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Smut 101: Part 2

This is Part 2 of Smut 101. 

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The entire text is available as a PDF or a Google Doc.

This part contains the following chapters:

Part II: Writing Smut
Words of Wisdom
Do Your Homework
Mind over Mechanics
Making Sex Count
Plotters vs. Pantsers
Rating Your Story
What Will People Think?

Part II:  Writing Smut

Words of Wisdom

There is no substitute for experience, so I have asked a few writers whose names you will surely recognize to share their thoughts on what it takes to write smut.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing?

  • That it's not all about the actions all the time, and no, you don't have to spell it all out for the readers. You really *do* have to trust them to understand what you're trying to say. If you don't, your entire piece comes off as though it's a step-by-step instructional manual, and that's clearly no fun to read. (scullyseviltwin)

  • I wish I had known how valuable a beta is.  It amazes me now when I read the first story I ever posted just how bad it is.  I wouldn't take any amount of money for a good beta.  Also, don't pick a beta that tells you how great you are.  Pick one that tells you how to be better.  You need someone who isn't afraid to argue/discuss with you.  It will make your writing a million times better. (Smacky30)

  • I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to my writing. I had always believed that it was important to write in linear order and to never delete something once it was written. I've learned that it's ok to start at the end and write 'backwards'. It took me months to get myself out of that mindset.

    I've also learned to take advice from beta's. I never realized how important they really are and I wouldn't write a story without one now. (gabesaunt)

  • While reviews can be the ultimate high for any writer, writing to get reviews is never as fulfilling as working on something that you as a writer enjoy.  People might be clamoring for a sequel, but if you're not feeling it, don't feel like you have to write it just to keep getting reviews.  Write because it's fun! (viggygirl)

  • Two things, actually. First, few people have true perspective on their own writing…it’s one of the reasons having a beta is so important. It needs to be someone you can trust that you’re willing to learn from.

And two, you can’t please everyone; this is especially true when writing smut. Some people like softly written prose with emotion and euphemisms for body parts and some people like raw and gritty. Some people find some acts extremely erotic, while others judge the same acts as disgusting perversions…you can’t please everyone, but everyone’s beliefs and sexuality should be respected. The most important thing is to write to be true to yourself as a writer…don’t write to please, write what is real and true and comes from within. (mingsmommy)

What would be your advice to someone writing their first sex scene?

  • You really *have* to take your time and don't rush to get it done; I know a lot of writers who insert a sex scene because they feel the story needs it, not because they feel compelled to write it, and that's not good. You have to be comfortable writing what you're writing. If you're not, it comes off as sloppy and boring. You really have to be inspired when you're writing a sex scene, you have to feel the emotions you're trying to pen.

  • 1.  I would say to start out writing what you know.  If you've never had sex in a shower, for example, don't make that your first project. 
    2.  Don't be afraid to ask other people about their experiences.  Your husband/boyfriend is an excellent source of how a male orgasm feels. 
    3.  Use your imagination.  Don't be afraid to use your inner perv.  
    4.  Don't make it one dimensional.  It isn't just about how it feels.  Tell the reader how it sounds, tastes, smells, looks.  It engages all their senses and makes it 'hotter'.
    5.  Remember to keep it in character.  I will read any smut but if the scene is OOC I stop.  Just that simple.
    6.  Don't be afraid to take chances.  It's very hard to put that kind of material out there.  But you have to just close your eyes and jump. (Smacky30)

  • In writing a sex scene, it is so easy to fall into a cliche or even (horror) the 'cheesy' scene where your reader is laughing at your characters and their antics. Such a mood kill.

    I would suggest reading the scene aloud, and then taking a step back and ask yourself, 'Does this sound real? Does it feel romantic?hot?arousing?' or what ever emotion you are trying to invoke with your words. I was terrified of writing my first sex scene but it gets easier with time (and a beta who is willing to call you out when it does get 'cheesy').

    Also, read up on what you are going to write – if you want to write something hardcore, make sure you know the ins and outs of how it’s done in real life. Authors have a responsibility to write realistic smut and when an author has researched something, their fic is just more confident, more detailed, and that makes for a better read. (gabesaunt)

  • Take your time, both in writing it and even in the scene.  Sometimes anticipation can be as much of a factor as the actual moment.  Take the time to get into your character's heads, explore what they're thinking and feeling, and you can improve the experience for them and your reader. (viggygirl)

  • Take a deep breath.  

Ok, you can let the breath go, now. The advice for writing a sex scene is the same as it is for any other writing. Write what is real and true. Don’t rely on cliché. Write with feeling, occupy your characters, don’t rush it. Write what you know…ok, so none of us have had sex with Grissom or Sara or Nick or Sofia (and if you have, you need to e-mail me immediately and tell me all about it) but write things you know…you don’t have to have experienced them (as a matter of fact, writing something you haven’t experienced is a great way to stretch yourself as a writer), but make sure what you’re writing is anatomically correct and physically possible. (mingsmommy)

Why write sex?  What do you feel smut can add to a story?  Is there a reason you choose to include it in your stories?

  • 1. I write it because, to me, it is the easiest thing to write.  There doesn't really have to be a plot.  There is no character development.  It's sex - pure and simple.
    2.  I think good smut can add a lot to a story.  By good I don't just mean tasteful.  I mean smut that is realistic.  Pay attention to what you are writing and ask yourself if it is physically possible, can you imagine anybody in their right minds doing it, etc.  Think of how you would expect the characters to act in that situation.  Don't start the scene with her crying and him comforting her and then have him spank her or something.  Again, keep it in character - I don't think I can stress that enough.
    3.  I feel that sex is a natural part of our lives.  I can write a story without smut (especially a one shot) but I think that any chapter story needs at least the intimation of people being intimate.  I can't imagine the characters in the situations we fanfic writers put them in without them just caving in and going for it.  They are human after all.  (Smacky30)

  • I got caught in a trap (for a while) of only writing smut because, for me, it is easier. It comes easier to me and I find I could 'churn out' the stories. Not a great trap for an author trying to expand. I am trying to be more selective in the smut I write now, going for more depth, more vanilla smut. Of course, you will still see the occasional 'porn without plot' from me since I still love to write it. Smut can add texture to a story that might be missing it. I love to read stories, that touch on the psyche of a character and sometimes that kiss, that touch is the perfect extension of a caught moment. Without the added texture, stories can lose that added element of touch which I crave as a reader. (gabesaunt)

  • I write sex for a lot of reasons.  With the CSI fandom it's something we rarely ever see on screen, especially with the pairings  I've chosen (Grissom/Sara, and Sara/Sofia).  With Grissom and Sara it's also a look at their personal relationship and how they connect with each other.  When it comes to Sara and Sofia I pretty much just think that the pairing is hot, and I think it's been an interesting challenge to attempt this sort of alternate reality outside of canon.

    Smut adds such an intimate feeling to the story too, because you're really going into something that is personal to those two characters.  I feel like getting that close to your characters can be a real challenge, in both writing it and making it appealing to the readers. (viggygirl)

  • Sometimes I write stories and sex is part of the story as an expression of love and commitment between the characters (e.g. Chapter 9 of And Then Some… or The Lipstick Trick and Treat) and sometimes I write a story just to write smut (Sexicon, Delicious). Part of the fun of writing fanfic (especially for CSI) is creating behind the scenes story…we see what happens when they’re at work…what happens when they’re at home? The majority of what is written is about romantic relationship between the characters (no matter what your ‘ship)  and a part of any love relationship is sex…it can be an expression of attraction, lust or love…an act of wish fulfillment, physical release or emotional intimacy. When they are in our hands, we are stewards of these characters emotions, morals, thoughts and feelings…we can gift them with a fantastic sex life that is a physical manifestation of their deep and abiding feelings for each other or we can saddle them with erectile dysfunction and post traumatic stress disorder. The fantastic sex life just seems more fun to me. (mingsmommy)

Do Your Homework

In order to write sex well, you need to read it.  And the more you read, the better you will write it.  Reading helps you figure out what you like, and what you don't like; what words make you cringe and what turns you on.  Admit it; this is probably the best homework assignment you'll ever get.  I'll even give you some places to start:

Geekfiction Smutathon '06
Geekfiction Smutathon '07

If you'd rather, you could read mainstream erotica as well to broaden your perspective.

Mind Over Mechanics

You are not writing a sex manual.   Don't get so hung up on what your characters are doing, that you forget what they are feeling and thinking.   A good rule to remember is Action->Reaction.  If Grissom slides his hand down the smooth skin of Sara's back, you can bet she's going to react to that. Following the principles of Action->Reaction also helps you maintain the tension in your scene.

Another thing to avoid when writing your scene is the Twister effect:

Grissom brushed his left hand across Sara's right cheek.  Bringing his fingers down, he caressed the back of her right shoulder as her right hand squeezed his left buttock.

With all the rights and lefts going on in there, you reader will be tangled up in no time flat.  Trust your reader to figure it out, even if you don't tell them which hand is doing the action.

Another big issue that falls under this category is word choice. The amount of heat between your characters is not dependant on how many different euphemisms for penis you can pack into a story.  Eroticism in your story is not borne on "dirty" words alone.  It comes from the way your characters respond to one another.  Let your characters dictate words you use in your scene and you will find the flow of your work to be much smoother.  There are no right or wrong words to use, and you can convey sex in an intimate manner without using a single "dirty" word.

For example:

She closed her eyes as she felt him part her legs, and slide into her.  Her arms tightened around him as her hips came up to meet him, pulling him more deeply inside of her.  She cried out as he moved inside of her, letting him fill her again and again, until all the empty places were gone.

He could feel the way his touch transformed her, the way that she was finding her way back to him; he heard it in her voice, the way she spoke his name like a prayer.   It was all he ever wanted to be for her; the light that brought her home.

Her whole body tightened around him as she finally let go of everything, letting him wash the pain away on the strength of his love.  He was flooding her, filling her, making her complete in all the ways she wasn’t without him.

That being said, sometimes a dirty word is the right choice. In the above example, I wanted the scene to have a very healing quality; however in the following example, I was looking for a raw tone so the language is more explicit.

She looked up at him, caught off guard by the depth of the desire she found staring back at her.  The feel of his eyes on her was driving her to distraction, and she groaned as she slid a finger over her center, pressing down gently, “I’m so wet.”

“What do you want?”  He tore at the closure on his pants, thrusting the hard length of his cock into his damp palm.

“You.” She stroked the swollen lips of her sex, drawing the wetness up and around her clit.

“Fucking me.”  She kept her eyes on him, teasing the opening to her pussy with a finger before sinking it deep inside.

He tried to remember to breathe, unable to tear his eyes away from the sight of her finger doing the work of his cock.

This brings me to research.  If you are going to tackle subject matter that you are not familiar with, be sure to do your research (and even if you are familiar with it, it doesn’t hurt to do a little reading.)  If you are under informed about the type of sex you are writing, your reader will sense it.  Even if you feel that Catherine is a born dominatrix, in order to portray her in a realistic manner you need to know as much about domination as Lady Heather.  There is a wealth of information available to you through the internet and books, take advantage of it. I have provided a few links to get you started in the Resources section at the end of the guide.

And as a final word, if you choose to address a sensitive subject such as any form of rape, incest or sexual abuse, it is your job to handle your subject matter with as much sensitivity as possible. Give your story the time and attention that it deserves,


Don't forget who you are writing about...your characters’ histories and relationships to each other drive your sex scene.  Understanding what has brought your two characters together is what is going to bring chemistry to your scene and allow your reader to identify with it. It will also help you keep your characters in-character during the scene.  This is always a challenge in CSI fan fiction given the fact that we rarely see the characters having sex on the show, so there is little to draw from canon.  It's up to you to draw conclusions from the way your characters behave around each other in the lab, and then extrapolate that into a sex scene.

Since we are writing fanfiction based on CSI, and not original characters, it is important that you know the characters that you are writing.  You need to actually watch CSI to make this happen. Find episodes that feature interactions between your characters and watch them over and over. Listen to how they speak to each other, watch the way they interact.   Anyone can write a story with characters named Wendy and Hodges, but your job is to capture the essence of their awkward relationship on the page and take it to the next level.

Making Sex Count

My dad always said that the road to disaster was paved with assumptions, but I am going to go out on limb and assume because you are reading this you want to write more than a Tab A into Slot B kind of story.  That being said, just because your story is about sex doesn't mean it's going to be about love.  People have sex for a lot of different reasons, and you'll need to decide why your characters are doing it.

Sex is the ultimate vulnerability and the reasons that your characters are having sex fuels the fire in your scenes.  And while it may not come directly into play in your story, considering your character's history will help you add intensity to your scenes.  Showing the evolution of your character throughout your scene also allows the reader to connect with what you are writing.

While it may seem that smut is inherently PWP (Plot What Plot) that is not necessarily true.  Really successful smut, smut that arouses the reader as much as the characters, has some kind of underlying theme to give it meaning.  An example of this is "Grissom wants Sara to see herself as he sees her."  When you are writing a scene, ask yourself why your characters are having sex.  Is it love?  Loneliness?  Whatever the reasons, make sure you tie them into your scene.

Plotters vs. Pantsers

I am a plotter by nature, so I am a natural advocate for the outline.  That's not to say that I've never had a story completely depart from my carefully constructed plan; however, outlines come in many colors and I encourage you to at least try to map out the general direction of your story.  Your outline could be a short paragraph, a list of the major events you have planned, or a traditional outline complete with roman numerals. 

Outline or not, there are a few things to consider when planning your story. 

  • Location

    •   Where is your encounter taking place? Sofia taking Sara home after a difficult shift has a much different connotation than a quickie in the locker room.

  • Content

    • What are they going to do?  Who's on top? Oral sex?  Masturbation?  All of the above?

  • Evolution

    • How is this encounter going to affect your character(s)?  Has your character used sex to get what she wants in the past but now finds herself falling in love?  Was she just looking for a quick release and found more, or less, than she wanted?  This just adds one more layer to your story.

Answering these questions will help you create the framework for your story, then all you have to do is fill in the details, which I will cover in a little more detail later on.

Rating Your Story

When it doubt, err on the side of caution. And if you think there is an element that might offend someone reading your story, put a clear warning in your Author’s Notes. Examples of touchy subject matter would be rape/non-consensual sex, BDSM or extreme violence.

Here is a link to Geekfiction’s rating system.

What Will People Think?

This is probably the greatest barrier to smut writing; the idea that people will see through your writing and somehow see your secret fantasies. While this might be possible to a degree, if you put a reasonable effort into your story, paying attention to characterization and setting, you, and your fantasies, are the last thing that will be on your reader’s mind.

Practice does make perfect. Try writing a few scenes for your eyes only as a means to get comfortable with the language and characters that you will be writing. Then if you are feeling brave, ask your beta to look at it and get some feedback. The more familiar you are with your subject, the better your writing is going to be. If there are words that make you uncomfortable, try writing them twenty times on the page and watch their power over you disappear.

Remember, if you are not comfortable with your subject matter, your reader won’t be either. There is nothing wrong with “fade to black” at the end of scene. You don’t have to write explicit sex to write sex erotically.

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