Guest Post: Author Allison Winn Scotch Finds Joy—And A Great Story—By Writing For Herself

the theory of oppositesI haven’t said this in a while: I met this author on Backspace!Allison Winn Scotch was one of the very first published authors who treated me like someone who absolutely would one day be published. She was (and is) generous with her knowledge and time. I’m thrilled to welcome Allison back to Women’s Fiction Writers in celebration of her FIFTH novel.  The traditional gift for a 5th anniversary is wood. OMG! Wood comes from trees! Wood pulp makes paper. See the connection? (Humor me, will you?) 

There’s a very special story behind the story of THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES and today Allison shares this with us, in addition to the best writing advice ever: WRITE FOR YOURSELF. 

Please welcome Allison Winn Scotch to WFW!

Amy xo

Finding Joy—And A Great Story—By Writing For Myself

the theory of oppositesI’m about to publish my fifth book. Whew! Way back when, when I first tried my hand at fiction, when I wrote a (terrible) manuscript that was never published, when I was a freelance magazine writer who felt the tug toward novels…never in my wildest fantasies did I imagine that this is where I’d be seven years later. Five books. Well, hot damn.

Writing each book has been a different experience than the last, and no more so than with my new one, The Theory of Opposites. My debut novel was a bit like losing my virginity (forgive the visual): I fumbled, I screwed-up, I learned as I went along, eventually, figuring out (mostly) what I was doing. My second book, Time of My Life, was a frantic joy of a novel – I wrote it quickly and obsessively, purging myself of the story. My third was my least favorite writing experience – I felt saddled by the success of Time of My Life, and put immense pressure on myself to top my own standards of what I was willing to publish. It was agonizing, and I still look back on that book and grimace, whether or not the pages inside justify my feelings. I wanted my fourth book to be…deeper…heavier, (who knows why?), perhaps…taken more seriously. So as I wrote, I kept this in mind – what would critics say? What would readers say? And I love that book, but certainly, I wrote it with one-eye on a critical prize.

But this new book? Here is what I did: I wrote it for ME. Just me. Only me. Me, myself, and I. And it was the best professional experience of my life. It’s harder than you think – writing for yourself. Ignoring the voices of readers that you can hear in your head. Ignoring what you suspect Publisher Weekly or Kirkus will write up about you. Ignoring the evisceratingly mean barbs that some random person will shoot your way on Goodreads. But if you can find the way to block out all of those other voices, all of that extra noise, you’ll find the writing process liberating. Or at least, I did.

Here is what I decided: that I was going to go balls-out. And when you go balls-out in your writing, your characters become sharper, your plot lines become more daring, your dialogue becomes more punctuated. You have nothing to lose because you are writing on the edge. You’re not writing to please a marketing team; you’re writing because you love it. It’s not easy, to separate the writing process from the publishing process. I had to constantly remind myself not to read my pages from the perspective of “how sellable” they were; it didn’t matter – this book was for me, not the sales team or the marketing team or an editor who wouldn’t agree with my choices. I also had to constantly remind myself to listen to my gut, and that by listening to my gut – and honoring my instincts – I’d find renewed joy and happiness in the writing. And that the writing was the better for it.

Right now in our industry, there are a lot of things that writers are told we can’t do, or we aren’t doing. You’re not selling enough; you don’t merit more co-op; you can’t control your pricing or your advertising or a whole host of things that happen once you file the manuscript with your publisher. What you can control is the craft on your pages. You can control who you are writing for and how much joy that brings you. I know you can control it because I did. I love this book, I love the process that I took in writing this book, and I love the satisfaction that taking back control has given me. Try it. Write for yourself. Everything about it will liberate you – and in turn, your book will be all the better for it. (Which then, of course, means that readers will love it.) 🙂

allisonwinnscotchAllison Winn Scotch is the bestselling author of four novels, including TIME OF MY LIFE, THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, THE ONE THAT I WANT, and THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND. Her fifth novel, THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, will be released on November 12, 2013. In addition to fiction, she pens celebrity profiles for a variety of magazines, which justifies her pop culture obsession and occasionally lends to awesome Facebook status updates. She lives in Los Angeles with her family. For more about her and her books, go to allisonwinn.com or follow her on Twitter at @aswinn.

21 thoughts on “Guest Post: Author Allison Winn Scotch Finds Joy—And A Great Story—By Writing For Herself

  1. This was brilliant. And it’s so true that writing for your publisher or the market means your hands are tied, and there’s a risk your work will never sparkle with truth on the page. I’ve gone from commercial women’s fiction to my true love – short stories – and thankfully my publisher is behind me all the way! Best wishes with book 5! Thanks cat

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  2. I actually love the analogy of losing your virginity! Though I’m definitely too old for that, that’s exactly what it feels like. A lot of fumbling in the dark and learning as you go. I have a terrible, stinker of a novel in the drawer that I hope never again sees the light of day, but the one I’m doing final revisions on now, I’m hoping someone (or lots of someones) will feel like I wrote it just for them. Five books and counting…awesome. Looking forward to reading The Theory of Opposites!

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    • Thanks, Kathryn! Yes, it’s interesting…I do think that readers pick up on a writer’s mental state in the pages. There’s a very strong sense of, “Oh, I bet she must have had a blast writing this,”…or not. I am certainly attuned to that as a reader as well. I recently read The Husband’s Secret and felt the same thing…I could sense the author’s (Liane Moriarty) joy in the writing process. (Or at least I thought I could! I’ve never met her, so I can’t say for sure.) 🙂

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  3. Have been a big fan of yours for years Allison! (And also a loyal follower of your super-helpful, always-honest blog–you turned two of my questions into posts a few years back which I so appreciated!) Love this post for the same reasons: so honest, insightful, and empowering.

    Anyway, so excited for your new book and many congratulations!

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  4. I really needed to hear this today. I’ve been stuck , unable to move forward on the new WIP, and I realize I need to just push all doubts aside and just write for the joy of it, and for myself. Congratulations on THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, Allison! And thanks to you and Amy for sharing with us.

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  5. Oh, I love this! I think it’s such an important lesson no matter where you are in the process. Whether just starting out or having published multiple books, letting go of everything else and writing for the love of it, the joy of it, is such an incredible experience. Truly, it’s a gift. Thank you, as always, for the most insightful reminder. Very much looking forward to the new book! 🙂

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