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.
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?