As some of my regular readers know, I just finished a law degree and passed the bar exams–but here in Canada, that doesn’t mean that I’m a lawyer yet. In Canada, we have to do a practical component, known as articling, which is the legal equivalent of a residency. Law firms do benefit from this, but hiring fresh graduates is still an act of giving back because most law schools don’t really teach you how to practice law–any of the mechanics of often-complex processes and on the ground steps for any kind of legal work. So, the firms generally have to teach this. And the articling students are often (depending on the firm, and how busy everyone there happens to be) thrown into the deep end and have to figure it all out. As well, if a firm has different practice areas, often what will happen is that the students will rotate through the different areas to get a taste of the different kinds of law (so every three to four months, you end up at the deep end of another pool in which the rules of how to swim are totally different).
So that’s been me. At the beginning I started at a branch of the firm that was about a 45 minute commute each way. They did family law–one of my worse subjects at law school (I didn’t care for it at all). To my surprise, I found that I loved the practice. Then, at the beginning of November, I moved into my second rotation–a 15 minute drive away, netting me an hour of time each day. This second office does corporate-commercial, real estate, wills and trusts, and a little bit of family law.
I thought–ah! this will be great. Saving an hour will give me so much more time. But no… because this office is crazy busy (family law was busy enough–this takes that to eleven). Another law-specific thing is “docketable hours” or “billable hours”–time spent doing stuff that you can actually bill clients for. It’s usually ends up being about 2/3rds of your time. This week I *docketed* 39 hours.
But still, I decided to try to do NaNoWriMo as well as work because writing is as much an escape, and a matter of going somewhere fun, for me, as is reading or watching films etc. So, it has been my counterweight to the oft-baffling demands of work in a new area of law at a super busy office where the people (who are really nice and whom I really like) often don’t seem to have time to explain what I’m supposed to be doing, so I get left with a giant file and the unenviable task of figuring out what I’m supposed to do–and then getting it done (just as a side note, the extra time it takes student to do stuff gets heavily discounted before clients get billed–the firm absorbs the cost of my training, but they still want me to docket it)!
To squeeze some writing into my day, I’ve been getting up early each morning, to try to eke out a few words. I curl up by the window with my coffee, try to watch the sunrise if I time it right, and bang out a few words. In the evenings too, particularly if my husband is working or doing rehearsals, I curl up with a view of our back yard in the moonlight, or sometimes just the stars and streetlamps visible, and try to get some writing done. It’s difficult, though, because after a day of puzzling over things, it’s so much easier to get distracted and a part of me wants to just relax, watch something, surf the internet or check facebook. But I try.
So far, I’m still behind–I don’t know if I’ve been fully caught up at any point in NaNo this year: as of this morning I was at 36,200 words and I’m supposed to be at 40,000 today. But, I’m still plugging away. I’ll try to catch up this afternoon and evening (husband is doing sound at a jazz club in town). For me, it’s been an escape into a little touch of sanity–I love it. I love also how the story I started has morphed. Normally, I plan stories, and then I plan them some more. But with NaNo, I often just let go and see where it takes me.
This year, I had vaguely intended to write a story about a secondary character, Lord Sebastian, from one of my top selling Regencies. I liked this character and had wanted to give him a story of his own. But then I started writing. And suddenly, the character had a different history and background to what I had in mind–including a wife named Saraswati whom he had married while in India, and whom his family refused to talk about. She had died, and he’d left India to come back to England, but he still grieved her. And now he was no longer Lord Sebastian, because this wasn’t consistent with what I had written about that character in the previous book.
And then, feeling somehow confined by the strictures of the romance genre, I added in magic, which turned out to be seepages from a thinning between the borders of different layered dimensions that exist, juxtaposed on top of each other. So suddenly, it was an inter-dimensional historical novel with “demons” (short for Inter-dimensional traveller, which got shortened and then conflated with the older word) and magic that actually had to do with the ways in which the seepages from the adjacent dimensions functioned in their non-native worlds.
At around that point, it started to feel like the Victorian era might work better for such a tale…
And so on. You get the point. NaNo is fun because it’s rushed, which means I don’t always have time to think through consequences of changes like this–I just go with them because that’s where the plot is pointing me and that’s the direction I need to take to keep the words flowing. Make no mistake: I end up with work that needs extensive rewrites of course. But, I also end up with stories that have some really interesting ideas in them because I let my muses play–ideas that I might never come up with, if the imperative hadn’t been there to write it all in such a compressed period of time.
So, wish me luck on my inter-dimensional, historical, maybe-romance/maybe-mystery/maybe-intrigue with sort-of magic NaNoWriMo novel! I’ve got about a week to go, and a lot of words yet to write. But, under the circumstances, I may cut myself a little slack and just feel glad to have participated and to have been able to benefit from the magic of a little compressed creativity!