On Character Agency

On Character Agency


The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer


NaNoWriMo 2019: My Personal Experience – Part Two: I WON!

NaNoWriMo 2019

Part Two: I WON!


Ye Gods…Of Publishing!

The sun was low in the sky and my thoughts were turning towards finding dinner. The plod across the plain had been long and arduous and I was starting to tire of the view – mountains to the left of me, mountains to the right and in the middle, nought but the odd clump of grass or wizened old bush to stare at as I marched onwards.

Mountains p81 by HBDesign


I gazed at the horizon wondering when this would end when I noticed a glint on the horizon, something shining bright as the sun itself. I checked back over my shoulder and yes, the sun was still on the opposite horizon. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to confirm that I hadn’t somehow spun on my heels and started to walk the wrong way!

No, this was either a light shining, or something shiny lit!

I paused to rest on a boulder and eased my aching bones down onto it.

“Gerroff!” the boulder growled at me.

I wish I could tell you I leapt to my feet but my weariness had such a hold that I could not. Instead I slid to the floor and landed on a stone. For a moment I marveled for the pain was such that I realized I’d lost some flab from my buttocks, at least this endless journey was doing me good in that way. My pondering faltered when the boulder rolled away and I found myself flat on my back.

I watched as the sky disappeared behind a boulder coloured woman. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes. Peering closer I realized her skin was coated with the clay mud that I had been walking on for so long. She lowered herself into a crouch and I rolled onto my side to face her.

“All this space and you still managed to sit on the only person for miles around! I dunno if I should be flattered or angry.” She chortled, a low, humourless sound.

“Ha! Be flattered!” Said I.

Sages of Ioun by noahbradley“Oh, I can’t be bothered with the likes of you!” She said, and I caught a waft of unpleasantness as she shifted from one foot to the other. She frowned as I coughed and sat up. “I’m not here for your pleasure peasant. My time is for the Gods!” As she spoke she leapt up, spun about to face the glint on the horizon. Not the sun, the other one. She pointed, well, pointedly. I followed the direction of her extended digit and saw that the lighted object was a castle.

“Oh!” I said. “It’s a castle. Is it glass or something, only to glow with the reflection of the sun like that…”

“Fool!” She cried, “Tis a citadel. The citadel of the Gods of Publishing no less!”

“Oh, I see. What’s a citadel?”

She glanced at me, frowned and continued.

“Over there, lies journey’s end. But you won’t enter on your first visit, oh no. You must visit and visit again and again and again and again and again and…”

“OK, I get it, you don’t get in first time but what I don’t understand is why?”

“Why?” She dropped her arm and faced me once more.

“Yes, why? I mean, I just want them to read this.” I reached into my trusty knapsack and pulled out…a sandwich. “No, wait. Not that. This!”

I held aloft my weighty tome, my life’s work, my opus magnus, my pride and joy. Probably the best book in the universe, the next big thing, the one that will sell world rights, film rights, the lunch box and quilt cover rights…

“Idiot.” She said and dropped to the ground.

“Charming.” I hugged my baby to my chest.

“Anyone read it?” She held out a clay covered hand. I shied away; she might nick my ideas after all.

“Well, bits of it yes!” I frowned as I realized that no-one had seen the entire thing, my mum, my friends, a couple new friends from the journey had all seen bits but I’d been too paranoid until now.

Otherworld Atlas by Sam Wolfe Connelley“So how do you know it’s what they would want?” She pointed behind her at the cast…I mean, citadel. “They only want the best you know, the work of mere mortals is not good enough, it must be nectar, the stuff of legend, the tale of epic woes.”

“Jees, you’re such a drama queen.”

“How did you know my name?”


“My name’s Jees, how did you know.”

“Uh, lucky guess. Anyway, look, they’re not inaccessible, they’re just people. OK, they are people that want the best but that’s just because they want to present the best.”

“FOOL!” She cried. She reached into her stinking tunic and passed me a scroll. It read:

“Dear Jees,

Thanks for sending your manuscript, I can see that you are skilled writer. Unfortunately this particular work is not for me, I didn’t relate to your characters enough to be able to push them with the passion you would deserve.

Please send further work in the future.


Agent de Rejession”

Wow, she’d been burnt before. I had a cupboard full of these back home. They weren’t in the cupboard, I had so many I recycled them and made a cupboard out of them.

“Don’t you see, Jees?” I waggled the scroll in front of her. “This is a rejection, sure, but read it again. This agent didn’t relate, maybe another one would. Maybe, that book wasn’t the one, maybe you should try again.”

For the first time, she smiled. As I watched the warmth of the smile filtered into her eyes and she actually began to shrink. Her shoulders shrank away to slender bony ones, her spare tyre rolled into itself and soon enough there stood a… well, you’d hope she turned into a beauty but sadly not, she was plain but pleasant. She certainly smelt a whole lot better. She grinned.

“Uh, was this a test?”

Desert Winds by andreasrocha“It was indeed a test! You have passed. This will be the first of many. You see, there are no Gods of Publishing, just agents, editors, publicists and book sellers. If you can begin to understand that they want to provide the best books imaginable, you will be well on your way to achieving your goal.” She pointed at my pride and joy, still huddled to my chest.

I looked at it and had to ask myself was it the best book imaginable? I sat in the dried clay and peered at the citadel, no longer glowing. As the light began to fade I built a fire to read by and started again, at page one.

Title image by Cliff Childs.



  1. Avatar Julia says:

    This was wonderful to read!

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