Results of the “Help I’m Looking For” Writers’ Survey

I did a survey of folks on my Writing Tips newsletter, many of whom have dropped out of regular readership.

Many of whom have a good reason for doing so.

The migraines don’t prevent me from working (most of the time) because I am tenacious and I’ll put up with a lot of pain before I give up. (This is, after all, how I got published in the first place.) This post, for example, is the sort of thing I can do with a migraine.

But the part of me that is creative crawls off in a hole and cries during migraines. Coming up with writing tips is big-C Creative. It does not play well with migraines. And when I’ve been feeling halfway decent, I’ve been working on stuff that pays the bills.

But I want to get back to doing cool things with the newsletter. So:

I asked the following four questions:

Where are you in your writing progress right now?
Answers I got:

  • 598 (76.6%) said, “I’m working on creating my first work”
  • 128 (16.4%) said, “I’ve finished projects, but I don’t know how to revise them”
  • 46 (5.9%) said, “I’m self-publishing regularly, but would like to do it better”
  • 8 (1%) said, “I’ve given up–I’ve moved on to other interests”

Receiving the following emails would help me reach my writing goals:
Answers I got (these were multiple choice, so totals are more than 100%):

  • 956 said, “Writing tips once a month”
  • 707 said, “Questions from readers that you answer once a month”
  • 679 said, “Links to blog posts discussing aspects of writing that interest me (select preferred topics from SUBJECTS list)
  • 490 said, “Notice of new writing articles on your site”
  • 219 said, “Shop coupons”

The writing SUBJECTS I most need help with are:
Answers I got (these were multiple choice, so totals are more than 100%):

  • 845 said, “Writing skills info: plotting, characterization, scene development, dialogue, worldbuilding, story structure and pacing, etc.”
  • 627 said, “Advanced skills: career development, novel revision, series development and management, etc.”
  • 619 said, “Functional skills: time management, motivation, scheduling writing time, developing project deadlines, etc.”
  • 498 said, “Basic creative start-up info: how to get ideas, how to start stories, how to make myself write, etc.”
  • 310 said, “Basic technical start-up info: software, hardware, document formatting, contact instruction such as how to write query letters, etc.”
  • 88 said, “Something else” From this, I’ve received a bunch of new course requests, including a LOT on self-publishing, self-promoting, some advanced writing topics, some absolute beginner writing topics…. I’m putting the requests into an inspiration folder that I can pull from when I get ready to create new courses. As always, I’ll run ideas through here first to make sure enough people are interested to make it worth the investment in my time and effort. There are some GREAT ideas in there.

Do you resent me including information on my available novels and writing courses in your free emails?
Answers were:

  • 1056 (99.5%) said, “No.”
  • 5 (0.5%) said “Yes. (Please cancel your subscription. While I’m willing to offer free help to struggling writers, I can only do this if I get paid for the novels and courses I create. If you resent my inclusion of links to the work that allows me to help you, you don’t want my help. Unsubscribe instructions are below.)”

So far, about a hundred others however, most of whom did not fill out the survey, unsubscribed.

So what does this mean?

  • First, it means that I have some wonderful folks on my list—and for those of you who sent good wishes on the migraines, thank you very much.
  • Second, it means that I’m going to be getting back to work on adding new stuff to the writing tips list.

    Folks in Year One on the list will get a new writing tip every week. Folks who have been with me for more than a year should start looking for one writing tip a month, plus one other cool content email—either a round-up of writers questions and answers, or a discussion of some aspect of writing or publishing I’m currently dealing with, or a link to a blog discussion here, or one of the other things folks would find useful.

  • I’ll continue to include links to courses I offer that meet the needs students have noted above. Aside from new releases, which I’ll promote regularly for a week or two, the links will be attached to content emails, and they’ll just fly by, so if you see something you like, go after it when you see it.
  • I’m going to be adding what I’m thinking of as Specific Task Classes to HowToThinkSideways.com.

    These will be classes that use existing courses: Character Clinic, for example. You get Character Clinic separately, and then you do a Specific Task Class to create (as an example only) the Hero, Sidekick, Romantic Interest, and Villain for your next story.

    Or a class built around Plot Clinic that will help folks set up plots for related 2500-word short stories to sell as limited-run series.

    For Specific Task Classes (I’ll come up with a better name, I promise), you bring your own textbook, but you’ll get worksheets, audio, demos, a work board for live interaction with other students. Not sure what else. My objective with these is to keep the price low.

Here’s the link to sign up for the newsletter, in case you didn’t know I offered it:
https://hollylisle.com/writer-updates-newsletter/

Oh, if you want to ask a writing question for the newsletter (these will ONLY be answered in the newsletter, and I’ll pick the best questions to answer every month), ask them at THIS link: http://novelwritingschool.com/support2/

Comments?
Questions?

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

45 comments… add one
  • Cass May 27, 2013 @ 5:59

    Hello Holly, sorry to hear about your migranes! Hope they get better soon!

    Reading your results I am surprised to see that all my answers were the ones that hardly anyone else answered- But on the first question I had a problem answering. I finally wrote “have finished one or more projects but am stuck on revising” even though I have written, had edited, and am having now writing the second one that goes with it. But I haven’t made the move to self publish yet t because it’s a series so I don’t want to only have one out there- I want to have several at once on there with “more coming soon”. But all in all, thank you for all

  • Shawna May 20, 2013 @ 21:58

    Oops. Accidentally posted too soon. Was going to add that I’m still just patiently awaiting the Create A World Clinic. Figure if I hang around long enough… πŸ™‚

  • Shawna May 20, 2013 @ 21:56

    Been a combo of not-feeling-well and too-busy-when-I’m-alive over here, but I’d say the answers you got pretty well match up with my preferences.

    Honestly, I have to admit that I’m probably so over-saturated in learn-to-write materials at this point that I’m flammable… but there’s always room for two – or ten – more. I’m addicted.

    • Shawna May 20, 2013 @ 21:57

      Oops. Accidentally posted too soon. Was going to add that I’m still just patiently awaiting the Create A World Clinic. Figure if I hang around long enough… πŸ™‚

  • Juin May 20, 2013 @ 18:00

    I absolutely enjoy your tips and books. I find your work immensely helpful to me as a writer. I don’t usually respond to the surveys because I’m lazy about them. No point in lying about it. But I would like to continue receiving whatever you’d like to send out. And I will continue to support you as your skills are helping me become a better writer.

  • SharonW May 19, 2013 @ 20:13

    Holly, I’m so sorry about the migraines! Hope you can find something that relieves them – or that they slither away on their own initiative.

    I’ve enjoyed a lot of your books, and I very much appreciate the newsletter. (Please don’t unsubscribe me!) I’m looking forward to whatever you can find the creative energy for.

  • pj-jough-haan May 19, 2013 @ 18:55

    Holly,

    I did not respond to your survey – medical appointments and bed confinement kept me from being prompt. In reading the comments, I concur with 90% of what was requested – and I love getting your writing tips.

    With all of the work you’ve built and published, I’m confident I’ll be well published in a few years (more like 5).

    I appreciate everything you do for all of us and completely commiserate with your ill health symptoms. Being ill is the shits.

    I’ve purchased most of your material – I haven’t worked at it faithfully, but I’m looking forward to doing so. Your material has been a joy to work with when I’ve been able.

    I love Flash Fiction – it’s keeping me on my toes and helping me to learn to navigate your revamped site(s).

    Keep up the good work –

    High white light to you,
    pj

  • Nicole May 19, 2013 @ 18:27

    I enjoy your tips newsletters and wanted to take advantage of the coupon before today (Sunday) is over, but it already says the code expired.

  • Mildred May 19, 2013 @ 15:56

    try #2. I’ve just finished up a photography book project. One thing I learned was the amount of time to get the book from scratch to self published.

    Commiserate on the migraine. I haven’t had one for a while now. I can work through them til the light show.

  • Mildred May 19, 2013 @ 15:53

    Been busy with a photography book project, which is now finished. Yay. Can get back to writing. Learned something though: it takes a lot more time than I thought to get the book from scratch to self-published. And that was with photographs mostly.

    Commiserate on the migraine. I haven’t had one for quite some time now. I can work through them til the light show.

  • DoverianDragoon May 18, 2013 @ 14:32

    I never made the time to reply to the survey, but I’m definitely looking forward to what you do with the writing tips mail, and the task-specific classes!

    Also, the coupon is all the incentive I needed to order the new version of the Character Clinic. I’ve had the page open in my browser for a week, but a limited-time coupon will definitely get me to go through with it (as I always knew I wanted to).

    I am absolutely excited!

    • Mary Landry May 19, 2013 @ 9:08

      Definitely interested in staying on your mailing list, Holly. Feel better.
      Mary

  • Annah May 18, 2013 @ 10:07

    Sorry to hear about the migraines. I’ve recently went through (and still dealing with) shingles. I had a severe headache and my doctor told me that he would have put me in the hospital with a severe viral infection (up there with menigitis(?))if I would have seen him that day. It scared the crap out of me, and also made me really think about taking the time to take care of myself better than I have been. I’m still doing the HTTS Ultra even though I’m a little behind on the schedule, but I’m hanging in there and doing what I can when I can.

  • NancyJ May 18, 2013 @ 9:35

    Holly, I haven’t responded to emails, or even written anything, in a while. (I’ve been struggling with health issues, so I know what you mean by creativity “crawls off in a hole and cries.”) But I need to tell you how much you are appreciated for believing in us, being accessible, and giving us real, usable guidance to build our skills and careers. And you do it all through honesty, humor, and migraines. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Tana May 18, 2013 @ 7:45

    Thank you for always being brutally honest with us. I am pretty discouraged with my lack of creativity right now but I don’t want to give up!!! Keep the advice coming!

  • Rebecca Anne May 18, 2013 @ 1:59

    Hi Holly please keep me on your lists I love the courses I have bought from you. You are the only writer I have found that their tips are insightful and keep me coming back to read and absorb more. Sorry to hear about your migraines.

  • Roseanne May 17, 2013 @ 22:08

    Holly I love our website, I can’t wait for your writing tips. Whenever I get stuck or need a tip, I go to you page and find the answer. I’ve bought how to books from you. I’ve signed up for htts course even though I’m not going through the lessons each week, I’m saving them to work on at my own pace. I admire the fact that you do what you say you’re going to. You are an inspiration for all of us. I appreciate all that you do. Rosie

  • Milinda Blue May 17, 2013 @ 20:38

    Migraines are a PIA that I wouldn’t recommend to my disenfranchised friends. I just did the math: it’s been 44 years of migraines for me & I’m finally getting the help, hopefully, that I need. Botox injections & a better “now I’ve got the migraine” medication. Fewer but worse. Not that you asked.

    You did ask about your newsletter. While I have been completely silent, I want you to know that I love them when I get them even if all I get out of them is that you’ve got something new for us in the bookstore. I’m still going, albeit slowly (read molasses) through the HTTS Legacy classes.

  • Julian Adorney May 17, 2013 @ 20:26

    I absolutely admire the fact that you can work through obstacles like migraines that would stop me in my tracks. I just went through a brutal 12 months (over now), and your hard-headedness and toughness (and, of course, absolutely invaluable writing advice) has been incredibly inspiring to me.

  • Judy corduan May 17, 2013 @ 19:41

    I enjoy your style of writing and your smart ass humor. Reminds me of myself sometimes :-). Just finished reading Talyn. An awesome example of world building. Yours is the only site I’ve ever heard of that is proactive in dropping inactive members. I plan on reading your stuff for a long time to come. I’m sorry about the headaches. Wish I could help but you’ve probably tried many things by now, and this is not the place really to offer ideas on that. Sending you peace, love, and blessings.

  • Sylvia May 17, 2013 @ 19:23

    Sure wish I could wave a hand and make those migraines go away. Have had enough of them to know I could never do what you do when you’re having one. You’re a blessing to so many of us.
    Loving the Flash Fiction class.

    • Kassandra May 17, 2013 @ 20:19

      I get migraines too. I’ve had them since I was 7. I don’t let them stop me and I’m glad you don’t either.

  • sallie May 17, 2013 @ 18:09

    Best of luck on the migraines. Have friends who suffer with them and know they can be a trial. I love reading your tips and things. And i think i clicked. So I’ll be around. I think. under one email or another … LOL

  • Jori May 17, 2013 @ 15:00

    Hi Holly! First time writer/long time reader. I regret to say that I didn’t respond to your survey, though I love your newsletters/tips/emails and don’t want to stop receiving them! I’m not signed up for any of your courses at this time though I hope to take some in the future… for now, I’m mostly a fanfic writer with vague plans of leaving that realm once I’m ready. I have one published friend who keeps telling me “You’ll never be ready – just do it!” But I’m torn, because I’m quite committed to my fanfiction storyline, and I don’t want to abandon that… my sense of OCD demands that I finish it! (And especially after your tip about putting ideas in a jar, and getting rid of the ones that aren’t compelling. So far, nothing’s compelled me to write anything else.) But that’s neither here nor there. I just wanted to drop you this comment to say how much I admire your work and love getting your emails, and here’s hoping those migraines leave you alone!

    Bright Blessings!

  • Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2) May 17, 2013 @ 13:57

    Hi, Holly. I clicked! I read when I can, but like some above, I get busy writing/critiquing plus college-as-a-grandma-student, so I don’t often leave comments. But I’m here to stay! And hang in there through the migraines – we’re pulling for you.

  • Jade May 17, 2013 @ 13:44

    As someone with both Sjogren’s Syndrome and fibromyalgia, I hear you about writing through pain. Take care of yourself and do what you need to do for that. We’ll still be here when you get back πŸ˜€

  • Tony May 17, 2013 @ 13:07

    Gee Holly, I was miffed that you did the “have you stopped beating your wife?” style of questions. “Yes” or No” to the question “Do you resent me including information on my available novels and writing courses in your free emails?”

    Yes of course I resent it, not least of all ‘cos there’s so much of it, but I take it as the price I pay for you giving the service for “free”. I like NPR as well but even they have to do their funding drives. So I’m not sure if I should class that as a “stupid question” in the first place or berate you for a badly worded either/or answer format. Can I do both? Yes/no. Do not bend, fold, fondle, mug, mutilate or engage in conversation with your answer. Use only one side of the screen. Answers in black ink only, do not use whitex.

    No, really, Holly, for a creative writer I’m disappointed in you. Take the question “Where are you in your writing progress right now?” for example. Of course “β€œI’m working on creating my first work”, but you made it so I could give only one answer because it happens that I could also answer β€œI’ve given up–I’ve moved on to other interests” like my third and fourth and fifth and OMG!. Its become a series! No! Wait, some of them are just other stories. And then there’s the bathroom repairs and the dinner to cook and its spring and I have to deal with the garden and … and … then there’s this crazy woman who keeps asking me questions and forcing to to answer in her ways and not paying attention to the simple fact I’ve got a life to live. Perhaps I could get a job writing questionnaires for her? Anything rather than face that intimidating blank sheet of virtual paper in my word processor. Even reading one of her books …

  • A.H Browne May 17, 2013 @ 13:04

    Clicked! πŸ™‚ I’m not going anywhere. Gosh, I can’t remember when I signed up, but it’s been years since I began following you.

    I have a bunch of information from you from when I began really thinking about pursuing publishing over 2 years ago. πŸ™‚ I won’t be going anywhere. I understand the frustration of wanting to do so much, but pain interferes or other things. xx

  • Donna Ellison May 17, 2013 @ 13:01

    Whatever you do, don’t take me off your list. I buy all your courses and some of your books, both hardback and from your shop. I love your writing and read every word you write. I can’t thank you enough for all the help you have given me. I am not finished with a first project yet, but am working on it. Thank you.

  • wednesday May 17, 2013 @ 12:58

    I tried creating a “personal” topic job ticket to let you know about this, but the system gave me a, “Can’t find that page” error message upon submission.

    It seems that traditional publishers are now luring novice writers via free online seminars featuring in-house personnel and house authors to learn how to submit their niche books to the house.

    I just signed up for one of these seminars with [a professional publisher of personal transformation titles] at http://transformationalauthor.com/ (a website created specifically for this?). Upon receiving the program schedule,I realized many of the 22 topics dovetail with what you’re teaching us — but most likely with a slant to hook and enslave the novice writer with the traditional house. I can’t wait to hear what [the publisher] wants to teach me about “Understanding the Difference Between Self-Publishing & Traditional Publishing,” and “Everything You Need to Know About Kindle and eBook Publishing.”

    Note that you can’t get the program schedule until you sign up for the seminar. Note also that if you want access to the MP3s and other stuff after the seminar, you have to upgrade to a premium (tiered) membership. Author beware.

    (And Holly, please delete this at will — I thought to tell you about this in case it proved to be a good research tool for you on the possibly predatory behavior of a long-term niche publisher that appears to be fishing for new, naive writers. I am not affiliated with the publisher in question or with the seminar in any capacity.)

  • Heather May 17, 2013 @ 12:56

    This is probably going to sound stupid, but do you create a support ticket to ask questions for the newsletter? Since “ask a question” is for searching the help database, that was the only thing I could see for actually submitting a question. Just wanted to make sure before I did it.

    • Holly May 20, 2013 @ 8:13

      Hi, Heather,
      I created a form. It wasn’t a great form—it was what I could manage with a migraine. I was looking for ways that I could make the newsletter useful while not trying to do something new for it every week, simply because this most recent migraine lasted four weeks straight, and was not even close to being the worst I’ve had. Not everyone got it. I tried to send it only to folks who hadn’t opened anything from me in the last three months, but that didn’t quite work out—so a lot more folks received it than I intended.

      But not everyone got a copy. Had 21,000 folks responded, I would have, well, made the migraine a whole lot worse, for starters.

  • Nessa May 17, 2013 @ 12:48

    I like your idea of Task Specific Classes.

  • Barbara May 17, 2013 @ 12:43

    Sorry about the migraines. Been in the midst of job searching so I’ve been away from writing, etc. I do enjoy your tips, insight, comments & will be focusing on my writing again soon. I want to stay on the list.

  • Sara A. Mueller May 17, 2013 @ 12:41

    You’re one of the few writing instructors that can very clearly communicate your craft to others. It’s not a common ability, and I admire it immensely.

  • Kelly May 17, 2013 @ 12:30

    I’m glad you’re starting up the newsletter again! I really enjoyed reading it back when it went out regularly. Plus it was a good reminder to get back to work on my own stuff. It’s an amazingly awesome free resource (I actually felt guilty about that for a moment, and then I remembered that I did buy the writing clinics, HTRYN, and HTTS. Mostly because your free stuff was so helpful I had to know what could be learned from the paid stuff.)

    One thing that amused me about those questions was how there was a choice between first work or finished but wanting help with revision. I felt like there could be two other options: working on my zillionth attempt at a first novel (which was me for a long time) or (me currently) working on a new novel after completing a couple, but still feeling as lost as ever. I thought it’d get easier.

    Keep up the awesome work, but don’t push yourself too hard. I hope your health improves!

    • Holly May 20, 2013 @ 8:15

      There were definitely a zillion other potential options. There were a couple on the questionnaire that received no responses, too. I was looking for “ballpark” responses—a general idea of where folks were, not a fine-grained, multi-layered, full-spectrum snapshot.

      I got ballpark, which was good enough.

  • Julia Mozingo May 17, 2013 @ 12:21

    Thank you, Holly, for all you do for the writing community. I support your efforts and buy as I can. Sorry I didn’t respond to the survey. Life’s speed bumps are hindering my writing currently. Tried to click through, but was told I was already subscribed. Hope that is so, as I want to continue to receive your newsletters.

  • Michelle May 17, 2013 @ 12:15

    Interesting stuff, thanks! I wasn’t sure if it was okay to respond directly to the survey email, so I will say here that I am amazed by the amount of teaching and personal support you do for all of us, in addition to writing creatively. I can’t imagine doing all that and having to work around chronic migraines. Thank you so much for being you!

    In the first question on the survey, I’m really more of a mix. I have finished works, but I do all right at revising them. What I struggle with is finishing the next work, which always goes very slowly, even though I’m happy with the finished results.

    The Flash Fiction course and the quick tips in HTTS-Ultra are blowing my mind! I’m making huge mental leaps, writing more quickly without as much stress – all that “Write with Joy,” stuff is starting to make sense!

    I’m a very happy subscriber to whatever you choose to provide: tips, Q&A, new classes when I can afford them, and especially new fiction.

  • Donna May 17, 2013 @ 12:15

    Holly your site is the first place I come when I get stuck. You have so much good advise and information that I can always find what I need. I love reading your newsletter and tips

  • MissCellanea May 17, 2013 @ 12:15

    Holly, I admit it. I’m one of those who didn’t respond to the survey. I even remember why. It was addressed to writers, and I didn’t feel like one that day. This past month, however, I’ve challenged myself to write something every day. Even one word counts!

    I look forward to your emails every Friday. I appreciate, too, the links provided. I think I’ve clicked on every one and devoured these nuggets of wisdom. Thank you so much for allowing us to glean from your knowledge and experience in this craft.

    Sue

  • Teresa Crumpton May 17, 2013 @ 12:03

    Thanks for your hard work, Holly.

  • dianacacy May 17, 2013 @ 10:50

    Sounds great! So sorry, I’m one of those who didn’t respond, but I do listen. I’ve been so terribly swamped with writing and publishing on my end. Just know when I need to check something or refresh my memory on something your site and courses are one of the first places I go.

    • Holly May 17, 2013 @ 11:28

      No problem. I know a lot of folks didn’t.

      If you want to stay on the list, you’ll want to click through on one of the two links in the email going out in a few minutes, though, just to makes sure you show up as an active reader. I’m getting ready to remove about 10,000 inactive folks from the list.

      • Sarah May 17, 2013 @ 12:09

        I’m assuming that simply clicking through registers us as being active? Hope so. Lack of technical knowledge plus a very fuzzy brain today has me a little confused…

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