Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Guest Post: Nik Perring

Today Nik Perring, author of Not so Perfect and Freaks, co-authored with Caroline Smailes, agreed to pop over for his blog tour for Freaks. Here is his guest post about his writing process. Enjoy!
 How I Write
Nik Perring
There are loads and loads of different processes we can use to write stories. In fact, there are probably as many different processes as there are writers. In my teaching I’ve never told anyone that they should follow one particular method or another, and I’m not going to start here – I firmly believe that you need to find out what works best for you. What I’ll do here though, is tell you what works for me.
Stage 1
The first draft. Pretty much everything I write starts life in a notebook. Once I have an idea, or the beginnings of one, I’ll set about writing the story with pen and paper. I use a fountain pen (so I’m being kind to my wrist and tendons) – a Pelikan, with ink that looks kinda like the colour of dried blood (I just like it) and I use either a Moleskine or a Rhodia notebook. I like how writing longhand slows me down, and how it makes me consider each and every word. When it’s words that make a story it’s essential we give ourselves the best chance of finding the rights ones and putting those in the correct order.

 Stage 2
The next stage for me, after that handwritten first draft, is to get the story onto my computer (a HP laptop, for the moment). This might be the most important part of my whole process because when I type it up I change things. The story, then, gets a very natural half-edit. And what I’ve found is that, while I’m giving it that half-edit, I don’t really notice I’m doing it – I’m just altering as I go, and doing what feels natural, rather than telling myself ‘I am going to edit now!’

Stage 3
Once the story’s typed up I’ll print it off, and give it its first ‘proper’ edit (that’s when I do say, ‘I am going to edit now!’). That means lots of pencil-scribbled notes and crossings outs. And I mean lots. Loads. Really.
Then I’ll type it up and I’ll print it off again, and I’ll repeat that process until I’m pretty much certain that I’ve done all that I can with it…

Stage 4
…but I’ll not stop there. No sir! Then comes the next big stage. I’ll read it aloud (you’d be surprised how much more you can see doing it this way – it’s ace for getting the rhythm right and you’ll probably find yourself spotting typos easier). Again, this process will be repeated until I’m pretty much convinced that there’s nothing more I can do. And that’s, roughly, when the story’s finished.

Of course, with Freaks!, I was writing with the great Caroline Smailes, so we’d discuss the stories as we went, so her feedback and suggestions would find their way inside my usual process. But that process, despite being altered slightly, rarely changes.

So, that’s what works for me. I hope you can find something useful in it, whether that’s identifying what you don’t want to do, or by taking something from it.
Nik Perring is a writer and editor. He’s the author of Not So Perfect, and the co-author of Freaks!. His website’s and he’s on twitter as @nikpering.

Thank you Nik for popping over!


Suzy said...

I rarely handwrite, but I do print off a first draft before editing. Like you, it's a mess of crossings-out and squeezing of whole sentences in the gaps. Arrows everywhere. I sometimes think it'll be easier to just edit on the screen but no, that'd be too easy. You have to see it printed to know if it flows. This is doubly important after the first edit. I read aloud too, but only right at the end of the process. Then, I'll leave it for at least three days. Then I'll print it and read it again.

Jessica said...

I like to print off a first draft before editing too - I find it easier to do crossings outs and arrows and general taking apart the first draft.

Laura Wilkinson said...

Seeing a first and second draft on paper is absolutely essential for me - sorry trees - as is reading aloud. I hear mistakes when doing this. Interesting piece. I love reading about other writers' methods. Thank you.

Nik Perring said...

Thanks folks (and thanks to Jessica for having me here!).

Yep, I think that seeing it on paper's essential. It makes you read every word and that's the same reason I read it out too. What also works for me is recording myself reading it and listening back to it. I think it's about getting a whole bunch of perspectives. Well, it works for me at least!

Neil said...

Creepy, this is exactly my process too. I've been wanting to get a typewriter for ages to make my work even more analogue.

David P Perlmutter said...

First time writer and have written over 50k words, 20 odd chapters and not many left to complete. My editor and I will print of all pages and read together, then out loud to each other till I am happy with it... Great post and good luck with freaks...I receive your posts...

Also following this blog, please check mine at

a true story, soon 2 b an ebook.....

Nik Perring said...

Neil - Oh I'd love a typewriter!

Thanks David - best of luck with it all!

Nik Perring said...

Neil - Oh I'd love a typewriter!

Thanks David - best of luck with it all!

Tahlia Newland said...

It's amazing to find someone writing a whole first draft by hand. I found the post fascinating.