(I probably put the link in here far too much. Please take this as a measure of my excitement about this course, and accept my apologies for any unnecessary repetition.)
Without How to Think Sideways, the writing course created by author Holly Lisle, I wouldn’t have a writing career. The Illuminated Heart wouldn’t exist, and neither would Dreaming of Her and Other Stories, nor would Kara the Brave. This website wouldn’t be here.
When I tell people I’ve got two books published and a third on the way, all while still in university, they react as if I’ve got some special secret only a few have. No. No. No. I learned. This is a learnable thing. A very learnable thing.
I stumbled onto How to Think Sideways by accident when, during my year off after high school, I did a search on worldbuilding and found Holly Lisle’s site.
It was a writing gold mine.
There were articles on dialogue, worldbuilding, character creation, description, everything. She was the first author I’d come across who really taught writing because she wanted to, not just to answer fan questions. Not only that, but all her advice was practical and actionable. So actionable that, in following it, you make actual progress on your story while learning. It’s not the sort of intellectual exercise so many writing books feel like. Her advice gets your ideas out of your head and on paper before you even realize what just happened.
If you think that’s the Holy Grail of free help (it certainly felt that way to me), then know this: How to Think Sideways is that on steroids.
Here are a few of the most valuable things I learned while taking it:
- Exactly when to use left brained skills and when to use right brained skills
- What a scene is, and how it works
- How to transition gracefully between scenes
- How to sum up a story in 30 words or fewer (this brings a clarity to the writing process that I can’t even begin to describe)
- The basic elements you need in place for characterization, worldbuilding, and plot before you start writing (rather than the pages and pages of unnecessary stuff I’d write before)
- How to query a traditional publisher
- How to create your own genre while self-publishing
- How to self-publish
- How to identify and move past the blocks that get in the way of writing (this is the very first lesson, and it’s a doozy. As soon as I read it, I knew I’d already gotten my money’s worth)
Then there’s the forums. I’ve met so many cool writers there, and we’ve learned and benefitted from each other in so, so many ways. The Illuminated Heart came into existence due to one of these authors contacting me one day about her idea for a fairy tales and zombies collection.
While we’re on the topic of stories that owe their existence to How to Think Sideways, let’s talk about “Who is the River?” It’s the last story in Dreaming of Her and Other Stories, and my favourite of the whole collection. In lesson three or four of How to Think Sideways, you’ll learn how to come up with story ideas that work and that you’re excited about. This is one of the stories that came out of that lesson, and the idea (what would it look like for a river to discover its identity as it travels from mountain to sea?) was so compelling that I’d already written it before I looked at the lessons about what to do next.
But, most of all, this course gave me the courage to publish. It showed me what good writing could be and how to make it, and then said “You can do this.” That’s not even figurative. Holly signs off like that in her emails, and has it in her forum signature, along with: “Write with joy.”
This course should be thousands of dollars for the value it gives, value which only increases over time, but it’s not. It’s less than the tuition for a university course (even in Canada!), and it delivers far, far more than any university course I’ve taken over the course of my degree. Even the good ones.
In the future, if I end up giving an acceptance speech for some writing award or another, you bet I’ll be thanking Holly Lisle. If it wasn’t for How to Think Sideways, I’d still be waiting to write my first novel. I’d still be waiting for someone to tell me I’m “good enough” and to give me permission to finally be seen.
Holly’s added this big long list of bonuses to the course this time around, so many that I haven’t had a chance to read them all the way through. So, instead of expounding on that (Holly does a fantastic job, herself), here’s my bonuses:
Get How to Think Sideways through my link and you’ll also get:
- A monthly video chat during the course with me and everyone else who uses my link, where you can ask questions, get help, and share your epiphanies.
- One private, one-on-one video chat with me where you bring a big writing problem or question and we tackle it head-on for an hour (this can be scheduled during or up to three months after the course).
But enough of me.
*Please note that these are affiliate links and I will receive a commission if you buy through them. I would only become an affiliate for something I believe in, and this is one of those things.