My Top Twelve Cool New Course Ideas

I had my year planned, writing-wise. Then I realized that I hadn’t asked your opinion, and the things that I think are incredibly cool may not be the things that you think are incredibly cool.

So. I’m going to list out my top six small-course ideas, and then my top six big-course ideas in a tiny bit of detail, and at the bottom, I’ll post one 1-question survey for each. Please read the course descriptions, then let me know what you think. And I’ll replan my writing year.

Small Writing Courses

  • How to Start Your Novel
  • How to Finish Your Novel
  • How to Polish and Submit Your Novel
  • How to Pitch Your Novel to Pro Markets
  • How to Make Your Story Break Their Hearts
  • How to Write Page-Turning Scenes

BIG Writing Courses

  • Create A World Clinic–Including e-book, mapping videos, work sheets, checklists, ways to keep from going overboard (some of you know what I’m talking about), and more.
  • Crit of the Month Club–This takes some ‘splaining, Lucy* (*an I Love Lucy [old TV show] reference for those of you who are, erm… young).

    Here’s the thing. I don’t do crits anymore. I don’t have time. But I do really, really good crits. And at one point, I offered manuscript crits on Ebay to raise money to get us over a shortfall, and got $300-$600 for each one. In spite of which, I don’t do crits anymore.

    However, it’s entirely possible to learn how to fix your own work by seeing how someone else is shown how to fix his. Or hers. And a lot less stressful, because you won’t find yourself getting defensive and arguing that the interminable infodump really MUST stay.


    I would accept submissions from the first group of people taking the course for each of the various steps in the novel-writing process–brainstorming ideas, outlining, theme and prelim work, character development, worldbuilding, first chapter, twist chapter, event chapter, “a-hah!” chapter, climax chapter, conclusion chapter, and synopsis and proposal package. I would turn one or two of the submission into a lesson, with my crits and suggestions, and these would go out to subscribers once every two weeks for a year. (Yeah I know I called it Crit of the Month Club. Crit of the Every-Two-Weeks Club sounds stupid.

    The course would take twelve months, would include some extra goodies at semi-random intervals, and would include a nice graduation gift from me at the end.

    You could sign up at any time, but only the folks in the early-adopter group would get to submit–those crits would become part of the permanent lessons. (Yes, I’d be testing the model for the serialzine in a smaller format.)

  • Novel Writing Secrets–Huge course including step-by-step complete system from first idea through mailing the sold and completed manuscript, with every step in between–plus audio with transcripts, video demos, templates, and possibly a private members-only community for course takers to work through with each other
  • How to Think Sideways—Again, some explanation necessary. My first editor, Toni Weisskopf, attributed the quality of my work and the success of my stories to my “twisty mind.” At the time, I shrugged it off with a comment that it was something anyone could do, and she vehemently disagreed. In the many years since, I’ve had plenty of time to consider that, as I’ve read and not finished hundreds of books that lacked any sort of twistiness, sideways thinking… It’s a bit tough to explain, but you know it when you see it. Or don’t.

    And I’ve come to the conclusion that she was sort of right, and so was I. Clearly thinking sideways is something most writers don’t do, and in that regard she was very right.

    But I still hold my ground that it’s something anyone COULD do. This course would teach, through any means necessary and through every medium available, the skill to which I attribute the majority of fact that I have a career–my ability to think sideways.

  • Character Clinic Upgrade–The book would stay the same, but the upgrade would add a Quick Start System, Character Sketcher, Timeline Tracker, and audio plus transcript “Get Your Characters Talking To You” demo lesson
  • Learn to Write in a New Genre in One Month–If you’re in the midlist, the ability to write what you love while jumping from genre to genre one step ahead of the Three Book Death Spiral is a critical skill, and one that’s kept me in print, and my family fed. The process of learning to write in a new genre at salable quality in a short enough time to not starve is intensive, focused, and scary to learn if you’re learning it on the edge of a cliff with bills pushing hard. Learn it early, and sleep better.

    With considerable dismay, voting is closed due to cheating.


    And on the e-zine… Yes, I’m going to go ahead and do at least one season. I figure it’ll take about six months to get things set up before I’m ready. The courses above will help fund the e-zine start-up. DO NOT SUBMIT STORIES YET.

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23 responses to “My Top Twelve Cool New Course Ideas”

  1. Drake_Tesla Avatar

    I’m popping in late (Way to make a first impression, hm? My only excuse is that I was on vacation when the poll began.) If it’s still helpful, as far as the big workshops go, I’m very interested in the thinking sideways workshop, though I’d line up in the rain for any of them. My vote would go to ‘Stories That Break Their Hearts’ in the small workshops.

  2. KayTee Avatar

    I absolutely love your mapping mini-workshop and really really really really want to see the next installment of the World Building Courses.

  3. FMSeal Avatar

    I would like the Think Sideways course. I’m not sure if I’m devious enough to do it yet or if I am devious already.

  4. Jack E. McCarty Avatar
    Jack E. McCarty

    It looks like a good list of courses for most writers. My needs, at least for the shorter term, would most likely be; short–how to write page-turning scenes, how to polish up and submit your novel, and possibly, how to finish a novel. For the long courses; write in a new genre, word clinic, and, character clinic. Sorry I did not get to this sooner.

  5. Foamfollower Avatar

    I saw that the course on writing page-turning scenes had the most votes, and that’s the one that is at the top of my list as well. Thanks!

  6. bonnielala Avatar

    I’m very interested in the Novel Writing Secrets course!

  7. jcracek Avatar

    I just voted via a link from the newsletter email. Hope it counted and very sorry to hear there was cheating. I’m really, really, really hoping for the world building course as a large course in the coming months. I’ve been using your world-building questions on my novel and it’s my favorite resource for that. An indepth, original world is one of my favorite aspects of the books I read and I’d love a tool kit to help me create something as detailed. For the short courses, I’m really interested in the polish and submit short course 😀

    You have a lot of great ideas for courses and thank you as always for sharing them and your lessons!

  8. wolverine Avatar

    I finally figured out what I’m looking for, which in a nutshell is ‘how not to get bored with a story’. I’ve got a short story mind in that ideas come and go quickly, but I love novels. So, I need to write novels with lots of ideas thrown in to keep me from getting bored. Any way you can suggest to achieve this is something I’ll get! Therefore, I voted for Breaking Their Hearts and Thinking Sideways.

    Thanks Holly!

  9. bflogal61 Avatar


    loved your early work when you broke in to writing with ML. I haven’t had much luck reading your stuff lately.

    Found FM last year, long after you left but it has been and continues to be a great support. I’m in the middle of the 2YN class there, but so far behind due to working on other projects.

    uh, nuts. I forgot which item on the short list I voted for. between old timers starting and all the characters fighting for attention. *grin*

    I think it was either polishing and submitting, or Pitching to the Pro’s.

    And of course I also voted for the Twisted Thinking course, maybe this will help with some really dead sub-plots in my current works.

  10. laubaineworld Avatar

    You certainly do not make the choice an easy one.

  11. anders Avatar

    I most want “How to Finish Your Novel.” I will scrape together any and all techniques suggested for completing this feat. Because the same ones never work two novels in a row.

  12. lizb Avatar

    You know the song that rock band Queen used to sing? “I want it all”. Yeah? Well, I do.

  13. InkGypsy Avatar

    I figure I can learn from whatever course you put together, even if I think I’ve got that aspect well under my belt so bring them all on! (I did vote though) Now if only the baby would sleep…

  14. dpace17 Avatar

    Holly, I’m a newbie, working on Creating a Plot clinic, you’re the best teacher I’ve encountered, and I have encountered a lot, I’m in for the long haul as well, can’t wait to get into more classes. I made my votes, but frankly, I’ll take anything I can get, the more knowledge the better.

  15. LisaM Avatar

    Crumbs. It was so hard to choose. ALL the courses sound brilliant! I went with “How to Make your Story Break Their Hearts” and “How to Think Sideways”. But I know that whatever course comes up I’m going to get involved in!
    Thanks Holly. 🙂

  16. tkeller Avatar

    My votes are in. The Create a Character Clinic has been a tremendous help in my current writing, so I went for the upgrade. Give me more! 🙂 But I’ll take any help I can get anywhere!

  17. djmills Avatar

    Holly, I am for the lot. Your explaining is a whole lot better then the rest on the market. Hanging out for your World Building Clinic to go with the rest of the set. I will reread the other clinics while I wait. Thanks

  18. Radish Avatar

    Frankly, I’m just curious to learn whether your sideways thinking is similar to my simultaneously multiple-tangent thinking.

  19. Holly Avatar

    Hi, Tony. Prices on all the Clinic books are going to go up as I upgrade them. My deal is this. I reward my readers by giving them the upgrades for free if they support me early. If you want them at the current price, you need to buy before I do the upgrades.

  20. tonydyer Avatar

    I would like the Create a World Clinic book at the same price as the previous books in the series that I’ve bought.
    Maybe an upgrade option might attract me later.

  21. Peter Knight Avatar

    Though ‘Start a Novel’ would seem more logical there is a lot out there already. Page turning scenes on the other hand is a skill that I would like to develop further – always, no matter how good I’d get, there would be room for improvement. Crit of the Month (or fortnight): Best value methinks.


  22. snowwiewolf Avatar

    Wow, I want them all right now as well. Though I can start a novel and think sideways I want to learn of them…

    How keep believing that you will succeed in finishing a story and that you will get it published would be good as well.

    The three book spiral of doom worsened my belief in writing, but better to know that know that now than find out later and fall into utter despair. I’m over that now, even if I don’t ever publish anything writing is just too important to give up on.

  23. MattScudder Avatar

    Man, this is tough. “I want them all and I want them now” doesn’t seem to be an option on the poll. 🙁 I didn’t vote for Novel Writing Secrets, but now I’m thinking maybe I should. Curse you for making me choose!!! lol

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