It’s almost November . . . and if you’re a lawyer longing to write your novel, that is great news. Aspiring lawyer-writers among you who have thought about a novel or other fiction for a while have likely heard of Nanowrimo. That’s NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, for those newer to their flirtation with fiction. Nanowrimo happens every November, and it’s a great way to transform your fiction dreams into reality.
The idea is to write 50,000 words in a month. Sounds terrifying, right? What if you don’t have an outline? What if you barely have a glimmer of an idea for a novel? What if you’re insanely busy for the next hundred years, and don’t have time for writing a novel?
The good news is, you don’t need an outline, or a developed idea. You don’t even need vast savannahs of time. Other things you don’t need for Nanowrimo are:
- Perfect, or even good, grammar or spelling;
- A best-seller idea;
- More than a wisp of an idea;
- An agent;
- A new computer;
- Magic pixie dust;
- Experience writing fiction;
- Great health;
- A vacation; or
- Anyone’s permission or approval!
The most important thing you need for Nanowrimo is a willingness to write badly. Insanely badly, even. What Nanowrimo will give you is that “shitty first draft” that Anne Lamott talks about in her classic, yet hilarious, writing book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
The Importance of Writing Pure Crap
Shitty first drafts are where it’s at when it comes to writing anything, really. Shitty first drafts are pretty much the opposite of how most lawyers write everything.
Most of you use this writing process: Stare at your screen, thinking. Position your hands above the keyboard, then stop. Repeat 5 times minimum. So you spend an eternity crafting the perfect first sentence in your document, which leaves you tired and questioning your writing abilities. Then, you eventually go back and do the same thing for sentence #2, and sentence #3, and so on.
Writing like that hellish and exhausting. Writing like that is why the idea of writing 50,000 words fills you with abject fear. But it doesn’t need to be—and shouldn’t be—that way. When you opt instead for vomiting on the page, words come much more quickly, because they aren’t pre-edited. That is, emphatically, a GOOD THING.
The time for wordsmithing, flow, sequence, and making your words sing usually isn’t during that shitty first draft. Yes, you’ll probably get a few jewels despite yourself—hurray! But the point is to create a big, wet pile of word clay that you can shape, mold, or maybe decide to pulverize and rebuild.
A Place Just for Lawyer-Writers To Hang Out
So join me this month and march through Nanowrimo together. I’ve created a closed Facebook group, Nanowrimo Lawyers 2018, where we can gather, have fun, whine-bitch-moan, and also support each other when the going gets rocky. You need only answer a few questions, just to make sure you’re not a troll, and you’re in.
This will not be the place to get critiques of your work, or advice on structure and other mechanics of novel-writing. For that, and for great suggestions about how to get your head in a good writing place, check out Nanowrimo.org/nano-prep.
If you’re reading this after November 1, but still during November 2018, don’t despair! You can join any time.
If you aren’t ready to commit to 50,000 words, that’s also fine. Set yourself an ambitious writing goal along other lines. Maybe to write for 20 minutes per day. Maybe to write 1,000 words 5 days per week. Whatever feels like a stretch, and is a little scary but also intriguing.
The important thing is to write. The rest is really just details.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who worked for a decade in the publishing industry, mostly writing for legal newsletters and magazines. She wrote about half a novel over the course of a year, writing 20 minutes daily during the workweek when she got coffee. If you’d like more individual attention than a group can provide, try a sample writing coaching session with Jennifer. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule yours today!