The Four Commandments of Literary Criticism

…And lo, he did come down from the mount of verbiage and in his hands he carried two great tablets and written on these tablets were the FOUR COMMANDMENTS OF LITERARY CRITICISM.

He looked at the front runners, the published writers, the Type A personalities and lo, great words came forth from his mouth. At once, the scribes, and the scribblers, the “journalers”, the hunters and peckers, and wannabe writers rose up to smite him until they saw what was written on the great tablets of stone that he carried:

THOU SHALT NOT ARGUE: Don’t challenge the critic. Understand the point, but don’t contest the fact for opinion. Listen to what’s said. Don’t talk.
THOU SHALT NOT DEFEND: Don’t defend your facts, your slant, your plot, your characters, your history. Take your notes and check the facts and the critic’s opinion in the safety of your own writing cave. Listen. Don’t talk.
THOU SHALT NOT EXPLAIN: Don’t try to spell out “what you really meant.” If the critic did not understand what you meant, you sure didn’t do your job, so write the comments down and go back and make sure you produce understanding in your rewrite. Writing is Communicating. Listen. Don’t talk.
THOU SHALT NOT JUSTIFY: Don’t try to justify what you have written. This is not a debate, a contest, or a personal attack on your. Write down your comments. Evaluate later. Listen. Don’t talk.

An lo, after many years of struggle in the clauses and pronouns and clichés and points of view, the bearer of the two stone tablets was last seen wandering down U.S. 8, searching for an honest writer, one with a lamp to light the way of the tablet bringer. You can hear him say: “Listen. Don’t talk.”

Chet Cunningham

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About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
This entry was posted in Writing Advice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Four Commandments of Literary Criticism

  1. Tim Kane says:

    Clarification. The word critic here refers to readers of unpublished work, as in critic groups. Not media critics reviewing published matter.

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