1. Get genius idea for a story.This feature first appeared in the Evening Herald
2. Example: Man gets brain transplant from loopy nun and has visions of Jesus telling him the Holy Grail is in fact Barack Obama’s coffee mug.
3. Write one-page synopsis.
4. Run out of steam around the paragraph mark.
5. Pitch to drunk literary agent anyway.
6. Pitch to 17 more drunk agents.
7. Get genius idea about a serial killer who goes around bumping off literary agents.
8. Discover you are the 731,204th person to pitch that idea this month alone.
9. First literary agent calls back to say, “This famous relative you have – it’s not Brian Cowen, right?”
10. Lie like Nixon. About everything, to everyone.
11. Claim that you are, in fact, the love-child of Richard Nixon and Barbara Cartland.
12. Decide to think about actually writing the novel.
13. Although first you’ll actually read a novel, ‘just to see how they go.’
14. Apply for Arts Council grant.
15. Apply to Inland Revenue for artist’s tax-break.
16. Set up blog.
17. Type ‘Chapter 1’.
18. Establish the novel’s structure by typing ‘Chapter 2’, ‘Chapter 3’, ‘Chapter 4’, etc., until you reach ‘Chapter 32’.
19. Briefly consider the possibility of getting away with claiming that 32 blank pages ‘convey a post-modern non-narrative exploring the existential emptiness of being’.
20. Write a blog post asking readers’ advice on how to overcome writer’s block.
21. Get blocked after typing ‘How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?’
22. Do a promotional live phone-link with the Gerry Ryan radio show in which you parade up and down Grafton Street with your knickers on your head asking illegal immigrants for a date.
23. Think some more about writing the novel.
24. Get genius idea to ‘emulate’ your heroes by copying out one chapter from each of your 32 favourite novels.
25. Realise you only have two favourite novels, both of which have ‘Pooh’ in the title.
26. Join a creative writing class.
27. Befriend one of the writers, ask if you can help by critiquing her work, then put her in a coma.
28. Inform agent that the loopy nun / brain transplant / Obama / holy grail story is ‘too mainstream’. Instead it’ll be about ‘a thirty-flirty gal who works in PR with fabulous fashion-sense and more gay friends than you could swing a cat at but who can’t get married although it’s not for the want of a wardrobe full of Jimmy Choos and sound relationship advice from all those gay friends who finally reveal how your sister, the bitch, was sleeping with that hunky bisexual cousin you had your eye on all along’.
29. Drop Oprah an email to let her know that April is good for you.
30. Choose the pseudonym ‘Cecilia Nixon-Binchy’ on the off-chance erstwhile friend emerges from coma.
31. Spend a harrowing month adapting her manuscript by changing the heroine’s name from ‘Aggie’ to ‘Abbie’ without using find-and-delete, ‘because that would be cheating’.
32. Send novel to respected Irish publisher.
33. Tell Barry Egan, exclusively, that you wrote the novel on napkins during your ten-minute lunch-break at the Centre for Helping One-Legged Blind Orphans To Hear Better.
34. Drop Salman Rushdie an email, asking if he’d be so kind as to launch your book for you with ‘a few well-chosen words’.
35. Sign contract with respected Irish publisher, revealing exclusively on TV A.M. that it’s ‘a five-book deal for seven figures’.
36. Neglect to mention that all seven figures are zeroes.
37. Refuse to emerge, blinking shyly, into the bright lights of the Late Late Show until Pat Kenny pins you in a half-nelson on the Montrose lawn.
38. Tell Ryan Tubridy ‘It’s nice that a work of art won for a change,’ when novel hits the best-seller list. Neglect to mention that it was your mother who bought all 14 copies.
39. Immediately set up a creative writing workshop – so you can ‘give something back’ to ‘those less fortunate’ – on Grand Bahama.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.