The Sweet Spot Map: A Secret To Creating Stories You Really Love

Do you want to write only stories that you love?

Want to write in more than one genre (or sub-genre), and bring your readers along?

Writer and teacher extraordinaire, Holly Lisle, has developed a technique called the Sweet Spot Map that helps you to achieve both of them.

She presents the technique in an eBook that’s one of the 29 lessons of her How To Think Sideways course. (The link leads to Amazon)

The Map explains why some of your readers adore one book or series from you but dislike another. They connect with the people, things and concepts in the first book but not with those of the second.

The Sweet Spot Map is a mind map. Six of them actually, clustered around words:

– I Fear
– I Need
– I Love
– I Hate
– I’m Drawn To
– I Get Shivers From

To create a Sweet Spot Map, start with one of the subjects that feels most natural to you. You need a separate paper for each map, preferably a big one. If you don’t have a big sheet, you can make on one by taping smaller papers together.

Draw your association clouds by hand. Writing long hand activates the right side of the brain and connects you better with your Muse. You can later make an electronic version of the map if you want.

When the ideas stop coming, take a break and do something else for a while. Or tackle another map and see if you still run dry. This is an eternity project and you should add to your Map every time you find a new shiney like or an icky dislike.

Some of the six maps might be easier to fill out than others. For some reason I found the negatives, fears and hates the easiest. My shivery area is still fairly empty. That’s where I put the things that make me feel giddy joy, awe, wonder and sadness.

In case you want to see an example, here’s a part of my I Need map.

One great source of Map items is your favourite books and movies. Go through them with a paper and pen. Every time you come across with something that makes you say “I like that”, “Cool”, “Wow”, “Eww”, “Oh no” and so on, that something belongs to your Sweet Spot Map.

Short version of this is to decide which scenes and images from the favourites are the most memorable to you, and add just them to the Map.

You can also go through blurbs of books and lift words, ideas and concepts from the back covers. Most genres have sites that list all new releases of the year or the next month. It’s helpful to see the blurbs in context. That’s when you really notice how some books hook you right away when others are just meh or lukewarm.

As for practical applications, the Sweet Spot Map is a goldmine for story starters, themes, character ideas, character motivations, fears and loves, character traits and cool scene elements.

I’ll be covering the uses more next week.


What did you think of the technique? What’s on your Sweet Spot Map?


  1. Rachel Funk Heller
    Jul 4, 2012

    very interesting. I’m looking at combining something like this for my Fast Draft Prep class that I’m planning. thanks for posting Reetta.

  2. Reetta Raitanen
    Jul 5, 2012

    I’m glad you found the technique useful, Rachel πŸ™‚ Thanks for the comment.

  3. Sheila Seabrook
    Jul 5, 2012

    Reetta, I took Holly’s How To Think Sideways class while she was still teaching it online and her techniques are amazing. I especially loved this lesson on th Sweet Spot Map. I’m glad to see she’s publishing the lessons now and may just have to purchase them to get all of her updated stuff.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Sheila Seabrook recently posted..Are You Directionally Challenged?My Profile

    • Reetta Raitanen
      Jul 5, 2012

      How To Think Sideways really was the best. I learned so much.

      Sheila, you don’t necessarily have to buy the new lessons again unless you do it for support.

      To get the updated stuff, there is a section for Legacy students in Holly’s website where you can download the new worksheets and lessons. She emailed the link there a while back.

  4. Coleen Patrick
    Jul 5, 2012

    Great writing exercise for honing in on what’s important! Thanks for sharing–I am filing this away for the next wip!!
    Coleen Patrick recently posted..Floating at the Lowest Place on EarthMy Profile

    • Reetta Raitanen
      Jul 7, 2012

      I hope you’ll make some cool discoveries for your next story, Coleen πŸ™‚

  5. Jami Gold
    Jul 5, 2012

    Interesting! I want to try this, but like you said, I’d have to make it be a long term project, otherwise I’d fry my brain. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing!
    Jami Gold recently posted..Writing: Where Less Can Be MoreMy Profile

    • Reetta Raitanen
      Jul 7, 2012

      It’s smart to take your time with big writing excercises like this. A book is written in bits too. And the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

  6. Louise Behiel
    Jul 5, 2012

    i took her course and completely forgot this process. thx for an excellent reminder
    Louise Behiel recently posted..Last But Not Least: Schizoid Personality Disorder is Not Schizophrenia But It Shares SymptomsMy Profile

    • Reetta Raitanen
      Jul 7, 2012

      How cool that you took the HTTS course too, Louise πŸ™‚ I’m glad to act as a reminder. I’m adding to my map now too.

  7. Jennette Marie Powell
    Jul 6, 2012

    What’s cool about the map is it’s a continually evolving resource. Mine isn’t always useful- it has Mountain Dew and Camaros on it in several places; but other times it helps!
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..A Bit of America in FranceMy Profile

    • Reetta Raitanen
      Jul 7, 2012

      Indeed, Jennette. Sometimes items might even fall off as priorities shift. Holly says she re-does her map occasionally from her memory.

  8. Melinda VanLone
    Jul 7, 2012

    Holly Lisle is a great teacher! I have all the lessons, back before she put them on ebooks. I need to pull my sweet spot map out again! Thanks for this reminder, I needed it!
    Melinda VanLone recently posted..Book Review: Alaskan Fury, by Sara KingMy Profile


  1. Eine Idee macht noch keinen Roman! | Xander blogt... - […] um weiteres Material fΓΌr meine Geschichten zu fixieren, sei es die Sweet Spot Map von Holly Lisle (Hier wird…

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