It’s a show in the making. Imagine the fame and fortune, the prime-time slot. The book deal goes without saying. Instead of a pinny, a holey cardigan whose chief merits are how nicely it wraps around you three times, with the added advantage of a breast pocket to keep hair bands in. Instead of staring at the oven and muttering, substitute a screen of that blue variety all writers dread. Explode every now and again for the entertainment of the masses.
OH GOD! IT’S CRASHED! LITERALLY, I HAVE LOST THE PLOT!
Judges Lynne Truss and Louise Doughty pace about offering amusing remarks about infantile sentence construction while outside the tent it rains cats and dogs. Writers make sweaty notes about avoiding clichés. They observe each other’s workstations, assessing the ratio of Post-Its to yoghurt-coated raisins, and take a measured guess where the serious competition lies. All communication between contestants is via Twitter.
Rather like Gaul, the contest is divided into three parts.
1. Signature challenge: Authors are required to sign five hundred books, all with a variant spelling of “Josephine”. The signatures must be uniform from start to finish.
2. Technical challenge: Competitors produce a sentence at least a hundred words long, intermittently broken up with interesting punctuation. This is tested blind, which is a challenge in itself.
3. Showstopper challenge: competitors must dazzle, adding those unique touches of humour, finesse and hazelnut parfait that really make them stand out from the crowd.
At the end of the show, one writer is selected as Waterstones Book of the Month. Another is pulped on the spot. The rest breathe again, safe in the knowledge that it’s been a journey of 110% which they’ll write about that bit harder next week.