I heard of Susun Weed maybe two decades ago, and turned into a true fan when I became pregnant with my first child. Her Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year became one of my staples for reference and a gift I later gave to other first time, expectant moms.
A couple of years ago, Susun became a colleague when Linda Joy introduced us and Susun wholeheartedly spread the word to her subscribers about my Bring Your Book to Life Program. I’ve asked Susun to share her favorite tips for authors. Here are 7:
1. Create an outline, but be open to changing it.
Susun: I work from a brief outline and I do know what will be included in a book. For instance, when I wrote Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way, I knew everything that’s “down there” would be in the book. My outline implies what’s first, but I always modify that. As I wrote books, the things I thought were supposed to start ended up being in middle. I get the clarity once I’m in the book.
2. Seek criticism.
Lisa: Whom do you ask for feedback?
Susun: I ask everybody—people who are experts in that area as well as people are living every moment of their life with these problems. I also have a dear friend who has edited all my books and turned me into a polished writer.
For Down There, I asked people who spend their lives dealing with bladder issues, endometriosis, prostate issues, etc.
I asked them: “What have I left out?” “What am I saying that’s all messed up?” “Which of the remedies that I have collected has worked for you?” and “Which haven’t?” “What have you found effective that I don’t have here?”
When I put my work out there to comment on, I take their comments to heart. For instance, when I wrote Breast Cancer? Breast Health! women castigated me for using the word “patient” and I coined the term “women dancing with cancer.” Women liked that and people began to use it.
3. Write for one person, one reader at a time.
Lisa: Do you have a specific person you imagine writing to? Is it often different for each book?
Susun: I do. I literally do have a picture in my mind of that person. For the breast book I wrote for two readers: the woman who goes to a doctor asking, “Is something wrong with my breasts?” and is told, “You’re all clear,” when she knows something is wrong, as well as the woman who is following doctor’s orders, went for the mammogram, is told there’s something suspicious and goes for a biopsy—which triggers the cancer to advance.
For Down There, I wrote for one person at a time—each chapter specifically for a woman or a man with certain issues or questions. For example, the prostate section was for a man who’s over fifty with prostate issues. In general, my readers are well educated, people who want an index in their book.
4. Speak your truth.
Lisa: Can you say more about that?
Susun: As long as you are not putting people down, not spreading things you know to be untrue, be in your truth and don’t worry about people saying you’re wrong. Seek out opposing views and listen carefully so you can speak to the opposition as well as the “choir.”
5. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Lisa: Any favorite revision tips?
Susun: I write my books on their page layout, not a word processing program. This forces me to keep condensing to fit on the page. I don’t want topics starting in the middle of page. Also, we tend to be more verbose than we need to be. I look for the simplest, clearest words.
6. Let it go.
Lisa: When? How?
Susun: When? When I’m sick of it. When think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. Then I know it’s time to let go. But only after I’ve had all that feedback and revised many times. How? I send it to the printer.
7. Kiss your kids good night.
Susun: After your book is printed is the time you need to take special care of your work. It won’t sell itself. At the very least you need to promote word of mouth. At the most you will want to work with a paid publicist. Promote your book with the tender care you use to kiss your kid goodnight.
The past few nights, I’ve been reading Susun’s latest book, Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way. I was a bit of a reluctant reader–knowing it would probably force me to start doing kegels again. I have to admit, though, Susun has WOWED and inspired me with this book. It’s informative, motivating and Susun’s humor brings a lightness to an often-clinical subject. And–yes–Susun has me doing my kegels again (and if you don’t know what kegels are–or you can’t remember how to do them– you definitely need to read this book).
Susun Weed is the voice of the Wise Woman Tradition, where healing comes from nourishment. She is known internationally as an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health. Ms. Weed restores herbs as common medicine, and empowers us all to care for ourselves. She is the author of the Wise Woman Herbal Series and publisher of other books on herbs and health.