Men are from Mars. We all know it. Their scratching, their belching, their obsession with plasticized women—it proves they are indeed a strange species.
And women are always normal, well-grounded creatures. They never digress into emotional rants. They’re a wonderful mixture of the rational and the creative. (At least that’s my opinion, and I’m stickin’ to it.)
But where I see the biggest difference between men and women is in critique groups. The guys who have graced me with their suggestions and corrections are wonderful—don’t get me wrong. They’re generous with their gifts. Because of them, my writing occasionally sings rather than drags. I do appreciate their feedback. I do.
Too many times to call it a fluke, however, I’ve seen women in writing critique groups go above and beyond. On a regular basis, I've witnessed women not only point out a problematic part of a story or essay—they also take on that problem as their own. It becomes their mission…
I stink at titles, for example. I stress, and scan the lines, trying to find something in my writing piece that will bring a title to the surface. The women writers I work with will bounce ideas off each other, and will even email me later with possibilities. In the end, I’ve got a title that is almost always guaranteed to hook the reader.
Often, I fizzle out at the end. I run out of steam and passion before my piece runs out of space. In a critique session, the men might mention, “Your ending needs some work,” and leave it up to me. The women, however, will jot down some suggestions to strengthen it. We’ll discuss various ways to make it as fierce as the beginning.
And if it looks like I’m giving birth to “conjoined twins”—a problem that Tammy, one of my WWWPs (Wild Women Wielding Pens) says is a marvelous challenge—if it’s apparent that I have two-stories-in-one that need to be separated, the women will embrace my baby and recommend some directions I can take.
So you gentle gentlemen, who give me guidance in my writing: thank you. But the bulk of my gratitude has to go to the women I work with. During each session they take my story under their wings, they celebrate when I get a piece published, and they encourage when I get something rejected…and they do it with humor and grace and generosity.
Now ladies, how should I end this? I need help. Please?
Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher and a freelance writer in St. Louis. In her spare time she blogs (http://siouxspage.blogspot.com/), rescues Golden Retrievers and dreams of someday retiring to southern France.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
I used to attend these workshops; now you couldn't pay me to get within a mile of one. What I remember is men writing about *things*. Let's spend the next hour of our lives listening to chapter 5 of Bob's sci fi space travel novel, in which he describes, in excruciating detail, the workings of the engine in his imaginary space ship, right down to the measurements and pounds per square inch of thrust.ReplyDelete
Then Jane will regale us with her historical romance novel. Her mother says it's good, and she got good grades in English back in high school, and so she is as resistant as titanium to all suggestions and criticisms. She feels it is artistically necessary to keep all three of those adjectives in every sentence. The firm set line of her lips says so.
Lastly, retired shop manager Bill has come here because his wife has long since tuned him out. He has something--usually quite lengthy--to say about everyone's work, even though he hasn't brought anything of his own to read, again, this week.
Jaundiced eye? *What* jaundiced eye?
Fireblossom--I encountered these same people decades ago in some old critique groups I was in. When you find one that clicks, it's amazing. (And it makes all the Bills and Janes and Bobs--almost--worth it.)ReplyDelete
What a great post Sioux. Not ever having experienced men critique anything of mine (other than my husband, but that doesn't count), I will take your word for it! Oh wait, my son, but I have to say he is the exception to the rule as he is extremely helpful but encouraging and has great suggestions... things I never would have considered. He doesn't tell me what I want to hear just because I'm his mom. So...ReplyDelete
No critique necessary here! You nailed it. Women know it's your baby.ReplyDelete
Great post, Sioux.ReplyDelete
One difference I see between men and women in critique groups is the guys seem to be more competitive, trying to one-up each other, where the women are more helpful. Also, a couple guys in our group have on occasion giggled like high school girls when someone mentions sex or specific body parts in a story.
A few weeks ago I made a comment that one guy's story didn't need to use the word "nipple" -- not because I'm a prude, which I'm not -- but because it changed the tone of the piece from a touching family story to one with a ragged edge. The following week a different guy brought in a story and threw in the word nipple in an awkward sentence. I'm not sure if he was trying to one-up the first guy or to get a reaction from the women in the group.
Lynn--For sure there are exceptional guys. Obviously your son is one...ReplyDelete
Tammy--Yes. Women have those maternal instincts, and they know that every mother is proud of her baby. Even if the baby has a cone head or a bowling ball head--to the mother, that baby is gorgeous and worth fawning over.
Donna--You said it. They're more competitive. And in some ways, I think their development is arrested.
Well. Thank goodness those guys didn't say, "Your END needs some work.”ReplyDelete
i think the best ending is to mention the wonderful women editors at Silver Boomer Books who are using one of your well-critiqued pieces in the new anthology A QUILT OF MEMORIES! ;)ReplyDelete
Val--They probably thought it but--wisely--did not say it aloud.ReplyDelete
Becky--And yes, the women editors at Silver Boomer Books are among the best.
SO true, Sioux!ReplyDelete
I think it's the nurturing nature of women writers, whereas men writers are...less nurturing. ;-)
I'll say this for guys, though. They will cut to the chase in 5 seconds. A woman will spend 10 minutes, trying to spare your feelings before she says, "Um...yeah, it kinda stunk."
So happy to see you here, Sioux! Enjoyed your musings--
Cathy--That is true. Sometimes we need the bandaid yanked off in one quick pull and other times we need some hugging and cajoling.ReplyDelete
And thanks. This was fun to do.
Love your take, Sioux, and I agree with you! The first group I belonged to had male members; my current group is all female and it just works. It helps that our group is small, also. Too many members, no matter how nice they are, make deeper critiques (that "taking under their wings" that you mentioned) more difficult to accomplish.ReplyDelete
You are right. The main difference is that women tend to want to help others fix things, and are more colorful in their observations and comments, whereas men are more direct and to the point, black and white. Great article.ReplyDelete