The idea of writing a book is exciting and daunting at the same time, but writing a book in a language that is not your mother tongue can add even more stress to the already overwhelming task. My native language is Spanish, but I’ve been in the US for over 20 years, so now, I think, count, and dream in English (though I still check the temperature in Celsius vs. Fahrenheit). My relative comfort with with the language made it very natural for me to write Justification for Murder in English.
Still, I often experienced frustration when writing. For instance, when I knew the word I wanted to use in Spanish, but I couldn’t think of it in English, it drove me mad! Google Translate only works sometimes. Normally, if I can’t find the right translation, I keep the word in Spanish (in caps and red font), so I can easily find it later when I finally remember the word in English. Sometimes I just change the sentence, so I can use a different word altogether.
The worst case, though, is when there’s no English equivalent for the Spanish term I have in mind. This happens rarely, but it almost makes me want to keep the word in Spanish because the sentiment is so perfectly expressed by that word and I don’t want to let go of it. Of course, I can’t do that, and still end up with a book written in English.
Then, there is grammar. There are many things I just don’t seem to be able to get right. For example, I can never figure out when to use “in” or “on.” I really don’t understand why you are “in” a car, but “on” the bus. Huh?? There are other grammatical rules that often trip me up. For example, in Spanish, we put the period outside the quotes, while in English, it’s placed inside. In Spanish, a sentence can go on and on forever, but in English, it’s a big no-no to create run-on sentences.
when I was learning English, I struggled with expressions. Each culture has their own. Some translate almost literally. Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush, translates in Spanish to Mejor un pajaro en mano que cientos volando, which means ”Better a bird in the hand than hundreds flying.” Others have the same meaning, but the saying is completely different. The equivalent Spanish expression for ”the straw that broke the camel’s back” is La gota que colmo el vaso, which translates to ”The drop that caused the glass of water to overflow.”
As an ESL writer, you have to be more diligent, perhaps less so while you write, but certainly while you edit. I strongly recommend getting professional help if at all possible. It will help you learn and it will make your work more solid. In the end, though, I have the immense satisfaction not only of having written a novel, but of having written it in another language.