Writing a story in a foreign language.

Writing a book is a reckless idea on its own, regardless of what language you used to tell your story. But when you are trying to pretend to be a storyteller using foreign language, it turns out to be a real challenge. Not only you have to master the craft but also to learn the language. It may become such a tricky trap. For someone like us, who wasn’t blessed with the opportunity to be born bilingual and pursued the learning of another language as foreign second or third, the very fact of writing fiction in the language other than our native is already cool. It sounds cool, looks cool, and feels cool. Feels like achievements.

Meanwhile, we usually forget that natives do not use certain phrases, they have slang, shortcuts and special speaking habits. And even if our writing grammatically correct to the extent of getting us excellent scores, if it was a study paper, it might not have the living soul of fictional text or lack the natural easiness and creative vibes.

What am I supposed to do if I am so desperately in love with prose in English? (Thanks to crappy translations, which can be found in our local shops, which motivated me to read the original texts). Should I give up on the dream to be able to convey stories of my heart to the world or should I give it a try despite the risk of writing something plain and boring using language that is not my mother tongue?

As you might have noticed, English is not my native language. But somehow, it is easier for me to express thoughts and tell stories using English. Even though it not might be always grammatically or stylistically correct.

Anyway, I am firm believer in “if you want to do something, but don’t know how”, give it a try and learn in the process.

So, I did.

The first story I wrote in English was a disaster. I mean, I still like the story, but the way I wrote it was terrible. It was 55 k words long fantasy and took me two Nanowrimos to complete.

The second one turned out a little bit better, but it was still in a desperate need of deep and thorough edits. This one I was working on for three years and it grew up to 88 k words. I am really proud of myself for accomplishing this. Also, a fantasy.

I am working on the third one which is little a mystery experiment. Still in the process.

And I am not planning to stop.

Let’s see how my writing experiments would turn out, and would I ever be brave enough to share them with the World.

Character’s POV troubles.

In anticipation of upcoming camp nanowrimo.

One gigantic problem I have with my writing, which gives me a massive headache, is POV switching. I am not a fan of the 1st person POV. I might sometimes enjoy reading it, but writing it doesn’t work for me at all. It gives me the creeps. Meanwhile, most of my favorite books have multiple 3rd person POVs and switching them like crazy. But those done by masters. Not me, making baby steps in writing, and trying to write my story using a foreign language (which is kinda hard on its own).

For drafting, I use YWriter program which is small and light and has a very simple clean interface – exactly what I need. I tried scrivener, and I was so overwhelmed by how many features are in there I couldn’t use it. These features might be very useful, but I find them rather distracting.

So I use the simplest writing program I managed to find. And the most important thing which it does: allows you to create chapters and the scenes within chapters and move them around however you wish. One of the cool additional features – it allows you to “export outline” – basically what it does is exporting only chapters’ and scences within chapters’ headings.

The story, which I`m working on (not very intensively working at the actual writing at this moment, but constantly doing it now and then) is the one which I came up with the idea of when I was 11 years old. It was quite a long time ago. And since then I have this waste world and lots lots lots of characters living in my head. I managed to cut a huge chunk of the cast out, but there are still a lot of them and everyone has their own stuff going on. One of the trickiest parts for me is to keep POVs sustainable.

Idd2nkt4-92f11085-15be-48c3-b0d6-2d4a3a74355a knew I might have trouble with my large cast, but what I beheld when I exported my “outline” (chapters and scenes’ headings) and color-coded them in regard to POV… well, it had punched me in the gut. Just look, how freaking random it is. [on the right]  I removed the titles, but I guess the idea is clear. Every POV character in particular scene has their own color. It is only the first part of the beginning and I already have 8 POVs. One of my main leads is not even presented yet. And I don`t know what am I supposed to do with that? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Am I making a disservice to my beloved story by using so many POVs? Or is it what I need?

According to writers’ advice:

  1. You should use the POV of the person who has the most at the stake at the moment or who has the most of action or most of the emotional impact. © Brandon Sanderson
  2. The important thing is to make POVs of different persons sound different. I get it. But I doubt it is humanly possible for me to make all of them distinct and different from each other when there are 8 main characters POVs and about 7 additional throughout the whole story. Some of them have more vivid personalities and distinct voices, but most of them do not. It’s something to work on. In my case, it might mean to cut down the number of POV characters.

From the other hand, I am a fan of being able to see the larger scope. Maybe this is why I do not like 1st person’s POV. I want an ability to see from the bigger lens. More “cinematic” 3rd person is my POV of choice.

3) You should make breaks between POV switches clear, whether it a chapter break, paragraph break or including a little bit of omniscient 3rd person narrator in between and try not to confuse the reader with it, which is another struggle for me. Its all clear for me of course. But would it be clear for another person? Probably not.

I already had been told by beta-reader, that my narration jumps between different characters’ perspectives and also I was told I should better rewrite it from one person’s POV (it was another story where I had much fewer characters then I do here: 3 or 4).

I inclined to disagree as “jumping between people’s heads” was exactly what I wanted to do, I’d just failed to present it correctly. As I mentioned above, all my favorite stories juggling multiple POVs and I want to learn to do the same. So let’s keep learning. 

I`ll just leave it here as a small reminder to myself and a warning.