They say that everyone has one great novel inside of them. Have you ever tried to get yours out on paper? When I was in law school, I spent my free time writing screenplays and novels. Fiction writing truly is my first love. In fact, one of my science fiction screenplays even placed fifth in the nation during my second year at UT Law!
You’d think this would have been a blessing. Instead, it came back to haunt me during OCI interviews. Over and over, I heard some form of this conversation:
“You were a writer before law school? You have a screenplay that won an award? What on earth are you doing here?! I want your job! You don’t want a job here.”
In fact, I even got a callback during OCI that was a bit of a rollercoaster. I answered the phone super excited, knowing that call always meant an interview and could lead to a job. Instead, it went like this:
“Ok, right off, let me tell you that I’m not offering you an interview. But will you please stay in touch with me and let me know how your writing career is going?”
Pictured above: Stephanie’s cat, Mufasa, and a copy of her book, A Basket Full of Kittens.
Well, I’m still working on getting my mystery novel published or my sci-fi screenplay produced, so I haven’t called her back with those details quite yet. However, I have written a children’s book about a kitten that is pretty darn adorable. It’s called A Basket Full of Kittens, and you can read all about it here.
But since this is National Novel Writing Month, I wanted to share some words of encouragement from a fellow classmate of mine who has experienced amazing success! Chandler Baker graduated with me from UT Law and her novel, Alive, was published by Disney in June. She has four more books under contract, and the first book of her High School Horror series will be published by Fiewel & Friends on January 12, 2016. She was happy to share her story with me for this blog.
I think you’ll find her words very encouraging. She worked on her writing even while she was in law school, and she faced quite a few rejections before she found success.
How did you go about getting your first book published?
“I did it the ‘old-fashioned way.’ Through the slush pile. I wrote a query letter–basically a couple paragraphs pitching my book–and sent it out to a bunch of agents. Got rejected. Wrote another book and another letter. Sent it out and got offers of representation. I’ve had the same agent since 2008. The first book we went out to editors with didn’t sell. I then took a detour into ghostwriting for a bit. When he went out to publishers with my next book, we had offers and the book sold at auction.”
Do you still work as a lawyer full-time or have you transitioned to writing full time?
“I still work full-time as a lawyer! I like the structure of having a day job, honestly. I just got off of maternity leave so I’m trying to recalibrate in terms of how I’m going to balance full-time writing, a full-time legal practice and full-time motherhood. I’ll figure it out.”
How did you balance law school with your writing career?
“Law school, for the most part, was my detour into ghostwriting, which turned out to be a really great training ground for me. With set deadlines and a paycheck coming in, it gave me motivation to keep writing and honing my skills during a time that it would have been easy to let the writing dream slip.”
How have you been able to overcome the self-doubts that all writers are plagued with?
“All writers suffer from self-doubt. I firmly believe that if you don’t, you’re too adoring of your own work. So I don’t think it’s something you overcome. It’s something that you just learn to live with.
“The publishing industry works so far ahead. For instance, I just put the final touches on my Winter 2017 book. That means that by the time my first book, Alive, came out, I’d already written the next three books. So there’s this odd feeling where I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer since Alive–which is the one that I’m currently having to market and talk about–which only adds to the self-doubt… But I’m learning to recognize that self-doubt comes in stages and that it also comes with the territory. For me, it is the motivation to grow skill-wise from book to book, so I’ve started to welcome it and let it hang around.”
I hope you found Chandler’s advice as helpful as I did! If you’re dreaming of being an author, let this month be an opportunity to really dwell in that dream. It can be hard to keep writing when you’re in law school or working full time. Just commit to carve out a little time every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Life will throw obstacles in your path and make you doubt yourself. But nothing worth having comes easy. Are you ready to fight for your dream?