When does it become smut?

When does it become smut?

I have gone back and forth with this for a while and with my recent change in storytelling, I started to try and calculate just how much sex in a story makes it smut or what we might call erotica. Is there really a number?

If you look around online you might have figured out that there really isn’t a calculation to determine this. I read a article from back in 2016 (around the time I started publishing) that said that almost any story involving the sexual relationship between two characters is a romance story but when you remove the private interactions between the characters and there is less than 50 percent of the story left, then it is erotica. The article also went on to say that you can have a compelling story about two people who have a loving relationship and if you remove the sex, it is simply a romantic piece. While this is true, I am not sure there is much of a story if the sex is implied. I also found it difficult to accept that the major difference between romance and erotica was the number of people involved.

We don’t live in the 1900’s and the idea of a monogamous relationship while still valued in our society, we often see open relationships and even relationships involving multiple partners. Swingers and threesomes once considered very kinky and risque are becoming more accepted, but this is probably why it is so hard to write more romance stories involving these relationships because it is hard to separate the sex for the rest of the story.

So, how do I tell the difference between a romance and a smutty erotic story? The article is right, but only as far as it relates to the overall story. I don’t think it is 50 percent. I think that if you look at the overall story and the sexual scenes becomes “another character” in the story, then it is far less of a romantic piece. The 1+1=2 applies for you mathematicians out there. Man and a woman come together and become one… when this happens too often… it is no longer a romance… the lovemaking has become the third character and any value over 2 pushes it further to an erotic tale.

Does it really matter if it is romance or erotica? At the end of the day, it’s really up to you. Do you want to be known as a smut peddler or what others would call a “serious writer”? This, by the way, is another misconception. Erotic authors are serious writers as are those who write romantic fiction. The stigma comes from the saturation and almost too mathematical approach by writing the same basic story concept and simply changing the names and putting a stimulating cover together to catch the eye. By the way this does work, some of the time, but this is also the contributing factor when it comes to how erotic writers are described so disrespectfully.

If you like writing erotic fiction… then continue writing it. There is an audience for it, but remember that stigma comes along with it and may bring you success in the pocketbook, but it will be hard to measure your work any other way. Book reviews are hard to come by for obvious reasons. Erotic stories are closest thing to adultery and prostitution without the defined act itself. Everyone has dreamed about it, but would never want to talk about it if they did it.

Writing romance novels has it’s own stigma as well, but you might get a few more reviews. The revenue based on what I learned takes time unlike erotica. Promoting a romance book might do well long term, but erotica, again, is a quick hitter. Pick up the latest story and within a month sales are down unless you can find new ways to promote it.

Always remember that being the best writer is subjective. You will have fans and critics everywhere. You have to decide if your story is complete and thought provoking enough to force someone to pick it up and read it. We all write for different reasons, satisfy your reason and that will make you successful.

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