When my first novel hit bookstores in 1994 (you remember bookstores: bricks, mortar, salespeople who actually know how to read), there was one question my lawyer friends couldn’t help but ask: “Are you going to keep practicing law?”
I told them I loved being a lawyer and saw no reason to quit, to which the typical response was something along the lines of “Gee, I’m really sorry, I hope your next book does better.”
The release of Code 6—my 30th novel—comes on the heels of my 20th year at the law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner and my 40th law school class reunion. The question is no longer why, but how, do I do both?
Here’s some advice to any lawyer who isn’t ready to quit the practice but who dreams of writing a published novel that might actually sell to readers outside the immediate family.
Step 1: introspection
- Do I read for pleasure? That may seem like a funny question, but if you don’t read or “don’t have time to read” for pleasure, you might want to re-evaluate your decision to pursue a writing career.
- Do I have the discipline? Coming up with an idea for a book is not the hard part. The self-discipline of sitting down day after day to write is what separates writers from dreamers. Finding time is a challenge. Turning off your cellphone is a good start. A gadget-free hour a day may not buy you all the time you need, but if you don’t disengage, the fictional world you create will never feel real to anyone.
- Do I have talent? I used to think that everyone has a novel lurking somewhere within their creative spirit. With the proliferation of self-published works in digital format, I have changed my mind. Determining whether you have talent begins with honest self-evaluation, but honest self-evaluation has nothing to do with fear of rejection or embarrassment.
- Assuming I do have talent, can I live with public accusations that I don’t? Some readers will love your work. Some will hate it. Goodreads, Amazon and other online platforms afford readers easy opportunities to express their views, fairly or unfairly. If a one-star review will ruin your day, you’ll need a much thicker skin.
- How will my clients react? Most clients understand that you cannot take their call if you’re in court or with another client. Don’t expect anywhere near the same level of understanding if your unavailability is due to a promotional event for your book. My personal rule of thumb is that a call from a client takes precedence over a call from my editor, my agent or anyone else in the entertainment industry—with the possible exception of Quentin Tarantino or Leonardo DiCaprio.
- How will my partners react? All of them—especially the ones whose draw is at least 10 times your advance—will expect a free book. Your response: “I’m a writer, not a publisher.”