Friday, November 14, 2008

Real Men Don't Critique?

Why are there so few men in critique groups? In our cozy critique group of eight, there are none. In my former group of five, none. There were two men in my 14-member group prior to that one--huzzah!--but they both eventually quit. Again, none.

My group gives wonderful critiques but I'd like to get a few from male readers too. Eventually, I want girls and boys to enjoy my books, so a little male perspective would be nice right about now. But men seem to avoid critique groups like they do quiche. Why is that?

I went to a soiree for children's book writers the other night and had a conversation with a clearly social, seemingly sane male children's book writer. When asked, he said he would never join a critique group, "because I just don't want to hear all the soft and fuzzy crap about my manuscript. I only want to hear what sucks about my book so I can fix it and that's all. The rest is a waste of time."

Oh, okay. When I asked, "But how will you know what to keep in your manuscript if you don't hear what's great about it too?" he just shrugged. End of conversation. Had I stumped him or was I just wasting his time too?

Okay, so he's not necessarily someone I'd want in my group. (No offense if you're reading this!) But I still wonder, why don't most men join critique groups? By the way, if there are any male lurkers out there who can satisfactorily answer this post, you win a prize: A free manuscript critique from our group! Like it or not.


  1. You raise an interesting question, but the bigger issue is why are there so few men who write for children at all??

    And, you should have told that guy that while our group is supportive and kind in our critiques, we can also be blood drawing brutal! I don't think I would describe our critiques as "soft and fuzzy".

    Oh, and thanks for volunteering us to do a critique!!

  2. Hmmmmm. Perhaps there are several reasons:

    1. As Meg noted, fewer men write for children.

    2. As the gentleman you spoke with noted, some critique groups are "soft and fuzzy."

    3. Time. Time spent critiquing is time spent away from writing. I firmly believe that a good critique saves countless hours of revision time, but perhaps not everyone agrees with me.

    4. Just a guess here, but do some men feel that getting critiqued is too much blah, blah, blah?

    For those who have never joined a good critique group, I say get yourself one, and quickly! But make sure it's a group that is ready to work -- with honesty and kindness.

  3. Yes, there are fewer men who write for children, but some of the best and most famous ARE men.

    As for men joining a critique group, I think there might be some reluctance about becoming a minority. How many of us would be happy to belong to a professional all-male association?

    That said, we have a male in my other critique group. Obviously, minority status didn't bother him and we welcome his different viewpoint. Yes, we consider him a plus!

  4. By the way, that 14-member critique group I belonged to was for all genres, so that lack of men wasn't related to writing for children.

    Meg, you're welcome! If any male lurkers actually take me up on my offer, I'll be pleasantly surprised.
    Of course, any group member who wants to opt out of the free critique is welcome to do so.

  5. hmmm...I've been in an online critique group for children's writers for over a two years and there are 8 of us...4 men and 4 women...

    They do have different ways of looking at a story...and honestly, I find the male critiques more detailed then the female critiques...

    I'm in another online group of 8 and we are all women...there are times when I will submit the same story to both groups and again, the men seem to be much more detailed...the women seem to be better at the grammar stuff, but the men get to the meat of the story...

    Lilfix (blueboards)

  6. Brenda: I know I don't have enough of a statistical sampling to draw any conclusions from your post...but it makes me wonder..maybe men prefer online crit groups because they're a) less threatening than facing a room full of chicks/hens; b) less of a time commitment; c) easier to bypass all the blah blah blah as Judy suggests; or d) all of the above.