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.

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.

ramblings, writing

BAD BLOGGER, DECENT WRITER

The past month has been beyond hectic. A new word needs to be invented (where art thou, Shakespeare?’) to fully describe how frantic I’ve been every waking hour trying to finish a project.

So I had a decision to make. Either I’d write a blog post every week, or I’d spend time working on my next novel.

Guess which one won?

As a writer, I have my priorities. As a former advertising student, I am ashamed of my lack of blogging. There, I said it. Past me is shaking her head and her chopped bangs are getting in the way of her glare.

And, unfortunately, the next month looks exactly the same. One good thing came out of this – I’ve been munching on almonds every day while I’ve been glued to my computer (eating normal meals is for the weak!!!) and my skin looks amazing. And the good news is that I won’t ever have to go through this again. Yey adult me!

‘Till next time.

ramblings, writing

LOSE A FILE -> CRY -> PURSUE YOUR DREAMS

I have been writing on and off since my noisy teenage years and the discovery of a magical realm called fan fiction. Most cloudy days meant one, two, five more pages – different ships, OTPs and unlikely couples have been stored in my computer and on various websites.

The transition between “She inhaled deeply; there was no way she would get out of this” to slightly better prose made me want to start writing original fiction. My readers encouraged it and offered to beta for me.

Sure, why the hell not. If countless others did it, why couldn’t I?

Well, as it turned out, I wasn’t the next Neil Gaiman, no matter how much my dedicated betas tried to convince me otherwise. After the first ‘novel’ was finished, I immediately started editing it – that’s what professional writers do, right? Right? Big mistake. I wasted close to one year trying to make something worthwhile of it; problem was, even I didn’t want to read it. Yes, it was that bad.

So, after few months of not writing a single page, I tried again. And again. And again. Let me tell you, so many Red Bulls were consumed during those long nights, I wonder how the hell my heart’s not sounding like a race horse.

I didn’t show any of my later work to anyone. I thought writing for my own personal pleasure was enough.

It wasn’t.

Fast forward to more than 12 months ago. I had been gnashing my teeth trying to decide whether I should nix a character or not (I shouldn’t have created him in the first place, but that’s a conversation for another time). As I was cursing every deity binge-reading Wikipedia had made me aware of, the power went off; that tends to happen way more often than is legal where I’m from.

Okay, fine. No problem. I already had the flashlight ready and was craving some leftover pancakes anyway.

When I came back to my computer, which had restarted by itself, my pancake-filled mouth dropped. Guess what? My document – my 100-plus pages with two of my best characters so far – were gone, only leaving a temp file behind.

After the initial crisis, more swearing, so many tissues I thought I was single-handedly responsible for at least a quarter of deforestation in my area, I calmed down.

It wasn’t such a waste, now was it? The half-finished piece didn’t have a deadline or anything; nobody was waiting for it. No agent, no editor, no publisher shaking his/her head at me.

No one…

Huh…that….that disappointed me more than it should have. And yet, there I was, trying to recover a useless file that had no future.

Not exactly the stuff of legend here.

Basically, a power outage, my desperation, and a devious file (that I still can’t find) finally made me realize I was missing something – recognition.  I wanted my hobby to become a career.

It’s not exactly the stuff of legends, but it’s true. Would I have made the same decision without the incident? Probably. Would it have taken me a few more years? Definitely.

So thank you, inebriated power plant workers; thank you, my desperately-in-need-of-an-upgrade computer; thank you all.

Here I am today, trying to bring a story to life.

I’m coming for you, readers.

PS: If anybody knows where the gif is from (film, video, TV ad), please let me know. I want to see more of this badass woman.