Thoughts on the Smut Marathon – Round 2

Well, here it is the end of Round 2 in the Smut Marathon and I am still in it! Go me!

Ok I’ll be honest, I assumed I would be. But not because I’m cocky – BECAUSE I MUST HAVE MISUNDERSTOOD THE RULES. I thought, right up until I saw the email that said, “congrats, you’re still in!” that like Round 1, Round 2 was also a no-knockout round. I have no idea what gave me that idea – I swear (in spite of missing the “you can vote for yourself” rule and this one) that I read all the instructions all the way through, every time. No really, I do!!

Anyway. It appears that in spite of it being a knock-out round, I wasn’t knocked out, which of course pleases me greatly. It also means that I now go on to the next round, which assignment is even trickier! So a bit of nail-biting here. At least the weather seems to be taking a sunny turn in my part of the world, so I can do my favorite writing-while-I’m-not-actually-writing activities: walk and work in the yard. I call those times, when I am not actually putting fingers to keyboard but still swirling a story round in my head, “cooking” my story. That whole baby metaphor that I mentioned in my feedback kinda falls down at that point (eww cooking my baby??) but that’s ok. If Viper can use mixed metaphors – and he does – then so can I.

About that feedback. I felt inspired to write a bit about the art of critiquing itself, and of handling critiques of one’s own writing. I don’t know how many of the participants are seasoned writers, or have dealt with critique groups, but I do know what my first run-in with a really demanding, at times harsh, group of critiquers did to me. I stopped writing for two years. Now, I was brand new, and super thin-skinned, and truth to tell I don’t manage criticism in general well anyway (though years of writing and having my works picked over by editors has toughened me up a bit), so that may have been an extreme reaction. And I haven’t seen any of the feedback in the Marathon so far that I’d call harsh or insensitive. Still, I wanted to get the words that I was taught, and that enabled me to learn to deal with criticism constructively, out there, in case anyone needed to hear them.

Okay, back to the Marathon! I managed to rank first runner up in the jury vote and number 11 in the public vote, which put me at 4 for my overall rank for this round, and at 10 for the entire marathon so far. Much better than last round!

I can’t recall if I explained how the voting works before. (And as you’ll see I don’t have a real firm grasp on how it works anyway, so you may want to pop over to the official rules to get a better explanation) but basically there are two voting groups, a public vote and a juried vote. The pubic is anyone – even you! – and the jury members this time are Molly Moore, Chris McClennan, Charlie Powell, Jaime Mortimer and Bee. There are a lot of official math words about how the voting is tabulated and weighted, but I don’t really understand it – too much math for my poor anti-math brain! Suffice it to say, in the end, after lots of work on Marie’s part (and the creation of some pretty graphs), we come out with a ranking from the jury, a publicly-voted-upon ranking, and then a final ranking that somehow combines 1 & 2 to produce an overall ranking for that round, and then that rank is combined with the previous round’s to give a rank for the entire thing. Bluesubmission, with their story “The Mailman’s Wife” (one of my own top 3) ranked number 1 in this round, and (if I am reading the graphs correctly) a new-to-me writer called Justine Elyot is in the top spot after Rounds 1 & 2. Congrats to both of them, and to everyone that completed this round!

This was another short piece of writing, but it wasn’t an easy assignment. The instructions were to “use one of the entries from round 1 (not your own) to expand on what happens next.”

So how did I feel about this round? I actually found it easier than the first. When I read the assignment, I knew almost immediately which story I wanted to use as my seed. Oddly, it wasn’t because I particularly liked the story (it ranked well in the public round, as runner up number 2, and it was a good piece of writing, but I am not a fan of death erotica, so it didn’t do much for me from an erotic standpoint.) So what did I do? I decided to take that story and see if I could make it erotic in the more traditional sense. But how can you continue a story when one character has assassinated the other? Much less make it erotic?? Ah yes, I like a challenge… The conceit for it – making it a story-within-a-story – actually came to me while I was sleeping. I went to sleep that night puzzling over it and woke up with the central piece of the writing done. It works that way sometimes. It did take some crafting – word count, tone, having it make sense – but overall, once I started, it was a done deal. Not like the first one that I wrote and rewrote, then started over completely.

I did debate the last line of it, “For real.” It wasn’t in the first draft, but following my own “Rules of Writing” (Number 2301.b) I wrote the first draft and walked away from it for a couple of days. Then when I returned to it with fresh eyes, I knew I wanted to somehow evoke the original story’s intent, even if mine wasn’t death erotica. That last line felt to me that it brought it full circle, connecting my writing to the original.

About that – I was a little surprised that one of the people who left feedback read that line as that “he wants to kill her for real.” My intention was to hint at fear play, not actually killing. But that stands as a good reminder that not everyone lives in my head (or in my world). Fear play is a thing that I know about intimately in a BDSM context – but not everyone does, and I should be conscious of that, and perhaps choose my words more carefully to convey my meaning.

What else did I learn. I learned that more isn’t always better, or even necessary, but helps sometimes. Practicing writing tight, concise prose that still conveys meaning, tells a story, and draws a reader in is definitely a skill. I am glad the Marathon is giving me a reason to practice it. I am sharpening my own critical reading skills, and learning what works for me as a reader. Hopefully these things will translate to being a better writer. I will say that I am challenged by the new writing assignment. I don’t know that I have done what it is asking for, so yet another opportunity to sharpen my writing skills! (I had never done another follow-on story like the last assignment, either.) Ok, while I’m sure there is much more, this is getting long and I am getting tired (finally!)

So that’s my take on my own experience, both as a reader and participant in the Smut Marathon. Again, I learned as much from reading the fantastic feedback on the stories and the stories themselves – as well as composing my own feedback – as I did in the writing assignment itself.

And now, hooray! On to Round 3!

Comments

  1. Marie Rebelle

    I really love your positive thoughts on the marathon, and you have understood my tables and graphs perfectly. Looking forward to reading your third round story :)

    Rebel xox

    Reply

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