Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest Blogger: Writing Terrors by Author Mayra Calvani

Are you afraid to write?

If you are, you’re not alone. Most writers live in fear. This isn’t all terrible. Fear can work to your advantage and make your writing sparkle. Fear shows passion, and passion often makes good writing. It also shows you care. The important thing is to use that fear, to control it before it controls you.

What kind of fears go through the writer’s mind?

* Will I pull this off?
* Are my words pathetic?
* Will I find a good publisher?
* Will I be ridiculed by readers, friends and family?
* Will I discover things about myself I’d rather not know?
* Will other people discover things about me I’d rather they didn’t know?

At every stage of the creative process, there’s a level of fear. This, by the way, doesn’t apply only to writers, but also to artists, composers—any creative person.

When I start a new book, I’m always afraid I won’t finish it. When I finish it, I’m afraid I won’t be able to find a publisher. When I find a publisher for it, I’m afraid reviewers will hate it. When reviewers love it, I’m afraid people won’t buy it. On and on it goes.

While writing a book, one of the best ways to reduce fear is to focus on the pure love of the craft itself, instead of on the finished product—the published book. To focus on the journey instead of the end result. It is important to come to terms with your fear. To see it as a friend instead of an enemy, a friend you can get along with.

One problem for fiction writers is that many people, including friends and family, often assume that your characters are based on yourself. They ask, “Did this really happen to you?” This is so irritating! Especially if you write vampire novels! This can cause fear in the writer, and can even turn your words into boring, perfect little soldiers. In other words, it affects the otherwise spontaneity of your prose. As a writer, you need total freedom to express your creativity. Freedom to be honest. Honesty makes any writing come alive.

Another assumption is that your characters are based on friends and family members. I remember an anecdote my creative writing teacher told me back in college. He was a successful author of many mystery novels. It seems he based one of his characters on his obnoxious uncle… Well, let’s just say the uncle in question never again stepped foot in his house. My teacher had done it in such a professional manner that there was no way of legally proving anything in court, yet the uncle knew without the shadow of a doubt that the character was based on himself. (As you can see, this is an effective way for getting rid of “unwanted” family members. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and get yourself sued.)

I have a great-aunt who often says, “I can’t come to terms with you writing those horror books… You always were such a sweet child.”

I tell her, “I still am. Believe me, I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Soap operas make me cry.”

She must have read that part in one of my books where a corpse, drained of blood, is cut into pieces and stuffed into a luggage. Ah, well.

© Copyright 2011 Mayra Calvani.

 Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults.  Her nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published. She reviews for and is co-editor of Voice in the Dark Ezine. She also offers book reviewing workshops online. Visit her website at For her children’s books, visit You can find Voice in the Dark at


Admin said...

Fantastic perspective on writing, Mayra!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of slice-n-dice, I find it easier to avoid those pesky "Are you really like that?" kind of questions by trying to distribute such personal characteristics amongst different characters.

Very nice piece (again!) Mayra!

Donna M. McDine said...

Great post! I enjoyed reading your perspective and of course your great aunt's comment made my chuckle!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Thanks for the tip on how to get rid of "unwanted" family members. Just kidding.
Nice article.

Julie said...

Wonderful post! I enjoyed your insight, and also got a good laugh. Thanks!