Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Become an Author for an English-Speaking Audience from a Non-English Speaking Background

I have always wanted to write. It is in my blood just like teaching.

When I was born, everyone we knew said that I was born to teach, just like everybody else in my family. I came to resist the idea with all my sinew and soul. I thought that teaching would be boring or restricting. To me who lived where my parents worked, it was one, two, three, one, two, three and then you are sixty and retire. It did not help because basically teaching is in my blood and whatever I do becomes an advisory position.

Though, now, I am almost sixty and still I have not really written that book I always wanted to write in English. Yes, I am published in several languages, Finnish, Swedish and English. At least one of my early articles published in 1984 on the Women's Movement in Finland has been translated to many more languages, but a non-fiction book from start to finish has been just too much. Until now!

As a non-English speaking background person, even with well over forty years of language skills, university studies and work experience writing a book that would be read by everyone in the world (those who speak English) is a daunting task. The big question is how to sound like a native speaker to the wide audience? The other question is how to overcome my uncertainty with my own language skills?

I have a lingering dyslexia that very much shows in my written language, even in Finnish, which is a phonetically laid out, strait forward language. Then there is the fact that I speak three languages and depending on what language I wake up each morning determines my English comprehension or grammar for that particular day. It is hard to change but with the brain plasticity now a norm belief system, it can be done, right.

Also, often when I think about an expression or a particular word I need, I come up with the right one either in Finnish or Swedish but translating that directly to English will become difficult, sometimes even impossible as the meaning of it will not come right to my mind.

Then I suddenly have a gap in my words, even simple ones while writing or speaking and then I have to come up with a roundabout way of expressing myself. The difficulties never cease. I am also used to people correcting my English language.

I am that Finnish person who puts the prepositions wrong every time, who cannot distinguish between S:s and C:s or K:s and G:s, who everyone asks to repeat their sentences or words to determine what they really are. I am the person who uses Latin words to compensate the English and who pronounces the historical places with their original names thus confusing the native English speakers. There is so much to compensate that one simply cannot express that in words. How would I be able to write a book in English?

I wrote an article about Helena Blavatsy to the Theosophist a few years back. It was published in 2008. It took two years to write. Of course it was an academic article where all the facts have to match with their sources and all the arguments have to be logical providing a conscientious and well thought argumentation. I painstakingly researched, wrote and re-wrote. It was a challenge that Joy Mills, one of the theosophical thought leaders in the world urged me to accomplish. It was her support and belief in that I could do it that got me through it. A good friend who then took it upon herself to edit my language helped me to finish it. And I was able to take the article to India, Chennai and Adyar and deliver it to the editor myself. It took a few years before it was published but finally the journal arrived by post and there it was. What an accomplishment I thought, then. Seeing that article in print was such a joy to me. But writing a whole book from start to finish, all those doubting chapters, how could I accomplish that? It did start with a plan after the idea struck me.

I had great need to get my message across to an audience that can be helped with my book. I set on researching what to do. I found a good article about writing a book proposition in a week and again, painstakingly followed it through, with setting my own plan. Then I attended some webinars, seminars and a day conference on how to become a 'person of influence'. There it struck me that I had come to a decision to commit to writing my book.

Weaving out useful advice from the information overflow of everything connected to writing is a huge task, but in the end I decided to boost my confidence by signing a self publishing contract with Xlibris, an international leader of indie writing. Doing that has paid off due to the support I have gotten from the repeated calls from the publishing consultant and other people involved. A membership in Authors Learning Centre has helped. My curiosity has been constantly fed with new ideas. But it would not have been possible without other support. It seems that there has to be a 'muse' to really inspire me to keep going. My 'muse' has been the 'Howling at the Moon' women's community for Unstoppable women run by a great friend and a success catalyst herself.

It is important to a person who is writing in a second language to have a strong support group to encourage daily action. Otherwise, whatever money is paid as incentive goes to waste as the spark dies with all the struggle with words and expressions that just do not come out right. It is not that I did not know what I wanted to say. It is about how to make it flow and how to get the right message out in flowing English. It is not that I would not have attempted it before, even trying my hand in fiction. The task has proved futile before. So what is it that made it work this time? I find two reasons for it.

Firstly, I feel that I am out of time as an emerging writer. If you are going to write a book, the time is now! This is a great decision to make. All become quite easy after one commits. There is not better time than now. All the daunting tasks can be tackled one at the time with a good plan and daily action.

Equally, in the second place is the real practical support with help with the language expression. A good personal editor who can interpret you and your meaning into a flow, so that the result will sound to you as it was meant to be, with all those right articles, prepositions and leading words that were lost in translation in the depths of your own brain. So, what are my lessons from getting my manuscript out there to the publisher in timely manner?

Number one is to have an exceptional support group and number two is to only have a selective hearing about who and what to listen to from all the negatively discouraging 'cacomania' out there. Only let the positive waves affect you and your actions. Some risk taking also needs to come to play.

Choose an encouraging publishing stream and drive to make your own experience as enjoyable as possible with positive thinking and taking action towards your goal. Intervals are a good thing. Let the manuscript mature.

And most of all, enjoy the journey into a published author in the English speaking world where everyone is able to pick your book either in hard cover, soft cover or download it as an eBook.

My recommendations:
- a good book proposition
- a great women's support group
- a personal coach to help with the plan
- a personal interpreting editor
- lots of positive thinking
- genuine action to the plan

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