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Man Booker 2013 logo

Guest blogger Kieran Mathers is still waiting for a response from potential publishers on his fantasy manuscript. But he’s not short of things to do…

I’ve always wanted to win the Booker Prize.

No, stop giggling, I really have. I might not have a fiction publication to my name, but that has always been my intention. Admittedly, I’m currently writing fantasy while the Booker prize is normally handed out for works of deep and meaningful literary fiction, but it’s still there in the back of my mind.

So in a spirit of boundless optimism, I’m entering this year.

But it’s not what it sounds like. The Booker prize board actually runs a short story competition with a £500 prize for the winner. The closing date is the 23rd of August, and sadly it’s been running for a while. This means that, while I’m going to enter, my chances of winning have dropped.

Because there is a dirty little secret to winning writing competitions.

I’m told that the way to win is to enter as early as possible. That’s not because you stand a greater chance of being read but is more to do with the way the judges’, or anyone’s, minds work.

Booker shortlist

If an early entry really impresses the judging panel, it sets their expectations quite high and everything that comes after will have to meet those expectations. That first, brilliant story becomes the high water mark and everything else becomes is judged in comparison.

Cool, huh? Like everything in the publishing game it seems to rely upon a fair amount of luck – the right story, the right contest, the right time. But by getting in early then you can load the deck against your competition which gives you an added advantage.

So what am I entering? I’ve decided to write a short story about a man walking from the car park of Heathrow airport to his plane. Gripping stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. But I’ve been inspired by a poem called About His Person by Simon Armitage, and my central character will shed his baggage as he goes, throwing away the items that hold him back as he does so. But there will be one thing he cannot part with: an item which represents his soul. So, in his efforts to escape, my central character will travel, but as he is always himself, he’ll never truly move. The point of the story will be that, without a change in a person, true travel is impossible. You’ll always end up at the same place.

So many books, so little time

Possibly a little too deep for a short story and maybe a little faux intellectual as well. But I’m hoping that targeting such a story at the Booker Prize judges will bring some success.

And to make up for this sudden attack of pseudo-intellectualism, next week I’m going to be talking about ghosts and zombies …

Kieran will be back next Saturday with another Mundane Adventure. You can catch up on his previous articles (and learn a bit more about Kieran) by clicking here.