Non-native english speaker planning a serial.

Hello there,

I'm launching a serial in june and would like to ask some advice concerning issues that I haven't seen covered elsewhere on the forum. For one, I'm not a native english speaker and have only written about 20K english words total over the course of a decade. That was the total before I got started on the sample chapters, at least, now I'm at about 35K.

I'm not a complete "newbie" - I started writing in german when I was about 10 - but I often feel I lack the required verbosity to really bring scenes to life the way I envision them in my head. As a result, I make extensive use of and Linguee, and some paragraphs just seem to take forever because there's some detail I need to research for every other sentence.

My reviewers usually don't notice the difference (assuming they're being honest), but I'm looking for tools and techniques to speed the storyforging process up and make it less of a slog. Are there any writers among you who also use english as their secondary language, and have some advice to share?

My other question concerns the narrative perspective. I'm planning to switch between 3-4 main characters (two of them are a pair and share the same arc) rather than follow a single one. My main reason would be narrative breadth. All of those characters will come from very different background and have unique personalities with their own ways of perceiving and interpreting the world, and the scope of the overarching plot is international. Basically, the world as we know it slowly goes downhill, established structures fail, and an increasing number of new groups and factions start dealing with the chaos in their own way. I'm planning to have certain themes and events overlap, though. For instance, character A hears about an event on the news, and in the next arc, character B is in the midst of it. Some of them will eventually meet up with each other, as well.

My main concern is whether this kind of narrative scope is realistic for a serial. What if half of the readers really like character A, but don't care about character B? They would need to wait for a month or two before they could get back to reading about him. To clarify - my current idea is to dedicate an arc of about 5 chapters to one character before switching to another.

If anyone could share some advice on how to make this work, I'd be really grateful. I WILL try to make all characters equally interesting.

I'm a native English speaker, so my advice may not be of much help, but I would recommend that you take the time to read in addition to writing. Read English works, and you'll get a better sense for how things are put together. Don't force it, as far as making your language more flowery, just find a voice you can comfortably write in.

I initially planned for Worm to be a series of interrelated stories, but decided to run with the one instead. I think multi-character stories can work, and I've debated doing one in the future, but they're tricky. Single-character is simpler. The trick, I think, is to make it related enough that even the actions of the less-liked character impact the others. Game of Thrones does this, except maybe the Danaerys parts, but when one lord rises or falls in power, the others are impacted or swayed.

Keep everything relevant, and I don't think it'll be as big a problem as you think. But maybe switch it up more than once every two or three months, perhaps?

Tieshunn who writes Brennus is greek but has lived in germany most of his life. I know he makes an effort to read in english. But spellings do occasionally slip. Is a link to the chatroom that he can frequently be found in.

Ive always been a bit dubious about multiple characters, although I really enjoyed malazan book of the fallen. It all depends on how you handle it. Readers are forgiving so dont worry too much about them getting impatient for character A. As long as it all ties together in a natural way most will get sucked in. Its the viewpoints that don't seem to connect to anything that are annoying

Thanks for the reply, Wildbow!

I do quite a bit of reading - less now that writing takes up a good chunk of my time - and it does help. I've probably learned a lot from you. For instance that hands can be 'jammed' into pockets. It's easy for a non native speaker to fall into the trap of using the same expressions over and over just because they're "safe" to use and grammatically correct, and observing other writers with diverse styles helps remedy that. I don't memorize details as easily as I did when I was 16, but the reading still has an impact.

Do you think interludes would help with switching up the narrative perspective more frequently? My arcs will be relatively short - about 5 chapters each on average - but my day job won't allow for more than one 3K word update per week.

Consider why you're doing the interlude. What does it serve the reader?

In Worm, it serves to punctuate the plot arcs and provide information they wouldn't otherwise get. There'd be far less need for them if the story rotated between multiple viewpoints, and I'd probably find some other way to break it up into chunks.

I don't think that's really the answer. I'm interested to hear how it goes, though, as I may do something similar down the road.

Tempest, is Tieshunn active on this site as well, or would the chatroom be my only bet? I'm a bit shy about chatrooms. I'd totally love to talk to someone who was / is in the same boat, though.

And Wildbow, if I don't scare you away with poor writing, you'll hopefully be able to observe first hand how the multi-character storytelling turns out. We already discussed that I'm sending you an invite on launch day. ;)

He isn't very active here. Dont worry about being shy, we don't bite. Tieshunn is very friendly and always willing to help.

I am just wrapping up a 6-month serial which takes place from the viewpoint of a gigantic cast of many different characters. Looking back on it I'd say it was a little overambitious, but it sounds like you're attempting much fewer POV characters than I was, so you have that going for you. It's very helpful to have a general outline when you're doing it that way, and it's also very important to keep the number of chapters per character fairly balanced so that any one of them doesn't necessarily feel like the "main character".

And speaking as another shy person, we're all very nice in the chatroom, I promise :)

Thanks for the advice, Maddirose. Which serial is yours? I'd love to check it out.

I write Orbital Academy, the smutty space opera []. A word of warning, my serial started out as pornography, so it's very, very explicit. In my next serial (which will start as soon as this one wraps up) the adult material will be much easier to skip, but Orbital is very much a read-at-your-own-risk type deal.

Join us in the room Chrysalis, we are all nice people. Just lurk for a while if you are shy, I did to start with.

I will, thank you - after this monster of a chapter finally feels complete. Combat scenes are a beast. I'm afraid this one will bite me if I get too distracted with other stuff.

Thanks for the chat! I probably spoilered a bit more than I should have, but I trust you guys to keep my secrets. Will stop by again soon.

Damn I missed you, please join us again.

Discovered a possible problem with the POV switches - many of the test readers so far care considerably more about the first arc's main character than the world building (especially the ones who haven't read Worm). I expected the opposite, really. I'm trying to find better ways to implement all of that setting fluff without having it feel forced upon the reader. The setting is supposed to act as the narrative glue between the different main characters.

No complaints about my use of english at all, which is a great relief. The descriptions seem to be too long, though, especially in conjunction with dialogue. I'm currently trying to trim them.

Its not overly surprising that people care about characters. Curiosity can work well with settings. You don't need a vast amount of details, just the right one in the right place.

What tempest said. I would say, while it will be a VERY tricky thing to do for a new writer, your best bet would be by focusing on how the different cahracters see the world around them in different ways. Details one sees that others don't, things that are important to one character, but background to another. Let the details of teh setting you want to come through filter in slowly through the different perspectives.

Yes, the different perspectives / ways of interpreting the world are one reason I'm doing the POV switches. For instance, character C is considerably more connected and informed than the other two. The world is strongly based on our own in the year 2012, and sometimes I struggle with pointing out the differences in a natural way. I have so many side characters with their own stories and personalities, and I want the readers to know they exist without introducing too many at once.

And not just side characters. There's a whole alternate history of our earth starting sometime in 2010. Political turmoil waiting to develop into worldwide chaos. Different factions setting plans into motion. If I can't at least hint at it, it literally didn't happen, and that would be a shame.

To illustrate, here's a news snippet from arc 3.

Question. Would it be too weird and confusing to use the American metric system with feet, inches and blocks in USA based chapters (with an US character POV), and meters / kilometres for European ones (likewise, European protagonist)?

That would be really cool. Just have to make sure that you don't get them confused and use them in the wrong POV. Hopefully you don't have any British characters. We use both over here.