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I’ve been struggling with my words over the past few months. More specifically, the spelling of my words. As my manuscript approaches that scary, ever-looming publication date, I’ve had to take a long, hard look at the “brand” of English I use.
I’m a native Australian, and use language based on British (UK) spelling; however, as a peer pointed out to me, my book is being marketed on an American ebook site, and made the argument that American readers would jar a little with reading UK spellings and slang. Admittedly, some of the slang, which was mostly Australian-based, was probably a little vague for most, so I changed some of those terms. How many of you know what a demountable is? Or perhaps the definition of skerrick?
So, for the crunch-time decisions: Do I take out my precious u’s? Cut out my double-l’s? Drop the ‘a’ from anaesthetic? Do I add punctuation to my Mr, Mrs and Dr? Shall I have my character say Woah or Whoa? And really, how can the word pants have so many different meanings across so many English-speaking countries? The mind boggles and I have listed but a fraction of things I had to consider.
My fellow writer had a great argument: the majority of her sales have been in the US, thus if I change to US spelling, I’m catering to the larger market. It’s a fair and valid point. My argument back was that my characters are from the UK and that the story was based for the majority of time in Cambodia (of course). I haven’t yet decided if my retort was lame or not. I think the reaction was the equivalent of a raised eyebrow.
In the end, I went with US spelling. It was a heart-wrenching experience. So ingrained is my love for British-influenced English usage, that I felt physical pain (I kid you not). It was much like taking off an entire unshaven leg encased in sports tape. You know, the kind of strapping tape that sticks to every single hair and rips off the first layer of skin regardless of how slowly you go?
I’m thinking my geek-rating skyrocketed as I struggled to transfer from UK to US. The deed is done now (but I’m open to change it back).
My next story is based in Canada, which is largely UK-influenced, but also has strong US ties in the way English is written. Thus, my dilemma continues into my next novel. Something to look forward to, no doubt. Might need to buy more strapping tape to re-live the analogy.
One day, I’m going to write an Australian-based romantic saga and go as true blue as I can! Bring on the fair dinkum, the crikey and the g’day! Of course, this may also be to my detriment. Perhaps I should survey my readers first and make sure they at least know what thongs means when said by an Australian (and no, it’s not underwear).
Last, but not least, I need to thank Pam Peters, the writer of The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. What an outstanding reference! It has a significant amount of detail on English usage around the globe and all the alternate spellings you’ll ever need.
Here’s a sample of a few things I looked at (aka went through in a traumatic fashion)
I’m closing in on completing the editing process of my first story. Which is seriously freaking exciting! Unfortunately, it comes with bouts of Is this going to be good enough? Will anyone want to buy it? Will anyone read it after they buy it? Will people like it or send me hate mail? The saga continues…
Doubts are soon swayed by shoulder shrugs intrinsically meaning that whatever happens happens. Besides, if I sell one book, I’ll be thrilled. Everything after that is a bonus.
I’m positive my dream of a beach side mansion complete with a suitably fancy car will never be a reality, but I’m hoping I make enough royalties to at least shout myself a much-needed massage. Sitting in a chair all day really does a number on your back.
As my mood is happy and carefree today thanks to a generous intake of chocolate, I’ve decided to share a snippet (slightly edited for this post) from my current story. I hope you enjoy it enough to crave more when the book goes live on Amazon in a month or so.
It was as I bit into my first spoonful of my once-a-year slice of Café Roberto’s specialty cheesecake that Lola came out with, “So, have you shagged any sexy, drop-dead gorgeous women lately?”
I choked on the sweet treat in my mouth. In fact, I choked so much, Lola felt obliged to give me a firm whack on the back; a back that was bare considering my weather-inappropriate choice of stylish halter-neck top. I squealed in pain.
“Oh, oops, I think that might welt,” Lola said as she inspected my back and my face went from blue to pink again. “Yes. It will. I can see my finger marks.” She touched my skin tentatively. “Will you look at that, it’s all bumpy.”
Shrugging off her hand, I scowled at her.
“What?” she asked, acting innocent.
“You just made me choke on cake. Roberto’s cheesecake to be exact. And in the process, you slapped me on the back. What the hell, Lola?”
“Well, next time, don’t choke. I mean, seriously, I ask a perfectly innocent question, and you go all stupid on me.”
“Innocent? How is asking after my sex life innocent? It’s none of your damn business anyway.”
“Oh,” she drawled. “You didn’t get any, did you?”
“What happened to what’s-her-name? Lily? Jasmine? Frangipani?”
She snapped her fingers. “That’s it! Holly. What happened to her?”
“She moved to America … two years ago.” I rolled my eyes.
“Has it really been that long?”
Yes, it had, and Lola knew it. Since Holly, my one and only secret girlfriend in all my twenty-six years, I hadn’t dated anyone.
“Oh, crap!” I said.
“What? Have you suddenly realized that you’re on the path to becoming a dried up old prune?” Lola asked unable to hide a smirk.
“No … Roger. I forgot to tell my sitter that his stylist is coming over this week to give him a trim.”
Lola rolled her eyes in a very dramatic fashion. “Honestly, Katie, you’re becoming one of those cat-lady people.”
“What cat-lady people?” I asked, slightly distracted as I fished out my phone from my handbag.
“You know, cat ladies.”
Dialing my sitter’s number, I looked back to Lola and said, “What are you on about?”
She sighed with flair. “Never mind.”
We finished up our lunch and I bent down to retrieve my wallet from my handbag when I heard Lola suck in air.
“What?” I asked looking around in a panic.
“Umm … I do hope you’re not wearing a backless dress later.”
I looked over my shoulder. “Why? How bad is it?”
“Erm … do you have a shawl or something in your bag?”
“Because I’m not sure it would do to be seen with someone with a great big red hand print on their back.”
“What about the poor bloody person that has to wear the said hand print? You hit me remember?”
Lola narrowed her eyes all defiantly at me. “I saved your life! And besides, it’s freezing out there, why are you in a sodding halter-neck?”
Shaking my head at her, I fished a scarf out of my bag and tied it around my neck so it draped down my back.
“Well, that just looks ridiculous,” Lola offered in comment.
“You’re welcome,” she said before laughing in a tinkle at me.
Sometimes I really wonder why Lola is my best friend.