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The Friday Five

So You Want to be John Grisham

By The Editors

Ever notice that nearly every discussion of career alternatives for unemployed or dissatisfied JDs includes something like, “… just look at John Grisham!” Ah, yes, the life of a writer of fiction. The fame. The fortune. The movie stars! While surely there are more realistic career options, today we’re putting our cynicism in a drawer and devoting this Friday Five to, yes, resources for fledgling fiction writers. So, just in case this is the day you decide to follow in the considerable footsteps of this writer of bestselling books and blockbuster movies, this is for you.

Where Does a Fledgling Fiction Writer Begin?

There must have been a time, before the Internet, when anyone with a novel to publish spent days in the dusty stacks at the neighborhood library poring over reference books to identify potential publishers and agents—and suffered the frustration and bruised ego inherent in the process of seeking either. No longer. Now nearly everything can be done from the solitude and safety of your writer’s den.

  1. First, Grisham himself. Before you get all worked up about becoming the next John Grisham, perhaps it’s time you knew a bit more about him. Check out this complete bio and interview upon his induction into the Museum of Living History. (That could be you!) Then remember this line from The Rainmaker: “Some people have more guts than brains.”
  2. Is it that simple? If you’re not sure where to start or even how to finish, you may want to follow these simple steps from wikiHow’s How to Write a Novel. There’s even video—and you’ve gotta love the nice young lady sitting down with pen and simple piece of paper! Of course there are plenty of other places you can check for help. The Snowflake Method is something espoused by Randy Ingermanson on There’s even Snowflake Pro software! See what you think. We always thought writing a novel involved some combination of brilliance, intellect, empathy and stick-to-it-iveness. But what do we know?
  3. Maybe you need motivation. November is National Novel Writing Month, “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” Apparently it involves pledging to write one 50,000-word novel from scratch in one month’s time. Sounds grueling, but if your roadblock is motivation, perhaps this will do the trick. The website itself is a great resource. There’s even a list of past competitors who have published their NaNoWriMo books.  If you’re looking for other ways to write your novel in the cloud without all that pressure, take a look at the Yarny beta or Plinky, which promises to give you encouragement and inspiration, “Because sometimes you need a push.” 
  4. Find a literary agent. The intricate and troubled path from writing to publishing is a long one strewn with the dusty remains of inspired writers who “just couldn’t get a break.” Many believe having an agent to advocate for you is the secret. Check eHow’s trove of articles on how to find and obtain a book agent plus this great guide to writing an agent query.
  5. Give up or self-publish? The Internet, your own ability to type and the advent of just-in-time publishing has created a huge self-publishing industry well beyond the traditional “vanity publishing” world. Publisher names you will often hear include iunivers, Lulu and xlibris. Published author Nathan Bransford (Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow) has 10 questions to ask yourself on this front, plus some good links and a few cautions. (another deep resource for you) helps you to identify whether you should self-publish your book.

That’s a tiny little door through which you can take your first steps into the wide world of writing and publishing. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for those who make it, there are rewards to be had: “Just  look at John Grisham!”


Categories: Daily Dispatch, Friday Five, Legal Career Development
Originally published October 14, 2011
Last updated January 27, 2019
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