LitCrit Session: Primer
LitCritter Manifesto (Draft)
We believe in several key principles that are the foundation of our approach towards writing, reading and critiquing. They are:
- To be a writer, you must read; critical reading of texts helps improve awareness and implementation of writing techniques.
- To be a writer, you must write, and write for submission to any number of markets open to your texts.
- Speculative Fiction is a valid and vibrant form of literature that deserves equal emphasis in the reading and writing of texts.
- Everyone is entitled to their own well-informed and well-expressed opinions.
- When a text is critiqued, it is an evaluation of the text and not an evaluation of the character or behavior of the author.
Guidelines for Critique
- Read each story at least twice – once for pleasure (if possible), once with a critical eye
- When reading the texts for critique, keep the following philosophies in mind
- The Author is Dead
- Ask yourself
- What is the story about?
- What literary techniques were used to tell the story, and did they succeed?
- If there are any things that you liked but don’t know why, try to articulate as best you can.
- If there are any things that you didn’t like but don’t know why, try to articulate as best you can.
- Jot down notes for the face-to-face critiques; it’s easy to get carried away with the flow of the discussion, and you might forget something important to you.
Some Guiding LitCrit Philosophies
The following list of phrases is not necessarily in order of priority, but they are important to keep in mind when reading with a critical eye, LitCrit-style:
The Author is Dead. While the author may or may not be dead in reality, when we use this phrase, it refers to the critique philosophy that the text has to stand on its own. The author’s intent, personal history, and other works do not enter into the critique (as much as possible).
Learn to Articulate. We don’t expect everyone to know official or unofficial literary terminology when performing critiques. We do expect everyone to try to articulate how they felt certain storytelling techniques were used in stories. We believe that the terminology will come easily enough once the ability to identify and evaluate techniques has been honed. And the best way to bring out that ability is by practice.
Best Practices Not Rules. There is a belief in business that argues there are no rules or guarantees for success, just best practices. These are techniques that have emerged over the years as being superior to other techniques, but are by no means the only ways to success. Almost any ‘rule’ in writing can be broken, if done spectacularly – and this has been done by many authors in the past, often establishing new literary technique in the process. If something ‘counter-intuitive’ works for some reason, say so.
Read, Write, Rinse, Repeat. We believe that by reading critically our ability to write improves. We also believe that by writing, our ability to read critically improves. As writers who read, and readers who write, we therefore hope to improve our skills in both areas. While critiquing a text, keep an eye out for techniques that you may wish to use on your own writing.
Incomplete List of LitCrit Terms and Slang
Some of the items below are actual literary terms, others are literary terms that aren’t used the traditional way, and others are just terms that we appropriated from other areas of knowledge or just plain made up:
- Telling Detail
- Fast Time
- Slow Time
- Word Choice
- Authorial Intent
- Does He/She Deserve It
- Play Fair
- 1st Person POV
- 2nd Person POV
- 3rd Person POV – Limited
- 3rd Person POV – Omniscient
- Decentralized Intelligence
- Resonant Thud ending
- Ambiguous vs. Vague
Ye Olde LitCrit FAQ
What do the LitCritters do?
We are basically a bunch of Filipino writers who are trying to improve our craft by doing literary critique. This isn't anything close to the intensity of Russian Formalism or American New Criticism, though we do borrow tools from them – close reading, treating the text as separate from the author, etc.
The upshot: we read about 4 short stories a week (each ranging from as short as 1500 words to some of the rare 10,000 word monsters) and get together and critique them - saying what worked, what didn't work, finding out the literary terms for some of these techniques, making up academically blasphemous terms for some of the others, and generally mining the stories for techniques that we can use in our own writing.
How did the LitCritters get started?
We started off as a group of six people who did this in person (and we still do), helmed by Dean Alfar. The other original members were Nikki Alfar, Kate Aton-Osias, Andrew Drilon, Alex Osias, and Vincent Michael Simbulan. Then LitCritters Dumagete started in Dumagete through Ian Casocot (another Palanca-winning writer) and began stirring up things "literarily" in their corner of the Philippines.
After that, we did a series of face-to-face sessions in different locations: A Different Bookstore in Libis, A Different Bookstore in High Street, and in Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Ortigas and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Robinson’s Galleria. We went on hiatus for a while, but now we’re back.
Where did the term "LitCritter" come from?
LitCritters evolved out of a need to refer to the members of the early LitCrit group. Nikki was the one who formalized the term "LitCritters", Ian was the one who explained it, and Dean was the one who used it a lot on his blog, popularizing the original use.
Retroactively, it makes sense for it to be derived from "literary criticism" and therefore "literary critics". But, also, it could simply be less ivory-tower and simply be the truncated form of "literary creatures" or such. As a label, it strives to be more inclusive rather than exclusive, so that anyone who reads lots of short stories, discusses them, learns from them and writes them is a LitCritter.