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Friday, September 25, 2015

A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers

This is a guest post by Karen A. Wyle..

The theme of this post could be: what goes around comes around, hopefully to the benefit of my fellow authors and would-be authors.

As a child, I fully intended to become a novelist (make that a "famous" novelist) as soon as possible, preferably at a younger age than ever before achieved. That dream suffered various blows as I got older, starting with the realization, at age ten, that a girl in England had had a novel published at age nine; continuing with the humiliation I suffered when a well-meaning teacher read parts of my first attempt to our fifth grade class; and finally, the climactic realization that I had no idea what to write about and found the act of writing a form of torture. I gave up on writing fiction by my junior year in college.

What was an English major to do? I had no clear calling to the teaching profession, nor were my parents eager to fund a graduate degree in literature. I still had some lingering attraction to producing words, and I found both logic and psychology of interest. So I went to law school.

In law school, and even more in the practice of law, I learned through sheer necessity how to turn out words in quantity without agonizing over the process. When, many years later, I discovered National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo or Nano (about which I'm writing a separate post), I discovered that my facility at writing persuasive prose carried over into writing fiction, so that I could successfully keep up with Nano's frenetic pace.

I've written six novels via Nano, five of which I've published. (Number six should be out by February 2016.) The last two of those five, especially the fourth, included some courtroom drama. The two halves of my writing life, my profession and my avocation, seemed to be drawing closer together.

During this same period, in early 2013, I wrote a series of three guest blog posts for Indies Unlimited called "Writing Convincing Legal Fiction." That series explored some of the essentials of how courtrooms and lawsuits work, and flagged a few of the more common errors I've seen in books and movies. By the end of 2013, I'd begun writing a book based in part on the same theme -- a book with the insanely ambitious goal of summarizing the basics of American law and procedure, both criminal and civil. The focus of the book also expanded. Instead of just helping would-be authors of courtroom drama avoid the more obvious howlers, I sought to entice authors with the enormous dramatic potential of legal topics. To tempt folks further, I included suggested story ideas throughout the book, based on the topic under discussion at any particular point.

And so my youthful failure as a novelist led me to the trade through which I learned how to write; and my return to writing fiction led me to explore the exciting overlaps between fiction and the legal realm.

I'm now in the final phase of readying this book for publication. It should be available as a paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and as an ebook on Amazon, by the first week in October. It's called Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers. I based that title on an anecdote I enjoyed (something of a slam at lawyers), and also on the double meaning of "fire." In addition to its literal meaning (in the anecdote, its infernal meaning), we have the expressions "under fire" and "in the line of fire." That's where you'll find lawyers: just follow the sounds of battle.

If I've intrigued you, I hope you'll pop over to the book's website at, where you can find the full (lengthy) Table of Contents, the (even longer) paperback index, and a few "Online Extras" (including deleted rants).

Here's to more -- and more accurate -- legal fiction in the years to come!

Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years throughout her childhood and adolescence.  After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles, where she met her now-husband, who hates L.A.  They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. They have two wildly creative daughters, and a sweet but neurotic dog. Wyle's voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction.  It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice.  Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, unintended consequences, and the persistence of unfinished business.

Check out Karen’s post about Self-Publishing in the Modern Day.