Authors Answer 76 – Reflecting on my earliest writing

Oh, this is going to be bad. This is going to be really bad. The question this week is When you look at your oldest writing, what surprises or embarrasses you?

Can I go for the short option and just say ‘everything’? No?

Right. First of all, everything I wrote as a teenager feels like something a teenager would write. It’s melodramatic, over the top, full of ‘woe is me’ angsty shit and teenage rebellion. It is also very clear that English isn’t my first language. In fact, I still notice that in my writing here and there.

Sure, some things I do on purpose. When addressing nobility, the standard form is to use either milady/milord or my lady/my lord. I have deliberately used mylady/mylord everywhere in my books. Why? Because I do not like milady and because my Dutch sensibilities are offended by putting a space in a word where it isn’t necessary. Mylady is a form of address, it is not a lady who happens to be mine, so to me there shouldn’t be a space.

I’m going to digress here, but this is actually a spreading problem in modern Dutch, which annoys the shit out of me. Dutch, like German, is capable of endlessly sticking words together. A shoe is a schoen, and a football shoe is a voetbalschoen. If it’s a football shoe for a girl then it’s a meisjesvoetbalschoen, and if you want a shoe lace for it, you need a meisjesvoetbalschoenveter. And so on and so forth. This is not only perfectly acceptable, it is in most cases absolutely necessary to avoid error or confusion.

Take, for instance, this image:


This is a diversion notice on a Dutch road somewhere. (This is the cover image of a book written by a guy who manages the SOS webpage – Signalering Onjuist Spatiegebruik or Indication of Incorrect Space Usage – and who has made it his life’s work to point out the incorrect usage of spaces. Some would call him an insufferable nitpicker, to me he is a hero.)

Anyway, what this diversion notice means to say is ‘Pump Station Road, Bridge closed, Diversion’. Due to the random spaces, what it actually says is ‘Husband gone, bridge closed, gone because of legging’. No, I’m not joking.

If you speak Dutch, there are hundreds of images to be found of signs which try to say one thing, but actually say something completely different. And do you know why? Because of the stupid spellchecker in Word. You see, it uses a standard Dutch dictionary. This dictionary will recognise the words schoen, voetbal, meisje and veter without a problem. However, meisjesvoetbalschoenveter, as one of the many random compound words you can create, is not in the dictionary, so Word will go ‘aaah, does not compute’ and mark it with a red squiggly line. Simply because there are too many possible compound words for them to all be in the dictionary. Even a simple word like voetbalschoen might not be, but if you then put a space in the middle, Word will breathe a sigh of relief and mark voetbal schoen as correct. Which it absolutely is not.

Back to the topic of this post (I did say I was going to digress). What doesn’t surprise me is the fact that every hero I’ve ever had in my books had dark hair and either dark or green eyes. I know what I like in men and I’m not going to divert from that. Redhead women are also a recurring theme.

Suffice to say that I don’t read my old stuff much. I’ve got enough current stuff I need to concentrate on anyway.

See what other people said in the original post on Jay Dee’s blog.

3 thoughts on “Authors Answer 76 – Reflecting on my earliest writing

  1. Jay Dee

    Now that was interesting. I knew German did this, but I wasn’t sure about Dutch, even though I’ve heard it’s supposed to be easier to learn for English speakers than German is.

    1. Erica Dakin Post author

      Grammatically I would agree – Dutch has very little noun declension (only genitive, like English) and the verb conjugation is also slightly less complicated. Pronunciation-wise, however, I think German might be easier, as the difficult sounds are not quite as harsh as they are in Dutch. It is a simple fact though that Dutch and German are far more alike than Dutch and English or German and English.

      1. Jay Dee

        Yeah, I know they’re closer to each other. I’ve heard that Frisian is easier for English learners and closer to English. But the closest I’ve seen is Scots. I could at least understand it to a degree.

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