Category Archives: Things I’ve Learned as a Writer

Writer’s Digest: Copyediting Certification Course Review

Over the last several years, I’ve come to realize that I really enjoy helping other writers with their developmental and copy edits, so much so that I’ve considered making a career out of it. But I wondered how to go about it. Did I need a degree to be a professional editor? Or take a class or workshop? How did I learn the required skills? Just as I was considering how to pursue this career path, I got an email from Writers Digest: a Copyediting Certification Course.

Now, I’m not really a religious person or don’t believe in manifestation or anything like that, but I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a sign from the universe that I had to take this course. A workshop for something I was striving to do was literally staring me in the face. How could I say no? So, I bit the bullet and decided to enroll in the course, and thought I’d give a review.

Price: $800 USD
Instructor: Kim Catanzarite
Length: 10 Weeks

Initial Thoughts:

After signing up for the program, which required me to immediately pay the $800 fee, I waited until the start date, which was May 16th. I logged into the course first thing that morning and noticed a few things right away:

The first is that it’s an entirely self-study course that you have to read. There are no instructional or follow-along videos in the course. If you’re someone who is an audio learner, this course has no audio in it.

The course runs for ten weeks. Every week we were required to complete a writing and grammar assignment, which had to be turned in every Sunday. There were no letter grades (A,B,C, etc…) for this course, and only “Complete” or “Incomplete” grades. I do not know what the repercussions would be if you never completed the assignments at all.

Due to be it being a self-study course, I did notice that quite a few students read ahead and moved onto the next sections faster than other students. Again, there were no repercussions for doing this. The lessons were not locked behind any kind of start date or time. You could move onto the next lesson after completing the one you were already on.

There was also a discussion board at the bottom of every lesson page, so the instructor and students could communicate with each other if they had any questions or concerns. The website itself was easy to navigate, and I never had any issues figuring my way around.

The Lessons:

The lessons were broken down into different parts, gradually increasing in difficulty as the course went along. The first several lessons consisted of a refresher of basic grammar: covering phrases and clauses, and the eight parts of speech. Eventually, the lessons moved onto things like: different kinds of paragraphs, tools of the trade, and how to get real life experience as a copyeditor.

The lessons themselves were easy to navigate and organized into well-structured parts. I never found myself getting lost on the website, or confused about where to find the answers if I needed to look back on previous lessons. Likewise, the instructor did a very good job of explaining every piece of information and giving adequate examples of what was being learned that day. I never had to google for a better explanation.

At the end of the course, which I completed on August 8th, there is a final test which you must take. The test consisted of 50 multiple choice questions, and you had to score an 84% or higher to pass. You were allowed to take the test five times. I do not know what would happen if you failed the test all five times.

Final Thoughts:

While I did enjoy the course and found it helpful, I did not find that there were nearly enough exercises to really help drill the knowledge into my brain. I am someone who learns by repetition, and I didn’t think there was enough of it in this course. As soon as I was finished with that week’s lesson and logged off, I would not look at the course until the next week.

I really think this course could’ve benefitted from a printable workbook that the students could’ve used at home. At least, for me, something like that would’ve really helped me continue to hone my skills and practice being a copyeditor. I did not think the writing and grammar exercises were enough to help me learn. I am finding myself in a position now that, if I want to really practice, I will have to reach out to fellow friends and writers to let me see their work and edit it for them. But without an instructor to grade my work, I find there is no way to discover if I’ve made mistakes. I think the course could’ve also benefited from this – some kind of final “paper” where the students had to copyedit ten pages of a book and turn it in.

However, one of the benefits is that the course is always available to me now. Whenever I log onto, I can always go through the course and look back at the information. The instructor also included a PDF of the course, which is available to download.

In my honest opinion, I would’ve sliced the price in half and charged $400 instead. Or maybe even $600. But I don’t think it was worth a full $800.

I would give the course three stars. ★★★☆☆

All this said, I do not feel deterred from continuing to try other Writers Digests workshops, and I would definitely give them a shot.

Have you tried any writing workshops? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

Writing Advice I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

I’ve been writing almost consistently for fifteen years now. Once I realized I could put my ideas down on paper, I’ve never been able to stop. The last fifteen years of my writing journey have been a whirlwind of learning my process, learning the writing craft, getting involved in the writing community, and so much more. But in all that time, there are three things I wish I’d known before I ever started on my writing and publishing journey. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self these three pieces of writing advice, I absolutely would.

So, what three pieces of advice do I wish I’d learned?

1.) Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
2.) Read – and Read a Lot
3.) Writing is Rewriting

I’m sure you’ve heard these pieces of writing advice before. But when I first started writing, we didn’t have the internet to look up common writing advice, or search Youtube for “newbie author mistakes”, and so on. Through trial and error, I made huge writing mistakes, but had I known these three tips beforehand, I’m sure I could’ve avoided them – and I want to help you avoid them, too!

1.) Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

This tip isn’t just limited to writing. You’ve probably heard it in regards to many different areas of life. But for me, it really means one thing: Don’t put all your hopes and dreams into one story idea.

I wrote my first novel when I was twelve, and fell head over heels in love with the idea. So much so that it took over my entire writing life. I rewrote that first novel – from scratch – about eleven times. I queried it endlessly. I even wrote the sequels. And as you can imagine, my journey through the query trenches resulted in…nothing. No response, no literary agent.

I finally had to trunk it.

But this led me down a path of wondering what to write next. Sure, I had other ideas in my head, but for the last almost ten years of my life, I had only pursued that one novel. I’d never branched out, never written another idea. I didn’t even know if I was capable of writing another novel.

But I was.

It was a very long and hard journey in teaching myself how to write another book. While I don’t regret rewriting that novel over and over again – it definitely helped me develop my own process and a writing habit – the anxiety, depression, and overwhelming sense of failure of not knowing if I was capable of writing another book is something I wouldn’t want to wish on any writer out there.

Remember: just because you have to put your project aside and work on something else, it doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Put all of your heart and soul into the book you’re writing, but don’t limit yourself to that one idea. You do have other ideas inside of you, and you are capable of writing them.

2.) Read – and Read a Lot

If you haven’t read my “How Reading Made Me a Better Writer” blog post, I’ll link it here, as it goes more in-depth on what I want to touch on for this tip.

I’d been an avid reader most of my life. It wasn’t until I hit my late teens and early twenties that I suddenly lost my love of reading. I wanted to read, but nothing on the shelf caught my interest. I wasn’t interested in fantasy either, which had become widely popular. I was only reading – maybe – a couple of books a year.

It wasn’t until one day that I realized I wasn’t “leveling up” as a writer. My writing reached a level where it wasn’t improving. I didn’t know the popular tropes and clichés, or why some books were bestsellers and others weren’t. I realized that if I wanted to be a professional writer, and have a life in this business, that I needed to bust my butt and actually pick up reading again.

So I did.

And I vastly improved in so many ways. From my writing craft, to my knowledge of the interest – everything about me and my writing improved. Since then, I’ve become an avid reader once again, and I read several books a month now. Reading can do so much for you, not as just a wonderful hobby, but

As Stephen King says, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

3.) Writing is Rewriting

For the longest time I never understood this concept:

“What do you mean I have to rewrite the book?”
“I just finished the first draft. You mean I have to write everything all over again?”

Those – and other misconceptions – wracked my brain whenever I heard this piece of writing advice. But guess what? It’s true.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to write your entire book from scratch, like I’d been led to believe. What this really means is that the first draft of anything you write will be crap. It will have awkward phrasing and prose, character motivations might not be clear, the dialogue might be stilted and awkward, crucial descriptions might be missing…and the only way to fix these issues to rewrite what you’d already written.

But having all of that in your first draft doesn’t make you a bad writer. Every writer in the history of writers has had to revise their books. It’s just part of the process.
When I first started writing, I didn’t understand this. I thought my first drafts were fine after a little reread and some editing – but I was very wrong.

Every novel needs time to sit after you’ve finished writing it. Every writer needs to come back to their project with a clear mind, so they can see what is and isn’t working within the manuscript, and that’s why getting feedback from outside sources is so important, too.

This is a concept I wish I’d understood years ago. If I’d known this sooner and given my earlier manuscripts time to sit and get feedback on them – and then give them the revisions they deserve – I wonder how much of a better chance I’d have had at hooking a literary agent. This is one piece of advice I’ve had to learn the hard way, but I’m so glad I understand it now.

Learning these three pieces of writing advice have helped me tremendously, and I hope they help you too!

Have any other pieces of writing advice you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

How Reading Made Me a Better Writer

My parents have been avid readers all their lives, so it’s no surprise that reading became a hobby of mine too. It was something both my parents encouraged me to do, and were proud to see me read so frequently.

I don’t think you’d be surprised to hear that I was the girl in high school sitting in the back row, secretly writing or reading when I should have been paying attention. But by my senior year of high school and into my cosmetology schooling, I admit, I gave up reading.

Picking up a book became a rare thing for me, and at most, I was maybe reading one or two a year. I was so busy with schoolwork, and writing my own novels, that reading was something I’d given up.

And oh boy, I wish I hadn’t.

I wanted to read, I really did. I would frequent Barnes & Nobles or the book aisles in Target and Walmart, desperate for something to catch my eye. But every time I picked up a book and read the blurb, I was unimpressed. I would shrug my shoulders, say, “Boring!” and put it back on the shelf. For longer than I want to admit, this become a bad habit.

It wasn’t until Laura Sebastian’s Ash Princess came out, that I was suddenly excited for a new book release. Something about the story really captivated me, and on release day, I went on a lunch break at work and hurried to my local Barnes & Nobles in time to snag the last copy.

I devoured that book in one night.

Ash Princess reminded me how much I loved to read, and how stupid I was to give it up. So I decided to stop being picky, start reading again, and give all the books a shot that I’d once thought weren’t interesting before. Thanks to the help of some CP’s, I was given some wonderful book suggestions, and since then, I’ve made reading a habit again.

Reading has not only helped me make meaningful connections with people in the writing community, but it’s also done so much more: it’s made me a better writer.

Like every young writer out there, my writing desperately needed to improve. And you know what they say, “To be a writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot.” I had the writing a lot part down – it wasn’t uncommon for me write for several hours a day; but I was severely lacking in the reading department, and my writing suffered for it.

My writing was repetitive (hey, it still kind of is, nobody’s perfect). My book’s pacing were off, I had way too many characters and too many to keep track of. I hadn’t mastered the art of opening pages or creating better characters who readers would root for and connect with. My writing had hit a standstill, and I strongly believe it was because I wasn’t reading enough.

When I took up reading again, some of the first books I read were Ash Princess, and Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series. In only the span of a few weeks, just by reading a couple of books, I began to notice a drastic difference in my writing.

My vocabulary grew, my descriptions became cleaner, my writing became prettier and not so stilted. I began to understand how to pace my novels, and not bog them down with unnecessary scenes. My grammar and voice improved. It was like everything about my writing leveled up.

Here’s an excerpt from my first novel, Androids:

“Quietly, we followed along. Morgan was the first to enter, holding her head up high, and we followed after her. My jaw dropped as I peered around the room the peach-tiled room. Showers – at least ten of them – lined the left wall. At the opposite side, there were bathroom stalls colored beige, and on the back wall were a couple of sinks and mirrors. Towel racks hung on either side, and in the corner was a laundry basket. In the middle of the room were three long wooden benches.
I couldn’t believe they had this much room. And enough to spare? How many Androids lived down with here? The thought consumed me.
Andrea hobbled over to the nearest bench. I followed and sat down next to her as she raised up her foot to examine it. The bandages were filthy, with wet leaves clinging to them, and dark blood had seeped through. She peeled off the bandages and winced.”

Compared to my newest novel, Forbidden:

“He hated feasts.
If there was one thing Malistaire would skip out on every chance he could, it was the royal feasts his parents insisted on holding. “You need to have a presence in your Court,” his father would say. “Your court will look to you for advice and guidance. A good king doesn’t resign himself to solitude.”
But Malistaire enjoyed the solitude, and he certainly preferred the company of his own shadow than other people. He reclined a little further in the seat of his throne. People danced to the tune of the flute and harp. Amongst them, his eyes continued to land on Seraphina and Julian. He studied the way he pulled her close, the way she laughed at whatever he said – it left him reeling.”

Can you see the improvements between both novels?

I’m still not a perfect writer, and I still have a lot to learn. But by the simple act of reincorporating reading into my life, I’ve not only gained a healthy hobby, but a way to keep myself creative, inspired, and to constantly improve in all aspects of my life.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

-XOXO Devon