Monday, September 29, 2014

The bilingual writer... Part Two

But when it comes down to getting feedback I still encounter the same irritating responses: In both languages my critters admire the colorful pictures I paint with words, the unusual metaphors and  unique wording and intriguing plot elements. Alas where the stumble is often sentence structure - they appear to be disjointed and convoluted and words are used in unusual positions. Or in other words: My German is colored in English and German sentence structure sneaks into my English writing. That's not only annoying for me to discover over and over again, it also makes it hard for readers to follow my story if they pause to wonder over a sentence instead of following what is happening in a story.

I haven't found a solution for the problem yet - except for refusing to write in either language right now which is extremely dissatisfying (and I have too much time for snacks). The advice I get from the professionals - published writers and editors: Just read and read and read. Did they think I ever stopped after finishing my first local library when I was ten (and I read through everything there!) and the second with twelve. And I reread what I just read to catch phrasing - it appearantly doesn't change a thing.

Plan A for the current project of my heart -part one of three: Win in the lottery, hire a line-editor for the english version and go over everything explaining what I'm trying to say.
Plan B: Rewrite the original in German. Which doesn't strike a cord in me. I'd be willing to translate the finished project myself to make it feel right in that other language too, but the story itself wants to come out in the language it is born in my mind. So knowing that neither is a solution I right now I struggle with the next step.

But not writing can't be the solution it. It ties me into knots. It's painful. I'm getting cold all over.
I have been in that state for a few weeks now.
I think I'm getting sick - bilingual writer's heartbreak.

George Szirtes on writing bilingual poetry

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The bilingual writer... Part One

 Writing is one of the most demanding skills and writing literary works is an art that only a handful of people ever master - even in their first language. So what do you do if you grew up with two languages and with the years one dominates your thoughts? And further what imagination and writing is a constant yearning in you? May you give in and can you still write in that language that rooted maybe not in the country of your origin or where you leave, but has rooted in your mind? Well in truth - it won't be easy and yet there is hope because, there are some very special bilinguals who write literature in their second or third language, and sometimes even in two languages (see link below).

In my case growing up with both German and English over the years English predominated - it's the language I dream in, I feel most comfortable reading and all the stories and worlds popping up in my head... are in English. Writing in English became natural - it actually feels strange to write in German. Although I have a wonderful exercise I recommend all bilinguals: write a scene in one of the languages and then try the same in the other - matching not simply the meaning of the words, but imagery, symbolism, emotional evocation...

This game is unbelievably difficult and many times I falter. But it forces me to asses my strengths and weaknesses in both languages as well as in the scene itself. I need to look into meaning behind the messages and see if it works in both languages. And then sometimes when I have a scene in both languages developed that it feels like the same story, I pause and think about how now a translater would work with it. Would he catch what I meant? Would she come up with the same word I used in the other language or do I need to find one that is clearer?

It's essential. I have read - well started to read - some dreadful translations especially from English into German. German is way more complex, the translation could become a totally different story that carries quite different feelings. So I am able to play with both languages developing a scene and making sure it's as strong as I can get it, but I have to decide in which to write.
And the language in my head speaks English... (to be continued)

Famous past and present bilingual writers from around the world

Monday, September 22, 2014

How to drink like your favorite author...

 I always thought writers lived on coffee.
(And chocolate bars)
Alas it has come to my attention that authors appear to strive on a variety of liquids.
And it appears there are two categories:
Those that drink because they can't write;
And those that drink because they write better.
(the latter apparently only stop to edit)
Having lived through editing hell lately
and having arrived at the bottom of writer's soul,
I am beginning to consider if I should not better start at this stage.
Well once I get over the taste of alcohol.
Plus - writer's depression or not -
I still have a living room full of teenage characters
and I have to set a good example.
Not that they pay much attention to my suffering lately,
slumped into my chair with a box of tissues:
As long as they have chips and sodas
they are content.
Totally forgot they were supposed to rescue a world...
If you need to forget as well, here are some tips:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to write like your favorite author

 The reason why I am stuck now rereading a 15+ series and can't seriously consider sitting down to write myself right now, is of course because I love what I read. And what we love to read colors our own writing. 
There is nothing wrong with trying to write like your favorite author as long as one keeps a few things in mind.
Get over the initial "I want to write exactly like him/her"! That's all very nice and ambition and motivation drawn from the books read can be helpful, but each of us is a kind of its own. It is what makes us special and gives us that unique voice! We all have our story and together with our personality it paints a different picture from anybody else. That's good, because in all honesty who would want to read your lines copying a style when the original is at hand?
But of course we can strive to find a similar style and how do we do that?
1 We Read. 
There's no such thing as I read enough. In order to understand our favorite author's kind of writing, we have to read and absorb not only the plot line, but the structure. We need to distinguish the kind of words that are being used as well as expressions that are exclusive to the author. 
2 Then it's time to take a break from reading and reflect.
We need to figure the differences between our natural way of telling a story in comparison to what we read. That's important because it also shows our limitations. Simply copying will never be authentic and readers - will know. If your author winds around with sentences that span over an entire paragraph and you are more to the point you'll have a hard time falling into the same rhythm (and probably won't make any sense by the end). But one can still learn a lot from character interactions, dialogues and how emotions are transported.
3 Try to learn more about your author
  life and past are often factors which affect writing.If your favorite author has a diploma in law or is an ordained priest, he or she will be able to carry information and paint a picture that will ring true - if you fall in line you probably won't. Our own experiences will give life to our stories, 
but we can learn how others integrate theirs.
 4 Read some more (always a good advice)
5 Once you are done, think about what inspires you to write like that?  
What do you appreciate about their writing, what grabs you, 
what makes you go back?
Once you’ve identified what you admire about your favorite author, grab a notebook and a pen or pencil and start taking notes of details, find your favorite scenes. Never type it out. Studies have shown that we absorb better when we write by hand - yep old-fashioned, but it goes straight in.

And then let your own imagination and story flow - the elements you captured with your heart will integrate. You won't become a cheap copycat, much more something special will emerge - your own unique world with that touch of him/her. What a wonderful legacy for any author!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The reading writer...

There are perhaps no days of our childhood
we lived so fully as those we spent
reading our favorite book.
As for the here and now
and in case you miss me:
I have started re-reading my favorite series.
Only 15+ books.
I shall try to surface from the magic kingdom
once in a while.
Unfortunately they don't have twitter there...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The writer and fear...

I first thought I would apologize first for the absence of the last couple of days. Alas as it turns out, my blog-absence has provided me with 
some very interesting and useful insights. 
One I want to share with you in my ten (yes plus) lines today.
I was at a business conference held by the company of a wonderful product I have been drinking for over a year and which has improved my health in incredible ways. While the tenor of the convention is directed in positive spiking up of consumers and members alike, this extremely empathic company also offers a business opportunity that is approved and proven to work. Yet, there is that fear that keeps many at bay - myself included. You see hundreds of people there who are obviously successful with something they believe in and that you have no reason to doubt (I use the product with great results for a year and a half and even my doctor goggled at my improved blood tests) and yet we fearful bunnies lean back and sadly shake our heads. 
Not for us. It sure works for others, but...
What happened?
It's quite simple.
We have fallen to our lying ancient brain.
 We have that brain software that hasn't been updated in centuries and thus that lump of grey stuff still insists whenever something new comes up that we are in mortal danger. But it measures ancient experiences of our race by instances that have nothing to do with the past.
That phone in front of you awaiting you to make that call? 
It's highly unlikely to turn into a black panther! 
Neither are those submission guidelines poisonous snakes ready to set their teeth into you as result of a declaration of war against your self-confidence. 
Those people at a writing conference you should talk to? 
They aren't another tribe that came to overrun your village 
to steal your children or your wives and cut down the men!
And that agent over there part of you is dying to get to know? 
Possibly her or his brain visualizes a lion approaching to take their head of 
the minute you step in their direction as well!
So what to do to gain prevalence and knock brain down a peg - 
one that makes sense in OUR century?
Oh the theory is easy and there is a fine solution to the problem:
Take a step back, breathe and give yourself 20 seconds 
- yes, just TWENTY seconds! -
before you react and then just go for it! If you trick brain out of that short emergency plan execution the phone stays a phone, the submission guidelines are just a few written rules, the tribe turns into like-minded people probably just as unsure as you and even that agent might be able to acknowledge that kitten in a civil manner.
So just try to push the brain pause button the next time fear in whatever situation threatens to knock you out and keeps you from following your dream and goals - you really deserve that update and brain will actually be quite happy to get a break because it takes an awful lot of energy to run away...
You two can do it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wahh! I'm in Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent contest, call appropriate writer's helpline...

Hello world. I've become a victim.
A victim of Miss Snark's First Victim.
After all the fuss with my manuscript, the bending to the will of writer's board critiques because of my unique voice due to my bilingualism and the hiding under my carpet because I lost any sense of and trust in my writing, I dared... Well, I dared to enter a 250 words intro contest, than panicked and almost withdrew again when the impossible happened and my entry was drawn.
 It was drawn damn it all and back! 
I wasn't ready for that! 
Since the minute the e-mail came I went into hysterical anxiety, with all kinds of wrongs in my story and plot popping up in my head. The voices in my head got into fits and shouting bouts and ripped at my hair from inside. My characters are slumped on my sofa, some weeping, some suffering stomach cramps - on might think THEY will be critiqued and get kicked! Stupid lot. They're all hiding behind my back of course while I have to shoulder the roughening up. 
Yes - you MC - you are the only one in those 250 words - and I swear if you mess up, I'm gonna do something really horrible to you! You might even get killed! Well, not right away or I would need to rewrite that darn thing again. But I have the power - so beware. 
Yes, I know you're already too emotional and I shouldn't yell at you.
What do you mean I sent you out before YOU where ready?!
You know what - you're alone out there - don't come back crying 
and if you start talking while I sleep again I will send you to Miss Snark indefinitely.
You can talk to Thierry here:
His number is 43. Tell him to be home by dinner.
Did I mention he is pretty sensitive?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reading day break after revising disaster...

I had to get away and hide inside a book today.
Last week I was challenged to a 250 words snippet contest.
Since then I have re-written, re-shaped, re-vised, re-blurbed the first 250 words 
of a prologue and a first chapter to see if I could mangle it into something 
that would be intriguing enough for a potential reader - well to read on.
I don't know my story anymore. (And my characters are puking in a corner)
In addition to my never ending manhandling these first few sentences,
I put each new version up for inspection on my writer-board.
Now I have an additional 250 versions.
Now I know I'm trying to hard at times (always) and because of my bilingualism 
my English is just as - lets call it unusual - as my German.
But when you get to the point that you don't trust yourself anymore 
to write down a straight sentence because someone else might see a fault in it, 
it's better to unplug keyboard and brain and do something for yourself.
Books have always consoled me.
I shall embrace one that is already written.
Btw. The prologue consisted of 250 sentences with more than 30 (some had over 40!) words each.
My fellow writers would have ripped that apart...
Yet it got published.
Maybe tomorrow I make a fresh start.
And listen only to the voices again.
The ones in my head.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Writer on strike...

I did something outrageous today. 
I went on strike. 
No writing. Nada. 
I didn't even turn my computer on! 
Well, I did now - for you - to fill you in - but I filled nothing in my manuscript. I didn't even read it. Ok, that would have been hard with the computer off. But - I went even beyond that! 
Yes, I totally ignored them and their little nagging voices in my head! 
No, I was NOT procrastinating! Who said that? YOU! Yes, you, right in front of the screen reading this, what do you think YOU are doing right now, mhh?!
No, I made that conscious decision to walk away from my teenagers, their stories and my world this Morning. Why? Because for the first time I had nothing I wanted to tell them or discuss with them.
Let it rest before you head back is what they say and I think it's a brilliant idea. After rewriting for the past three months, changing the first pages for the xt-time and reading over stuff that just didn't sound like me anymore, I needed this break. No, It's not writer's block - ideas for book two would still be accessible if I had the peace to turn to it yet. Alas #1 and I - we are not done yet. 
When doubts are planted... 
Yeah, think I continue my vacation tomorrow. I will tell you more after that - 
once I'm done chewing this chocolate bar in frustration!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Submission guidelines...

Thought I give you a quick head-on:
My advice on submission guidelines?
And before you hit the send button:
And check especially the header and the personal greeting.
It should NOT be from the agent you sent your stuff before.
Just sayin...