If you are a regular follower of Your Law Geek, you may not see much legal news for a while. That’s because for the month of November, writer and owner Lisa Schmidt is pressing pause on her legal writing to tell a supernatural story of power and self-acceptance. Find out what National Novel Writing Month is all about, and what prompted Lisa to choose vampires for her writing sabbatical.
What Is NaNoWriMo?
Every November, writers across the country, and internationally, spend the month doubled down on creating something new. During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the non-profit organization challenges students, amateur, and professional writers to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words per day, every day, even Thanksgiving and Black Friday. To help writers reach their goals, NaNoWriMo hosts write-ins, gives out prizes, and invites followers to engage on their social media profiles to get support from others in their local writing community. This year, because of the pandemic, NaNoWriMo is entirely online, giving writers the chance to connect with fellow authors in their own genres all over the world.
I have participated in NaNoWriMo at varying levels of dedication since 2013. I even won once, but only once. Until now, my writing had to battle for priority against clients’ litigation needs, filing deadlines, and the everyday demands of life. In 2020, I’m committed. I’ve pressed pause on much of my work for Your Law Geek to make space for my fiction writing, and maybe, finally create something worth publishing. (Blogging clients have no fear. Your posts will continue as scheduled.)
Taking a Month Off in 2020? Are You Crazy?
As an entrepreneur, saying no to any paying work is a scary idea. Taking a month off in the middle of one of the most uncertain periods in 100 years might be the craziest thing I have ever done (and I went cave diving in Vietnam, so that’s saying something). So let me take a moment to acknowledge my incredible privilege.
While many people I know were facing extraordinary financial and health difficulties as the result of the pandemic, I was flourishing. I make my money writing blogs, websites, and legal briefs for lawyers and small businesses. In March and April of this year, there was a lot of legal news happening, and that meant I was very busy. In April alone, I billed more than double my monthly average. And when the courts opened back up later this summer, I was busy again as my litigator clients scrambled to meet their postponed filing deadlines.
Now, I could just bank the extra money and keep building, but that would be disrespecting a personal priority that has already been pushed to the back burner for far too long. When I started Your Law Geek, one of my priorities was to make space in my schedule for long-form and fictional writing. I wanted to do the work to become a published author. But the demands of running a small business in high demand have meant I ignored those goals for the better part of this year. Now, I’m honoring that part of my professional development plan by putting those fiction-writing goals front and center for 30 days. And that means writing a novel about vampires.
When I told my business coach, the incomparable Ursula Adams, about my idea to take a month off to write a novel she had one question for me. It didn’t have to do with business, or finances. It wasn’t about the propriety of writing fiction over legal briefs. It was simply, “Why vampires?”
Why, indeed. I have always wanted to write a vampire story. I fell in love with the idea of vampires in high school reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I continue to devour (pun intended) anything I can about the supernatural beings and have complicated opinions about the subgenre’s conventions.
Supernatural monsters of various stripes often trade their humanity for their paranormal abilities. They become “other” – things to be feared – in exchange for their power. Of all the supernatural monsters – werewolves, swamp things, ghosts, goblins, and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night – vampires are the only ones who are allowed to remain human. Often, as in the case of Anne Rice’s Louis and Lestat, it is their human weaknesses and complexity that drives the story, rather than their supernatural abilities or otherness. That, combined with their immortality allows them to take a detached view of the evolution of human history and morality, making them uniquely qualified to opine on cultural failings.
By choosing a female protagonist for my story, I also can invert the power dynamic so common among supernatural speculative fiction. Usually, a male vampire seduces a female human, taking her as his companion, follower, or even (as in the original Dracula) making her into a kind of servant. The male vampire has all the power and literally penetrates the female victim to sustain himself. By inverting this dynamic and giving the female protagonist the fangs, I can examine what an immortal woman would do in the face of centuries of misogyny and gender discrimination.
Will my novel live up to that kind of hype? I have no idea. But I look forward to seeing where it goes. If you would like to come along for the ride, follow Your Law Geek on Facebook or Instagram through the month of November for excerpts and videos about my writing process as the story unfolds.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a writer, owner of Your Law Geek, and facilitator of Chasing Your Tale: Building Your Writer’s Toolkit hosted by the SheHive in Ferndale, Michigan. If you want to write along with Lisa, sign up for her weekly write-in sessions during NaNoWriMo or contact Lisa directly here.