1. bucolic
    Offline

    bucolic New Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1

    Foreigner trying to become a writer

    Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by bucolic, May 8, 2014.

    Hey,

    New guy here, and I'm sure you creative people get a whole bunch of these every so often, but I hope somebody can point me in the right direction regardless. My question is in regard to the actual process of putting your thoughts into prose rather than anything else.

    I'm a foreigner who recently moved to LA. English isn't my first language, and they didn't teach it properly to us in school either. I am self-taught and will continue to work on my English language writing skills up to the point when I can not only understand, but also write something remotely close to Finnegans Wake. I believe you need to have a really strong grasp of English language in order to write something that reads like a complete opposite of that.

    That being said, does anybody have any suggestions on how, as a foreigner, can I proceed towards writing walls of texts that wouldn't make people's eyes bleed?

    I write almost daily, whether it's an exercise (currently doing The Artist's Way daily journals), putting down some thoughts of mine, or actually working out outlines and drafting something. I read as much as I can, and I use Kindle since it's easier to research unknown words or phrases that I can learn and use myself later. That's pretty much it.

    I do understand that in order to start writing, you have to start writing. And I do. Only I despise my work. I would even go as far as to say that almost every sentence I structure will be something I'll hate in about 10 minutes after I re-read it. It just sounds like a foreigner wrote it, even if the grammar and style is correct (which it usually isn't, probably).

    How do I fix this?! Please help!
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,905
    Likes Received:
    10,093
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Welcome to it, Bucolic. :)

    Whence do you hail originally? Part of how you can start to fix what you feel is a deficiency in your English (though by the looks of your OP, I see no deficiency) is to do what you have done and join a community like this wherein you can get help and feedback. :agreed:

    Please have a quick read through the New Member Quick Start where you'll find links to the Forum Rules, and the FAQ.

    Have fun! :D

    Wrey
     
    bucolic likes this.
  3. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Welcome to the forum, Bucolic :)

    There are writers who have published in English before even though it's not their first language, but it's possible their writing will always have a tiny bit different flavor, that little 'off-factor' that can either be jarring or set the writer apart from others.

    I'm an EFL speaker, and I know only one published sci-fi writer from my country who wrote his first novel in English instead of his mother-tongue. Learning English well enough to be able to play with it takes time and diligence, but at least you've got the latter down, it seems. And hey, this forum is a fun place for practicing your skills :D

    Good luck!
     
    bucolic likes this.
  4. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,816
    Likes Received:
    7,336
    Location:
    Scotland
    If your writing-in-English skills are as well-developed as your original post would indicate, I'd say you'll have no trouble fitting in here. We all struggle to make our creative writing sound 'right.' Even those of us who have spoken English all our lives! Welcome to the forum.
     
    bucolic likes this.
  5. bucolic
    Offline

    bucolic New Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    Wow, thanks a bunch for the warm welcome, guys! This sounds like a place to be. :) And I'm from Northern Europe.

    Regarding my initial post, unfortunately, that's the easy part, as I'm sure you all are well aware of. But when it comes to structuring the story or dialogue that transitions from my head to Word, I have to say, it's a mess. I'm a big day dreamer; I love my imagination and the fact that all kinds of stories come easy to me, as they probably do for the rest of you guys. But my problem lies within the technical side of writing.

    Generally, these are the two issues that I struggle with the most when it comes to writing:

    1) Extremely poor and narrow vocabulary. Basically, as soon as I started writing in English, my word bank went bankrupt. I can never find the word that I feel is required and must research appropriate wording for nearly every sentence. And even though Hemingway was always a fan of simplicity, and King is a proponent for using the most elementary words in prose, I still feel like I need to expand my vocabulary to a certain level before I can choose not to include certain fancy words.

    2) Abominable style, which I hope to fix by reading more than I already do and analyzing those texts. This is where a degree in Creative Writing probably would've helped immensely. I constantly try to examine "the reason" for why did an author choose to put the sentence this way, rather than the other way.

    If anybody can provide any techniques and/or exercises that they personally have found to better their writing, I would greatly appreciate it! I myself would like to confirm that The Artist's Way is an awesome book, and most of the things she suggests actually make sense and do help. However, oddly enough, the book is very religious and the author references "spiritual" and "God" stuff all the time, which was a bit uncomfortable, I must say.

    @KaTrian I agree with you completely. Very often (too often, in fact!) I tend to unintentionally use phrases that are an interpretation of something from my native language, and normally I won't be aware of that unless someone points it out to me. Those types of sentences immediately sound "off" for a native English speaker, and whenever I receive that kind of note, it saddens me greatly. It has to be fixed! How long have you been writing in English, KaTrian? Did it come easy to you?

    I'm currently researching creative writing associate degree courses (evening classes) in community colleges here in LA, but I'm still debating the idea. Would that be the best way to approach my problem, or should I just stay home during those 2-3 years it would take me to study and do homeschooling by myself?

    That, and I also obviously need to learn how to respond in a more concise manner, haha. Sorry about that, and thanks for your patience, people! :)
     
    KaTrian likes this.
  6. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Hmm... I learn words by reading, watching TV, from song lyrics, and I also use a dictionary/thesaurus when writing. When you're searching for the right word, you're bound to come across some interesting choices for future use. Sometimes I remember the word I want in Swedish/Finnish/French first and then have to look for the English equivalent, so knowing another language can also help with expanding your vocabulary.

    But do you know what's totally creepy? It feels like every time I learn a new word, it starts to pop up everywhere. I just recently discovered 'a dram' and bam! suddenly I keep bumping into it here on the forums and it was also in the two books I was reading at the time!

    I've understood one has to write, write, and write in order to discover their voice/style. Instructional books on writing and writing techniques tend to explain things like why you'd want to choose an active verb instead of a verb+adjective combination, for example.

    There have been threads about writing education and writing manuals on the boards, and there's also information in our Resources area. Just a word of warning; instructional books on writing divide opinions. Stay critical.

    I suppose it's something of a rule of thumb that you should not try to translate idioms. But sometimes e.g. a common simile in your native tongue might work when the idea is translated.... sometimes, not so much. For example, an irritated person has "a wiener on his forehead" in my native tongue. That just does not sound right in English :D

    I write together with my husband, and we've been at it since 2007, I think. Before that we wrote on our own, but the true spark for writing fiction happened only after we joined forces. It's weird, I guess. Our brains are wired together, our styles are similar, we want to write about the same things, etc. I wrote in Finnish before I entered an international education program at 16 and realized I can express myself better in English. I never got the hang of my mothertongue, really. I'm pretty crappy at most things, but languages have always come to me quite effortlessly.

    I hear creative writing courses can be very useful and inspiring. There are also online courses, I believe. You can also join a critique group. I doubt education will make your writing worse, and it can be very beneficial to budding writers.

    You'll find out people can get really quite wordy here, but we all love to write so... kinda makes sense, huh? ;)

    Anyway, I suggest you dive in and perhaps start threads about the questions you'd like to find answers to :)
     
    bucolic likes this.
  7. Poziga
    Offline

    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2013
    Messages:
    521
    Likes Received:
    273
    Location:
    Slovenia
    I'm also not a native english speaker (south-eastern Europe), but I'm trying and trying writing in English and I can say with certainty that I'm getting better. And you will to. :)

    What helps a lot is if you post your work here and members of forum will critique it. They will twist the sentences around if they sound funny and will put out the grammatical mistakes you make most often (I, for example, have been told more than once to be careful about the articles).
    It's also very helpful to read other members' work and critiques of those works. Also, if you try and critique something, you will notice how more focused you become on grammar, structure of sentences and style of the short piece you're critiquing.

    I get you, I have always a dictionary open when writing in english. I think the vocabolary expands via reading, but even more with writing. When you're reading you just translate the unknown word to better understand the context of the paragraph/sentence. But when you're writing your own story, you're looking for that perfect word, which would perfectly describe what you want to write down. And when you find that word, I think it's harder to forget it. :p

    Haha, ditto. When you fall into the writing world, you can't read books exclusively for relaxation anymore. Sooner or later you'll find a paragraph that will bother you and you start thinking how you would write it. :D

    Have fun writing and see you around! :)
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2014
    bucolic likes this.
  8. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I too am a foreigner, English isn't my first language, although I speak it perfectly. Judging by your post, you are pretty close to that yourself. I can't say I noticed any issues with your grammar or syntax. Hence, you have all the prerequisites to write in English. As for mastering the craft of writing, so you can perfectly translate your ideas to paper and have full control of your style, we are all in the same boat. :) Welcome to the forum!
     
    bucolic likes this.
  9. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    I'm a native Anglophone so I can't speak from the perspective of learning the language - but I will say that what you've written sounds fine so far. I would also recommend attending a local creative writing club and seeing what they think of your work. If you're worried that Native English speakers will think your English is underdeveloped, then the first thing you should do is test that assumption by having a bunch of native speakers read your stuff. I think you will be pleasantly surprised, and where you do have errors, native speakers will be able to say, "Well how I say this is..."

    The other thing I would recommend is to buy a thesaurus or use the thesaurus function on your word processor, that might help you find new words.

    That, and I will go back to attending writing groups - I love mine and it lets me see a lot of how other people choose to say things. It's a great way to pick up techniques, and it usually shows you that other people don't judge your work as harshly as you do. My group usually loves the stories I think are my worst, and their favorite scenes are the ones I most worry about. And obviously you can get that same utility from a message board - but I do think physical gatherings are good in that they push together writers of differing ages and genres.
     

Share This Page