Smut Marathon Round 1: On comfort zones and other stories

When I signed up for the Smut Marathon, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be sharing what I wrote on the blog after each round. As far as I’m concerned, my SBOS days are pretty much over, but hey, I’m still paying for the domain name, so I guess I’ll share stuff from the marathon as and when I’m either particularly proud of it or it makes me reflect on my writing in a way I want to explore further.

The first round challenge was to write an erotic metaphor of no more than thirty words. Quick shout out here to Violet, whose post on Round 1 I really liked and which hopefully she won’t mind me borrowing the format of here.

Anyway. The first round challenge is a great challenge, there’s no doubt. I didn’t see it coming and when it landed in my inbox, I thought …

… fuuuuuck.

Because I know what a metaphor is. I can identify them in other people’s writing. They’re just. not. the. way. I. write.

Trying to come up with something, I trawled the entire first draft of the novel I’m working on, and sure enough, not a single metaphor … or not a sex-related one, anyway. In the end, I chose a simile and committed to reworking that.

The end result?

‘Afterwards, she’s still aroused, cunt flexing at the sight of him cupping the soft mollusc of his cock with one hand as he reaches for the wine with the other.’

More than two weeks on, I’m not thrilled with all aspects of this sentence. If I was editing it now, I’d lose ‘soft’ and I’d work on the rhythm. But one of the judges wasn’t sure about something else:

‘Is the author sure about conjuring an association of fish and sex – unless it’s the aphrodisiac of oysters this is risky. Molluscs are mostly ugly… quick google image search (to see if I had the wrong thing in my head) destroys this metaphor for me. Maybe there’s another way of getting to the idea of a vulnerable soft ball sack that would work for this scene?’

When I read this, I genuinely laughed out loud. Anyone who knows me will tell you that the answer to ‘Is the author sure…?’ would be ‘Hell, no. Absolutely not. Never,’ but that doesn’t mean I’d take the mollusc back. One of my main worries, on signing up for the Smut Marathon, is that I’m not – or no longer – really an erotica writer. I write about sex, sure, but I’m not driven by the idea of getting people off, which is key to the definition of ‘erotic.’ If something I write resonates with you and makes you horny, great, if not, I don’t really mind. I just hope you think the actual writing is good.

And so, the promise I made to myself when I decided to bite the bullet on the challenge of the Smut Marathon (there’s still an email to Marie in my drafts folder explaining why I need to withdraw) was that I’d do it, but I wouldn’t read the entries or the feedback and I wouldn’t vote for anything, including my own piece. I’ve held true – and will probably continue to – to the last of those things, but after voting closed, I did read all the entries and the feedback and I’m glad I did.

It sounds arrogant, retrospectively, to say I had no intention of taking feedback on board, but I had my reasons. My mental health is hellishly shaky at the moment, and for the first time in a long time, my writing is impacted by that. I’m confident in my voice – less so in other aspects of my writing – I don’t want to lose that, and I stand by my argument that metaphor just isn’t my style. But another piece of feedback has made me think:

‘Just not the strongest of metaphors (just one word).’

I live my life, as far as I can, within my comfort zone. I hadn’t realised I do that with my writing, too, but I do. On receiving the metaphor task, I knew I was happy to do it, but I wasn’t going to take any actual risks. I wasn’t going to chance anything that could be seen as purple prose or ridiculous in any other way. I’d sooner lose points for being unerotic (which I did). The least Charlie thing about the sentence I submitted is the length of it – I’m not a thirty word sentence girl usually – everything else, although the fishiness may look like a risk – is safe, safe, safe.

Maybe, in future rounds (assuming I last a few), I’ll learn to take more chances, to push myself a bit more. I hope so.