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Why I shouldn’t enter the Smut Marathon (but you should)

A sort of review of Marsha Adams’ 2018/19 experiences

If you’re thinking about entering the Smut Marathon, but you have doubts, I can understand that. 2020 will be the third year I tell myself I shouldn’t enter because I have no chance of winning, or even progressing very far. There are all sorts of reasons why I believe that:

I don’t write smut…

…or erotica, or even porn. I just thrust sex into stories — consensually! Sometimes I don’t even do that; I’ve written entries where the story ended before the sex started. But it’s a smut marathon. Surely people expect to read filthy words describing filthy actions? If that’s what you write, you should enter. And if it isn’t, you should enter anyway: one of my best results in 2018 was with a sex-free story that still managed to build sexual tension. I think the Smut Marathon readership skews towards open and adventurous, so whatever you call what you write, chances are you’ll find someone who calls it ‘hot’.

I’m not even a writer

My books don’t feature delicately chosen words from an extensive vocabulary, or perfectly crafted sentences, or poetic descriptions of each bead of questionable moisture on my protagonist’s lustrous, silken skin. In fact, that’s the first time I’ve written the phrase ‘lustrous, silken skin’. You can probably tell.

What I am is a storyteller. I like to write straightforward stories, in plain language, about flawed people fucking: why they’re fucking, how their flaws affect the fucking, how the fucking affects them. That’s not erotic. People who do write sensually, who can describe scenes evocatively and paint X-rated pictures in your mind, made it to the final in 2019.

But so did I.

So whatever style you write in, if you enjoy your words then you’ll find others among the voting public or the jury who’ll enjoy them too.

I can’t find the time

There’s a reasonable gap between Marie emailing out an assignment and the submission deadline, particularly in the early stages when you might get weeks to write a hundred words. Even so, I wasn’t organised enough this year to make good use of that time. After the first couple of rounds my life got complicated, so I submitted my entries on the same day Marie emailed us the assignments (the queue to hate me starts just behind my mother).

If you get as far as the quarter-finals — and why wouldn’t you, you have talent — things might start to get a little tight, but at the beginning you’ll probably be able to schedule enough time to right your entries and polish them until they’re perfect.

See? I rushed this. You would have fixed that typo.

I’m not confident enough

I can be confident. Every time one of my stories got votes from the public, my confidence swelled; if I got votes from a juror, it surged. The trouble with confidence is that it evaporates quickly under the glare of self-doubt. All the confidence I gained from reaching the semi-final in 2018 had gone when I sat down to write my entry for the first round in 2019. But a few people voted for that entry, and I surfed a growing wave of confidence all the way to the final.

If you don’t think you’re good enough for the Smut Marathon, that in itself is a reason to enter. Come on in, the water’s fine; buoyant, even. You won’t drown. The worst that can happen is you prove yourself right, and who doesn’t like being right?

I don’t want to read criticism

The jury members (and even the public) will give useful feedback on your entries. Sometimes that will be writing tips or how your piece could be improved; other times, subjective opinions on your content. Both are valuable. I ignored them equally, because my autism means I can only comfortably write the way I write, and I can only write with conviction about the sorts of things I think about. Not understanding that was a big part of why 2018’s Marathon was difficult for me. Knowing it — accepting it — was a huge part of why 2019’s was fun.

This year, I got lucky. When I read the list of jury members before the competition started, I guessed my subjective preferences might overlap with theirs. They often did. There’ll be a new jury in 2020 though, so I probably shouldn’t bother entering again. But you should. Because even if you don’t write the sort of smut the new jury members prefer, they’ll still be able to tell you if your dialogue could be sharper or your pacing is off. You will learn something and your writing will get better. Mine did, even when I was the only person criticising my work. Yours could soar.

I might accidentally reveal just how filthy my fantasies are

Over two marathons I’ve written nineteen pieces, from single sentences to 2,500 word stories. So far, I’ve been lucky with the assignments and I haven’t been tempted to write about my darkest desires.

Or maybe I have, and no one knows…

You’ll be fine, though: the rules won’t let you write that story, you degenerate pervert. ;)

I’m a masochist

I thought the Smut Marathon would be perfect for me: the punishment of pressing deadlines, the pain of pointed comments, the agony of failure. Wonderful! But in 2019 the deadlines never loomed, the comments went unread, failure became limited success and even if it hadn’t Marie was always there to make sure the writers didn’t suffer too much. She rescued me from a meltdown in 2018, for which I will always be grateful.

So if you like to be supported and encouraged in your writing, you should enter. Because having Marie tell you how much she enjoyed your entry, before anyone else can tell you what they didn’t like about it, soothes the soul in ways I thought only a good spanking could.

I’m clearly not a good fit for the Smut Marathon. I shouldn’t enter in 2020. I will though. Sometimes the timing will be awkward, or the thought of it will stress me out, or I’ll be asked to do something I’m not comfortable with, or it will feel like a chore until I get caught up in it and transported by whatever fantasy I can invoke. But I’ll do it anyway, because I know I can stop if I’m not enjoying it and it makes my husband happy. Anything does, if it stops me pestering him for sex.

4 thoughts on “Why I shouldn’t enter the Smut Marathon (but you should)

  1. This was a perfect boost as to why we should enter. I know I’ve had many of those thoughts.. “why bother I’m not as good as so and so”. But I promised myself that I’m going to improve my writing and this is a great way to do it.

  2. This post is so incredibly valuable for all those who are thinking about entering in 2020, but all the years to come after that. Thank you so much for writing it!

    Rebel xox

  3. Oh Marsha – how I have loved your stories –
    “What I am is a storyteller. I like to write straightforward stories, in plain language, about flawed people fucking: why they’re fucking, how their flaws affect the fucking, how the fucking affects them.”
    That quote explains why to me you are a proper story writer. Your characters matter, so your tale is taken over by them. More please
    May x

  4. So, a fellow masochist. I guess that makes Marie a sadist. Something tells me that it’s not the first time she has been told that. I was telling myself earlier I’m not going to enter next year. Weirdly, I was also dominating myself and emphatically stating that I will be entering again this year.

    A year older, a year wiser, still foolish at heart. This is a motto I took on at 40, and I believe it has served me well.

    Thank you for writing this, and thank you for sharing this Marie.

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