[This blog post appeared on Novel Rocket on February 11, 2018]
Since the Internet shrank the world – and social media put us in touch with everyone everywhere – there are now opportunities to be an international writer. We can go beyond the borders. Suddenly our audiences aren’t well-meaning family and the biggest segment of our city we can reach. Now we can potentially reach the world with our stories.
Being an international writer sounds so cool, doesn’t it? You might picture a foreign language version of your cover, or flying across the globe to attend a conference.
Early on in my fiction writing journey, I felt led to go for the globe, and if that meant I wanted to write inspirational fiction based on my Christian beliefs, then I needed to focus on the marketplace in the USA.
The trouble is I’m 8,000 miles away. It didn’t make the job impossible, just harder, and it did raise some challenges. If you’re an American writer, focused on the American market, these are challenges you may not even know exist.
Understanding the culture of your marketplace
I’m an Aussie but writing for an American marketplace, so that means I need to speak a different language when I write. That doesn’t mean I have to type in a Texas drawl, or add extra letter As to get the hard Boston vowel sound, but I do need to ensure that my analogies, phrases, spelling and grammar are seamless for a reader in the USA.
For my latest manuscript, it meant changing my language to call an airbridge (the Aussie term) a jetway (an American term), put temperatures in Fahrenheit (we use Celsius) and refer to Senators rather than Members of Parliament (we have both, but you don’t have the latter).
Hey, that’s fine. I spend my time researching the right flavor of latte for my protagonist to drink anyway. I’ve already blogged about the things I need to relearn after a career as a corporate writer, and one of the key things was the need to do your homework to ensure you are speaking the language of your reader. It just adds more research to the process.
And it also means that earlier in this blog post, I had to convert my language (13,154 kilometers) into American language (8,000 miles). And I had to misspell kilometres at the same time.
Personal connection is so important in any industry, but it is vital in writing.
We need to stem the smothering isolation by connecting with others to tell us that the last paragraph we wrote wasn’t the worst thing ever committed to paper, and in that I’m including the rough draft of the lyrics for Achy Breaky Heart.
It helps to pitch face-to-face or put a face to the name on the submission. It can be better to catch someone over coffee at a Conference than risk your proposal sliding into the spam folder.
But personal connection can be difficult when you’re physically distant, and are only communicating via social media and email. You don’t have that same connection.
What it does do is ensure your connection through social media is more meaningful. It should be anyway, so it forces to you to use social media to connect, not just post for the sake of posting. It means you follow up comments and likes with words of thanks or continuing a conversation. It should be anyway. And because the first port of call for people is your web site, it means your blog is updated on a regular basis. Which it should be anyway. It means that you painstakingly select the right conference to go to. Which you should anyway.
Oh, and God bless Skype.
An extension of the distance is the difference in time. I have small windows of opportunity where I know people in the USA will be upright and awake … at the same time as me.
It takes a little more organization, but it can be overcome. It means I have mentoring sessions or chats with my agent earlier in the day than I’d like, but it’s a necessity to chat at 7 a.m. And it saves you having 2 a.m. Skype calls. Nobody wants to have a sane, lucid chat at 2 a.m. in the morning. Nobody.
And the time difference also slows down conversations. I often find that I’ll get key emails or messages from people overnight, so that instantly adds twelve hours to any exchange.
So they are some of the challenges of being an international writer. Perhaps you have others. I’d like to hear them.
It’s important to realize these are just the challenges – and it’s not all hard work. Being an international writer also gives you some advantages that locally-based authors simply don’t have.
I’ll cover them in a future blog post.