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I like writing in English (knowing that it's not my mother tongue), but I'm always haunted by thoughts of rejection by readers which makes me hesitate to publish my work and sometimes makes me stop writing, especially since I can't find a partner to proofread or edit my writing. How can I move forward?

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    While your question text is short, I will say that your grasp of English appears to be excellent. Not 100% perfect, so you'd want a proof-reader (as would a native speaker), but really close. I think you may be suffering from imposter syndrome: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome. – bob Feb 12 at 19:02
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    Sorry to point this out, and if her grasp of English was actually "excellent" then Nour Fourti would never have lapsed with "… sometimes stop writing especially that I can't find a partner…". The two ways to improve your writing are to write more and to read more. Please, try both! – Robbie Goodwin Feb 13 at 0:49
  • Well, thanks! I'm actually trying to practice the both skills as I am an undergraduate English student. – Nour Fourti Feb 13 at 8:08
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The only thing you need to ask yourself is this one question:

"Do I enjoy writing?"
If you enjoy writing, then do it. Do not be afraid.
If enjoy writing, the quality of your writing will naturally be superior to those who are just writing just to write.

Do NOT let other people's thoughts dictate your life
Unless you know you are wrong, then use those thoughts to encourage yourself to change for the better.
But never ever let it stop you from pursuing what you want to pursue

The more you write, the more your self-confidence will grow
Just like anything else, the more you do it, then better you get at it
The better you get at it, the more confident you become

You CANNOT please everyone
The first step to failure in business is 'trying to please everyone'
There will be people who will love your work.
There will be people who are simply not interested in your work.
Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring are extremely popular novels, but not everyone likes them.
Write about things you enjoy writing, and people with similar interest and taste will fly to you

And lastly, write with a smile. :)
Be happy always, Nour.
We're with you.

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The only thing you can do to move forward is ignore all fear of anyone thinking anything of you. You want to be a writer, that's what you should do. Sure, maybe your first few books won't be taken very well, but I'm sure there's an extremely famous author out there who had a whole bunch of failed books. You have to push through it and use people judging your books to get better.

You said you couldn't get a partner to edit or proofread your writing, and that may be true, but even so, I do think you should try to get someone to read it over, maybe get it edited by an editor so that you know it's at least publish ready, or if you really need to self publish and you genuinely can't find anyone to read it over, you might just have to do it yourself, find as many mistakes as possible, and then go for it. Let the public be your editor, publish a small story first, not one of your favorites, then take the advice that the community gives you and apply it to the better books you've had left over. The key is to persevere and not quit no matter how much hate or disapproval you might get.

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Brace yourself for this answer:

The only way to move forward is to disregard opinion of others while you work on your writing, however, always have people you know read passages so you know you’re not full of nonsense. It will be a long time before you write well enough that you are confident in both your skill and talent as a writer to convey your work “as is” to the public. I cannot overstate enough this: it will be a long time, so buckle up.

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I largely agree with the answers provided already.

Sharing your writing, when you are learning the craft, and inviting honest critique is an uncomfortable experience.

In order to gain confidence in your writing, you must share it, unless you are that very rare bird who possesses a once in a generation talent for the crafts of writing and story telling.

Things you can do to gain confidence with writing in a language you don't natively speak.

1: Rewrite the first few pages of a story. Start with the authors opening paragraph and characters, but write the subsequent paragraph in your own voice. Then share the original and your version with friends, but don't tell them which is which. Tell them what you've done, and ask them to decide which is the original. Once you practice pieces have the same tone and facility with language as the published authors, you'll be practiced enough that you should be comfortable collaborating with native writers.

2: If you can't find a local community to develop your writing skills, then use online communities. There are many like Scribophile.com that are free and will let you share your work for critique by critiquing other developing writers work. It is of foremost importance to fix in your mind that you will learn more about being a better writer by critiquing other writer's work. This is because it develops your own ability to assess what works in a story and what does not, and communicate it effectively. One of the bonuses of participating in online writing communities is that you can meet and develop relationships with other writers that can turn into writing groups and partnerships.

3: Once you feel you work is as good as you can create, and its seems as good as anything you've read published in a magazine or online, then you are ready to send your work out for consideration. I am specifically talking about short stories and flash and novellas here. Unless you are spectacular, you'll likely get a form letter that thanks you for letting them consider your work, but informing they felt it wasn't the right fit for their publication. It's frustrating and annoying. But, its just a very polite no thank you. You will likely find you survive the experience.

Good Luck.

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Especially with regards to dealing with the fear. Here's what I've learned:

Rather than trying to ignore the fear or "fight" it... accept and acknowledge it. Say to it, I hear you, I understand you want to protect me... let's see in detail what this is about?

And write it down or verbalize it in front of a mirror.

Having it in front of you black on white like this makes it possible to look at it and determine how likely it is that this will happen, and in most cases, you realize it isn't really likely at all.

If you look at any good horror movie, the fearsome creature is always hidden at the beginning of the movie (something flashes by in the corner of your eyes, a shadow behind people, etc), and this is when it's at its scariest. As the movie progresses and we get to know and see more and more of the creature, we finally reach a point, at the end, when it is fully exposed, we, the viewer, get to defeat it, because not knowing is always much scarier than knowing.

(This actually also works with painful perceptions like strong sounds or at the dentists. Focusing on what's happening and how it feels rather than fleeing from it makes it less painful.)

Or as someone (ok, many someones), said: Naming the demon by its true name gives you power over it...

The key to this technique is to have a genuine interest in what the fear really is about. Not just doing this to get rid of it (that's fighting the fear).

Generally, this is your self-preservation dealing with problems of the mind as if they were problems of the physical world, were running from danger works... which does not work when the danger is in the mind...

Quick avoidance-does-not-work-test: don't think of a red fire truck... Hah! You thought of a red fire truck! With a ladder and all! No? Now you're thinking of a red fire truck with a ladder... You cannot not think of something.

It isn't, however, at all unlikely that you will have to accept that you're always going to have one fear or another related to your writing and that you'll need to learn to write while having it.

You can't turn off your self-preservation. And that is, of course, a good thing...

If you want to read more I recommend, Stephen C. Hayes's "Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life".

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Writing can be scary--it's the transfer of the scene playing in your head to the words on the page. It's easy to pour heart and soul into a work, and the concern of rejection you're feeling is valid because the piece becomes an extension of yourself. It's okay to write for the sake of writing, to tell a story, to develop a character, to establish a setting.

Take some assurance everyone developing their skill for either a hobby or profession has experienced (or will experience) what you're feeling now. In short, you're not alone. You have support. If you're unable to find a proofreading partner, consider online writing communities which exist for the sake of providing feedback.

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Writing is scary:

I totally get where you are coming from. If I didn't need to get these stories out, I would be too afraid to. Even for those of us who grew up speaking English, it's a complicated and confusing language. I find it an exquisitely beautiful one as well.

There have been a few questions that have addressed English as a second language (ESL) and you might want to check them out here, here, and here. See which are helpful. Advice and questions from other non-native speakers may be more helpful than what I can give.

I have been told there is a reasonably strong market for English-language works by non-native speakers (second-hand knowledge only), and diversity is a plus in writing. If you look at the biographies of literary agents, they are hungry for diverse voices and ESL writers! You may want to start out with some short stories, which could "get your foot in the door" so-to-speak (yes, the slang is intentional). Once you can get agents to look at your stuff, then you move on to the stage where you can get hooked up with reputable editors, network with other writers, etc. If you submit to a literary agent, tell them up-front you are an ESL writer and they will cut you some slack about grammar and spelling, especially if you are in an area where finding such resources is tough. They are looking for new and fresh, with a different perspective.

I know there are literary writing centers in-person and on-line that are actively looking for diverse voices and to support women, people of color, ESL writers, young writers, and so on. See if you can find any of these resources. They may be able to help you find beta readers, reputable editors, or just people you can ask advice from. In Minnesota, we have The Loft Literary Center, and many cities have their own equivalents. If you have an English teacher, most of them are usually very enthusiastic about the language and writing, and may be willing to do some editing for the joy of doing it - but that's person-specific.

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    Re "...a reasonably strong market for English-language works for non-native speakers": Don't you mean "...a reasonably strong market for English-language works by non-native speakers"? – Peter Mortensen Feb 13 at 15:04
  • @Peter Mortenson thanks, I answered this during a break in a writer's conference that's still ongoing, didn't' have a chance to clean it up last night. – DWKraus Feb 13 at 15:43
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I'm actually in the same situation. Though it's not my first language, I prefer writing in English, because most of the novels I've read were written in it. Like you, I always worry that the expressions I use in my writing might sound odd to native speakers. Honestly, I'm not in the position to give you advice since I'm not over with my concerns myself. However, I hope the fact that there are people with similar worries out there comforts you a bit.

Okay, so here's what I've been thinking. I'll continue improving my English by writing constantly despite my fears, expanding my vocabulary, and reading further, so that my future readers won't even realize that my mother tongue isn't English. Also, though this is kind of irrelevant to your question, how about using a pen name when publishing a book that'll prevent readers from guessing your nationality? At least, that's what I'm planning to do.

Hope my response helped you a bit. Also one last thing: never stop writing.

I hope you'll become a wonderful writer someday.

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