ve learned from you, Holly, is “Write Suckitudinously.” Permission to suck is something I need in order to show up on the page, so thank you for talking about it! There have been lots of other valuable lessons, but that one is always with me.

    Thank you for all the work you do,

    Melissima at HtTS

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