Your Questions Answered

Okay then. Let’s see. Last week I asked if there was anything any readers of my blog wanted to know and I received a few questions. So now to answer them as best I can.

From Lauri:

I want to know do you write short stories with that snazzy pen?

Pens for me are for notes-creativity happens on the computer.


The snazzy pen Lauri’s referring to is my new Pelikan. And the answer’s a definite Yes. A couple of years ago I thought: I’m a writer so I really ought to own a nice fountain pen. So I bought one (A Lamy 2000 for those who are interested). And I bought a notebook. And something changed. It was the writing process, my writing process. Instead of putting a rough first draft of a story straight onto my computer I created it by hand. This felt, for want of a better word, more organic. I felt as though I could take more time with it. Play around with it more than I could on a computer. Start things again. It definitely provided more freedom for me and also made me feel as though the stories I was writing were truly mine. And a notebook and pen are far more portable and less obvious than a laptop.


The biggest advantage I’ve found with writing first drafts longhand is that editing is so much easier – usually. I can be more selective about what stays or goes when I’m typing it up, and so the process of typing up becomes a half-edit. It works for me. Not that all the stories I’ve written like this are wonderful; there have been some stinkers.


Mostly though, I like the actual act of writing. It feels more intimate.


But I reckon it all comes down to what works for you – and I was definitely someone who used to do all the actual writing on the screen, using books for nothing but notes.


Now I use a Pelikan Traditional, or one of a few older ones, in a Moleskine, and with Pelikan brown ink. Just so you know.


Jessica said:

Your starter for ten, How old were you when you decided being a writer was the thing for you? and also, do you have any plans to write a novel?

Plus – if you could be any book in the world which one would like to be?


Um, not quite sure. When I was at school I was convinced I was going to be a rock star. I wrote a lot of songs. And then, as I mentioned here, thanks to two wonderful teachers – one of English and one of history – I discovered First World War poetry. I started writing poetry then, I think. And the odd story.


Then back in 2001 (I think, it might have been the following year) I was made redundant from the car dealership I’d worked at since I’d left school. Which was a shock but also an opportunity. I’d always fancied writing so, instead of going out and getting another job straight away I decided to do what I could to learn how to write. Initially I wrote features and had a little success with magazine and papers. And then I tried fiction which I found came really naturally. Then, when I was 25,  I wrote a children’s book


Do I have any plans to write a novel? I don’t know. Do you think I should? The short story’s what I’m comfortable with (in a good way) and what I love, but I’d never say I wouldn’t write a novel. I’ve written at least two very bad ones in the past. And there are a couple of things I’m working on now which could end up being novel length. I guess we’ll all have to wait and see (me included).


Which book would I like to be? God, that’s a difficult one! According to the quiz I did a little while ago I’d be Anne of Green Gables. I’d probably like to be in anything Aimee Bender or Etgar Keret’s done, for the experience. Or a Star Wars book, so I could have a lightsaber. I’d take any with a happy ending though.


And May wanted to know:

Do you ever ask yourself if you are doing anything you can in order to become a good/famous writer?


That’s a really good question. I certainly like to think I’m doing all I can to become a good writer (that’s the goal, I’m not too sure that fame’s all that attractive) – some days I even feel like one. I read a lot. I write a lot. I revise a lot. I run workshops. I run a writing group. I share my work with good and trusted writer friends and reciprocate that. I do readings. I actively seek publication. I blog. I’ve had a book published and toured it.


The one thing I haven’t done is taken any sort of formal training. I’d never rule that out but, really, I’m not sure that’d be for me.


And really, when I detach myself from me and look at me from a distance away, I see that I’m right at the beginning of a career, or what I hope will be a career. I’m a newby. And on happier days I think I’m quite happy with what I’ve achieved so far. I’m young and I haven’t been doing it that long. I think my biggest problem is my impatience. That and the fact that I have really high expectations of myself and if anything I work too hard to combat all that pressure. After all, this isn’t an easy job – far from it. The competition, although mostly lovely people, is fierce because those lovely people are so damned good at what they do.


So am I doing my best to be a good writer? I try and I want to learn. And I think that’s about all I can do.


I think the fame thing’s worth mentioning. I don’t think that there can be many people who achieve fame through writing if achieving fame’s their reason for writing. I’ve said this many times before but I think being good (and/or successful) is a million times more important than being famous. And there’s a logical pattern to this:


If your writing’s good it’ll, more than likely, get published, which means it’ll be read by people. And so on.


So there you go. Bit strange taking so much time talking and examining myself. If there’s anything else you’d like to know feel free to ask.


Now it’s back to writing for me.

5 Comments on “Your Questions Answered

  1.  by  Samantha Tonge

    Interesting answers, Nik – i wondered how you got into writing.About the fame thing, did you see the South Bank show about Coldplay this week? They said there came a point when they realized they'd become bigger but not better and consequently made changes to get back to basics and what mattered. I really admired their whole ethos about writing and the fame game.

  2.  by  Nik Perring

    Thanks Sam.I think the Coldplay thing's a good and interesting point (not that I like them I should add!) in that, surely, it's producing great quality art that's the most important thing, whatever medium that might be, and that production of quality material is what gets you successful and fame's a result of that. It's about getting things in the correct order and not jumping the gun or aiming to get somewhere without having the substance to prove you're worthy of being there. Sadly that does go against the examples set by a good many 'famous' people…Waffle, waffle!N

  3.  by  Lauri Kubuitsile

    I think I get your point about writing by hand. I might give it a go but my handwriting has decayed so much- anyway I only started with a C- in penmanship and that was 40 years ago!

  4.  by  Michelle Teasdale

    Those pens are sexy! I am considering asking for one for my birthday! I too am someone who rarely writes longhand, but can certainly see the attraction, I love a good fountain pen.

  5.  by  Nik Perring

    I'd say it was definitely worth a try, Lauri. And the cost of a pencil or biro and a pad's not much to lose if it's not for you. And I'm saying nothing about the quality of my handwriting. I'm glad not many people have to see it!Interested to see how you get on, Michelle – especially now after our pen lovin' fb chat!Nik

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