New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch has a new novel out: The One That I Want, which Publisher’s Weekly calls “an aching, honest look into the death and rebirth of relationships … a wise, absorbing narrative.” She also has a wonderfully inspiring story to tell about the determination it took her to get into print. I know you’ll enjoy both! – Meg
I had several starts and stops along my road to publication, and any of them, I have to say in retrospect, might have been enough to knock someone less bullheaded out of the race. Fortunately, stubbornness has always been my strong suit, and I was undeterred.
Prior to transitioning to fiction, I was a full-time freelance magazine writer, but had always felt that pull toward novels. So one day, about eight or nine years ago, I realized that all the day-dreaming in the world wasn’t going to get an actual manuscript written, and thus, sat down – with no clue what I was doing at all – and started writing. The manuscript took me three or four years to complete, mostly because I stopped halfway and had no idea what to do from there…getting started was easy, finishing it? Not so much.
Eventually, I put my head down, dug in and wrote those last 150 pages, and well, I’d be lying if I said that I thought they were anything less than brilliant. BRILLIANT! I had already envisioned the bestseller list, the movie soundtrack, the cover art when I started my agent search. I can’t remember now how many queries I fired off, but it was somewhere in the ballpark of average: more than twenty, less than fifty, when I got that sweet, sweat offer that every writer hopes for – representation for my novel.
My agent said that the book would require fairly extensive editing, and so we got to work, cutting exposition, axing unnecessary scenes (brilliant, as I was sure they were), fine-tuning until she deemed it ready for submission. Oh, those anxiety-filled days waiting for word from editors – every second passed like an hour, every email in my inbox a quick sign of hope (then deflation when it wasn’t from my agent) that I was about to transition from unpublished to published author. Alas, the rejections rolled in…and rolled in…and rolled in. Many of them were very gracious and a few were near-misses, but lo and behold, by the end of our process, not one had come in as a “yes.”
Devastation. Despair. What’s a gal to do?
Well, for me, ever that stubborn toddler, I refused to give in. Within a few days of mourning, I sat down at my computer and started fresh. This time, I actually had a vague idea of what I was doing, how to create a story arc, how to write the whole damn thing without a two year lag in the middle. So I did. I wrote frantically, completely the entire manuscript in three months. I passed it off to my agent with much euphoria. Unlike the first time around, when I blindly deemed myself brilliant, this time around, I actually had a basis for comparison, and I knew this one was good. At least much better than before.
My agent came back with edits, and I made them. And then….nothing. Silence. My phone calls stopped getting returned, my emails went unanswered. And very slowly, and then very quickly, I started feeling very, very sick to my stomach. My agent, I knew in my gut, had lost faith in me. Despite the fact that I loved this book, that this book, I was certain, was sellable.
A month or so of silence went by, and finally, we spoke. Yes, she admitted, she wasn’t gung-ho on this. She thought, and I’ll never forget this, “That going out with this manuscript will do more harm than good for my career.” And what did I want to do? She asked. Revise the original manuscript. (No.) Start an entire new one that she would take a look at. (No.) Or find someone else to represent the current one. (Yes.) To be fair, I hesitated and mulled it over for about two hours. And then, that was that. We parted ways amicably enough and that same afternoon (need I raise that stubborn toddler analogy again?), I started querying agents all over again.
Two major set-backs: 1) an unsellable completed manuscript, 2) an agent who didn’t think I was viable in the marketplace.
I queried my little heart out, and this time, I received several offers of representation within the first few weeks. I signed with my agent – Elisabeth Weed - who remains my agent to this day, and a few weeks later, she sold that manuscript, the one that would have done more harm than good for my career, in a four-way auction. Could it have gone a different way? Could my first agent have been right? Well…sure. Some stories will end like that. But mine didn’t. I refused to let it. I refused to let one person’s opinion – my original agent’s – dictate the course of my future AND refused to let it override my instinct that my book was a worthy one. Thank goodness for my gut. Thank goodness that I was born stubborn as a mule. Thank goodness that I connected with the right agent for me. That’s the story of how I became a published author. Was it easy? No chance. Was it worth it? Indeed. – Allison