How to choose the RIGHT language to write a novel.

Let’s keep things simple. You want to write and you want to be published. So what language will you write in? It sounds like a dumb question and I can see some of you rolling your eyes and fidgeting in your seat; ready to flame my blog. But hear me out.

Language choice is a BIG decision, primarily because it can determine whether you would actually finish your novel/short story/article or love letter. Anyone can write, thats why we go to school. We learn to spell words and articulate our minds onto a medium called paper.

Yet, language will determine the feel of the story, the life of the story lies not in the writing itself (per say) but rather in the language used. Language determines the way the words are spoken by that invisible story teller, who sits in reading room of our mind and language moves us to think, to dream and to imagine.

Write in the language you think in.
If you think in Chinese, try writing in Chinese and so on so forth. Writing in the language you think creates flair in your stories. It just means, you have mastery over the language. By being a master of the language you can play with words and sentences and allow yourself to speak your mind. Remember, creative writing is about painting your mind onto a printed medium for people to read. Paint using the colors that you are sure of. Write in the language that you think in.

Now, there will come a time when you choose to write in a language you learnt..

Write in a foreign language if you want to reinvent yourself.
When I write in Bahasa Malaysia, my style changes. It becomes dead formal. My sentencing becomes rigid and it takes on an air of formality. Yet, when I do attempt to write in Bahasa Malaysia, I am not govern by the rules of the language because I don’t know them. My writing takes on a flair akin to a mad-man ranting away nonsenses. So, if I ever want to write in Bahasa Malaysia, it’ll probably be poetry or a compilation of short stories by inmates of the local asylum.

Write in the language you read in.
Writers are in part hugely influenced by what they read. We pick up a writer we love and in time our style matches them to a certain degree. We take on some of the way they sentence their words or speak their minds. My own style is (ironically) greatly influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of the Sherlock Holmes series, and lately by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Nicholas Sparks. These are the writers I read and they all write in English.

Write in the language you vocalize your stories in.
Writers need to be good story tellers. For example, imagine sitting in a coffee shop with your friends and it’s your turn to tell them your story. You need to grab their attention, keep them hooked, allow them to follow the story, allow them to experience the characters. This imagery is the one I keep in my mind when I write my short stories. I imagine I’m telling the story to a friend. This is what I deem the Voice of the Writer. Every writer has their own unique voice. It’s their fingerprint in the literacy world. We recognize each other by the way we speak on paper. So make it a point to try to translate how you vocalize your stories to people onto paper. Try to mimic the phrasing and sentencing onto paper and you’ll find that your writing has taken on a new dimension.

So why are you still reading this? Go write something.

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The 3 essential things never taught at writing workshops

I’ve been invited countless times to join writing workshops and as tempting as it seems, I’ve refrain from them for the very reason that I know I may not learn much from them. Partly due to the fact that almost everything you want to learn about writing can be gleamed from the internet or talking to fellow writers or merely hanging out with very opinionated people.

I believe there are several things that writing workshops fail to teach good meaning people who want to jump-start their writing career and I’ll list them here as I think of them. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a workshop basher, heck I run workshops to teach educators how to use technology in their teaching learning practices, but I just want you to think deeply on the need for you to spill out money on a writing workshop when at the end of the day, you gain nothing.

The Passion to write
Passion to write is not a skill. You either have it or don’t. Passion cannot be bought neither can it be given to you in a manual or guidebook. It is birth from within a person’s soul and springs forth in actions that pulsates with the energy from that passion. You look at your book as if it was a new born babe, learning to talk and walk. You want to see it to adulthood, to bring joy to the millions or the few that read it. Such enthusiasm cannot be taught, it exists. Passion can be passed on from another passionate person to another, provided that the other person shares the same passion.

The Art of the Lonely Walk
Writing is a lonely affair and as you embark on it, you will find that for long periods you are essentially on you own. Alone. Alone with your creation as it unfolds and the only person who truly sees the significance of what you write is you. No-one else sees or knows what that gem of a book will be like. The Lonely Walk of a writer is primarily that – lonely. Occasionally, you may meet other pilgrims on that lonely road and you may share a thought or two but then its back to being alone. They don’t teach this at writing workshop 101.

Breaking the Rules
After spending a week at a workshop that taught you every trick in the book to make money writing, you’ll realize that merely applying the rules or laws of writing would not generate that next best-seller. After telling you about the rules did they mention that you can break the rules? Or even better; make your own rules? As an author, the book you write is an extension of your personality. It’s you speaking to the masses. Can rules be put in place to govern personality? Can you box your voice in a particular shape and still be true to yourself? They teach you so much yet at the end of the day, the ones that make it big actually break every rule written and invent their own rules.

So there you have it, the three (3) that I can think of when it comes to Writing Workshop that teach you nothing. Any model that you adopt is merely that- a model. It may help you shape your book but it can never birth the book into existence. The book still rest in the mind of the writer and only the writer holds the key to unlocking the dormant book.

Personally, I read a book by Robert McKee – Story ; given to me by best friend (thanks Sam) and read Nicholas Sparks comments on his website and just wing it from there when writing my first book. Mind you I was writing while learning the art of the craft. Once the draft was done, I sent query emails to 38 literary agents (some turned me down, others never got any reply). Eventually, I emailed a local publisher and sent my manuscript in for review and got accepted. Hard work, dumb luck and shooting in the dark kind of paid off for me. I hope you had better luck then me.


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