Honorary Debutante Allison Winn Scotch Blogs!

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The Debutantes are honored to present guest blogger Allison Winn Scotch, debut author of The Department of Lost and Found, coming from Morrow, May 2007.


Hey debs – Thanks a million for having me here! I’m honored to be filling in today!

Okay, now to the nitty-gritty.

For me, the writing process is not unlike going to the gym: I know that I should, I know that I have to, but that doesn’t mean that I haul my butt there any faster. And of course, just as I do when I wipe the sweat from my brow and walk off the treadmill after an invigorating run, I always feel damn good when I’m done, both my workout and my daily writing.

All of this is a metaphorical way of saying that my writing process doesn’t always come easy.

The process actually begins long before I sit down at my computer. When I’m really in a writing zone, I’m thinking about my characters and story development nearly all the time – in the shower, walking the dog, on that painful treadmill. I’ll have “a-ha” moments, and dash to my keyboard to spit them out. When I’m lucky. Other times, after processing a general idea of where I want the story to go and what I want it to say, I force myself to sit down and write for an hour, even if what I write is total crap and even if I know I’m going to edit the hell out of it, I write. Generally, I’m pleasantly surprised at what I’m able to churn out. But that hour is a painful one. I’m constantly eyeing the little clock at the right hand corner of my computer and checking my word count. If I reach 1000 words before the hour is up, it’s a very, very good day. And if the hour winds down and I’m still not at 1000, I try to eke out a few more genius (or most likely not genius) paragraphs.

Some writers are meticulous about preplanning where their story is going to go and the various intricacies that their characters will embody. But this sort of mapping doesn’t work for me. I do like to have a general story arc: why the characters find themselves in their current situations, what entanglements they’re mucking through, and where these entanglements might lead them. But I found, especially when writing The Department of Lost and Found, that when you really breathe life into these characters, they’ll take you in unexpected places – places I’d never have foreseen if I’d conceived a giant outline from the get-go – and as a result, the characters’ transformations and their journeys feel organic and true. And, as a reader, that’s all I think you can ask for. And, as a writer, I think that’s really what you aspire to.

What does this all add up to? I guess that for most people, the writing process isn’t an easy one. I read a survey that said that something like 80% of people think they can write a novel. Guess what? They can’t. It ain’t that easy. (And this certainly isn’t an insult: there are a gajillion jobs that I couldn’t do either.) And if you’re out there plugging away at your own book, keep plugging. Just because you struggle doesn’t mean that you’re not talented or that your book won’t be brilliant. And while you’re writing that sure-to-be-bestseller, do know that there’s no right or wrong way to get to The End. Write how ever you need to, as long as it feels honest, you’re on the right track.

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9 thoughts on “Honorary Debutante Allison Winn Scotch Blogs!

  1. I can so relate to the gym analogy. Yep, I avoided doing crunches today and feel guilty, but I needed to get back here and write. Starting now.

  2. Spot on, Allison! I second everything–particularly your comment about honesty in one’s writing.

    I can’t wait to read your novel. Four and a half months to go!

  3. As Allison wrote: “I read a survey that said that something like 80% of people think they can write a novel.” Somewhere along the line I read the same but remember two more stats: 1) From 97% of the individuals who write the first sentence of a novel only 3% actually write The End! and 2) Less than %1 of those completed novels are published.

    Not only are all these Debs class acts, they’re also among a very elite class…which makes it even more exciting to get to “know” them.

  4. Welcome, Allison! Such a pleasure to have you here 😀 And your excercise analogy certainly rings true for me. And I’ve gotten precious little of either done today. Does parking far away from the entrance of Starbucks so I have to walk farther to get my chai latte count as excercise? No? What about a mind-refresing round of four-deck spider solitaire? Count as writing? No?

    It’s a bad day in the Kiernan house then. But this has been an inspiring post. I’m off to write. The excercise might be a little harder…

  5. Thanks for sharing your process, Allison. I made exhaustive flow charts on my first two projects and the process was painful (are they all?), but I’ll try your approach this time and see where the characters take me.

  6. So wonderful to have you back in the grog, if even for a moment!

    I try to be more free-flowing with my writing time, but that just doesn’t work – months will pass without a word being written. So I try to do the hour or 3-page bit, which is sometimes frustrating when I can’t even get that done (two young kids – 6 and almost a year). Like you, I sometimes have to push myself to scrounge up those last few words, which feels a bit like torture or dental surgery.

    Looking forward to reading your novel!

  7. What a wonderful post, Allison! I’m not a big planner, either. I just write like hell and see where the characters take me, then go back and do an outline once I have a first draft. I tried starting with an outline once and that just killed all the fun for me.

  8. The number one myth that non-writers seem to believe (aside from the one about how easy it is to get on Oprah) is that writing comes effortlessly to us. Or as my mother says about me, “She likes doing it.” Umm, not exactly. Need to do it. Am compelled by mysterious forces to do it. Feel privileged to get up every day and do it. Yes to all of the above. But likes? That’s a word I reserve for things like eating chocolate.

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