This is the month to write. Write. And write some more. November is National Novel Writing Month more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. Authors take on the challenge to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) by the end of the month. Although I am not a book author, I love reading audiobooks and engaging with authors. So, in honor of NaNoWriMo I chatted with a good writer friend Abbie Johnson Taylor. In the interview below Abbie shares why she became an author, her writing routine and gave nuggets of wisdom for newbies. Enjoy!
Abbie Becomes an Author
Empish: Why did you decide to become an author? What was it about writing books that piqued your interest?
Abbie: I’ve always enjoyed writing. But as a kid, whenever I wrote anything for school, whether it was a story or poem or a research paper, my mother, a college English teacher, always rewrote it. I’m not talking about just writing a version with all spelling and grammar mistakes corrected. She actually rewrote my papers so they sounded better. As a result, I lost faith in my own ability to write good material.
When I was in the eighth grade and had to do a research paper on cancer, she took me to the library, where we found books on the subject. At home, she read me the material and wrote the paper while I sat there and listened. I learned a lot about cancer and was glad to get a good grade on a paper I didn’t write. After that, I was content to let her do the leg work whenever I was assigned any kind of writing.
It never occurred to me to consider a career in writing until after my mother passed in 1999. At that time, I was a registered music therapist, working with seniors in nursing homes. I’d just gotten my first computer and loved the idea of putting words on a virtual page, then correcting mistakes and making changes with ease.
Empish: You share on your website’s bio that in 2005 you got married and quit your job and volunteer work to focus on writing full time. I am sure that was a major change in your life. Share what that transition was like.
Abbie: Yes, it was a major change but a welcome one. Although I had enjoyed my work as a registered music therapist, I was ready for a change. I was only too happy to spend all day at my computer, writing, revising, and submitting material for possible publication. But after Bill suffered his first stroke in 2006, I was again balancing writing with another full-time occupation-a family caregiver. Although this wasn’t easy, I managed to self-publish two books in the years I cared for him at home before he passed.
No Particular Genre
Empish: Many authors place themselves in a particular genre such as romance, suspense, Mistry, self-help, etc. However, when I look over your body of writing work, you have written poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Is there a reason your books and writing don’t fit a specific genre?
Abbie: No, not really. I just enjoy creating material in the many genres in which I write.
National Novel Writing Month
Empish: This month, as you know, is National Novel Writing Month, where the focus is writing a novel in 30 days. For the books you have written so far, how long did it take you to write them?
Abbie: At the most, my three novels, “We Shall Overcome,” “The Red Dress,” and “Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me;” and my memoir “My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds,” took about a year to write. My two poetry books, “How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver” and “That’s Life: New and Selected Poems,” took several years.
Empish: Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? What was your experience?
Abbie: No, I like to take my time when writing a novel. I know you should write first and edit later, and I do that. But I like to have an idea in my mind of what will happen to my characters before I sit down at my computer.
Writing Routines and rituals
Empish: Many authors have a writing routine or process, such as writing at a specific time of day, writing so many words a day or having a favorite spot to write. Share your most important rituals that help you be a successful writer.
Abbie: Since I no longer have a full-time job and have few obligations during the week, I spend most days at my computer, either writing, editing, or submitting. Most of this time is taken with creating posts for my blog, which go live almost every day. I also spend at least an hour a day reading posts from other bloggers I follow via email. I try not to work on weekends, but this isn’t always possible.
Empish: Along the lines of your writing rituals, what adaptive technology do you use to assist with your writing process?
Abbie: I use a Windows PC with screen reading software and a Braille display. I sometimes like to write in my recliner. For that purpose, I use a Braille tablet with the ability to copy files directly to Google Drive so I can access them on my computer.
Characters with Medical Challenges
Empish: In your novel “The Red Dress” and your newly released one “Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me,” both deal with characters with dementia. Why did you decide to write stories with characters who are struggling with severe memory loss?
Abbie: I created the characters in both these novels for different purposes. I really don’t want to go into detail for fear of giving away spoilers. So, let’s just say that I created these characters to provide a source of tension in the plot.
Empish: Your other books are peppered with stories about your husband and his medical challenges. Why was it important to write about those experiences and share them with your readers?
Abbie: Being a family caregiver can be an isolating occupation. You often don’t have an opportunity to socialize with other people, let alone others in your situation. So, I share my experiences to let those people know they’re not alone.
Abbie’s Writing Advice
Empish: Lastly, for people who want to write a book and get published what words of wisdom and/or encouragement would you give them?
Abbie: First of all, read, not just books in the genre in which you want to write but books and magazines on writing. Writers, like doctors and lawyers, must read up on the latest practices and trends.
Also, get involved in writing groups, either in-person or virtually. I’ve found people in such groups inspiring and supportive over the years.
Last but not least, write every day, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes, even if it’s just an email message. No matter what you write or how long you write each day, always consider yourself a writer.
Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of three novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Her work has appeared in Magnets and Ladders, The Writer’s Grapevine, and other publications. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where, for six years, she cared for her late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, she worked for fifteen years as a registered music therapist in nursing homes and other senior facilities, facilitated a support group for visually impaired adults, taught Braille, and served on the advisory board to a state trust fund that allows blind and visually impaired individuals to purchase adaptive equipment. Learn more about Abbie on her website, read her blog or connect with her on her Facebook page.