2020 Jury Member: Exhibit A

Only two weeks remain for writers to sign up for the Smut Marathon 2020! It’s high time I welcome Exhibit A to the Smut Marathon as a jury member, after he has won the Smut Marathon 2018 and was a semi-finalist in the Smut Marathon 2019. He will join Cousin Pons and May More as one of the five judges for this year’s marathon.


After competing in Smut Marathon for the last two years, I’m delighted to join what is sure to be a talented and diverse jury for the 2020 edition.

I live in London with my wife, young daughter, and (in a nod to all the best writer clichés) our two cats. By day I’m a mild-mannered management consultant, but since 2013 I’ve written erotic fiction and personal essays on my website, exhibitunadorned.com. You’ll also find my work in the Metro, iNews, a couple of anthologies, and – for the last three years – as part of the awesome Smutathon Team, which raises money for good causes in the UK and US. There is still time to donate to our 2019 Smutathon appeal, with all the money going to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

I’ve observed with great interest the different styles employed by the members of the 2018 and 2019 panels. As writers, you will need to recognise that no two judges will approach the task in the same way, and I’m afraid you will also have to find a way to put aside the frustration that will inevitably accompany decisions that you simply don’t agree with. I know I found that very difficult at times, and I make no apology for that; none of us would enter this wonderful, madcap contest if we didn’t care in some way what other people think of our work, so negative comments and low scores can hurt, especially if we feel like they’re unjust.

For my part, I will endeavour always to be honest and clear in my feedback. I have never hidden the fact that I think there is a lot of bad erotica out there, but I think – hope – that makes me even more effusive in my praise of work I genuinely like or admire. I’m sure there will be plenty of that in Smut Marathon 2020, which is one of the reasons why I’m so looking forward to sitting on the jury.

I can’t speak for the other panel members, but the entries that get my vote will embrace qualities that might not seem sexy at first glance. Clarity. Simplicity. Restraint. Accuracy. Attention to detail. Remember that mass-market erotica is plagued by implausible set-ups, overblown sex, and frankly painful prose, especially in stories that feature lots of dialogue: avoid each of those traps and you’re on the right track.

If I could give this year’s writers one tip, it would be to go back through your first draft when it’s finished and remove 50% of the adjectives and adverbs. If I could give another, it would be to proofread everything you write – it’s a deceptively difficult skill, especially when applied to your own work, but by going through it line-by-line you’ll give yourself the best chance of avoiding the silly typing mistakes and grammatical errors that can be so distracting/off-putting for your readers. A third? Chuck the thesaurus on your desk into the nearest pond, and please please please don’t fish it back out to find ‘creative’ alternatives for cock, cunt, dick, pussy, penis, and vulva. I promise you won’t need them.

If you story has those solid foundations – the boring building blocks that make up Good Writing, regardless of the genre – I will like it. IF you want me to love it, you’ll have to find a way to make something about your characters or the dynamic between them irresistibly hot (and yes, I do mean hot rather than ‘sexy’). Sadly this is the point at which my advice dries up, because I find LOADS of things hot. It doesn’t matter whether your characters are straight or gay, cis or trans, dominant or submissive; equally, while the sex they have has to be believable, I don’t much care whether it’s vanilla or kinky, subtle or explicit – I just want to feel something while I read it. And yes, that’s 100% the hard part.

Good luck to everyone competing this year, and I do mean that. Smut Marathon is a wonderful challenge – one that will delight and frustrate most of you in equal measure. I can’t wait to see what magic the 2020 contest brings.

2 Replies to “2020 Jury Member: Exhibit A

  1. I’m so pleased you’re judging! It almost makes me want to dive back in 🙂 but I think I’ll enjoy taking a break, being a cheerleader and getting to watch from the outside and not the inside. I really look forward to your assessments of the writing this year.

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