Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Little Miss Crabby Pants Gets Squeaky Clean

She's back!  That's right kids, Little Miss Crabby Pants has once again broken her bonds of forced imprisonment to talk to you all about something that is starting to get on her last good nerve.  The current state of political affairs?  Her yearly hand-wringing over what next fiscal year's library budget is going to look like?  No.  It's much more troublesome than that.  Far worse.

I'm talking about authors who release "clean versions" and "sexy versions" of their books.  This little slice of insanity has been around for a while now but seems to be picking up steam - and yes, self-published writers, this will be a blog post where Little Miss Crabby Pants is going to "pick on you."  I see these sorts of shenanigans almost exclusively in self-published quarters.  Merry Farmer (who writes westerns) has turned it into a cottage industry.  Lauren Royal has taken books previous published by New York and done it.  And one of my personal favorite examples, an author named Elle Snow has released "clean versions" of stories with titles like Go Long and Pull Out.

Words. Fail.

Look, I get it.  All authors want to make a livable wage at their writing - which has gotten so increasingly difficult it'd probably be easier to wish upon a star and hope their fictional billionaire heroes come to life and fall hopelessly in love with them.  So yeah, I get it.  I really do.  The name of the game is output.  Backlist.  And trying to cast the widest net as humanly possibly to snag as many reader eyeballs as humanly possible.  Little Miss Crabby Pants is not unsympathetic. 

But, you're doing it wrong.

Sex, like all things in fiction needs to be organic to the story or really, what's the point?  There has to be a reason for it to be there.  It has to move the story forward.  It has to have meaning.  Otherwise you're inserting (ha!) filler that's taking up word count and frankly boring your reader.  This is probably the category romance reader in me - but it all has to mean something.  Which means if the author is doing their job, if every element of the story "means something" - then taking out the sex scenes should alter your core story.  It may not make it a hot mess on the level of a Category 5 hurricane, but it should at least make a mess say, like when your toddler gets a hold of your favorite tube of lipstick. 

Now lest you think that Big Meanie Little Miss Crabby Pants is just here to pick on poor defenseless self-published authors, remember - she's equal opportunity crabby.  Readers, this is probably 95% our fault.  For all those readers who whine on GoodReads, "Ewww, there's no sex in this story!  All romance novels MUST have sex in them!!!" or the readers who whine, "Ewwww, there's dirty naughty bits in this story!  Jeeves, where are my smelling salts?!?!'  Yeah, I'm looking at you.

The cold, hard (ha!) truth of the matter is this:  Not all romance novels need sex in them and not all romance novels should be rewritten to tailor to every reader's personal preference.  There will be some books you like and some books you won't and dear Lord above with all the romance that is pushed out into the marketplace Every. Single. Year. you're more than likely to find something that fits your personal tastes.  Nothing is perfect and yes, you'll need to spend time reading samples and reading books that turn out to be not your jam.  But nobody, anywhere, is entitled to spoon-feeding. Samples are free.  Read them.  And trust Little Miss Crabby Pants on this: a good story, is a good story.  Stories without sex in them CAN be good.  Stories with dirty, sexy, naughty times in them CAN be good.  I've read plenty of examples of both.

So authors, stop writing meaningless sex scenes that are only in the story because someone told you, "Oh dear, you HAVE to have a sex scene in here - it's a romance novel!"  No, no you don't.  If the book isn't calling for it, if it doesn't serve to advance the story - no, you don't need a sex scene.  And while I'm at it, stop listening to readers who whine on GoodReads or Amazon or have the gall to e-mail you berating you for the "smut" you're writing.  If the sex scenes are important to the story - they stay.  And readers who don't like it have a choice.  They can, you know, not read your book.  Or make the decision to not read your books if you write stories that call for hot, sexy times.  Yes, you've lost a reader.  But readers being readers, more than likely they'll forget the last paragraph I just wrote and buy your dirty, sexy books by the truckload.  We can't be all things to all people and the minute we all realize that the better off the genre will be.

Because, guess what?  If you're just writing sex for the sake of sex and it means so little to the story that you can simply take it out to release a "clean version?"  Yeah, you are just writing "lady porn."  Own it.


Jazz Let said...


azteclady said...

I am struggling, mightily, with the idea that writers feel they can "clean up" stories with a lot of sex, or just adding sex to 'clean' stories, and that *that* won't change the quality of the story.

I mean, in my book, that's pretty much the definition of hack, not writer.

Lynne Connolly said...

Yes! Preach!

A Library Girl said...

I've noped on a couple self-published works that were listed as having two versions. One was a fantasy romance and the other was, surprisingly, a science fiction book. It felt like the author was saying "you can either have a 'clean' version or a 'porny' version," even if that wasn't what they intended.

Keira Soleore said...

Gosh, I must be hiding under a rock. I didn't know this was "A Thing!"

Wendy said...

I can count on one hand the number of books I've read where I *wished* there had been a (or more) sex scene(s) - and that's usually because there's character baggage that I felt needed to be addressed via that avenue.

But lordy, I can think of SO many romances I've read where I've skimmed sex scenes or thought they served as nothing more than filler to bloat up word count. It's a delicate balance and I think the story needs to dictate it.

Mrs Giggles said...

A clean romance with a title of PULL OUT? I suppose that will work if it's about a married couple celebrating the marvels of the rhythm method and "natural contraception".

Wendy said...

Mrs Giggle: INORITE?! I literally cackled out loud.

Harper Miller said...

I love this post so much. SO MUCH.

Liv Rancourt said...

Did not know clean and dirty versions were a thing, but I 1000% agree w/ you. There's no space for words or scenes that don't move the story forward, and if you can cut them out without altering the story, they shouldn't be there in the first place.