Think Being a Lawyer is Tough? Try Being a Writer.

Biopic(2)~ By Mia Sosa

I’ve just begun my writing journey, and I’m already exhausted! Yes, I know what you’re thinking. There are two adverbs in that sentence. Someone needs to get her a straitjacket. And what’s with the exclamation mark? Is she serious? Me? I’m wondering if this blog entry is ill-advised.

I’m a newbie, a neophyte, a clueless aspiring author with stars in her eyes. This explains why I thought being a writer would be easier than being a lawyer. Ha.

I figured writing would be difficult, and, yes, I expected to get a lot of no’s before I would get a yes. Still do. But I had no idea what I was in for, and now that I’m in the trenches, obsessing about adverbs and cringing at how many times I used “that” in my legal writing, I confess to being overwhelmed by the writing world. Here’s why.

As a writer, I’m subjected to the longest evaluation process known to (wo)man—and the process occurs in public. As a lawyer, I developed a thick skin. When I was a firm associate, it wasn’t uncommon for a senior partner to red-line my first draft. Often, there was more red on the page than black, and a few times the red-lining was so extensive I ached for positive feedback. See that? He didn’t change a single word in the first sentence. Can I get a woot, woot? When I became a partner, and the responsibility for approving the client draft fell to me, I obsessed about the client’s reaction, but by then I knew what was expected of me, and I met those expectations. Easy. Done. Over. Out. Overstatement? Of course.

Fast forward to my experience as a writer. The layers of feedback are enough to make me want to hide under the covers: beta readers, critique partners, developmental editors, and editors at publishing houses. And let’s not forget the feedback you receive if your novel is published. Editors (again). Copyeditors. Readers. Reviewers. Fellow writers. I can feel a panic attack coming on.

Sometimes I’m subjected to an unintentional critique—by a stranger. It goes like this: Having written a scene I’m really happy about, I sit back and smile at my computer screen. Then I read an online review of a romance novel. And the review inevitably begins by pointing out a technique or trope that annoys the reviewer—which happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to that scene on the screen I was making goo-goo eyes at moments ago. Kill. Me. Now.

As a writer, I have to disregard everything I thought I knew about email etiquette.

Lawyers are taught to respond to client emails within twenty-four hours. Clients generally respond in kind. In the publishing world, your emails are sucked into a vortex, where responses are either not to be expected or sent from an automated email account thanking you, “Dear writer,” for your submission and advising you to expect a response within eight to twelve weeks. Sigh.

I’ve never paid much attention to my spam folder—until now. A year ago, I couldn’t be bothered to look at it; if an email is in there, it’s there for a reason, I thought. My how things have changed. Now I check it every day, because that email from an editor might be there. There’s no other way to explain the absence of her email, right? Never mind that there are a tens of thousands of emails in that editor’s inbox. I want a response to mine (picture me stamping my feet on the ground like a four-year-old).

And what about the ding announcing the arrival of a new email? Am I the only one who dives for the iPhone when that happens? Who is this person?

This week, I’m traveling to the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference in San Antonio. I’m looking forward to it, because I need to surround myself with people who live in my world.

There’s a lot more craziness, but this is a blog entry, not a novel, so I’m going to stop soon.

To my fellow writers: I’m inspired by your commitment and your love of the craft. This is hard, and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t have a clue. If you’re feeling the way I do, don’t despair. I woke up this morning, made a cup of coffee and sat in front of the computer. I’m getting my writing on. Yes, it’s going to take some time to embrace the crazy, but I will, because I’m bouncing in my chair as I type, and this feeling is awesome.

I’m a lawyer with a passion for writing contemporary romance novels. When I’m not shuttling my school-aged children everywhere, I’m feverishly honing my craft; waiting with bated breath for the day my first novel is published; panting in anticipation of the release of the next steamy romance novel; huskily telling my husband I’ll finish the manuscript soon; and failing at the tasks of avoiding adverbs, clichés and purple prose (not in my first novel, but here). 

5 thoughts on “Think Being a Lawyer is Tough? Try Being a Writer.”

  1. Mia, you echo the insecurities we all feel as writers. But legal writing and fiction are two entirely different animals. I came from the nonfiction side of writing as well – I work in scientific research, writing protocols and journal entries. My first published book is a memoir (when it comes out, hopefully sometime early 2015), which was the thesis for my MFA in creative writing – in nonfiction. It’s taken me a long time to “forget” everything I knew as a writer in that world, and cross over to the world of romance.

    I don’t think I started making any progress with my romance writing until after I’d read that 100th romance novel. Although I’d read a couple a year before I started writing (usually on my summer vacation), I realized that wasn’t nearly enough exposure to understand the genre. I now listen to books on Audible during my commute, and have another one next to my bed. I read/listen to at least 6-8 romances a month, all by different authors, in different genres. Now, finally, I think I’m finding my voice, and I have a clearer picture of the kind of stories I want to write.

    So that’s my advice to you – read, read, read. Sign up for Audible and listen while you commute or jog or do laundry. Scour the bestseller lists and read the romances that are selling. After a while, you will discover the voices, the plots, the genres you love, and those you don’t connect with quite as well. And miraculously, your own voice will begin to develop.

  2. Thanks so much, Adele. I had a great time at the conference and met several lawyers-turned-writers. The first-timer’s badge was a great ice breaker.

  3. Hi, Mia.
    You’ll find several lawyers turned writers in the ranks of RWA. I myself am an inactive member of my State Bar. Good luck with your novel. I, too, am headed to San Antonio for Nationals. Have a great time.

    1. Hi, Tanya. I’m not surprised. I wonder if some or all of them experienced culture shock when they transitioned into the writing world. It’s been quite a ride. If you see me at the conference, please say hello. I’m a shy gal, but I’m looking forward to meeting other writers.

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