publishing, ramblings, writing

WHY I WRITE IN ENGLISH

Spoiler alert: it’s not as romantic as one might think.

 

Last week, I shared a post on tips for writing in another language. This week I’m tackling why *I* chose to make the switch from my beloved Romanian to English.

I’m an idealist at heart, but my ambition’s molded me into a realist. The switch to writing in another language isn’t easy, instant, or certain, but I don’t regret my decision for a second. It’s also not something everyone will agree with or think is worth pursuing. To each their own.

So why do I write in English?

 

I’m a fan

Back when I was young, I sucked at almost everything. Couldn’t play sports. Didn’t have money. Grandma used to dress me up like a doll. Had a lisp. Super prissy. I was super badass, you guys. I also had the shitty tendency of correcting people and…you get the picture.

The one thing I was good at? Speaking English. I’d learned it through watching cartoons and people started paying compliments, for the first time ever. It stuck. It stuck so much that although I was practically catatonic in class during college, too scared to raise my hand, once I got to my master’s classes, taught in English, people had a hard time shutting me up.

So there’s an emotional connection with this language. When I’m tense or feel uncomfortable in social situations, I notice I drop some English words mid-conversation. My cool factor hasn’t increased since kindergarten, in case you were wondering.

Speaking in English is almost like a safety blanket at this point. I saw people responded to it, so I did my best to learn it proficiently. And you bet your ass I bust out those four syllable words in an argument.

 

Publishing’s not exactly dead in my country, but…

It’s in a slump. The recession hit us hard, guys. The book market is down 40% from 2007 and only worth about 60 million Euros, according to the latest stats. The bulk of that market is taken up by coloring books and tearjerker novels. I write neither. Compare that to the 24 billion market in the US, and you get a (not so) pretty picture.

There’s also a very complex problem relating to distribution, retailers, and Romanians’ spending habits, which I won’t get into. Suffice it to say I did my research when I decided I wanted a writing career and found the national possibilities lacking for my particular goals.

Not to mention the fact that a large part of the novels written here aren’t my style. They veer a bit too close to the literary genre for me, and I knew I’d have a hard time selling my fun, upbeat novels on the Romanian market. The revenues are also abysmal.

Why am I sharing all these facts? Because if you, like me, want a writing career and you’re not from the US, you need to do your research, too. Don’t make a rash decision based on overseas success stories and the glitz and glamour of overnight bestsellers. Know your own market before even considering a new one.

 

My genres work best in a US market

Know thy writing style. Mine doesn’t have a literary bend, for example. I write fun and quirky YA contemporary, and have an obsession with SF, which are more commercial genres. At least the way I write them. I decided early on which market would be best for my preferences. Not that the US market is only made up of commercial books, but it is more forgiving than the market in my own country.

I know some of my friends and professors will stick up their noses at my genres, but I really, really don’t care. I save all of my pretentiousness for my films, and even then I try to tone it down. The idea that only highbrow art is worthwhile and valuable is something that I’ve fought against my entire life and will continue to do so even when I lose all my teeth and get that lisp back. A film or a book can make you think and change your paradigm while also being entertaining. End of discussion (for now, I feel a blog post on this coming in the near future).

 

That’s the short version of it, anyway. There are a TON of other facts that went into this decision, but, ultimately, I had to figure out early on what would work for me and my career goals. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. But if you’re like me and want to make the leap into writing in English, I’m always here to answer any questions.

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writing

TIPS ON WRITING IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE

As some of you may (most likely may not) know, English isn’t my first language. If we’re getting technical, and go by order of learning it in school, it’s not even my second. And yet I’ve chosen to not only write in this language, but to make a career out of it.

Why, yes, I am a fan of taking risks. Why do you ask?

These tips are more suited for beginners, but every writer taking a linguistic gamble can benefit from them.

Now, a small caveat is needed here. My language (Romanian, ftw) is Latin; more specifically, based on vulgar Latin, the dialect used by Roman soldiers who came here and didn’t want to leave (some Romanians are still bitter about that, btw). We also have some Dacian (the other half of our culture) and Slavic influences, but all in all, it’s a pretty standard European language. Same as English. So it’s not that big of a leap to write in English, which 1. also has a Latin alphabet, 2. has many Latin words, and 3. is basically Internet speech. The transition from Romanian to English isn’t as big as, say, from Romanian to Japanese.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the tips that have helped me write my way through 5+ manuscripts. And counting.

  1. You kinda need to be fluent in the language of your choice

Now, this goes without saying, but I’ve CPed enough manuscripts in my life to know that not everyone follows this rule. I’m not talking about a basic grasp here. You need to dig deep. To know the difference subbing ‘slash’ for ‘cut’ can have on your sentence. And let me tell you, Word synonyms is not a tool you should constantly rely on (though I encourage you to use it sometimes, especially when stuck). The problem is that if you’re writing with only a handful of words, your paragraphs get real repetitive, real fast. So branch out. Pick up a dictionary. Take some online courses. Pay attention to nuances. It can do wonders.

  1. Know the dialect

This is something all writers should research, to be honest. If you’re writing contemporary YA, you need to know how teenagers talk. Again, the Internet will be your best friend. And catch up on those Netflix shows, they’re a goldmine.

If you’re writing historical, pick up books from that time period. Oh, you’re more of a medieval fan? Great, other writers are as well, and they’ve written books. Know your category and read, see what words they used, where, and, most importantly, why.

  1. Read

As much as you can, as diversely as you can. Don’t just stick to one genre, or you’ll be biased in your own use of the language. Coming back to English novels, there’s (usually) a pretty big difference between a gritty Adult thriller and a fun, upbeat YA contemporary. Branch out.

  1. Use the tools at your disposal

What did people do before the Internet? There are so many sites you can access, you won’t have time to discover them all. I sometimes think of a word in English, but know it’s not right. Try as I might, I can’t find the perfect one. Or, worse, I think of an antonym. So what do I do? I use my trusty online Thesaurus. Type in the word and surf through the almost endless options. You’ll find your word, trust me.

And if you don’t find it on your first try, you should have a pretty strong grasp of the language to know which one of those imperfect words has the perfect synonym for you.

  1. Make a list of words

And bust it out when the inspiration strikes.

I love lists. I’d marry them if it were legal (I kinda think it is in like…Vermont. Vermont sounds like the kind of place that would let you get away with stuff like this).

This is more of a tip for when you’re starting out. If you write a genre/scene specific word you know you’re going to use again, write it down in a separate .doc. If you’re writing an action-packed YA, and you have fighting scenes galore, there’s only so many times you can use the word ‘kick’.

Don’t just write down any old word that comes to mind. Focus on the ones which induce a certain state of mind, highly specific, that immediately create a mental image, and offer characterization when possible. The difference between ‘walking’ and ‘limping’ should come to mind when you’re deciding which words should go on this list.

  1. Don’t translate

And I’m not just talking about using Google translate or some other app that’s never been programmed to detect, let alone utilize, the nuances inherent to every language. Never, ever think this is a good idea. You can, of course, use these apps for specific words, much like in the case of synonyms. Don’t know how to say ‘banister’? No problem, there’s some program out there which does. But when it comes to entire sentences, you’re much better off.

However, it’s harder to resist the urge of writing an entire manuscript in your own language and then translating it. I get it. I wrote half of my first novel this way. Huge mistake. For starters, your language probably has a very different sentence structure than the one you’re translating into. Why is this important? Because you can translate the words, but still accidentally keep the structure, which can result in things like “Ana has eyes beautiful”. This is a simplistic example, but if you’re the kind of writer who uses long, flowing sentences, the likelihood of this happening is even bigger.

I suggest writing in your language of choice from the get-go. Your brain will slowly be trained to think in that language and your phrases will flow naturally. It takes time. It takes practice. But you’ll get there.

  1. Write

As often as you can, for as long as you can. Experiment with dialects. Internalize the sentence structure and it’ll become second nature soon enough.

Is it easy? Nope. Is it worth it? You tell me, you clicked on this post for a reason.

Even after years of writing in English, I still mess things up. It happens. Prepositions are my constant tormentors, the bastards. But I’m learning as I go, same as I have since starting this journey.

I’ll share a post about why *I* chose to write in English. It might not be the best decision for everyone, but I think it’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Coming to your screens next week.

publishing, ramblings, writing

10 ROMANCE TROPES I LOVE

A shame-free zone.

  1. Enemies to lovers.

Excuse me, is there anything hotter? You’ve got tension right off the bat, it makes for ah-mazing chemistry, and you’ve got an emotional arc from the premise alone.

Best. Trope. Ever.

The downside is when you read a book and the hero is a jackass, while the heroine simply forgives him, ’cause he has a heart of gold tucked somewhere deep inside. No, thank you.

PS: the novel that got me my fabulous agent has this premise. Just sayin’.

  1. Badass women getting stuff done.

And getting the guy along the way. Because, yes, you can have everything.

  1. Nerd turning into hero/love interest.

Suck a sucker for this premise. I love it either way, nerd hero/heroine, both of them nerds, whatever. I root for the underdog (as long as said underdog isn’t a Mare Sue/ Gary Stu in disguise).

  1. The whole Hades-Persephone thing, which even Freud would’ve frowned upon.

Guilty pleasure, along with anything resembling Beauty and the Beast. Enough said. Hoping for a genderbent one someday.

  1. Star-crossed lovers/ Forbidden love.

As long as it doesn’t resemble Romeo and Juliet. Not a fan, sorry. But two people from different social classes struggling past social hurdles to find each other? Yes, please. Anytime.

  1. A bargain/some sort of deal (fake engagement, etc) turning into a love story.

Again, as long as the protagonists aren’t completely clueless about their developing feelings. It’s a really tough trope to pull off, which is why I always read it, but haven’t attempted to write it. But maybe in the future? *cackles*

  1. Guardian/ward dynamic (prince/princess and his/her general, etc.)

Sucker for power play if, and only if, both of the parties have some type of control. If one of them is completely helpless while the other rules the world, I’m not interested.

  1. Opposites attract.

Can go hand in hand with the ‘enemies to lovers’ premise, but not always. Packed with chemistry and tension. Loooove it.

9. Revenge.

The pay-off’s always good. Tension galore, plus a healthy dose of feels thrown in. Sherry Thomas incorporates this trope into her writing, but she gives it a very, very special spin. Did I mention I love her books?

10. Virgin

Yes, show me the tentative steps one takes when starting to explore his/her sexuality. Don’t make them an idiot, though. Inexperienced is one thing, naive (to the point of stupidity) is another.

What’s your favorite trope?

publishing, writing

OFFICIALLY PUBLISHED

(Originally posted in 2015)

If you’re in the mood for a steamy read and a little Christmas cheer, look no further than this year’s Fuse Publishing romance anthology, THE STOCKINGS WERE HUNG.

And you know what the best part is? The profits will be donated to the UNHCR, the UN agency leading and coordinating international action to protect refugees.

Yours truly has a sexy Christmas story

giphy
Source: media.giphy.com/media

One of the goals I set for myself in 2015 was to get something published (not self-published, because I’ve decided a long time ago that isn’t an avenue I want to pursue right now – or maybe ever). And I’m glad I took this step for such an amazing cause.

ramblings, writing, Writing Contests

MY 2015 #PITCHWARS EXPERIENCE

(Originally posted in 2015)

Note: Spoiler alert, I didn’t get in that year. 

So. Whether or not I get a mentor (though we all know what I’m crossing my fingers for, right?), I decided to make a little #PitchWars daily diary.

I. Thank the Twitter gods I remembered when this contest is being held. With everything going on in my life right now, losing the deadline was a very real probability. Buuuut I even managed to remember the contest before the mentors’ bios went up. Yey me, all adulting and stuff.

And the best part of it is that I managed to find an awesome CP. I have someone to critique my work AND go through the #PitchWars jitters with me.

Also, I got a bit of fabulous advice that I should change my NA into an A submission. I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets that also give me pause. What to do, what to do, and what ice cream to eat while deciding.

II. The mentors. My God, the mentors. So many to choose from. I think I have a list of about 20, but it largely depends on whether I submit my MS as A or NA. Some of my favorites accept both genres, but three of them don’t. And I thought writing the damn novel was the hard part.

III. Tweeting like mad on the #PitchWars thread. Got to talk with some amazing mentors and I even found out a potential mentee is visiting my country. So if anyone has any doubts about this contest being about community first and foremost, I’m the perfect example right here.

IV. I think I might have overtweeted my share and I’m starting to annoy some of the mentors I like. Time to scale it down and relax. Breathe.

On the plus side, my wonderful CP has sent me her notes on my query and first chapter. I can’t believe how many things I overlooked the first time. I’m still waiting to hear from my beta on the full MS (second round and all), but I don’t think the feedback will arrive in time.

I also participated in the #WWWriting live twitter chat. I’m going with A. Hope I’m not making a huge mistake.

And editing is kicking my butt. I now realize that the first edits I did were superficial at best. I guess I always knew, in the back of my mind, but being confronted with that reality is kind of hard to swallow. However, even if I don’t get picked, my MS is going to be stronger. That’s the point of the whole thing, isn’t it?

Also found out what a beat is. I’ve been using them for years but had no freaking idea what people were talking about. Hey, I’m already learning some new stuff.

V. Finally have my short list. So many amazing mentors had to be cut simply because my MS didn’t fit their wishlist. Once again, hope I’m not making a huge mistake. They all seem like amazing people to work with, but if they don’t want romantic suspense, well, they don’t want it. I hope I get to interact with some of them after the competition’s over.

VI. Starting to doubt my decision.

I don’t know if I should enter or not. I’ve been seeing a lot of #PitchWars games, like #firstline, #lastline, the song that embodies your MS. For the life of me, I can’t think of ONE song that’ll fit. I have about five that I keep using while editing, but none of them capture the entire feel of the MS. Does this mean mine’s fragmented? That it’s not cohesive enough? That I have this huge glaring problem that I just can’t see and that my CP is too kind to point out?

What.Is.It?

I’m also starting to doubt my voice. I checked my MS. None of my first and last lines seem strong enough. I know I have a few good turns of phrase here and there, but I don’t think it’s enough.

With that being said, I added a few new pages to my MS. Needed to hash out some things and I think they work.

VII. Reading other potential mentees’ first lines and realizing mine sucks.  Golly gee, ain’t I the smartest pea in the original pod?

VIII. Is it okay to freak out that I’m gonna miss the 12-hour submission window because I might miscalculate the time zone differences? No? Just me? Alrighty then.

IX. One of the scenes between my MCs is giving me a headache. I’ve edited it 5 times. I don’t know what’s not working. And for a romantic suspense, this is problematic.

X. Holy crap. The window opened earlier. That’s the best news an anxious writer can ever receive. I’ll wait a day and then buh-bye MS.

XI. Sent.

Time to start eating shitloads of chocolate and brainstorm the next WIP.

XII. Requests!!!!!!!!!!!!!

XIII. Okay. I kinda wanna interact with the mentors, but I’m afraid they’ll think I want to suck up or something. Decisions, decisions.

XIV. Interacted with some great writers. Possible CPs. Life’s good.

XV. Okay. Some of these teasers from potential mentors are so freaking far away from my MS that….I don’t think I’m getting in. But it’s fine. It was fun.

Got to meet some great people. Found some awesome books, films, and gifs.

XVI. *Sigh*

Next year it is.

publishing, writing

DON’T FEAR THE SHARK

Okay, I went for the snazzy title, and yes, a specific Shark will make an appearance in this post, but it’s not about the ocean’s most deadly killer (apart from those jellyfish, I hear they’re vicious).

 

No.

 

This post is about a topic that’s sensitive, but shouldn’t be.

 

Letting people see and critique your query.

 

For those of you still with me after that revelation, I think some writers (2010-me included), might be a tad reticent to have their work, the words they’ve slaved over for weeks, months, years (?), ripped to shreds by strangers.

 

But it’s what pushes you forward. Unless you’re Kafka and have a very nosy friend who finds your brilliant work and pesters you into publishing it (according to urban legend, at least), you need to get yourself out there.

 

It hurts. It’s more brutal than not.

 

But if you want an agent, you gotta have a killer query. And, thanks to the Internet, now we have countless sites, blog posts and Tweets dedicated to this very topic.

 

I learned how to write queries by having them critiqued. And the best critiquer out there is Query Shark. (Though I haven’t been fortunate enough to have my query reviewed on there)

 

Yes, the dreaded site where queries either go to die or rise like Fawkes. Trust me on this one. Go through the archives, see what worked for other people–and what didn’t–and make changes accordingly.

 

Submit your own.

 

Go forth and swim until your fins drop and every word shines.

 

You can also check out some of Kristin Nelson’s successful queries (and read her amazing blog, PubRants). I also recommend Kyra M. Nelson’s site, as well as the Absolute Write forum.

 

Oh, yeah. And all these resources are 100% free.

ramblings, writing

“REAL WRITERS”

Current mood:

annoyed-dogSource: barkpost.com/shiba-proves-whining-everything-life

 

If you’re in the writing community–or got dragged into a conversation about Puşkin–you’ve probably heard of the dreaded “real writers”.

The elusive expression that leaves writers in silent tears and online bullies with a sense of purpose in their lackluster lives.

Well, I got dragged into such a conversation by accident. Video games led to films inspired by video games (anybody else excited for the Warcraft film?) which inevitably led to books. Right around this moment in our impromptu online discussion, a French gent proudly exclaimed that one can consider himself a “real writer” if, and only if, they reach the NYC* list.

First place.

At least two weeks in a row.

*And yes, he actually thought it was NYC, not NYT. In which case, maybe I misunderstood the whole ten minute monologue?

Now, when I meet ignorant people on the interwebs, my strategy is to either ignore the dormant troll in them, or to push back. I was getting ready for the second option when said gent mentioned he was actually writing a book (“or maybe memoir, je ne sais pas”) about his life–love life, I might add–and that he’d reach that list in the next five years.

Well, my good man, I wish you all the best. I do. That’s a kind of ambition I’m scared to encourage in myself.

But I realized that some writers have a very grave misunderstanding of what a writer is. I only have two rules, which seem to be echoed around the writing community.

Writers:

  • Write
  • Strive to get better at it

That’s it. If you only write for writing’s sake and you think you’re mankind’s gift to the ignorant masses, that’s a problem that needs to be taken down a peg or two. If you only want to get better without, you know, actually doing the work, that’s a problem you, and you alone, need to deal with.

If you manage to follow those two rules, you’re golden. You’re a writer. Can’t wait to read your work.

And please, please don’t let your worth be dictated by arbitrary goals. As a nifty Google search will tell you, the NYT bestseller list isn’t the most reliable. And never, ever forget that a lot of amazing books don’t get agented/published/millions of copies.

And just like I thought the gent’s opinion was pretentious crap, you’re free to view my take on this topic in the exact same way.