Why I never explain myself in workshops.

Have I mentioned this before? Probably, but  I think it’s worth nudging it again.
There is a strange habit I see in workshops that I’ve never really understood. Someone is having their pride and joy critiqued by the group. It all begins well enough; the readers are providing meaningful, insightful commentary, and the writer is scribbling notes and nodding a lot. 
All good.
Then someone says something about the piece that goes something like this:

But why would she do that? That’s completely out of character.


I’m not sure if that really adds anything to the piece.

or the ever popular:

Naah. I just don’t get it.

I had this just the other week. I nodded, asked a few questions, made a few notes and waited for the next comment. The rest of the group looked at each other then looked at me.

“Aren’t you going to explain what you meant?”

And I said, “Nope.”

Here’s the thing: if the group didn’t get it then there’s a fair to middling chance that others won’t get it either, and you won’t be there to explain the nuances of your chapter to everyone who bought the book. All you need to do is ask the kind people in your workshop what didn’t work for them and why. You should never have to explain what you meant. It’s pointless.

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