Is literary critique useful to writing?
We (the LitCritters) believe so.
Critiquing works (your own as well as others) allows you to sharpen your writer’s eye for story and your writer’s ear for discourse. You can learn from the successful and unsuccessful techniques used by many authors. You become familiar with story tropes and the best practices for discourse.
Of course, newbies to the Open Sessions can sometimes be overwhelmed by the deluge of official and decidedly informal critique-terminology that we use. Now, we don’t mean to twist the meanings of existing terms, but since one of the reasons the LitCritters read and critique stories is to study and learn from the various writing techniques (from SpecFic and other genres of fiction), we try to appropriate terminology from literary criticism, adapt them to our purposes, and along the way create our own as well. The resulting mix of formal, modified, and informal terms can be jarring to new members and seasoned critics but once you grok what we’re doing, you’ll be able to sling slang with the best of us.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we alone hold the keys to the kingdom. We encourage everyone to read the source texts with a critical eye and, if you can find them, the critiques of these texts by ‘professional’ critics. You may not understand or agree with everything in there, but these literary critics – steeped in the knowledge of literature – can often point out reasons why some things work (and why some things don’t work) in a manner that is understandable beyond the frustrating and often confusing “it just works” analysis.