Advice for writing in English, when English is not your first language.

Quote for the day:  “A book itself threatens to kill its author repeatedly during its composition,” Michael Chabon.

Song for the day: Hot n Cold, Katy Perry.

I decided to write this post after I’ve had to google a word for the umpteenth time.  I am not completely inadequate when it comes to English; let’s just say I don’t dream in English.

It helps that I am, and always have been, a voracious reader. (Excuse me for a moment while I make sure that ‘voracious’ is the correct word here … okay, I’m back.) I read books at the rate that Donald Trump fires people, or Imelda Marcos bought shoes.

We’ve also had English as a subject at school and my tertiary education was conducted mostly in English. But let’s face it, a three-page marketing proposal written under duress, doesn’t really prepare you for having to write a 75 000 word novel in flowing prose.

And don’t be mistaken, your prose damn well better be flowing, or your dreams will be flowing out of the window.

If the mere thought of submitting your query to agents causes your stomach to drop ten stories storeys, the internet can be a great help, but can also become the great time-sucker-upper if you don’t watch it very carefully. (See how cleverly I made up a new word there? This is a great ‘save’ if you can’t think of the English word.)

The most important thing is to read, read, read.                             

Learn while you are reading, even when you are lying on the beach on some remote island with the latest bodice-ripper in your hands. Learn when you are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, standing in a queue at the Traffic Department or waiting at the airport. Then, go and apply what you have learnt in a way that is entertaining and flowing. Not too much to ask, is it?

And finally, never forget that the above tip gives you the perfect come-back when The Husband complains yet again that you didn’t hear a word that he was saying and that he is going to ban you from buying more books:

“But Honey, I am studying!”

So please excuses I now as I goes back to works on my fiction novel.    😉 

On the beach.



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  1. #1 by Zelda on March 29, 2011 - 2:19 pm

    “And the very enemy of wich we speaketh is becreaping us from beafter” by an english friend during a hiking trip! Was said as a joke and still is in our house hold.

    • #2 by Celia on March 29, 2011 - 6:53 pm

      Lol, excellent! You could write a book around that one sentence.

  2. #3 by Judy Croome on March 29, 2011 - 9:06 pm

    I am English speaking and only ENglish speaking despite numerous attempts to learn Afrikaans, Sotho, Zulu and French. You can’t get Englisher than that (note THAT made-up word!). Yet, despite that, I make umpteen speling mistakes when replying to blogs and am neurotic about checking connotations and denotations of words in my writing. And I won’t even start on the grammar…
    Judy (South Africa)

    • #4 by Celia on March 29, 2011 - 9:32 pm

      That is exactly what I do as well! Thanks, it makes me feel better 🙂

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