The road to literary excellence


When it comes to literature, many of us have areas where we excel. There is something about a particular genre which enables us to sparkle without real effort. I freely confess that whilst I can achieve excellence in most fields, should you ask me to write a ‘misery memoir’ I would refuse with almost indecent haste. The problem I have with the genre, (other than the fact that it is universally depressing and reading it leaves me with feelings of existential dread) is that I cannot write in this genre without subverting it!

So if I ever attempt to write such a piece, I find my readers guffawing at my humorous exaggerations and snide comments about the main protagonist. So needless to say I shun the genre. Others can write in it, produce fine work and earn the plaudits of the wise. I am happy to join in the applause and to add to the general congratulations. Provided of course I am not expected to read their work.

Venerean is a fine writer. Admittedly he has chosen a hard row to hoe because his chosen genre is ‘romance.’ He might, in some eyes, make things even more difficult for himself because he is bold. He writes under his own name and doesn’t hide behind a female identity. Still from comments I’ve heard from his many enthusiastic readers, he excels within the genre. Whatever the reader of the genre expects, Venerean provides, in a manner designed to delight his readers.

The problem is that it is a competitive field. Now there are many who turn their nose up at ‘romance’ but you will not find me in their ranks. To succeed in that field you have to be good. You have to be not merely a fine storyteller, you have to be a consummate wordsmith, and perhaps even harder, you have to have an instinctive feel for the nature of the genre but without slipping into cliché.

Venerean can do all this. But still, as is the way of writers, he feels he should be able to do it better. Not only that but he feels the hot breath of the next generation of romantic novelists on the back of his neck and he knows he cannot rest on his laurels. He is only as good as his last book.

So like many he decided to push on the boundaries of the genre. Firstly he slipped across the boundary into the anacreontic. He waited nervously to see if the story sold. It not merely sold; it was lauded by critics and readers alike. Emboldened he worked more amatory material into his prose. Indeed it must be admitted that he tiptoed along the edge of erotica, and in the eyes of some, he crossed the boundary into libidinousness. It was here he discovered a great weakness in his writing. He could bring tears to the eyes with his descriptions of romantic partings or reunions, but when describing those more intimate moments normally hidden behind the bedroom door his writing was more prone to bring about tears of mirth.

So what to do about it? He needed somebody who could quietly put a thick pencil line through the parts more likely to induce hilarity than romantic interest. But where do you find somebody like that?
In the end it was Elli, his housekeeper who settled the matter for him. He hadn’t realised it but she was in the habit of quietly reading his manuscripts before they were even finished.

As a lady of more than middle years who has had three husbands, five children and innumerable grandchildren, there is little that could give her pause. Now when a chapter is finished, the work is handed to Elli. She will read it and if she bursts out laughing or otherwise finds fault she will correct him. She has also been known to correct him on matters of detail, sometimes in terms that make him blush.

But still, we all have to suffer for our art.


Yes, I am still trying to sell Webster’s book for him. Forgive me, and if possible purchase a copy, bring a little joy into his otherwise trivial and undistinguished existence.

More tales from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England, with sheep, Border Collies, cattle, and many other interesting individuals. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is just one of those things.

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