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Close-up clock face

Guest blogger Kieran Mathers has submitted his manuscript. Now what?

…tick follows tock follows tick follows tock follows me trying to rip off the introduction to a Guinness advert. But it expresses rather well my current thinking.

Nothing is happening. Hydra are currently assessing my full manuscript which is very exciting, but it’s been a month now and I’ve heard nothing. Considering that I don’t expect to hear anything for another few months, I’m effectively twiddling my thumbs.

And what does the would-be writer do when he’s twiddling his thumbs?

Well, I’ve been looking for other creative outlets. Short story competitions and podcasting sites are my main target at the moment. Short stories are great. If you imagine writing as painting, a novel is a masterpiece, a great Rembrandt style canvas full of light, and life and details. Shorts, on the other hands, are more like sketches. They can be studies of a particular narrative style, or an investigation of a character.

I’ve heard it said, true or otherwise, that a novel can develop from a short story and I’ve definitely found it a useful exercise to write different genres, different characters, if only for a few thousand words to see how they work. Most fail, but that’s not a bad thing. I would have to be supremely arrogant to assume I would be brilliant at everything I write – even great writers fail.

WaitingMost recently I’ve been working on a story called Noma’s Progress and it’s a story I’ve re-written almost every year since I decided to start writing properly. In its own way, it’s great to read the older versions of this, just to remind myself how much I have improved as a writer through all that time. I’m currently on version number three.

In a strange way, Noma’s Progress has become what I write when I’ve temporarily run out of other ideas. It’s always the same story: across a burning purple desert Noma walks to go and kill his brother, Nola, who scourged the world with his magic.

I’m not going to say it’s a happy story, because it’s not. It started off, bizarrely enough, as a reaction to the 2008 financial collapse, which brought home to me a lesson I’ve never really been able to shake. The heroes that we have in movies and films, the square jawed action men or the buxom heroines, aren’t what we need. When there is a systemic failure, like Financial Armageddon, then such heroes just can’t meet that.

Noma’s Progress has always been about that – the futility of the hero in the face of Armageddon. In our myths and cultures, Aragorn or Boromir is our touchstone for the hero, and Noma is very much like him. But for all his skills, his magic sword and his quick tongue, Noma is helpless in the face of the ruin of the world. His skills, so idealised, were not the right skills for armageddon.

Desert wandererWhy do I keep re-working this? Because it’s an immensely difficult story to express. I still don’t think I even expressed it properly in my description of it. The story has developed into a study of loneliness, isolation and despair as well. Originally, I had support characters with Noma on his journey. But I stripped them away, one draft after another, until there was just Noma, his struggle and his thoughts. I’m quite proud of how it has worked so far, but I still think there is more I can do. I think I’ll be re-working Noma’s Progress till the day I die, frankly.

But I’m not just re-working it for the fun of it. I’ve submitted this version of the story to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the internet’s premier fantasy podcast (they pay, and everything!) and I’m hoping they’ll be interested. If it does get picked up, then I’ll be extremely happy because it all adds to my CV. Plus, I get paid.

And now, having finished that, I’m off to enter the Booker Prize…

To learn more about Kieran and to read his other Mundane Adventures articles, just click here.