We had the opportunity to chat with Lindsay Cameron, author of BIGLAW. Lindsay's debut novel tells the story of a young NYC lawyer climbing the partner-ladder. It's been called the next The Devil Wears Prada and Harper's Bazaar recently named it a must-read. BIGLAW also won a 2015 USA Best Book Award and the film rights have been optioned. Way to go, Lindsay!
Lindsay worked for six years as a corporate attorney before turning her career experience into this highly acclaimed novel. Here's what she had to say about segueing your professional life into a fictional novel:
5 Tips for Turning Your Career into a Novel
By Lindsay Cameron
Some of my favorite authors have written novels about jobs they once held. Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus worked as nannies before they wrote The Nanny Diaries. Lauren Weisberger was an assistant to the editor-in-chief of Vogue before she wrote The Devil Wears Prada. These writers inspired me to turn my own career as an associate in a large New York law firm into the novel BIGLAW. If you’re working at a job you think is just crying out to be turned into a novel, here are five tips I’ve learned along the way.
- Remember you are writing a novel rather than a memoir. There’s a reason you chose to make your story fiction, so be sure to utilize all the creative freedom that comes along with the genre. This means you can include events you didn’t witness, rewrite history, and even incorporate all that juicy office gossip that you never were quite sure whether it had any basis in truth. So go ahead and tap into that creative license!
- Change the names to protect the innocent. It’s okay to use real people as inspiration for characters in your novel, but nobody should be able to recognize herself in your novel. Change names, hair color, accents, marital status – any key detail that will save you from having the awkward “I promise this character is not supposed to be you” conversation. Frankly, there aren’t many real-life people that make compelling characters without some significant tweaking anyway!
- Parts of your job aren’t very interesting. One of the comments my agent had about the first draft of my novel was “we need to take out some of the legal technical stuff.” After some thought, I realized she was right. Readers want to hear about the compelling parts of a job, but could do without the boring bits. So, when editing your novel, critically examine work descriptions and ask yourself “would someone working outside my industry understand this part or find it interesting?” If not, take out your red pen and delete.
- Don’t rely on your memory. When you’re working at your day job, take some time everyday to write down your observations – amusing conversations you overheard, situations that make your industry unique, poignant moments you think would be perfect for your novel – whatever comes to mind. You may think you’ll remember these, but you’d be surprised how your mind goes blank when you’re staring at an equally blank page on your computer monitor.
- Ask yourself if you’re okay burning bridges. Before you publish a novel about your career, you need to ensure that you are fine with closing the door on working in that industry. Even if you think your novel portrays the industry in a positive light, others may disagree. If you’re not ready to burn the bridge, put the manuscript on the shelf and give yourself a bit more time to reassess.