So you want to write the great Canadian novel

You’re retired, and your friends have been telling you for years that you should write a book about the uproariously funny situations only a klutz like you could fall into, or the tales that have haunted your family for generations. Or you want to write the great Canadian novel, and isn’t it about time somebody did?

This next part should give you pause. St. Thomas writer Lynne Penner held a book launch in December for her first novel, after nine or 10 years of writing, rewriting, sending the manuscript out for publication, getting it back, rewriting. Nine or ten years!

However, a retired individual has more time for writing, correct? Possibly true, as long as you ignore grandchildren, coffee with the boys or girls, the honey-do list and the ever-present need for naps.

If you do squeeze in the time, you will discover that publishers, fools that they are, will reject a “this happened, then that happened” narrative. That’s kind of how life’s lived, so if fiction or memoir is to be life-like and believable, shouldn’t art imitate life?

Apparently “they”, whoever they are, expect plot, character and setting. They may even be expecting a theme, and rumour has it that Uncle Louis getting into the grape every Christmas and spewing off-colour jokes doesn’t cut the muster. Or should that be mustard? Questions like that haunt the dedicated scribe.

If you’re in it to become an aging chick-magnet, think of it this way: How sexy would you find somebody who spends, oh, five hours a day alone in sweats, not smelling all that aromatic because they had to get started while the inspiration struck them and didn’t shower, only to emerge from their lair groaning about writer’s block, too strung-out to do anything but, well, drink. When a significant other reads the first draft from this foul-smelling genius-in-the-making and spots the real-life identity of the sexless, aging former love interest, they themselves may reach for the bottle. Or a sharp knife.

Complete books have been written about the love affairs between writers and alcohol. Actually, another book along those lines might sell better than the average novel or memoir. According to the Writers’ Union of Canada, the incomes of Canadian writers has dropped 78 per cent since 1998. It’s a miracle any writer can afford a pint.

To paraphrase some immortal bard: It’s a million seller … I’ve got a million in my cellar.