Dame for a Day–Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell

By Dame Rinda (For the intro!)


Why should we get to have all the fun?  We Dames want to spread the love, so we’re starting a new feature called Dame for a Day where we’ll be inviting guest authors to don one of our black hats (or sexy, high-heeled boots if they prefer) and tell it like it is.

First up?  Sarah Wendell, of the popular Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website.

I met Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan a couple of years ago at the RWA convention in Dallas where we discussed the versatility of certain four letter words. It. Was. One. Of. The. Best. Conversations. Ever.  Seriously, these ladies are fun.  And smart. 😉 And they have a book coming out!  In April, Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels will be published by Touchstone Fireside. 

Sarah’s Bio: By day Sarah Wendell is mild mannered and heavily caffeinated. By evening she dons her cranky costume, consumes yet more caffeine, and becomes Smart Bitch Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The site specializes in reviewing romance novels, examining the history and future of the genre, and bemoaning the enormous prevalence of bodacious pectorals adorning male cover models.

Giving It Away

By Dame Sarah Wendell

I think this site is awesome with the absolute boatload of writing advice being given out for -holy crap- free!

So now that I’ve been asked to Guest Dame, let me give you my wealth (about .02c on the current dollar) of knowledge, gleaned from years and years of writing and…giving it away for free.

I started writing online back in 1999, when there were very few options for content management like WordPress or even Movable Type. I kept an online journal, the remains of which you can sometimes find if you’re really digging through the Wayback Machine. I used to write each page in Dreamweaver, then link the pages together with a monthly menu of entries. Obviously, this was before I had children or pets and way before I learned to cook things that involve more than adding water to a mix. I had a lot more time than I do now.

The root motivation was that I wanted to write, and I wanted to stop hyperediting everything I wrote. The internet seemed like a logical way to publish myself AND cure myself of the Over Editing Urge. I’d write up long-winded silly essays, like the time I categorized and named every type of pimple I could think of, or the time I imagine the conversation between Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin after John wrote the music to Levon and Taupin handed him lyrics about Jesus blowing up balloons all day. I’d give myself one chance to edit them, then I’d post them on the world wide interweb. No more futzing – just publishing.

Eventually I had a few readers, and then a few more, and then I started blogging and then I had a journal AND a blog and then I had this strange email conversation about romance novels and tsunamis with this woman who used to leave hella long comments on my blog, and fast forward to the present and you have Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, where I still write every day and give it away for free.

I’m such a word harlot.

Then, the two of us Bitches were offered the opportunity to write a book. I’ll be honest with you: I’m still struck with awe at the idea that someone would want to pay me to write something. See above re: giving away, free, harlot, etc.

Two things happened with this amazing concept: 1. I was expected to write things on a deadline set by someone other than me.

2. I was no longer my own editor.

I know, right?! Someone OTHER than me was telling me what to do with my writing. True story, hand to heaven: we were asked to produce a 90,000 word manuscript, which, when you write in blog-length increments is a LOT OF FUCKING WORDS OMG. So I wrote and wrote and wrote and Candy wrote and wrote and we combined the pieces and ended up with a mammoth manuscript.

That was 108,000+ words.

So I sent it in.

Hey! Stop laughing!

I figured, you wanted 90k, here’s 108k, so that’s more than enough! Just ship that bad boy over to the printer. Whee!

No, really, stop laughing.

So of course we were asked to trim it, and trim it hard because seriously, even with my bad math skills 108 does NOT equal 90.

I was floored. Not only was someone else was editing me and telling me how long to write and what to do and how to shape and trim and do things with the words I wrote, but they told me I was long-winded.


But in the process of working with an editor, and we won’t even discuss the humiliation and schooling that resulted from the manuscript meeting a really, and I mean REALLY good copyeditor, I learned a few things:

1. Being your own editor is a very, very good thing. But it’s also important to recognize when someone else has valid and valuable input. Other eyes wiser than your own are invaluable. So share your work with trusted people.

2. Writing under a contract and writing for yourself are two different experiences, but each are valid. If you keep writing even when it’s not a must-do situation, you’re keeping your pimp hand strong, so to speak.

3. Giving it away for free is not always a bad thing. In fact, it can lead to more amazing experiences than you could possibly image.

To journey from writing about weird Elton John songs to reviewing romance novels to co-authoring Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels is not anything I could have anticipated, but every word I wrote back then enabled me to get it done when I didn’t think I could.

So (did I mention I’m long-winded?) my advice in eight words to those looking for publication?

Write every day: keep your pimp hand strong.


  1. says

    And fabulous advice it is, Sarah!

    When Caitlin and I got our editor’s letter for BLACK AND WHITE, we had the completely opposite direction from you and Candy: we were told to ADD up to an additional 100 pages, if needed, because our editor wanted us to explore the world we’d created a little more. Writers being told to WRITE MORE! We were in heaven. So we wrote more. :) But oh yeah — having an editor work with you is worth its weight in gold.

    As for giving it away for free — I’ve learned a lot, most of it the hard way, in my time as a professional author. I’m very, very happy to share what I’ve learned to hopefully help others so they won’t make the same freaking mistakes I’ve made. And God knows, I’ve made a lot. A. Lot. Sigh.

    Thanks so much for being a Dame for a Day, Sarah!

  2. says

    Sarah, enough about your fabu book. What about that picture of Fabio’s crotch on the website? I threw up a little when I saw that.

    Looking forward to reading the book. And hey! Thanks for picking our video as the winner of the “Poor Slobs Who Will Promote Heaving Bosoms for Us” contest. It was a proud day.

  3. Karissa says

    I may spend the day laughing about “keeping my pimp hand strong.” Awesome image, especially to someone who used to blog about her phone sex job. You’ve earned your gold stars for the day. :)

  4. says

    There is never enough room on the internet for the magnificence of Fabio’s crotch.

    Aside from that, thank you for the warm welcome! I have indeed been littering the internet with words for a long, long time, and I’m flattered like whoa to be asked to guest-blog anywhere. So thanks for having me!

  5. says

    Since I started blogging, I have become so long-winded. My reviews sometimes hit the 3k mark! So glad for your first published book, Sarah 😀
    Hopefully in my future I will have an editor who will help me. The more input and feedback, the better.

  6. says

    LOL! Thank you for posting here, Sarah! Really great stuff. Also, congrats on the the new book – I’ve been looking forward to it for ages. Not long to go!! :)

    Dame Kaz

  7. says

    Sarah, if there is room for Fabio’s crotch, there must also be room for the Hoff’s mantitty! Equal rights and all that. LOL!

    My copy of Heaving Bosoms has been on preorder since it became available. I can’t wait!

  8. says

    “Other eyes wiser than your own are invaluable. So share your work with trusted people.”

    This is so true. Somewhere along the way, writers need to share what they’ve written with people who can give them useful, honest feedback.

    If it’s not an under-contract situation, (editors, etc.) but rather a first reader or critique group, it never hurts to tell that person upfront, exactly what kind of feedback you’re looking for. Besides complete adoration(of course) you can ask for things like: did the beginning draw you in? Who was your favorite character? Why? When did you put it down? Was the ending satisfying? Where were you confused?

    Thanks for blogging for us, Sarah! You make an awesome Dame, and BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS looks hilarious!

    I’m totally going to pick up when it hits the shelves on April 14th!

  9. says

    Hey Sarah,
    Smart Bitches is safely subscribed to in my reader so that I never miss a post. Congratulations on the book and thanks for your 8 words of advice. Easy to say, but hard to follow. I try though.

  10. says

    OK, so I’m not an author at all. I do have a blog and I write reviews for RNTV, but really, I’m not an author, just a really experienced romance reader.

    But Sarah, I wanted to ask, did you have a beta reader for your book? The reason I ask, is that I’ve been beta reading a paranormal romance for a friend of mine, and I’ve been having a blast with it. I keep saying it’s like “choose your own adventure” in that I can question something, and the author clarifies it next time I read the chapter. It’s been a ton of fun.

    But I wondered, if you used beta readers, what kind of feedback do you want from them? And how do you want that feedback given? Or do you just rely on your editor? I’m curious about the process or about how any of you feel about beta readers??

  11. says

    It’s so unfair that NY gets all the good book stuff, like the first tour for BHB. If you come out to Portland OR you can crash on my couch. Meanwhile, thanks for giving it away for free!

  12. Dana says

    Thanks for the wonderful advice that answered several questions I had been pondering.

    That being, was I being selfish, lazy or untrained in having my “fun” continuing an online story that I call me “practice” as well as reviews to spread the word on books/authors that I fall in love with!

    Guess I can have my cake and eat it too!

    Thank you very much for your time in posting this information.

    ~ v ~