Well, round four is officially over, and we are on to round five. So far, we’ve had a 30 word erotic metaphor, a 100 word piece of flash fiction (with someone else’s metaphor added into the mix to make the challenge a bit more “challenging”), a 200 word character sketch of an “imperfect” character, and a 300 word masturbation scene with one character and a sex toy.

Round 1: I use erotic metaphors all the time, but competing with others to create the one that I thought most readers would love forced me to really take stock of every word. I had to consider my audience and really try to do something astonishing. Do I always do this? No. And if I did, it would take me months to finish a short story. But stretching my erotic metaphor muscles on occasion will only make them stronger, which will lead to quicker creation of better prose in the future.

Round 2: Having to use someone else’s metaphor to create a piece of flash fiction was harder. We all had different strategies for this round. I know the feedback for mine pointed out that I seemed to have built my story around the metaphor rather than simply letting the story happen naturally. The criticism came across as if that was a bad thing, which I don’t personally agree with. And it was right, I DID build my story around the metaphor. I’m not sure how else I would have gone about that. I felt my story was good, but I realized I had a penchant for the darker, sadder stories and wasn’t sure if this was going to work out for me in the long run.

Round three was difficult for me. I tend to write longer narratives, and trying to tell a whole story in 200 words was tough. But, again…that was the challenge. Forcing myself to be intentional about every word and detail led me to cut pretty much everything that was not essential to the story. Would it have been better if I could’ve written 300 more words to flesh it out? Yes. But anytime I have to really think about the words and images and details I use, paring it down to only what MUST be there, I become more conscious of my decisions. Stretching my character description muscles makes me better at that in the future (especially since I ended up writing three of them before I made my decision on the one I would submit).

Round four was deceptively simple. Many erotica authors write masturbation scenes on a regular basis, so we know what works to get our readers off. But, the word limit and knowing that I’d be going up against 38 other writers meant I had to be more creative than I would normally worry about being in a regular short story. This time, I wasn’t as creative as I thought I was. In fact, the story directly following mine used the same “toy” – a cell phone with a vibrator app. I feel okay about it, though, because I did my best, and only about 10 or 11 used toys that I would say were original. The majority fell back on vibrators, wands, and dildos…which is exactly what I set out to avoid. Even though I didn’t place very well this time around, I’m still feeling pretty good about my performance. I joined this competition to stretch creative muscles that I don’t normally stretch, and it is definitely encouraging me to do that. I am just barely in the lead this round. One of the stories I voted for, Annie Savoy‘s “The Maid” took 25 public votes, where I only earned four. I thought my story was better than 4 votes…but the story that won definitely deserved to win. It was brilliant! And those 25 votes brought her up significantly.

I’m afraid that some people are taking the competition too personally and seriously. Some have dropped out, for various personal reasons, but some are also dropping out because they find the whole thing to be too stressful. I can’t imagine a competition not having an element of stress involved. It’s kind of an expected part of a challenge like this, I think. “Non-stressful contest” seems like sort of an oxymoron to me, but some of the contestants seem to feel this contest has been designed with faulty parameters. Some feel the judges’ votes and public votes should be more equal. Others feel the prompts should have been offered up front, before the contest began.

Personally, I find nothing wrong with the contest, other than the fact that I have no real clue why I place or don’t place well, other than just assuming the readers like or don’t like something that I write. The feedback isn’t terrible, but it’s brief and doesn’t really give me anything to improve in my writing for the next time. It’s similar to the comments I receive on my blog. “Nice job” or “I really liked it” make me feel good, but feedback like this does little to help me improve my craft. Likewise, “It just wasn’t my style” or “I didn’t like the character” also do nothing to help me improve.

I’m a writing instructor, and I know that specific, constructive feedback is necessary for any writer to improve. But I also know that giving that kind of feedback is hard, and not everyone is good at it. I haven’t been giving as much as I should, so I’m not pointing fingers. In fact, I’ve noticed it in myself, and I’m willing to admit that I need to improve my feedback. That, of course, means more criticism – both positive and negative.

It’s hard to do that in a “comment,” though. I’m used to looking a student in the eyes and pointing out what is good about a piece of writing and then highlighting an area or two that need improvement. That criticism comes with a discussion of how to improve it and why it needs to be improved. If the writer doesn’t walk away with a plan, it isn’t likely that the piece will be improved or that the learning that took place during our conference will take hold.

Group feedback can work just as well as individual feedback. If a group of students are all doing a similar thing that needs improvement, showing them examples of what it should look like and giving them time to try a few techniques and share the changes can also be helpful.

On the other hand, not all contests and challenges are directly about growth or helping you improve. On the soccer field, the best players usually play the best. They get scouted. They get scholarships. They go pro. They make more money. They have bad games. They get traded.

At work, some of us get promotions for working harder than everyone else. But sometimes, even those who work the hardest still don’t outshine the best employees.

I have students who can earn an A in their sleep…and others who will never do better than a C, even with their best effort.

What I’m trying to say is, we don’t all get a trophy…or at least, we shouldn’t. When we do, it cheapens the work that has been done by those who have done it better. To rob them of their limelight just to make everyone else feel better about themselves is unfair and ridiculous.

But, it’s important also to note that just because we don’t get the trophy, it doesn’t mean we aren’t valuable or worthy. Taking that sort of thing personally shows insecurity that needs to be worked through. And that isn’t the fault of the coach, or the boss, or the teacher, or the creator of the competition.

The nice thing about most things in life is, if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. This contest is mainly about writing things that a broad audience will enjoy. It’s not an easy thing to do, in the best of circumstances. But to challenge ourselves to write things in ways that we would not do otherwise is a useful exercise in flexibility and creativity for any writer.

Like most people in the challenge, I’m not sure why the judges and audience like one thing I write and then don’t like the next. I work just as hard on each piece, and I only submit my best work. But then, that’s the thing with art. It’s subjective and it’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When all the artists in a group are equally gifted in craft, what it really comes down to is what someone likes better. If I used green and the viewer doesn’t like green…well, the viewer isn’t going to pick my piece. I think it really is that subjective. And I think it’s okay that it’s that subjective.

Someone suggested that the judges use a rubric to make it more fair and to make the feedback more helpful and specific. I wouldn’t be against the idea. But, I also feel there is an element of emotional connection that happens with art that a rubric simply can’t define. As an instructor, my technical writing rubrics are much more intense and specific than those I use for narrative or creative writing.

What it really comes down to for me is that I find nothing at all wrong with this contest. I think people would complain no matter how it was put together. It would be too hard or too unfair or too this or too that no matter who was running it. A contest’s main objective isn’t to make the contestants feel good or to praise them. A contest’s main objective is to pit talent against talent and whittle away until only one is left standing to win the prize. Even the best players make mistakes, and judges make bad calls. But, it isn’t the contest’s job to help those players improve. It’s the player’s job to look inside herself and decide whether she will get back up and try again…or give up. Sometimes giving up is the best call. And for those who are choosing to do that, to focus on other writing or priorities, that is fine. For those who are ready to get up and go at again…I applaud you and look forward to reading your stories this next round.

For me, the contest is leading to growth and improvement simply because I am letting it. It’s like mental push-ups…I don’t always like them, but doing them on a regular basis will make me stronger in the long run.

I don’t know how far I will make it in the contest. But, really, I don’t care. I know I am a good writer, regardless of how things turn out. I’ll keep giving it my best, though.

For this round, I wrote three stories before I chose the one I submitted. I wrote out 3 quick drafts, so the drafts are not perfected. They are not at the correct word-count and have not been edited for details and word choice. Here they are in all their imperfect glory:


Option 1 – no title given

Staring at the sink full of dishes, I reach into my robe pocket and pull out the remote control for the butterfly vibrator inserted into my cunt, held taut against my clitoris by elastic bands around my thighs and hips.

I loathe housework. So today, I am determined to make chores more palatable.

I select a low setting, close my eyes, and breathe in, smiling as pleasant sensations of warmth ignite from my sex to my belly and up through my breasts. I breathe out slowly and begin tackling the plates and silverware before me.

As I walk toward the laundry room, I increase the setting and gasp a little at the higher intensity of vibration. My clitoris throbs and the walls of my cunt begin to pulse involuntarily.

Bending to pull clothes from the drier is delicious torment, and I find myself shifting and rotating my hips. I reach down and press the vibrator harder against me, wishing it penetrated further.

Dropping the jeans in my hands, I fall to my knees, pulling clean laundry out onto the floor, piling it quickly between my legs, creating a mound to writhe against. Turning up the intensity, I begin to move my hips back and forth, feeling the small shaft of the vibrator rub aggravatingly close to my g-spot. I let my robe open all the way, squeezing my breasts, pinching my nipples, feeling the muscles in my ass and my thighs begin to burn from the clench and release.

I stick my forefinger in my mouth, covering it with saliva, and then reach around to maneuver it into my asshole.

Nothing penetrates quite deeply enough, and it is this frustration that finally sends me over the edge.

I feel the orgasm build inside of me, like a hot water bottle, overfilling, threatening to explode. My cunt grips at the vibrator, hips undulating wildly, and suddenly, I feel my clit clench with its own firework reaction.


Option 2 – no title given

Lying back on the bed, feet flat on the duvet, I spread my knees just enough to feel the ceiling fan’s cool breath whisper between them. Instant tingles rise to the surface below my clitoris. I insert my pointer and middle fingers deep into my mouth to wet them and then reach them between my legs, spreading my labia with my pinky and thumb, and begin sliding my forefinger from my taint to the clitoris, slowly, teasing. Slipping my middle finger through the vestibule, I curve it inward to create a hook, pushing deeply until I find the underside of my clitoris. I rub my palm against myself, until I feel myself become wet and ready.

Turning the vibrating dildo onto a low setting, I place it against my swollen clit and gasp, my hips rising to meet it, hungry for its humming touch. Slowly, I press it against my opening, pushing it in, spreading my legs further to accommodate its presence.

It never takes long.

I push it in and pull it out, languidly, moaning in pleasure.

Getting up on to my hands and knees, I buck my hips in a slow rhythm against the vibrator for a handful of seconds, and then fall forward, my face against the pillow. I suck on my fingers again and reach them around to my exposed asshole. I insert one finger to ready myself, and then I pull the vibrator out of my cunt and push it slowly into my ass.

Like a slow-motion jackhammer, I push it deep inside of me and turn the vibration up all the way, my whole body clenching in response. My other hand rubbing my clit, two three, four fingers penetrating my cunt, almost fisting myself.

Liquid gushes in waves over my hand, soaking my wrist and the bed linens below.


Option 3 – Selena’s Interlude (Though I didn’t like my title, I did really like the word “interlude” and thought it fit. I knew I needed something spicier, but…)

It was a dreary day full of meeting after meeting, and Selena was enjoying a short respite in her cubicle office. She’d been asked to present at 2:30, which meant she had exactly 15 minutes to enjoy a cup of tea, gobble up a protein bar, and do something about this incessant between her thighs.

She’d been horny all day, after an unexpected wake-up fuck from Jake. She couldn’t get the image of his taut abs and tan skin our of her mind, and every time she thought of him, she knew her panties were getting just a little wetter.

Her phone notification went off, and she looked at her message. A very welcome dick pick from Jake. He was at his desk, his cock hard and impressive against the wool of his slacks.

She went backed out of her texts and into her apps, selecting her vibrator. Placing her phone up her skirt and between her legs, she sat up straight in her chair, pressing into the thrumming pulse. She slowly moved her pelvis back and forth, then in small controlled circles, closing her eyes and concentrating on the muscles in and around her cunt. She could will herself to come if she relaxed her mind and contracted and released in just the right ways. With her back to the entrance of her cubicle, it was hard to tell she was up to anything, as she squeezed her breasts and pinched her nipples through her shirt and bra.

As her orgasm built, small and sure, just beneath her clitoris, Selena bit her lip to keep from crying out. She pinched her nipples hard, arching her back and pushing her clit hard against the edge of the vibrating electronic. Her orgasm came, swift and superficial, but it was enough to get her through the afternoon. She snatched the phone from between her thighs and sat back in her chair, letting the warmth wash over her.


P.S. I thought it was interesting that someone thought I was writing a woman from a man’s perspective because of the time limit I put on my character’s orgasm. Someone else noted that “vibrating electronic” was a clunky phrase. Noted and agreed. And someone else felt I should have stopped at “it was enough to get her through the afternoon.” As you can see from the feedback, most people comment on what they like or don’t like. That’s the way it is with art. There is no way I could know ahead of time what the audience would like. I just went with my gut and submitted a story and hoped. This time, that wasn’t enough. But I’m already coming up with my story for round five. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ll also be doing a post sometime this week on giving good constructive feedback, so stay tuned, if you are interested.

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https://brigitdelaney.com/2018/05/my-thoughts-on-smut-marathon-round-4/

20 Replies to “My thoughts on Smut Marathon”

  1. I’d considered doing a constructive criticism post, but you sound like you’re a little more qualified to do that post.

    Agree with your assessment of things. You get out of it what you put into it. It’s hard though to not get disheartened. Props to Rebel for all she’s going for this because it’s hard work doing everything.

    Great post

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    1. Yes, it can be hard to keep our chins up. I know this round, I didn’t place well, and for those who have consistently not placed well, I can understand the frustration. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what an audience wants. And sometimes what they want seems to change, especially if the audience is not consistent. I’ll take those issues into account when I write my post.

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  2. I will definitely look out for your constructive feedback post, I think that will be really helpful! With all the feedback complaints it’s tempting to just not bother, it takes a few hours and I was only doing it to try to help other people. But, I feel like everyone would be even more disappointed if they got no feedback at all. Hopefully I can take your upcoming advice and improve on it so people are happier.
    Aurora x

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    1. I don’t understand the feedback complaints. Other than wanting more information, possibly. Writers need to experience both good and bad criticism and learn to deal with it productively. Feedback is necessary so that we know what the audience likes and doesn’t, and…most importantly…why.

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  3. Thank you for this clear account. Twice I joined the Dutch Smut-marathon and I recognize the stress and joy of challenges and how to solve the difficulties.

    I like all three of your stories, however, the first one gives me a feel of distance, as if she isn’t connected with what she experiences. I don’t feel the urge nor her frustration. Maybe it has to do with rhythm?
    My favorite is the second story (I like first person-perspective)

    I. lookong forward to your other stories (and ofcourse of the other contestants

    Jor Adam

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    1. Interesting…what do you mean by rhythm? And what are some of your tips for solving the difficulties?

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      1. Well, I think with rhythm I mean that of your sentences. They all have about the same length and are composed of three or four parts. You could play with it, so the reader (aware or unaware) follows that rhythm, that breath.
        For example:
        ‘Like a slow-motion jackhammer, I push it deep inside of me and turn the vibration up all the way, my whole body clenching in response.’
        could be something like:
        ‘I push it in me. Deep. Pulsing, thrusting like a slow jackhammer, deeper and deeper. As I turn the vibration up all the way, my whole body is clenching. Clenching and coming all the way.’

        Forgive me if I made some mistakes, but hope you get my point.

        As for the difficulties, I had two major items, the timelimit and what to write. I tended to write what would generate votes, but that limited my freedom of thinking and my idea’s. That together with the timelimit (I am not a fast writer) led to rather bizarre stories, because when I had an idea, however strange it was, I had to go for it. Alas I just didn’t make it to the semifinal, but still am proud (and also surprised) of what I wrote.

        Have fun writing!

        Jor

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        1. Yes…that makes more sense. I agree, writing for an audience definitely changes what I write. I’m not sure how far I’ll make it, especially as things get tougher and the circle gets smaller. Competition is going to get intense, I’m sure.

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  4. This was so interesting Brigit, and I agree with Cara, you seem very well qualified to make these points and you do so very objectively. I’m glad you are learning and growing from the competition.

    I liked all 3 of your stories but I actually liked the ‘washing’ one the best, I felt it was unusual but very relatable and I loved how your character was lost in the moment of pursuing her climax.

    It was me who thought I detected a male writer behind your actual entry, and I apologise for my error. I underestimated how well you’d developed the persona of the busy, priority and deadline driven worker in this short piece – I see now that the writing was very in character.

    I try very hard to give plenty of feedback each round, as I was sorry not to receive much in the 2 rounds in which I was a contestant. It is daunting to criticise and know that a keen writer could be disheartened by your words/opinion, so most of my remarks describe what worked for me rather than what didn’t.

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    1. Oh, I wasn’t offended that you thought I was male. In fact, I was more amused than anything. I’d love to know exactly what made you think that. And yes, criticism is a daunting exercise and can be taken well or poorly depending on the provider and the receiver. It’s important for both to enter the activity openly and with a positive mind.

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  5. I too look forward to reading your post on good constructive feedback. It is definitely a skill and one I know I can improve on. I do try to pick both positives and things I didn’t like or could be improved upon.

    I am glad you are finding the competition a positive thing. I know the year I did it my writing improved no end. I definitely made me braver and made me explore styles and lengths of writing I never would have done without it and that I think is a very valuable thing

    Mollyx

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  6. Great post. You are one on my favourite writers in the competition and have liked all your entries. I only began writing 2 years ago and that was non-fiction – writing my first fictional story about 6 months ago. So I do feel I am learning and improving constantly. The smut marathon has definitely helped. It has encouraged me to be more disciplined about how often I write and really looking at the structure of the sentences because each word counts.
    The reason I am still in the competition has been down to the public vote. I think I got one judges vote for my round 2 entry – all my other points have been from the readers. To me this just goes to show how subjective our likes are.
    I think its natural to feel a little disappointed when a story you have written does not do as well as you thought it might. My round one entry was not very good and so I wan’t surprised that I didn’t really pick up the points. But I did like my “sci-fi” entry for the last round. I went out of my comfort zone so was proud of my self in a way. But at the end of the day it is just a competition and the main thing is to try and have fun with what you write and enjoy and learn from the process. I too am so grateful to Marie for organising it. 😉

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    1. I think your sci-fi entry was brilliant! Going out of our comfort zone is what it is all about (i.e. the next assignment?!!!?). And as long as we have fun and learn, it will all be worth it. I, too, am really only in this because of the public votes early on. But, I’m going to have to knock it out of the park on this next one to stay in the running.

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  7. I tend to stay quiet about Smut Marathon because I’m not involved and so can’t speak from experience, but some of the reasons I didn’t join are the same reasons people have for dropping out now. So I can sympathize with them, for sure. I also think you’re right — regardless of the rules or organization, someone will always want it to be different. And I also agree that a rubric would only get you so far. This kind of writing is an art form and as such has a huge subjective nature to it. I can’t always define why I like something or don’t, but I always know whether I do or don’t.

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  8. Oh Brigit, I could kiss you for some of the things you have said in this post. There are so many things that you have said that I totally agree with, the fact that people don’t have to participate, that each writer should take out of it what (s)he can, that it’s not the feedback that make people improve their writing, but the way they stand in this competition, whether they want to improve in some or other way. I have run this competition for the Dutch community for four years and it became what it is today. I know there will always be people who will find fault with it, no matter how I organize it. I believe it’s a place for people to showcase their writing, to take from it what they can to improve (and here I don’t necessarily mean the feedback) and it’s a thing I do for this lovely community of ours. I love what I do, no matter how hard I have to work for it…

    Thank you for this post!

    Rebel xox

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    1. I agree that the feedback doesn’t have to be the means to improvement in a challenge like this. Pushing ourselves to write in new ways about new things gives us options for approaching new writing in the future.

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  9. Thank you so much for your post. I agree with you on so many levels. And it made me think on how I can improve my reviews. I would love to give a more in depth review. The reason I don’t is because there are still so many contestants, and it seems like some of my thoughts and opinions are the same for like 60% of the stories. These more general comments, I put in a post on my blog.

    I was a jury member for the Dutch marathon, and I can tell you that when we get further in the contest, the reviews will get more specific. But if you like a clarification on my review, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Perhaps it is my blunt Dutch background, but like you, I truly believe we can only grow from critique. I strongly believe that the ones that take the time to review, care more about you than those that don’t. So indeed, keep that chin up, and show us what you’ve got in the next round.

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    1. I figured the comments/criticism would become more specific as the pieces grew longer and the number of entries grew smaller. Trying to provide viable feedback to 70+ with that little turn around is difficult. Plus, as the stakes get higher, the feedback is more important. Knowing what the judges and public think, like/don’t like, and want is going to become more and more critical.

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  10. First, I need to read you more often.
    Second, I agree with your assessment on the contest. What’s the point of being involved if it’s not going to be a real challenge?

    I knew the stress and challenge involved which was why I did not sign up. Did I want to? Of course! I don’t regret for an instant not signing up though. I don’t think I could have handled it. Will I sign up in the future? It’s likely to happen.

    I’m also in agreement on constructive criticism. We need more of it. I skip 5 start reviews that state they loved everything. I skip 1 star reviews that say they hated everything. I feel people haven’t been taught to go into specifics or they’re afraid because “if you don’t have something nice to say, then keep your mouth shut and smile” is the consensus.

    We used to be trained how to read and write but more often than not I hear the dreaded statement “I don’t read.” It breaks my heart. There are audiobooks! And then the excuses start.

    I love to write. I love to read. I don’t do either enough. Life happens. Day job is required. But perhaps someday I’ll be able to live off my writing. 😂😂🤣🤣😭😭

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    1. The criticism bit is hard, because we have to know when it is welcome and when it is not. There are times I so badly want to give feedback on even a regular blog post I read, but the precedent has been set to simply rain kudos upon every writer. So that is what I do…I only reply/respond to posts that I like or that have something to agree or disagree with. The challenge provides and opportunity to really talk about writing, style, audience, and what works and doesn’t. I only offer criticism when it appears to be expected (reviews, writing groups, papers my students submit).

      I am also saddened that people don’t read enough (though research shows the younger set is reading more than we give them credit for).

      And I hear you on the “Day Job.” It gets in the way of my writing and reading all the time. If only I didn’t need that paycheck and those benefits! What a fantasy to live off my writing.

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