Vision: A Resource f

 Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor
zette@cableone.net

 

Website Review: 

A Treasure Trove: www.HollyLisle.com

Reviewed By Valerie Comer
2005,
Valerie Comer


www.hollylisle.com

Just over three years ago I decided, for the umpteenth time, to get serious about my life-long dream of writing.  As I had done many times before, I went to the library and started taking out all the books on writing, several at a time.  Some of them were simplistic while others were challenging, and I began to notice that many of the better ones were published by Writer's Digest.  I found their website and discovered that very little information there was free.  I couldn't afford to start buying memberships or books on a whim.  What if nothing ever came of this little idea of mine?  Writer's Digest did, however, have a list of links to 101 best sites for writers, and that is how I found http://www.hollylisle.com.

Holly Lisle, in case you didn't know, is the founder of Forward Motion (FM), and at that time she was actively leading the FM writing community.  I didn't figure that out for several weeks, however.  HollyLisle.com is a treasure trove of information all by itself.  Without the valuable tidbits found within its virtual walls, I can guarantee my writing would have been much slower to take off, if it ever had.  If you've never had a good look around, come with me.  We'll take a tour together.  Be warned: if you are a serious seeker of good writing skills, you may need a hard hat.  There is much more to be discovered than what shows on the surface.  Steel-toed boots and a pickaxe may be needed when performing the hard labors demanded by the interactive areas.  Ready?

Holly's site is loosely divided into five parts.  First is the introduction to her as a person and as a writer.  Here, you will discover how Holly made the leap into full time writing and the ups and downs along her path since then.  Her 25th book will hit the stands this summer, so she has done something right; this site is a monument to the 'how' of her success.  This first section also includes Holly's bibliography.  If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction, be sure to pick up some of her novels and give them a read.  Her most recent foray has been into romantic intrigue.

The second section, called Tangible Magic, is for her readers.  Holly's fans will find not only many first chapters of her novels, but also several short stories, poems, and even two complete novels in free downloadable form.  That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Like many writers, Holly does in-depth world-building before ever beginning a novel.  Much of this information does not appear in the books themselves, but is available here for the avid reader.  Some of the tidbits she shares are maps of her worlds, sketches of her ships, floor plans of houses, and workings of magical systems.  She also describes in detail calendars and curses that pertain to specific works.

As interesting as fans will find these nuggets that are not explained in the books themselves, they are also of great use to the writer who is looking to learn craft.  For instance, here you can compare the background information with what actually appears in the novels.  Although only a portion of the world-building that she does for her novels is put out on public display, it is still a useful glimpse into a challenging profession.

The third section is for writers, and this is where your steel-toed boots and pickaxe will come in handy.  Many gems are located here, but they are not lying around just waiting to be picked up and put into a fancy setting.  Instead, most of the jewels can only be discovered, cut, and polished by thought, imagination, and hard work.  I highly recommend that you download Holly's free ebook, called Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love AND Money.  You can either save it to your hard drive for quick access or print it out in order to refer to it for writing how-to's at any time.  If you have read every writing book on the market and are starting to get jaded by "five things every writer should do," rest assured that you will find Holly's book to be practical.  It is not meant to be an exclusive treatise on writing a novel; it is a collection of essays and workshops on various aspects of writing.  Holly provides tips that have worked for her in the past in the hope that her experience may give another writer a helping hand.  She knows each tip will not be for every writer every time, including herself.

Also listed in the sidebar are various essays and workshops.  Some of these are duplicates from what is found in Mugging the Muse; others have been added since the ebook was last updated.  Many of them were also published in Vision: A Resource for Writers.  Although there are repeats, it is worth your time to double-check both lists.  Where else can you learn How to Write Suckitudinous Fiction, or How to Create Scenes that Move Your Story Forward?  How about subjects such as Notecarding: Plotting Under Pressure, or Honing Your Talent: A Workshop, or the newest addition, Creating Conflict: or, The Joys of Boiling Oil?

Not incidental to the writers' section of Holly's website are links to Forward Motion Writers' Community.  Remember that she is the visionary and founder of the site.

The fourth section of the site is Free Stuff.  Here you will find the link to Mugging the Muse.  Two of Holly's novels are downloadable through Baen Free Library (links provided) in various file formats.  While there, check out the many other free ebooks by other Baen authors.

Finally, the last section of Holly's site includes various about-the-site links.  Awards, copyrights, site hosting and programming specifics are found here.  Other links include her former weblogs as well as her current writing diary.  Watching the day-by-day progress and frustrations of a full-time novelist through the diary is an education all in itself.

Some readers who find their way to HollyLisle.com may think they have discovered just another author's website.  They peer through the window and see a writer at work, then go away with a warm fuzzy feeling of knowing they have seen something special, and yet remain unaware of what it is.  We writers know that this site is far more than warm fuzzies.  To us, it is like a working museum.  We come with our hard hats on, and our pickaxes at the ready.  Here we can learn how to recognize the jewels of good writing, dig them out, bring them to light, polish them