Saturday, March 13, 2010

Write Like a Man

What's cooking? Nothing because we're heading up to Yakima again for the Girls' Basketball 2A State Finals. Go Mustangs! So, it's fast food tonight.

I bet that title got your attention.

I don't want to generalize. There are obviously thousands of female authors who write very, very well. And there are men out there who write very, very badly. Some of the purplest prose I've ever read in my life came out of a guy.

But I got to thinking about this the other day while I was reading Gary Paulsen's The Beet Fields. It was one of those books I read in a state of awe.

Don't get me wrong. I hated the ending. I thought it was incredibly cliche and not anything I'd ever want my son reading when he's a teenager. The YUCK factor was too strong for me personally.

BUT, Gary Paulsen is an amazing writer. I was in awe of his writing. How he could show so much in a few words. He didn't have to lead us through his protagonist's emotions. We knew exactly how the mc was feeling without Paulsen ever having to give a word of explanation. Because of that, the man's a genius as far as I'm concerned.

I felt the same way when I was reading Matt de la Pena's Mexican WhiteBoy. Paulsen's writing made me think of de la Pena's, even though they write in markedly different styles. It was their brevity that awed me.

And I guess because they are both male authors, I began to wonder, is it a guy thing?

I'm reading Cythia Voigt's Homecoming right now. I like it. It's good writing, but I'm not in awe.

So, I keep wondering. Is truly succinct writing (think Hemingway) something that mostly men achieve?

Can you think of female writers you've read who have been known for their few, but powerful, words?

Do women tend to use more words than men? And why is that? What's your experience?


  1. Huh. One of my husband's former students is a writer, so when he mentioned that he liked to write, my husband mentioned that I like to write - and volunteered me to read this student's first novel.

    It was a huge learning experience for both of us - Tyler's writing improved immensely, and I learned a few things about beta reading in the process. But one of the things that first struck me about Tyler's first draft was its length, which was just over 50,000 words.

    I told him he definitely had some room to develop the plot and characters a little more, which he ended up doing. But when I was talking to my husband about it, he wondered whether the story had enough meat to it. And I said it did. Because if I'd been writing that book, I'm pretty sure that first draft would have come in at least 50% longer.

    50% longer! So maybe there is something to your theory. Then again, Robert Jordan's one of the longest-winded (most long-winded?) writers I've ever read, and he is definitely a man:)

  2. Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Patterson, Lois Lowry, Gail Carson Levine, Cornelia Funke, Shannon Hale, and Laini Taylor are some of my favorite female authors.

    Have you read The Giver or Number the Stars by Lois Lowry? Write like a woman! ;)

    Yes, I do read male authors. Gary Paulsen and Jerry Spinelli amaze me every time I read something by them.

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  4. I think it's just the individual style of the writer. I just got done interviewing Lisa McMann, so she immediately springs to mind as a writer whose books are very succinct.

    Then you get someone like Dean Koontz or Stephen King--who are both great writers (imo)--and they can go off on some seriously long tangents. Dean Koontz will describe a leaf for three paragraphs. Lol.

    I read a lot of YA, but I haven't read that much by guys in this genre. The one thing I did read was Jay Asher's, Thirteen Reason's Why. Very well written. Concise but extremely powerful.

    My inability to write as compactly as I need to is my biggest downfall right now. I really find it challenging.

  5. Thanks Myrna and Callie for the names. And, yes, Krista, men can definitely be long-winded! :) I read Because of Winn Dixie and it had that same simple (in a good way) way about it. And I've read Katherine Patterson, too, and I think you're right. She has that quality to her writing, as well. I'll have to check out these other female authors. I think some of them are on my Fill-in-the-Gaps Project reading list. Thanks for helping me prove this theory wrong. :)

  6. I worked in the Tri-Cities for a summer. We always stopped at Yakima for snacks and gas.