1. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48

    Help! What language to write my book

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by Teresa Mendes, May 6, 2017.

    Hello everyone! I have an issue, that most of you probably cannot relate to but I’m hoping you can still share your opinion and help me with it. =)

    I’m Portuguese and therefore, my first language is Portuguese and English is my second. And, while my Portuguese writing skills are fairly good, my English skills are just average.

    I’m outlining my first book and it will be a fantasy adventure novel, written in third person, with multiple POVs. I expect it to be around 110.000 words.

    Now, I have to choose what language should I use to write it and I’m hoping you can give me your opinion.

    I can:

    - Write, edit and traditionally publish the book in Portuguese, and hope the publisher will hire a translator and sell it to other countries, especially in English. This will most likely not happen, the Portuguese market for fantasy is tiny and even most of our best writers are not yet translated.

    - Write and edit the book in Portuguese and hire a translator myself. In the end, I would have the book in two languages. This is a very very expensive option. From my research, I can expect to pay between 4000 to 6000 US dollars. It’s a huge risk, taking into consideration it will be my debut novel and that I don’t have this kind of money available for such expenses. Is crowdfunding a possibility?

    - Write, edit and publish the book in English, knowing that my skills are average and that I cannot produce an amazing piece of literature (my vocabulary is not as good, my idiomatic expressions knowledge is poor, etc). Also, this makes me a bit sad, running away from my roots and knowing my family will not be able to read it…

    - Write the book in Portuguese then translate it to English myself. This would take a lot of time and adaptation but the main ideas would come more easily in my Portuguese wired brain.


    What do you think is the best option? Do you have other ideas?

    Thank you for helping me out! ^^
     
    Rosacrvx and Fernando.C like this.
  2. Frostbite

    Frostbite Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2017
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    36
    I'm dutch myself so I can relate to you, but it's quite a simple answer actually. If you life in Portugal, there's absolutely no reason to write in English if you intend to publish it the traditional way. The Netherlands over the half of the population can read English quite well, I am certain only a small number will actually read it in English, so if you intend to publish it the traditional way you shoot yourself in the foot from the start. If you intend to self publish it, you have to gain the fanbase digital, but marketing itself would be much easier in real life. You'd be snowed under online.

    And then, average English is not enough to write a good story. Heck, if I read a book in English I often come across words I never even have seen before. Take your bets by first conquering Portugal, then the world.
     
    Millyme11 likes this.
  3. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    871
    Likes Received:
    453
    Your English looks pretty good to me, but obviously you will lose subtleties.

    A translator should not just translate words, they should translate meanings. So they will f it up.

    I would put a piece up for review in English and let us judge.
     
    Teresa Mendes and Fernando.C like this.
  4. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2015
    Messages:
    1,854
    Likes Received:
    2,764
    Location:
    UK
    Unless you're equally skilled in both languages I'd say write it in your native tongue.

    Writing a book that is good enough to get published is hard to do in your own language, it will get even harder in a second language, even if you're fairly skilled in it.

    I've had those dreams in the past, but I realized that it'd be way easier to get published in Sweden and then - maybe - get published in English. Yes, the English reading market is bigger and looks mighty shiny from afar, but it might be a good idea to start back home.
     
    NiallRoach and Teresa Mendes like this.
  5. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    871
    Likes Received:
    453
    Also @Teresa Mendes talk to @Wreybies about translation.
     
    Teresa Mendes likes this.
  6. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    Another fellow non-native speaker of English here (I'm Iranian if you were wondering), though unlike you I write exclusively in English. Anyway on to the issue, I think you need to first decide on the audience you're aiming your book for and which market would get you to your goal. You say that a small market for fantasy books, this means that you won't reach a large audience by publishing your book in Portugal, and in Portuguese. You have to ask yourself if this audience is enough for you for now, if so then go ahead and write it in Portuguese. But if not then you need to reach for a wider audience which means writing it in English. Of course there's always the possibility of your book doing well enough in your home country so that your publisher decide to sell it to other countries but that honestly isn't that likely, especially with a debut novel. Not impossible but just not too likely.
     
    Rosacrvx, Lifeline and Teresa Mendes like this.
  7. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Thank you for your reply. The thing is...I won't manage to reach a big audience here and I want this story to reach as many people as I can. And marketing online and even finding portuguese beta readers is really difficult, people don't usually do that here. That's why, for me, it's not a simple answer. If I write it in English I will not publish it in Portugal, I'll seek an US publisher or self publish. But I do agree with you... my average English is probably not good enough to write a good story.
     
    Frostbite likes this.
  8. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Thank you! I may follow your advice in the future and just write a few pages in English and ask for opinion here. I would love to hire a translator, but honestly, I don't have that kind of money. I may be a scientist but we are not very well paid here x)
     
  9. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Thank you for your opinion. Yeah... it's starting to feel like a fleeting dream. It's frustrating to see so many advice on publishing online and knowing we have that extra big fat barrier. I may end up only publishing it in portuguese. But it hurts knowing our baby book we have been planning for 10 years will most likely sell almost nothing and be lost forever behind the publisher's rights. I haven't given up yet though...not ready to let go of the dream I guess.
     
  10. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Thank you!
    My issue with writing for the portuguese market is that the audience here is very very small. Only now with Game of Thrones we are seeing a small increase in people buying in the genre. You can't even find 99% of our fantasy authors on amazon!
    I know it's my first book and a small audience should be good enough. It's just...I don't want it to just sit here knowing people won't read it and that its possible audience cannot reach it. And it makes me sad talking with so many wonderful fellow writers here and on twitter and knowing I won't be able to share my book with them. I have people offering to be my beta readers and I have to decline and say that it won't be possible. I don't know... maybe I should try to do it like you and give it a shot in English.
     
  11. Frostbite

    Frostbite Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2017
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    36
    Of what I know of the dutch market, it's not that it's small, it's that publishers are very reluctant to publish fantasy stories from debut writers. Even experienced writers barely can scratch the surface. Most of the fantasy books are translated from English. If the market is really small in Portugal, you could mix it with genres that work well. Low fantasy and (psychological) thrillers can go hand in hand very well. In the end how well your book sells is all dependent if you wriggle your way in a major publishers office.

    The issue I think there is with traditional fantasy is that it is beaten to death, then beaten a few more times, tossed from a cliff and then ripped apart by ravenous beasts. Pick up any fantasy story and it near always is of the same. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins etc etc for races, epic quests to save the world, dragons in any way, magical artifacts and I can continue the never ending list. Fantasy is also incredibly predictable, it's an insanely good genre when it's fresh, but frankly it's rarely fresh. That's why I rarely read it anymore myself which is goddamn shame because I myself write in it.

    But I think a good fantasy story's success is how dependent on how fresh it is, probably more than any other genre. If you write a really fresh fantasy story I think market might be larger than just the regular fantasy market. Look for example at major examples like Tolkien and Rowling. I think nearly everyone has a soft spot for fantasy when done right. Just try to captivate your audience.

    Edit: For beta readers... Well, I exactly will face the exact same problem! I do not have any idea how to get some who aren't my family or friends here.
     
    Teresa Mendes likes this.
  12. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    3,011
    Likes Received:
    4,171
    Location:
    On the Road.
    I agree with the others that you should first decide which market to aim for. But with that out of the way (you did say you want to reach the widest audience possible)... I'm a non-native speaker myself and started writing seriously in english 1.5 years ago. My english back then was about like you said: average. I'm not saying that I'm proficient now, but I'm better. Good enough? Probably not, but what is 'good enough' anyway? There are always helpful Beta-readers here.

    So don't you let your language skills get in your way. They will get better if you seriously make an effort :)
     
  13. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    If this is the case then you should definitely give it a try and write it in English. I can feel your frustration and that you're not satisfied with the small market of your country, then don't give up! I'm not saying it'll be easy to write a novel in English but it's possible, I'm doing it.

    I struggled a lot with writing in English when I started, I mean I was decent in the language but being able to speak it is not the same as trying to writing a novel in it. But I was determined and stubborn as hell because I knew I couldn't publish it in my home country, the fantasy market is non-existence in Iran. So I continued to write and write and write and over time I got better at it. I also watched a whole lot of American tv shows and movies as well as a few British and Australian ones and read as many novels by native speakers as I could - both to improve my English writing skills and cuz I wanted to :D. And now I've gotten alot better, I've still got more to learn mind you, but I'm at a place where I feel comfortable writing and reading in English, it no longer feels like a foreign language but a second language.

    You can get there too, you just need to be determined and practice, it'll take some time but if you want your book to be read by a wider audience then it'll be worth it. Do the things I mentioned above (reading novels written by native English speakers, watching English speaking movies and tv shows) these help tremendously with improving your English, especially since you're decent already. And as other have mentioned write stories in English and post them in the workshop so we can help you by critiquing them and pointing out their flaws and so on, this sort of thing helps A LOT. You shouldn't also shy away from offering critiques to other's pieces in the workshop, it helps them as well as yourself. I and the others are here to help you however you need, just don't give up. Good luck :D
     
    Teresa Mendes likes this.
  14. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Here the market is tiny and it's also very hard to publish a debut novel of any kind (and you usually have to pay the publisher), especially fantasy and sci-fi. "Even experienced writers barely can scratch the surface. Most of the fantasy books are translated from English" Yup... same here. It's really frustrating.

    My fantasy novel is not the most traditional type. The main character is female, I have a romantic subplot, the only species are humans and Gods (and Death) and magic is subtle. I think it probably falls under the low fantasy genre. The main themes are devotion, independence and betrayal. I'm really doing my best to make it fresh and interesting. I just don't think that's enough to publish here. But I will not give up. One way or the other I'll publish it =)

    For beta readers, have you tried goodreads? I just found a small portuguese community there. Maybe you can find one too.
     
    Frostbite likes this.
  15. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Thank you for your comment! I'll try to write maybe a few scenes in English and see what comes out of it =)
     
  16. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48

    Thank you! I already read and watch English books and movies, but maybe I should do it more often. I'll try to write and see how it goes. Thank you for the help and I also wish you luck with your writing projects! =)
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  17. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,854
    Likes Received:
    11,669
    A possible advantage when writing fantasy is that you probably shouldn't be using too many modern English idioms anyway, since your book isn't set in the modern English world. Translating Portuguese idioms into English could give your writing a unique flair...
     
    Teresa Mendes likes this.
  18. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Never thought about that. It could be interesting. I need to try both things - write in Portuguese and translate and write directly in English and see how it goes. Maybe a couple of scenes. But if I write the whole thing in Portuguese and then translate I'll be essencially be writing two books. It can work for this one but if I want to become a productive author I won't be able to keep doing that for the second and third books... Oh well, I'll never know until I try it. Thank you for your suggestion =)
     
  19. Frostbite

    Frostbite Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2017
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    36
    Look that is the attitude! We'll fight our ways in the market! One way or the other, we'll succeed.

    Same, mine isn't traditional either, it's definitely low fantasy, might be considered dark fantasy though. Magic is extremely weak, but it doesn't play part in the story (heck so far it didn't even get mentioned once), there are two races, humans and Cylani, a race derived from humans who are bound with their soul to a dragon (basically human), The god Cylan (Cylani god) is mentioned a handful of times. Main themes are war, the effects of it and morals.

    Everything that cliched I try to refresh it, prime example for me would be dragons, they are still the western dragons everyone know, but I split them up in many different species, some species are unable to fly or breathe etc, most are too small to ride on, and I have an entire list of variety in it. The story itself is kept very small and for over 75% of the story it's located in one single tribe while I try to keep the tension going from page 1 to the very end. We're in exactly the same boat it seems. Maybe we could learn some things from each other.

    No I haven't tried goodreads yet! I'll directly take a look at it, thanks for the suggestion! By the way, a small suggestion...
     
    Teresa Mendes likes this.
  20. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Actually, your story sound very interesting. I love the concept of having different dragon species, with different traits and adaptations (maybe because I'm a biologist hehe).

    Did you finish your message? It ends with "By the way, a small suggestion..."
     
  21. Frostbite

    Frostbite Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2017
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    36
    Well, I had a suggestion, then forgot it suddenly, and then I forgot to remove the "By the way, a small suggestion..." part. Double fail from my part! Sorry!
    And then I forgot to take a look at goodreads. Triple fail. Well I will do it now! And now I won't forget it!

    You're a biologist? Mind if I PM you sometime soon to bother you with a barrage of questions if certain things make sense about the dragons?
     
  22. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    48
    Yes, I'm an evolutionary biologist!
    And yes, you can ask me, even if I don't know the answer I don't mind doing a bit of research to help you out =)
     
  23. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2016
    Messages:
    360
    Likes Received:
    222
    Location:
    BC
    Not exactly. Translating will be a different kind of challenge, but by the time you have one finished manuscript in whichever language, the story itself will have been edited many times and have gone through beta-readers and will be as good as it can be.

    I'm planning to translate my novel (written in my second language) myself. If I become so successful that I don't have time to translate anymore, I'm sure my editor will be very happy to sell the translation rights of the book for me.;)
     
    Teresa Mendes likes this.
  24. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2016
    Messages:
    318
    Likes Received:
    233
    Location:
    Vanløse, Copenhagen, Denmark.
    I can sort of relate to this.
    My native language is Danish but have chosen to write my novel in English as I, for some reason, find the language better suited for the sort of story I'm writing...and also to make the chances of it being published bigger (Crime Novels seem to be the big thing here in Scandinavia, as opposed to Fantasy).
    I did start speaking, reading and writing English from a very young age (you sort of have to here if you're into roleplaying games as they're not usually translated).

    If you really want to write in English I would suggest you work at it, see if you can take some classes, start reading novels in English, watch English movies/TV shows to improve your vocabulary.

    And like others have mentioned: try writing something up in English and post it here while mentioning that your native language isn't English, to get some feedback.
     
  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    16,115
    Likes Received:
    19,079
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    How's the fantasy market in Latin america ? Bearing in mind that a goodly chunk of south america speaks Portuguese , and the rest speak Spanish which probably isn't that difficult a translation job ... I don't know if that's viable or not, i'm just saying that the market for Portuguese language literature is larger than just Portugal.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice