The Stories Behind the Covers
I learned to trust my muse
I had stumbled along with one pro-rate short story sale and a number of mediocre and/or unfinished novels on my hard drive or my desk drawer. This was despite years of writing, reading many how-to books, and attending a big-name multi-week residential workshop. I wasn't where I wanted to be in my writing career. Hell, I wasn't even on track to get where I wanted to be in my writing career.
I've taken a number of Holly's courses, chief among them How to Think Sideways and How to Revise Your Novel. Both courses have provided benefits that directly improved my storytelling. For example, I worked through HTRYN with my first draft of *New California*. I woke one morning while my wife and infant son were asleep, picked up a pen and paper, and "entered the monastery." Doing that exercise helped me discover a solid and valuable scene that I didn't put into the first draft. (It's in the version you can buy today in ebook, trade paperback, or audiobook). Another practical benefit came to me from HTTS. The "dot and line" and "sentence" exercises helped me draft *Take the Shilling* with more focus and very few side paths to backtrack from. But the biggest benefit from Holly's courses was intangible and global. I learned to trust my muse. I write to my passion much more and censor myself much less than I used to. I no longer seek validation from critique groups or workshops. I also learned to trust the entreprenurial side of my creative self. I no longer seek validation from agents or New York publishers, and instead, I've independently published eleven book-length works with more on the way.
Mindmapping/brainstorming my themes, interests, passions, and fears was hugely valuable, both in the nuts-and-bolts of crafting stories, and in suggesting how to build the career I wanted.
Take the Shilling is the first volume in the Confederated Worlds trilogy. New California is a standalone, though I might revisit its universe some day. I've also published science fiction novels The Blank Slate and The Sirens of Bangalore; science fiction short novel The ALECS Quartet, fantasy novels A Prince of the Blood and A River Through Earth, and short fiction collection The First Voyages. All are available in ebook for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and other devices/apps, trade paperback at online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, and in audiobook from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
Don't chase a market, don't censor yourself out of fear, and don't let anyone else between your brain and your keyboard. Write what matters to you.
Raymund's website: http://www.raymundeich.com/
Tools that really help you get right to the heart of a story...
I joined the first presentation of How to Think Sideways and used it to come up with The Only. How to Revise Your Novel helped me hone it enough that it got me an agent, something I'd dreamed of for forever. Fast forward to today and I've taken the decision to go full Indie, inspired by Holly's ability to look at the big picture and be brave enough to decide exactly what I want from my writing career and to go for it. I've taken lots of her shorter courses and I'm currently taking How to Write a Series which has given me the best idea for where I want to take my writing next. Holly enthuses and excites her students and shares so many great out-of-the-box tools that really help you get right to the heart of a story, you can't help but become a better writer.
Karen's website: www.karenguyler.com
I didn't think the stories were salvageable
Before Holly's classes, I started dozens of books without finishing them. Or if I finished, I'd give it a read and with a big, fat 'nope!' I'd set it aside to never edit. I didn't think the stories were salvageable. "How to Think Sideways" got me writing again and finishing projects, while the "How to Revise Your Novel," saved what I wrote from the trash can. Because of these classes, I've had several books and short stories published, made several bestselling lists including the Seattle Times, and Amaskan's Blood won the 2016 Ozma Fantasy Award (and was a 2016 Epic Awards Finalist). I'd like to believe I would've been able to do this without Holly's classes, but it would have been a longer, more painful process. There's nothing more satisfying than getting positive reviews from Publisher's Weekly and other authors saying things like "Amaskan's Blood is like if George R. R. Martin wrote [Disney's] Tangled" and "Class-M Exile is like Doug Adams meets Firefly."
Raven's website: http://www.ravenoak.net/
I'm now working on an epic series...
I heard about Holly and HTTS through my friend Becky (I think she's still here? Becky? Hello? LOL!).
I had been writing off and on since childhood and had some small non-fiction successes (and failures) but had always wanted to write epic fiction. Becky pointed me toward HTTS so I went to the site and poked around a bit, tried the Free courses and liked them, so I bought some of the less expensive short courses and loved them, and eventually put the squeeze on my budget to buy HTWAS.
I'm now working on an epic series, with two out of five books indie published and the third on the way. How to Revise your Novel and How to Think Sideways are both on my wish list as soon as I can swing it financially. I love the easy to follow instructions and Holly's videos are my absolute favorite! She's brutally honest and witty at the same time, while explaining things in a way that anyone can understand...and remember.
Sallie's website: www.questoftheguardians.com
Many short stories and several middle grade novels published...
I was writing in a closet until I found many sites recommending Holly Lisle's writing courses. When I took my first course, How to Revise Your Novel (HTRYN), I cut 30,000 words off my loooong novel and was hooked. Holly has a great sense of humor and a quirky way of looking at the world, which results in new writing techniques that I never would have considered on my own. She's changed my writing, for the better. It’s tighter and has more meaning and resonance.
Since I've done Holly's courses, I've had many short stories and several middle grade novels published, and have won contests and national awards for my writing. Holly's advice to me has been frank, personal, realistic and encouraging. I was thrilled when she asked us to set financial goals with our writing, and even more thrilled when I met them and received a bonus free workshop of my choice.
Holly’s forums are full of encouraging writers who cheer each other on and commiserate when the going is tough. Successful writing requires consistent effort. I’ve been happy to share my journey with this team since 2011. I’ve done most of Holly’s courses. My favorites are: HTRYN, How To Think Sideways, Dialogue with Subtext, How to Find Your Voice, HTWFFTDS (Flash Fiction) and How To Write a Series. I’ve learned something valuable from every course I’ve taken. Enjoy them!
My published works are: Novels: Attack on Dragons Realm, (Phantom Feather Press, 2016) Dragons Realm, A You Say Which Way Adventure (Fairytale Factory, 2015) 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Best Youth Novel Mystic Portal, A You Say Which Way Adventure (Fairytale Factory, 2016) Anthologies, collections and boxed sets including my work: Baby Teeth - Bite-Sized Tales of Terror, (Paper Road Press, 2013) 2014 Sir Julius Vogel Best Collection Disquiet, (Creativa, 2014) The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales (Phantom Feather Press, 2014) Lost in The Museum (Phoenix Writers, 2014) 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Best Collection. Dragon Tales, (Phantom Feather Press, 2015) At the Edge (Paper Road Press, 2016) 2017 Sir Julius Vogel Best collection Burnt Chrome and Orange (2017) Finalist, New Zealand Romance Writers Chapter Short Story Contest Ahi Ka (2013, co-authored with A.J. Ponder) First Equal, New Zealand Society of Authors NorthWrite Collaboration Contest.
I'd encourage you to take a course, the one you most desperately need help with now. Immerse yourself in it. Try what Holly suggests and see how your writing grows stronger. Have fun.
Eileen's site: http://www.eileenmuellerauthor.com
My first published piece
Bite-Sized Fiction For Busy People was inspired by Holly's free flash fiction course. It is my first published piece and Holly gave me the confidence to be able to write it. I needed something that I could use to give readers a taster of my writing style, and it turned out great!
Since then, I've invested in both How To Think Sideways and How To Revise Your Novel, which my debut fantasy novel is currently being revised through.
Rachel's website is: http://www.authorrachelhobbs.co.uk/
Helped me to persevere
Hi Holly! You saved my writing career with one of the first lessons I ever took from you. You gave me four quotes to memorize.- Safe Never Starts. Perfect Never Finishes. Victim Never Acts. And lastly, Feel Never Thinks. I've taped these gems to my computer keyboard. They have helped me to persevere. Now my first book (Embattled We: A Poet's War) is being published! Thank you, Holly!
Oh and my website: adamscottcampbell.com
In one night, I was able to plot out my next book
I loved reading Holly's books, but only recently did I come across her classrooms, and I will be forever grateful. Up until early 2015, I had been a pantser writer. I always got lost in the murky middle of the book, meandered a whole lot, and never finished a book I was proud enough of to publish.
When I found Holly's writing course, Plot Clinic, I sat down and started reading, and it was beyond eye opening. In one night, I was able to plot out my next book, what would become Beneath a Holo-Sky. It was my first plotted out effort, and I ended up trying to pack way too much into it because, at the time, I had no idea how my scenes would translate to word count. Since then, I've been able to better gauge how many scenes I need to reach word count goals in my books and I no longer get lost in the middle, because I have a clear path to follow. Plotting out the books also allows me to take long manuscripts and reduce them to easily achievable goals.
I'm no longer looking at how many words I still need to write, I can just focus on one scene at a time, knowing that, as long as I follow my plotted out path, my story won't lose its way.
Later, I also downloaded the Flash Fiction course, which helps to me to write short stories, something I never previously thought myself capable of.
Without Holly's classes, I'd still be a tinkerer, with a dozen half started books that would never see completion.
Thank you so much for helping me to achieve my dream of becoming a published author.
Lyn's website: https://www.lynforester.com/
I never looked back
The first time I ever stumbled over Holly Lisle was when I found "Mugging the Muse" (version 1) in an Internet search for creative writing tips. At that time there were hardly any books on creative writing in German, so I was delighted to find a free eBook.
When I read it, I found that I had already learned most of the tips in the book the hard way during my 10 years on and off writing "training". So I wrote to Holly thanking her for the great eBook and got such a lovely personal response (which even resulted in a blurb for my first ever published book) that I got myself some of Holly's stories to read. Some I loved, others not so much. And I started to wonder how a talented writer like her could end up with some great books and others that read more like an outline than a full novel.
So when she offered her first, big course – “How to Think Sideways” – I jumped at the chance. During the course I wrote “Urchin King” which I then revised using “How to Revise your Novel”. It was the first time that writing a story didn't feel like pulling my teeth out while trying to get a group of wild horses to move in the right direction.
Aside from the novel, these courses got me an agent and the answer to the question that drew me into the first course: Sometimes a publisher canceled a series before the end Holly had planned, thus forcing her to write a conclusive ending in the third book. So after I had two books (historical novels) published by a small publisher in Germany, I jumped the Indie bandwagon.
From then on, my writing output grew, my stories got better continuously, and I got sales. Needless to say that I never looked back.
Cat's website: http://www.katharinagerlach.com/
I have so many [ideas] I have to choose which to write
Before taking any of Holly's classes, I had written one therapeutic murder mystery with illusions of grandeur. I had no idea it was neither long enough to publish nor good enough. After Holly's classes, I have 3 published novels and 15 published short stories, with another 5 short stories and a novella in the process of publication.
I've taken most of Holly's classes and each one has helped me become a more skillful writer. How To Think Sideways helped me realize I could come up with enough story ideas, and now I have so many I have to choose which to write. How To Revise Your Novel gave me the quality I didn't know I was missing. How To Write A Series helped guide me through the sticky spots where I thought I had broken the series. I've taken most of her other classes as well, and each one has made me a better writer. I use the concepts from each class, and when I'm fumbling, I go back and read the lesson again. I would have never published anything without Holly!
My most exciting discovery was realizing that I have worlds and characters without end inside me, and when I let my Muse take over, those world and characters rise and fall and crumble and triumph on the pages of my stories.
Crowns Peak series:
- Ava's Quest
Platform Eight space series:
- Darkest Space
- Recovery Space
- Damaged Space
- Revenge Space
- Craving Space
- Slave Space (in between flash stories available through my newsletter)
- Space, Lies, Syndicate
Holly's forums are as important as the classes. We're all writers, whether for fun or profit, and we all have such an array of backgrounds and experience that someone has the answer to your question, or someone has been through something similar, or we can empathize/sympathize anyway. Holly's writers are some of the best people I have ever met. Come join us!
Gave my writing a depth it was missing
Before discovering Holly's workshops and courses, I couldn't finish anything. I couldn't organize anything. Her workshops on Scenes and Characters and Languages and Cultures gave my writing a depth it was missing. Her How To Think Sideways course taught me how to finish and also how to start so that finishing was a breeze, how to add organic conflict, how to add twists. Her How To Revise Your Novel course taught me how to take a rough product and polish it, how to dive deep into my story, tear it to shreds, and re-build it into the tale I'd hoped for when I started my first draft. And her How To Write A Series course taught me how to take multiple books and weave them together. She also gave me the deadline that forced me to publish my first book. When it comes to writing, I owe everything I am to Holly and her teaching.
The turning point in my career
I've followed Holly Lisle's blog for ages and when the How to Think Sideways course was first offered, I jumped at the chance to take it. It was the turning point in my career as a professional author. In the course, she taught me how to take my ideas, find the right one for me and turn it into a rich, compelling novel, full of twists and turns.
And when I was done with my first solid draft, I took How to Revise Your Novel and under Holly's adept tutelage, turned the big pile of words that came tumbling out of my fingers in first draft into the story I really wanted to tell. Now, with each new book I write, both the drafting process and the revision process get easier and smoother, and I have grown so much!
Holly's hard-won wisdom is honest, sometimes hard, frequently amusing and always spot on. I would not be the writer I am without her mentorship, and using her tools and always-evolving resources, I get better and better all the time!
Nancy's author page: https://hollyswritingclasses.com/stbc/nan-sampson.html
Finally, I understood what to do and how to do it
After having taken an "ordinary" writing class and not getting any closer to what I wanted or quite understanding HOW to write, I found a link to Holly's classes on a Swedish website. When I saw what she had to offer I jumped right in with How To Think Sideways, followed by How To Revise Your Novel.
Finally, I understood what to do and how to do it - and to trust myself while working. I write in Swedish and published my book in Sweden last August. I have since translated my book (Open Your Eyes) to English and here's the result - soon available at Amazon!
Elizabeth's website: http://www.elisabethoweson.com
I had decided to give up
I was at a point in my writing life where I had decided to give up. I was disillusioned. I’d had a horrible experience with a publisher who ripped me off and refused to pay royalties owed. At the end of 2014, I took several months off to read craft books and re-evaluate my writing to see if I even wanted to continue. In January 2015, I got an email from Holly offering her HOW TO THINK SIDEWAYS course. Taking a deep breath, I signed up and told myself it would be my last-ditch effort to get back into writing. I figured it was worth the investment if I could get back to writing something I *loved*. It turned out to be the best decision I made. It helped me rediscover the joy of writing and IN THE TOWER OF THE WIZARD KING was born.
I finished the book in May 2016, fifteen months from the day I began brainstorming with the class. The book went on to win third place in the 2017 New England Reader’s Choice Awards. I owe that to Holly.
Michelle's website: http://www.michellemiles.net
I write stories on and inspired by my music
I write stories on and inspired by my music. My dream was to make instrumental music more accessible to more people. So to achieve that, I thought about sharing the things that comes to my mind while i play... Since childhood I always created little stories that were coming to me from my Muse and inspired by the music that I was playing.
I found Holly I think in 2010 or something like that, her course helped me tremendously to straighten my plot, my world building and my characters. My first debut album will be released in August 7th and it is available for pre-order pretty much everywhere in 256 countries. (iTunes, Google, Amazon etc.) The Deluxe version of the album that will be sold on my own merch store will include the first chapter of the series and the series will keep going at the pace of one chapter by album. Following the album release I am planning to release a book in between each album as my series is a multi-verse and while the album is based on the dream world and the human world, the book will show what is also happening in the elves world and how it interacts with the rest of the worlds.
Holly's teaching helped me in every step of the way to organize my thoughts and inspire me to new heights. I am so grateful that I have found her and her teaching.
My album 2nd teaser is available here (you can get a glimpse of the series in there): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIcUMcYor6E
Nika's website: http://iamnika.com/
Holly taught me how to publish my books independently
"In 2012, I retired early to become the full-time caregiver to my wife of ~40 years. To stay sane I wrote a series of short stories, the tales which became "30,000 Leagues Undersea," yet had no idea how to publish them. Thinking I might try my hand at fiction, I searched online for a way to fix a 30-year-old novel, and found Holly's course on plot outlining. It was so helpful that I enrolled in HTTS. That novel remains unwritten because I got a much better protagonist through her Screen Exercise. Now I am now four books deep in a five-book historical fiction series built around him, and he has proven to be terrific fun to write.
A free plotting workshop Holly offered online in 2012 got me started. But How To Think Sideways really informed and cemented my understanding of the professional writing process. And a "how to independently publish yourself" recipe Holly posted on her website provided me step-by-step instructions to set myself up as an independent publisher. I followed it pretty much verbatim and within a matter of months had all the pieces in place to create Tom Vetter Books, LLC and http://www.tomvetterbooks.com. I have since purchased almost all of Holly's courses, and every one has proved most worthwhile. But I also gather much useful information from the forums on Holly's Writing Classes, and from exchanges with the other authors online there.
Along the way, Holly taught me how to publish my books independently, and gave me the knowledge and tools to write, edit, format and market them. I am not (yet) well-known as an author, but I know now how to write and publish books my readers love, and won't quit until I have earned literary renown. And I owe all that to Holly Lisle."
Tom's books at the time this was posted:
- Be Careful what You Wish For. Flash fiction anthology. 26pp. Jan 2014.
- Call To Crusade. Historical fiction novel. 490pp. Feb 2014.
- Bone-Crusher. Historical fiction novella. 94pp. May 2014.
- 30,000 Leagues Undersea. Adventure memoir anthology. 508pp. Apr 2015.
- The Siege Master's Song. Historical fiction novel. 384pp. Dec 2016.
- Guido's Bus of DEATH. Travel romance. 118pp. Mar 2017.
- Hello Again Europe. Travel romance. 136pp. Forthcoming 2017.
- March To Nicaea. Historical fiction novel. 327pp. Forthcoming 2017.
Whether you are a seasoned writer or a complete novice, there is much you can learn and use to be found at Holly's Writing Classes. I'd urge you to join us there and see all that Holly can teach you.
It was time to take the dive
In 2006, I began blogging as a form of artistic expression to help me stay sane when my third son was born (and the oldest was only three.) Within a few years, I started receiving comments along the lines of "You should write a book." I was like, "First, no time, and second, I need material for that. Writing about my life? Easy. Writing about stuff I made up? Not so much."
In 2012, I got an idea that finally made me want to write fiction. The only problem was, I still had no idea how to do so well. (It'd been a long time since high school English.) However, I had subscribed to Holly's newsletter for over a year, and when she offered How To Think Sideways Ultra, I knew it was time to take the dive and invest in my writing by taking the course.
I wrote my first book, "The Friday Night Date Dress", as practice while taking the course. It was supposed to be a short story and turned into a 27,000 word novella! While taking the course, Holly used an example of an author who hates what she writes and the fans she writes it for as an example to write about things that you are passionate about. Not only have I taken her advice to heart, her anecdote sparked the idea that became my second novel, "Finding Heaven" (to be released in August 2017.)
Thank you so much, Holly, for how you continually give back to the writing community. I have put you on the acknowledgements pages of both books and regularly promote your classes. Without you, I would not be a novelist, nor would I have had the courage or know-how to self-publish--the first book for practice, the second book because it is off-genre, but means so much to me. You continue to be an inspiration. As soon as I get Finding Heaven out into the world, I look forward to working through "How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn't Suck" so as to get better at writing short pieces of fiction.
Btw, because of your class, I decided that I wanted to pursue writing full time. I now also write for a regional magazine--a job for which I had no journalistic training, and would never have had the courage to ask for were it not for what I learned from HTTS and the successes of my blog and first book. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I love my career, and I love that I know how to be successful in it, all because of you.
Talena's site: http://www.talenawinters.com/
The confidence to publish
Holly’s HTRYN class was the greatest thing to ever happen to my writing. As an intuitive thinker, I often arrive at conclusions I can’t immediately explain, and it was the same with my storytelling. I could usually tell when something wasn’t working, but didn’t understand why, or what I could do to fix it. Unlike many writing resources that focus on general advice, Holly’s course taught concrete systematic methods that gave me much more direct control over my scenes. The novel I revised with her help is hands down the best thing I’ve ever written, and this knowledge gave me the confidence to publish it.
Lynn's author page: https://hollyswritingclasses.com/sbtc/lynn-almengor.html
Successful first-ever revision
I discovered your classes about nine months after I started writing fiction, after seeing your blog post about how to revise a novel in one pass. At that time, I'd never heard of revising a novel. But I'd just joined Romance Writers of America, and I knew I had to approach my writing in a more professional manner, get some writing classes under my belt, and improve my covers. I had just written Fatal Exposure (cover below) and intended it as the first book in a series. I used it in completing the HTRYN class, and the trilogy that resulted was shaped by HTWS. My personal site can be found at http://www.jessajacobs.com (18+, please).
But I hit a morass when I tried to write
I'd always been a writer, from the time I did the troop newsletter as a Brownie Girl Scout. I'd done a lot of journalism, news articles and historical research with my horses, but I hit a morass when I tried to write creatively. I've always loved Holly's writing but when I found her author's help pages, it pulled me up out of a fog and turned me around.
Her "How to Think Sideways" class was a lifesaver for my writing. My other favorite is one of her free classes, "How to Write Flash Fiction that doesn't SUCK".
Becky's website: http://www.beckyburkheart.com/
Awards, nominations, more books... and enjoying those monthly Amazon royalties
What I love about Holly's courses: Their originality and clarity. She's a prolific published writer whose works speak for themselves. While I was struggling to have my fiction published for thirty years, Holly was doing it - even when publishing markets were declining.
If I could recommend one writing course in the world, for any writer at any level, it would be Holly Lisle's free three-week course, "Flash Fiction that Doesn't Suck". It certainly changed my life: I found it more helpful than thirty years of struggling on my own and trying to read writing books that usually ended up depressing me. (That being said, I've also taken, I think, just about every other course Holly has out, because they are that good. The one I am finding invaluable right now is "How to Write a Series".)
It wasn't just Holly's brilliantly clear instruction: It was the chance to get my stories out before others in the Flash Fiction forum, and get sympathetic but honest feedback; Plus, work on my stories 'til they were right. The flash fiction forum is an incredibly supportive and helpful community, and I am still active there today.
The result for me was the publication of my first flash fiction fantasy anthology, Tales of Mist and Magic: How Granny Maberly stopped a War and other flash stories. I am now well on my way with nominations, awards and more books in the works - and enjoying those monthly Amazon royalties.
Holly teaches fresh ways of thinking and principles you can apply to any story. She teaches you to SEE; really see. Her courses are fascinating and interesting - and her forums for the courses are a fantastic source of support and encouragement from really fabulous writers with passion, curiosity, big hearts and just plain child-like enjoyment in all things writing-related. And that's all thanks to Holly. So, thanks, Holly!
Marya's site: http:www.maryamiller.ca
Set me up to understand how to write a book
I found Holly's site after my first NaNo in 2011. The Arizona Elsewhere Moderator, JA Marlow, a member of Forward Motion, recommended Holly's How to Revise Your Novel course to me. I took the chance and was glad I did. Not only did it tell me how to make a story out of that first wreck of a first draft, it really set me up to understand how to write a book in the first place.
I've taken other classes with Holly as well. Recall was my take on her How To Plot Your Novel. I had a lot of fun with the lessons and wrote the book. Not sure what genre it is, Women's Fiction/Thriller/Suspense? But it was my 2nd book.
I wrote my Gulliver Station series next, going back to the How to Revise Your Novel course with each book. Then I began the Brown Rain series with her How to Write a Series. She even did an on-air interview with me! I was so excited.
I continue to follow Holly and the rest of the "gang". Thanks so much Holly!
Connie's website: http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/
I'd just been told that my stuff was at best mediocre
When I found your classes in late 2008, I'd just been told by an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards reviewer that my stuff was "at best mediocre." I burned to prove him wrong--and found How to Revise Your Novel, which taught me how to pull the book apart (in its 7th draft, no less) and put it back together in a way that made sense to the reader. I was able for the first time to think critically about what I was doing, and to make deliberate choices to make my work better, and to achieve specific goals in the book as a whole. It propelled me to an entirely new level as a writer. I submitted the book to Odyssey Writing Workshop and then to the ABNA again--and got in to the former and got to the Semi-Finals in the latter. That novel was _Clean_, and it got published by Penguin (Roc) in 2011, along with three others in the series. I directly credit you for helping me get over the hump into a pro level of writing.
I will always be grateful to you. You were there online when I needed a pro-level teacher, and you taught me what I needed to know to get over that last hump. I have told so many writers about your classes, and I'd recommend them to anyone.
Feel free to quote me.
Alex's website: http://www.ahugheswriter.com/
More Published Students' Covers