Guest Post Sarah Krewis: Writer Education and Resources

The Importance of Writer Education and Using Centre of Excellence to Learn

A special thank you to Vania for letting me get my blogging fix by doing another guest post for the blog.

Today I want to talk about the Importance of Writer Education. As a newbie self-published author, I have learned so much based on personal experience over the last six to seven years. I can’t believe it’s been that long since I began penning my debut novel, Broken Tomorrows.

Picture a barrel racing horse bursting from the start line and racing around the barrels. That was me when it came to writing. I didn’t think about everything I should have learned before I started my writing business. In fact, I didn’t even think about the business until after I’d published my book the first time. Even when I republished the book, I still didn’t have my full head in the writing business mindset. I published because I wanted to get my story out there and have people read it. 

There’s one problem when you do things that way; that book I wanted to get out there and have people read, wasn’t being read. 

In 2021, I am pumping the breaks and winding back the clock. I’m marching myself back to the starting line and figuring things out the way I should have done in the beginning. 

Ways to Educate:

There are a lot of ways to further your writer education. You can listen to podcasts like Joanna Penn. You can join Facebook groups like #20booksto50k. You can take online courses from places like WriteAcademy or Centre of Excellence. Or you can read the countless non-fiction books out there about any topic in writing that’s ever existed. 

Centre of Excellence

Today I’m going to focus on Centre of Excellence because it’s the place I’ve now taken a few courses and I really like what I’ve learned from there. Centre of Excellence is a UK based online company that offers courses in everything from Writing, Mental Health, Photography, and so much more. So far I’ve taken their Novel Writing Course, and Proofreading and Copyediting Course. Each course consists of about 10 modules. Each module has a few pages of reading and then a 10-question assessment (multiple choice and essay form). The cost of the courses are pricey at $186-ish dollars, but they are always offering deals and I’ve never paid more than $37 for a course. At the end, you get a diploma/certificate. 

Disclaimer: I don’t make anything from this post. Neither does Vania. I’m speaking on this because 1) I love these courses and 2) I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned in the novel writing course. 

What I’ve Learned in the Novel Writing Course:

POV- One of the most important elements of writing is knowing which POV and how many you want to use in your story. You need to know this before you even start writing the book. Will it be in first person (I, me, us) or will you use 3rd person (they, she, them)? Will you have two POVs or four? 

For my assessment on POV we were given a photograph of a man and women close together being seen through a window. We had to write from both first person and third person POV using the same image. 

My First-Person Response:

I couldn’t believe my eyes, maybe the binoculars had some sort of defection where you see only what you want to see. That had to be it because my husband couldn’t be standing in my neighbor’s bedroom stripping her body of what little clothing she wore. I knew Matthew was hiding something from me; his late nights, early mornings, and his sudden interest in running threw up countless red flags, but I was too stubborn to listen. Sure, we had some problems, fights that were petty on my part, but was that really an excuse for him to cheat? I can feel my throat go dry as I watch him kiss her neck the same way he’d done mine not thirty minutes earlier. But wait! What is he doing now? He’s gripped her by the hair and is twisting her towards the wall. Ouch! I can’t watch anymore. I wonder if I call Cecilia’s house if it’ll distract him enough to ease up. Or did she like it rough?

What I enjoyed about this prompt was that it allowed me to try something different in writing first person. I usually write in third person POV. There were more prompts like this in the course regarding POV but the point of this exercise is to help you determine what POV you’ll want to write in. Some writers start out writing in one POV only to switch and watch the gates of heaven open because of how much it changes their writing and success in sales. Regardless of how many you use, you need to know which POV to write in before you write the story. You can always change it in the second draft, but you don’t want to bounce around when it comes to who is telling the story.

Villain- All stories need to have an antagonist, the obstacle preventing your protagonist from getting what they want. Sometimes your antagonist is the main character and that’s okay. Villains can appear in any genre of writing. Typically, when I hear the word Villain, I think murderer, but that’s not always the case. During the course, we were asked to write a small passage where our villain commits a crime. As a Domestic Suspense author, this was a prompt I allowed myself to escape into. I swear, I’m a nice girl. 

My Villain Response:

Mason wiped the sweat off his forehead, creating a brown streak of mud along the hairline of his overpriced haircut. It was almost finished, the cage foundation took longer than he wanted but within the hour, he’d be ready to place the cage and pour the cement. Deep down a voice told him to stop, maybe it was his father who passed away years ago, leaving him in a world with untrusting women. His mother had never been this way towards his father, he knew that to be true. But, the women needed to learn and this was the best way to teach them. 

Once everything was in place, he walked the three feet to his car and pulled out the five-foot three woman, wrapped in a soft blanket and tied at the ends like a present. She wasn’t screaming anymore, probably tired out, but be noted the rise and fall of the blanket. She was alive. Bonnie was her name, a cute girl he’d picked up at a local hotel. She’d been desperate, easy…not his usual M.O.

Back at the cage he placed the blanket on the ground and untied the top, giving her fresh air. He’d leave the blanket, he wasn’t that heartless, and a bottle of water against the railing. The rest would be up to her. 

He padlocked the cage and covered the twelve-by-twelve frame with nearby limbs and bushes. As he climbed into the car, he pulled out a notepad from his dusty suit and added one more tally mark on the page. Fifteen and Counting…

These prompts are without editing. My point in showing these two examples to you today is to show you the kind of writing you can do when given prompts. A wise woman once (or twice or three times) told me that in order to get better at writing, is to keep writing. Taking online courses is a great way to get motivated to doing prompts. You never know…one of the exercise prompts could lead to a really great story idea. 

I’ll be writing Mason’s story in 2022 or 2023 and I cannot wait to use what I learn this year in my writing in the near future. 

Writer education is such an important element into being successful in the writing business. Don’t skimp on it just because you want to get your story out and into the world for people to read. They won’t.

Side note: Centre of Excellence is just one of the many resources out there to continue your writer education. While it’s not as expensive as some other courses I’ve seen out there, I’ve also noticed it doesn’t give personal constructive feedback on the assessment essay problems. It’s not a perfect solution but the information is fulfilling. In the end, you have to find which route is best for you. Online courses are one of the many options out there and it’s all about what suits you best and only you can determine that. Like I’ve listed above, there are many podcasts available, books in the millions with all kinds of information on how to write, edit, and market a book, as well as blogs. My final point is that it doesn’t matter what avenue you get your education, there is enough resources out there for authors, in many income brackets, that there’s no excuse why you shouldn’t be constantly learning the craft of writing.

What are some ways you further your education in the writing business? Share in the comments below. 

Thank you again, Vania for allowing me to guest blog today. 

Until next time, Happy Writing!


Broken Tomorrows is available on Amazon. Grab your copy today!

Got/Get: The laziest words.

I don’t write a lot on craft in this blog. I’ll share editing books I like and tell you over and over again that no matter what you do, ads, graphics, book promotion sites, what have you, if you’re not selling a good book, you’re not going to make it. I don’t mean a well-written book that doesn’t resonate with some readers. You’re not going to please everyone, and that’s just how it is. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to keep going in the past few years of writing. Certain people may not like my stories–I’ve never written a character people hate more than Jax in All of Nothing, but never in any review have I ever read of my work has anyone told me I’m a bad writer. So whether or not people don’t agree with my characters and all their flaws, at least I can hold my head up and know I’m a good writer.

I’m not sure where I was going with that?

Oh, so I don’t offer much craft advice. That really should come from your beta readers, your writing group, your editor. What you choose to take from those people is your own business, and as one editor I know says, “It’s always going to be their book.” So yeah, I don’t like craft advice very much, at least, not giving it.

Lately I’ve been reading more on my Kindle. I pay for a KU subscription and I signed up thinking that I would keep up with my comp authors that way. A lot of romance authors are in KU and it’s always a good thing to keep up with what’s selling. That was my intention anyway, but I paid for a few months of it before I charged up my Kindle and decided I was going to take advantage of my subscription. I read a lot of non-fiction and reading in KU is a lot cheaper than buying paperbacks.

Anyway, so I finished a mystery/thriller the other day. It’s written in first person present, which is why I chose to read it. I’m writing my own stuff in first person present and for me, it’s easier to keep in that POV and tense.

It didn’t take me long to get annoyed. This author really, I mean really, liked the words GOT/GET/GOTTEN. Not short for Game of Thrones, like we associate that word now, but the. . . I guess it’s a verb? . . . got. Gotten. Getting. Get.

She’s got an open black peacoat revealing black slacks and a gray blouse beneath.

When I got in last night, (character name) was in the middle of working on a story.

I need to get to that hospital.

While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she’s got nothing.

I don’t need to do anymore, and it didn’t take me long to find these. The author turns sloppier toward the end of book, like he was tired of writing it and wanted to finish it as quickly as possible.

Maybe it’s just me because that word has already been a pet peeve of mine, but it really turned me off. There are better verbs you can use, and they aren’t hard to reach for–She’s wearing an open black peacoat . . . Even as something simple as changing out GOT for HAS. While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she has nothing. Maybe it’s not any better, creatively speaking, but to me it reads a lot better.

He was able to comb through her devices after we got them from her parents.

It just sounds all around clunky and I’ve hammered it out of my writing. I know how easy it is to slip into easy language, and sometimes that’s all right. But the more you do it the more you can fall into “telling” a story rather than “showing” it. First person is particularly difficult because we’re writing someone’s thoughts, and people’s thoughts are messy and not particularly sophisticated.

And of course, I didn’t tag any dialogue because that’s how how speak. “To make it on time, we have to get going.” “We really gotta go now.” And if you’re speaking to kids, “We really gotta go NOW.”

I’m not blaming this author–I blame her editor for not catching it, or not caring enough to catch the repetitiveness of the word and asking the author to perhaps do a word search of her document and swap out the word where applicable. This wasn’t an indie published book, and unlike some indie where you’re not sure if an editor has gone over the book, this one has. It’s too bad because the word ruined a story I could have enjoyed.

In my own unfinished WIP (67k+) I used GOT 19 times. All but one time is in dialogue. In this particular conversation I used it to express character:

“You got balls, doll, but I guess you’d have to, to lie to so many people for so long. It’s not going to be that easy for you, either, once your secret comes out. What got you into that mess, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Murray Jameson, from an untitled WIP

I can search through that book and find GOT maybe every three pages, and I wanted send out a warning. Words like putting, getting, put, got–those are lazy words and you can do better. If you can’t pull the word you need out of your brain while you’re in the zone, I don’t blame you and you shouldn’t let it derail you. Keep going but make a note, maybe an actual note so you don’t forget, that you’ll need to do a sweep for that word in edits.

I don’t write literary fiction, and I’m not out to be the next Margaret Atwood, but I do want my books to read clean and give the reader a chance to immerse herself into my story. I don’t want sloppy grammar to pull her out.

I got into plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

So easily remedied: I found plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

I know we all have our voices, our own styles, and if you want to use GOT go ahead. There is a time and place for it, and I know that. But too much of a good thing can be bad.

And that is my craft post for the month.

“Got” a pet peeve that you’ve discovered in books? Let me know!


Getting Stuck and Losing Momentum with your Novel: What you can do to get moving again.

All of us go through slumps. It’s difficult to be creative when we’re stressed out and worried about things. I’ve heard a lot of stories on how writers just have not been able to get the words flowing since COVID. I can’t say as I blame anyone. If you don’t know where your rent is going to come from because you’ve been laid off and the government has stopped the extra funds from coming in, I wouldn’t be able to think about my next project either.

I’ve been stuck working on my book the past few days. I haven’t wanted to work on it, would rather binge Lucifer. But the problem with that is, I enjoy writing, and I also think of my books as a business. If I go through a slump, so does my business. My books aren’t great earners right now. Without any type of ads whatsoever, my books make pennies a day, but I’m definitely not going to make any money on books I don’t write.

My slump, fortunately, has nothing to do with COVID. If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know that I just came up for air after writing six books back to back. I started last year, in December of 2019, and finished them up about two weeks ago. I’m letting them breathe now, which is why I’m starting a different project. Almost 40k into it, I haven’t felt as excited or connected to this book as I have past projects. Wondering why, I came up with this list. If you’re having a problem with connecting your book and your characters give these ideas a try:

Get to know your characters again. When I started writing I only had a shadow of an idea who my characters are. When thinking up a new story, writers will come up with plot first, then characters, or characters, then plot. I try to think of both of them together. The characters, who they are and what they want, drives the plot. I didn’t plan out who they are as carefully as I usually do, and I need to go back over my character notes and familiarize myself with who they are as people. This would maybe be a good time to try to create an aesthetic and dig through stock photos to find models that would remind me of what my characters look like.

Remind yourself of the stakes. Sometimes if you’re struggling with a story, it helps to remind yourself what the stakes are. What do your characters want? How are they going to get it? And what is standing in their way? I write romance, so the characters want each other. But what is standing in their way? A lot of time it’s their own personal demons that prevent them from needing who they need to be to take what they want. It’s no different in my current WIP. Colt’s father abandoned them to live a life Colt doesn’t approve of. Ever since then he’s worked his butt off for what he wants. What he wants prevents him from seeing what he NEEDS. So going over what you have and reminding yourself what the stakes are and what is standing in their way if they can’t have it will help keep your story moving.

Keep your head in the game. Lately because I haven’t felt like writing, I’ve been binge-watching Lucifer on Netflix. It takes a lot to hold my attention (I can list a million TV shows I’ve stopped watching because I got bored) but so far Lucifer has kept me entertained. I suppose it helps that Tom Ellis is hot, and his accent is hotter. The only problem is, when I did take a break from watching Lucifer to write, it wasn’t an accident then that my character started to sound like him. Lucifer is catty, and my character, Colt Jameson, isn’t. So it felt very out of character for him to sound snarky after I watched five episodes of Lucifer. I know lots of people can watch and read books while writing their own work, and I never had a problem with doing that either. But this time around because I don’t know my characters very well, it was easy for me to turn them into people they aren’t supposed to be. That gave me a feeling of disconnect from my book, and in turn that made me wonder if what I’m writing is even any good.

After reacquainting yourself with your characters, reread what you have. It probably won’t be as bad as it seems, and if it is, take a very deep dive into your characters’ personalities and fix it. Whatever your views on editing during writing are, I know that if I don’t feel good about what I’ve written, I can’t write more. I do not like to rewrite. My first drafts, besides minor changes and proofreading, are usually my final drafts when it comes to story/plot, at least. I don’t have GREAT IDEAS I need to implement after my book is done. I don’t think, “THIS STORY WOULD SOUND SO MUCH BETTER IF THE ENDING WENT LIKE THIS!” No, no, and no. I write it how I like the first time around and then, the end. So I can go back and read what I have so far and reshape some of the scenes when the characters don’t sound like themselves, or if they sound like they have forgotten their own stakes.

Don’t worry about word count. This is a major one for me because I’m worried about word count the minute I open a new Word docx. Anyone will tell you that’s a terrible way to write, and I don’t make up scenes to reach a certain goal (and have never needed to). But for some reason I need my manuscripts to fall into the range of about 70-90,000 words. I always worried more when writing third person, and it seemed harder to reach that 70,000 word mark. First person is a lot easier to reach that 70k mark and my six books in my billionaire series, they all fell between 84,000 and 90,000 words. It is a terrible habit of mine to worry. And I shouldn’t. My WIP right now is at 39k, at least half of what this book will turn out to be, and I know every plot thread that needs to be wrapped up before the end.

I didn’t take a long enough break. Six books is a lot. The plot just came to me out of nowhere, and I wrote those books as fast as I could. They consumed me for almost a year, and all I did was live, breathe, and dream about Stella, Zane, Zarah and Gage. They were my entire world for a long time and the minute I finished the first set of edits on those books, I jumped into Colt and Elayna. I started a new project to let those other books breathe and I want to edit them again with fresh eyes in a few months. I should have taken more of a break. Taken some time to read a few books, or go for walks, since the weather right now is actually quite lovely. But I jumped in because it’s not my nature to take a break, and now with that disconnect I described, I am feeling a bit burnt out.

Remember why you started. This sounds trite, but we all started writing for the sheer love of writing. I love to write, to tell my characters’ stories. We can get so swept up in the money, the marketing, our sales rank, what are ads are doing, the newest and best promo sites, and newsletter building that we forget it’s about telling a fabulous story! I want to tell Colt and Elayna’s story. I want them to find their HEA. That’s why I wanted to be a romance writer. I want my characters and their readers to fall in love again and again and again. My characters are my friends and I want to enjoy them.

So what I’m going to do is remember who my characters are and what their stakes are. What is the end game. I don’t have the ending scene in mind yet, and I should figure that out to give me something to write toward. Like I said, I know everything that needs to be included to wrap things up, it’s just a matter of getting it all down on paper. This book also has series potential, and I’ll need to figure that out before I publish if I want to keep going. Elayna’s suitors should each find their own happily ever after, but that would require at least four more books. Since I’ve already created this world, it would make sense to keep going, but that is a blog post for another time.

Do you ever lose momentum? How do you find it? Let me know!