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.

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, 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.

writing, Writing Contests

July 2015 Critique Blog Hop

Because Michele Hauk is a genius, she’s started a really exciting and very useful critique blog hop. Basically, you post your query and first 250 words, get critiqued by other writers (hello y’all!) and do some critiquing of your own (which is extremely helpful for everyone involved).

So, without further ado, here is my entry for the 2015 Critique Blog Hop:

Title: BEWARE OF BOLTON MANOR

Name: Amelia Creed

Genre: NA Romantic Suspense

Word Count: 70K

Query:

Junior estate agent, Olivia Abate, the walking cautionary tale for fresh starts, has one goal – to get the Bolton Manor listing before her dolt of a coworker. Their unethical rivalry takes a grim turn when the old woman who owns the property suffers a mental breakdown, and Olivia must spend a week at the manor if she wants a signed contract and the coveted promotion.

Ignoring her hesitation, Olivia deals with quaint guests fond of collecting serial killer memorabilia, perpetually hung-over nieces, and apathetic servants, one rehearsed smile at a time. Her only escape is the dry-humored heir of the estate, Thomas Bolton, who appears to be as starved for companionship as the manor is for renovation. His odd disdain for newcomers and Olivia’s fear of gaining an unjust advantage barely keep them from crossing the professional line.

Her moral dilemma vanishes along with her coworker, and Olivia faces the gut-wrenching possibility that she might lose not only her career and the promise of an uncommon relationship, but also her life.

BEWARE OF BOLTON MANOR is complete at 70,000 words and is a standalone novel with series potential.

250:

The faux leather on the backseat was peeling off and Olivia Abate’s best stockings already had two holes in them. Served her right for cheaping out on her last shopping trip and fidgeting since she had jumped into the cab. The driver’s road manners didn’t help either.

“Is there any possible way we could go faster?” she asked. The driver looked at her in his rear-view mirror, using his tongue to clean the remnants of his lunch from his teeth. Olivia pretended she didn’t notice. “Or find a shortcut?”

“No can do, Miss. We’re on the shortest road and I ain’t keen on getting a flat tire,” the driver said.

Olivia nodded and looked over her shoulder in the rear window, biting the inside of her cheek. Still no sign of another car. That could only mean two things – either her coworker had gotten lost on the muddy roads or he had already arrived at the manor. Or maybe he had given up on the challenge altogether.

Gazing down at the single sheet of paper in her file, marked ‘Bolton Manor – potential listing’, Olivia tried to find some sort of detail that could give her an advantage. Apart from specifying the size of the domain, the number of rooms and adjacent dwellings, such as the boat house, and the current owner, there wasn’t much written down. Not even a picture of the estate.

And for a junior estate agent, such as Olivia, that meant trouble; taxing, exciting, and career-defining trouble.

Thank you to all the writers who will take the time to critique my work. You guys are awesome for doing this and for having the courage to put your work out there and receive feedback.

And have an awesome day!

ramblings

CREATIVITY, WHY HAVE YOU FAILED ME?

Back in uni, I had a very – and I can’t stress this enough- very limited experience with Corel Draw. For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, it’s the vectorial equivalent of Photoshop.

Past me didn’t think much about recounting the story of how I made a 2D butterfly to a bunch of my friends. I blame the tequila.

Long story short, one of said friends wasn’t buzzed enough to forget the conversation and asked me to help him design a logo. Me. The writer. Cause, like, that’s the way creativity works, doesn’t it?

Now, I’m usually one for free stuff, cause, you know, ‘I poor’ and all that. But a logo is an extremely important part of a brand’s image. That’s another little tidbit I learned in college. But I nodded, smiled, swallowed my doubts about my designing prowess and got to work.

More hours spent in front of the computer, yey.

That was three weeks ago, and while the product is done and looks nice enough, I wished I could’ve come up with the idea on the spot. It took too much for a simple black and white expensive-looking doodle.

He asked for something “insanely simple”. Well, honey, that takes a lot of effort.

Writing Contests

HOW #PITCHSLAM HELPED ME GET MY MOJO BACK

It’s 2 am and I don’t know if I can do this story justice. I’ll try.

For those unfamiliar with #PitchSlam, I’ll try and break down the rules for you (or you can, you know, check out this link: http://llmckinney.com/pitch-slam/).

Pitch Slam is a writing contest where aspiring writers enter a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of their (finished and edited) manuscript. A panel of judges (made up of other writers and absolutely amazing people), choose the finalists and agents browse through the entries and ask for sample pages.

Sounds pretty standard until this point, yes?

But what truly differentiates Pitch Slam from any other contest I encountered is the incredible support the community offers. This year’s edition even had a feedback round (which I missed, because I found out about the contest one day before the final deadline), where the judges offer advice on the pitch/250 words AND writers can then resubmit their work for the final judging phase.

Not enough? The #PitchSlam feed was constantly full of encouragement from everyone – finalists, writers, judges (even the occasional agent). We supported each other, laughed, came together for a common goal. Each one of us is in the same boat and wants to get to the same place. Instead of ignoring each other or showing off, we gushed over our favourite entries and lurked on the feed at the weirdest hours.

You know how they say writers are bitter people who prey on each other? Those people need just a half hour amidst us Pitch Slam-ers to see the reality. And some chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better.

And that atmosphere, more so than the finalist title (go #TeamDoubleAgent), made me want to keep writing. If judges and competitors can take time off from their busy life to say a couple of nice things per day, then there’s still hope.

On a side note, I got a partial request from an agent. Yey me! But I won’t give too much info about that.

There was only one thing this experience lacked – some of my favourite entries didn’t get a single request. I know some manuscripts work better in a standard querying process and I’m sure all of them will find representations soon. But I wanted all of us to have a success story in the competition.

With that being said, my confidence has sky-rocketed. Somebody thought my entry was worthy of a second glance. A writer can’t ask for more in the first stages of his/her career.

Thank you, Pitch Slam. You gave me the boost I needed.

thank.you