About the Author:
Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.
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“My Writing Process”
It may start with an image, a character, a name, a title. There are no rules, and it’s never the same with every book. Sometimes a single image simmers in my mind for years before it becomes the spark for a story.
Then I mentally play with ideas and the thing that was just an image begins to expand into a web. Simple at first. Then more intricate as I spend more and more time thinking about it. And I think about it. A lot. While driving, walking, taking a shower, doing housework, etc–routine, monotone activities, which are great for creativity. Once I can’t stop thinking about it, once I become obsessed, that’s when I know I’m ready to start jotting down words and sketching a rough plot.
Nowadays, I like to begin ‘discovering’ the story using Alan Watt’s “Unlock the Story Within” techniques. Once I have a more solid idea of the characters and where I want to go with them, my plotting gets tighter and more detailed, but never at the expense of staying flexible and open to change. In fact, what I love most about the writing process are those surprises that I never saw coming.
Then, after some anxious procrastination, I try to put my ego aside and sit down and face the blank page. That is never easy. In fact, it is terrifying. Every time. But the need and passion to create is greater, I guess, because finally I just do it.
The plot keeps evolving as I write. I adjust and change things as needed.Einstein once said that it’s impossible to solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created the problem. Something has to shift. What this means is that I don’t know the whole story when I start writing it. I know part of the story, but I don’t know the complete story—that will only happen after I’ve gotten to know my characters deeply through the process of writing itself (Alan Watt talks about this in his fabulous book, The 90-Day Novel).
In the case of The Luthier’s Apprentice, however, I completed the first draft in four weeks during Nanowrimo 2007. At that time, it was an experiment. I hadn’t participated in Nanowrimo before. It was an exciting, exhilarating experience, but I knew the manuscript needed a lot of editing and polishing, so I put it aside for a long time. Then I worked on it on and off as I worked on other projects. That’s why it took so long to publish it.
I didn’t plot in advance. I didn’t know what would happen on the next page. I discovered the story and characters as I wrote. Or rather, I let the characters take charge and guide me. Looking back, this was incredibly daring. I don’t work this way now. But, as I said, it was an experiment to shut down my inner critic and it was an exciting challenge.
I may write like the wind at times, but those moments are rare. Usually, I edit as I write, which slows down my writing process considerably–not to mention that it prevents me from getting in “the zone.”
Rituals and habits work for me. I write best in the mornings. Unless life gets in the way, I’m at my desk Monday-Friday from 9:00/9:30 am to noon. I put my timer and go. There’s something about the timer that works for me, as if somehow I’m tricking my brain. Sometimes I listen to an eerie movie soundtrack (for my current YA WIP, I often listen to Interview with a Vampire, among others); other times I need complete silence.
Slow but steady. This pretty much describes my progress. I would love to be one of those writers who can cough up a whole novel in four months, but I’m not–not yet, anyway.
Lately, I’ve begun to do weekly 7-hour writing marathons (with lunch break in between) at a local café. I love these sessions and usually get a lot of work done.
Once I finish the first draft, I spend an agonizing amount of time editing and polishing. My SCBWI critique partners are awesome at pointing out things that I can’t see. Also, I always hire a professional editor before I send my manuscript to my agent. I think a professional editor is a writer’s best investment. I love Deborah Halverson of DearEditor.com. She’s fabulous.
It takes me about two years to fully complete a book that is ready for submission. I’m trying to write faster and cut it down to a year. But it isn’t easy.
What about you? What is your writing process like?
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…
When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice. But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.
But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?
Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him. And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…
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